John Augustus, the "Father of Probation," is recognized as the first true probation officer. Augustus was born in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1785. By 1829, he was a permanent resident of Boston and the owner of a successful boot-making business. It was undoubtedly his membership in the Washington Total Abstinence Society that led him to the Boston courts.
Washingtonians abstained from alcohol themselves and were convinced that abusers of alcohol could be rehabilitated through understanding, kindness, and sustained moral suasion, rather than through conviction and jail sentences.
In 1841, John Augustus attended police court to bail out a "common drunkard," the first probationer. The offender was ordered to appear in court three weeks later for sentencing. He returned to court a sober man, accompanied by Augustus. To the astonishment of all in attendance, his appearance and demeanor had dramatically changed.
Augustus thus began an 18-year career as a volunteer probation officer. Not all of the offenders helped by Augustus were alcohol abusers, nor were all prospective probationers taken under his wing. Close attention was paid to evaluating whether or not a candidate would likely prove to be a successful subject for probation. The offender's character, age, and the people, places, and things apt to influence him or her were all considered.
Augustus was subsequently credited with founding the investigations process, one of three main concepts of modern probation, the other two being intake and supervision. Augustus, who kept detailed notes on his activities, was also the first to apply the term "probation" to his method of treating offenders.
By 1858, John Augustus had provided bail for 1,946 men and women. Reportedly, only 10 of this number forfeited their bond, a remarkable accomplishment when measured against any standard. His reformer's zeal and dogged persistence won him the opposition of certain segments of Boston society as well as the devotion and aid of many Boston philanthropists and organizations. The first probation statute, enacted in Massachusetts shortly after this death in 1859, was widely attributed to his efforts.
The History of Probation in Skagit County
- Skagit County Probation Services started by Justice of the Peace Eugene Anderson of Anacortes, Justice of the Peace John Kamb of Mount Vernon and Justice of the Peace Hugh Ridgeway of Sedro Woolley.
- 1973-1974 The first part-time Probation Officer Fred Miller hired
- 1975 First fulltime Director hired, Fred Miller and one Administrative Assistant
- 1975 The Probation Department establishes a Citizen Volunteer program using the Bellevue Municipal Court as a model site
- 1976 First fulltime Assistant Probation Officer/Volunteer Coordinator hired, Rich Ward
- 1977 70-Citizen Volunteers active in Community Probation
- 1977 1st Annual Dinner for Citizen Volunteers held to honor their hard work and dedication
- 1978 “Full Level Supervision” added to Probation Department. “Full Level Supervision” referred to the notion that some clients needed to learn how to be “decent, upright and law-abiding citizens” where the Citizen Volunteers could assist with that. All “Full Level Supervised” clients were to have a Community Volunteer/Advocate as a boost to their supervision.
- 1981 Fred Miller retires, Rich Ward takes over as the 2nd Probation Director
- 1982 Citizen Volunteer program dissolves over a new State Supreme Court Ruling stating probation needed to follow only the stipulated directives of a court that stemmed from the proximal circumstance of an offense. This new ruling took the “Full Level Supervision” out of the orders leaving all client treatment to be completed at a professional level.
- Early 1980’s Skagit County replaced the Justice of the Peace system with a fulltime Judiciary of Limited Jurisdiction, Skagit County Probation Services remained a separate County function.
- 1990’s the first Risk Assessment Tools were created and utilized in the Department
- 1990’s the Probation Department had one Probation Director, two Compliance Officers and one Administrative Assistant.
- 1992 the Probation Department modified its name from Skagit County Probation to Skagit County Probation and Compliance Services
- 1994 the Probation and Compliance Services Department moved from a Large Office on Pine Street to a Smaller Office in the Northwest Corner of the Superior Courthouse.
- Late 1990’s the Probation and Compliance Services Department suffered along with many Public Departments due to economic downturns. Only three fulltime employees remained. The Department streamlined programs and focused namely on Compliance.
- 2001 Rich Ward retires, Linda Eiford begins as the next Probation Director
- Mid 2000’s the Probation and Compliance Services Department hires additional staffing, now the Department has one Director, two Probation Officers and one Administrative Staff
- Late 2000’s the Probation and Compliance Services Department moves to the Northeast Corner of the Superior Courthouse.
- 2010 Probation Services hires a Domestic Violence focused Probation Officer and begins working on an “in-house” DV program
- 2011 Linda Eiford retires, Mike Mahoney takes over as Probation Director
- 2011 Probation and Compliance Services earns the Domestic Violence Site of the Year Award for Washington State
- Mid-2010’s Probation and Compliance Services staff now has risen to one Director, three Probation Officers and two Support staff
- 2017 Mike Mahoney retires, James Malcolm takes over as Probation Director
- 2018 Probation and Compliance Services added one fulltime Probation Officer
- 2018 Probation and Compliances Services retitles programming to Probation Services and begins to focus on a “best practices” approach to Community Probation modeling
- 2019 Probation Services begins attending court and meeting clients in the Municipal Court sites of Anacortes, Burlington and Sedro Woolley
- 2019 Probation Services begins holding yearlong monthly meetings for East County clients in Concrete
- 2020 Probation Services continues the community based approach to Probation where Probation Officers focus on geographic regions and base caseloads on case origination