March 17, 2013

Longtime Essex County probation chief to retire

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Director of Probation Scott McDonald has given his last report to the county.

The Jay resident is retiring March 22 after 32 years of county service, 24 of those as chief probation officer.

The County Probation Department has changed a lot since he joined it in 1983, McDonald said.

“There were three probation officers; now there are nine. Our caseload tripled. It was 150 when I started; now it’s 450.”

The workload to manage each probationer has increased as well, McDonald said.

“We have duties we didn’t have 30 years ago. We take DNA samples now, fingerprinting, electronic monitoring.”


Many low-level, non-violent offenders are eligible for electronic home monitoring instead of incarceration, and the Probation Department is in charge of that, McDonald said.

He said that from Oct. 1, 2011, to Oct. 31, 2012, electronic monitoring saved the cost of 5,295 jail days for the county.

“Basic monitoring is for home confinement, then GPS for people who work. We can live track them anywhere they go, 24/7. 

“That works pretty well.”

The GPS bracelets report the person’s geographic location at all times using geo-positioning satellites.

For home monitoring, an ankle bracelet uses wireless technology to send an alarm if the person strays more than 100 feet from a base point.

McDonald said they have a combined total of 43 people on both types of monitoring at present.

And no one has fled the electronic monitoring, he said.

“We really haven’t (had any escapes). Amazingly not. They know they can go back to jail. They tend to do OK. They’re not altar boys.

“We did have one person who set a record for being on monitoring for 364 days,” he added.


Former Moriah Town Justice James Sherman said it has been a pleasure to work with McDonald. 

As a local justice, Sherman often placed defendants on probation, and he said McDonald did his job in a professional and thorough manner.

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