MANTI—Sanpete County has hired a second county probation officer to assist the current officer, Deputy Jeff Greenwell, in handling the large case load of clients assigned to the county’s highly regarded pre-trial probation and offender supervision program.
Deputy Dallin Pace has been hired to help relieve the large case load that has been shouldered by Deputy Greenwell only.
“The average case load per probation officer in Utah is around 40 people,” Greenwell said. His current number of cases (he calls them “clients”) is 161. Of that, 77 are on probation, 33 are in the pre-trial program, 23 are sex offenders who must check in with his office regularly, 15 are in drug court, and 13 are wanted on outstanding warrants.
Originally from Utah County, Pace has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2017. Prior to his new position, Pace was a patrol deputy, and will continue some patrol duties during the transition to his new job.
Patterned after a Salt Lake County program but with more stringent requirements, the Sanpete County program allows non-violent offenders to be released from jail without bail if they agree to supervision by a county probation officer.
The program enables law enforcement to maintain closer contacts with offenders than if the person simply bails, with the theory being that if the defendant successfully complies with the pre-trial program, he or she will be less likely to miss court dates or end up with new charges before they go to court.
Another role of the pre-trial probation program is working with the Sanpete County drug court. People who enter the county’s drug court program are required to register with and report to either Greenwell (or now Pace) or the Utah Division of Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P).
Clients assigned to drug court enter a 2.5-year-program that includes counseling three times per week and attending a court session before a judge every other Thursday. They must enroll in classes and receive treatment as directed by the Central Utah Counseling Center. They must also agree to random drug tests.
Defendants who successfully complete drug court typically avoid jail or prison and may ultimately have all pending charges dismissed.
For clients at moderate risk to reoffend, Greenwell has started a program he calls intensive probation. It is a nine-month program that hovers somewhere between drug court and regular probation. Greenwell says it mirrors a Salt Lake County program that has proven successful.
The difference between the county probation program and AP&P is that AP&P deals mainly with felony offenders. Greenwell says that he occasionally gets a felony probation referral from the Utah Department of Corrections, but the majority of his clients are facing misdemeanor drug charges.
Greenwell says a new organization made up of county probation offices around the state is forming. The group is working to make it possible to transfer clients between probation offices in different counties. He said that not being able to make such transfers creates a hardship for the probationer living in a different county from where his or her offense occurred to check in with his probation officer over long distances.
In addition to his regular probationers and those on pre-trial probation, Greenwell deals with registered sex offenders who live in Manti, Fountain Green and the entire unincorporated area of the county. Those are locations under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office that don’t have local police departments.
Sex offenders are required to meet personally with a probation officer every six months—once during the month of their birth and again six months later. They are also required to check in within three days of any major change in their life, including changes in address, employment, phone number or even vehicle.
Keith Jensen, information officer for the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office, says that the workload related to sex offender cases has increased because more people are being caught. He says new state regulations, which require processing of certain kinds of evidence on an accelerated schedule, are identifying sex offenders who previously escaped prosecution.
Jensen says there has also been an increase in public awareness that is resulting in sex crimes being reported more frequently, as well as a heightened awareness of the symptoms of the problem on the part of schools and other institutions.
Anyone who commits a Class A misdemeanor sex offense or higher is required to be listed on the sex offender registry.
Both Greenwell and Jensen expressed interest in some of the changes coming out of the Legislature regarding sex offender cases, such as shortening the time that some offenders must remain on the sex offender registry and changing the reference from “sex offender” to “registrant.” They also said that a new registry is in place strictly for convicted child abusers.
Prior to coming to the probation office, Greenwell served as a police officer in Ephraim and Mt. Pleasant. Asked what he thought the biggest change was for him in coming to the probation office, he said, “As a police officer, it was my job to put people in jail when needed. Now it’s my job to keep them out of jail if I can. It’s a whole new mindset that at times has been difficult.”
He said he is much more focused now on the wellbeing of the offender. “All these people have families; most of them have jobs and responsibilities. I realize now that I’m not just dealing with the guy who committed a crime, but an entire family and circumstances I may have never had to deal with in my own life. It puts a whole new perspective on how I think of law enforcement and the ways I interact with the people caught up in the system.”
He said his reward comes when he hears former clients express thanks for the way their interaction with him changed their lives. He said he’s had some clients who didn’t want to “graduate” (be removed from probation) because they appreciated his support as a constant strengthening factor in their lives.