Contact:
John Caher, (518) 457-8415 or (518) 225-5240 (cell)
For immediate release: Thursday, August 12, 2010

STATE OF NEW YORK PRESENTS TWO AWARDS AT NYS PROBATION OFFICERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE HELD IN ALBANY

ALBANY -- Wyoming County Probation Officer Gene Traxler was cited today for “Outstanding Service by a Probation Officer” while Dutchess County Deputy Probation Director Catherine Lane and Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Debra Bonnerwith jointly received an award for “Outstanding Collaboration between Probation and Social Services.”

The awards were presented by Robert M. Maccarone, director of the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Mr. Maccarone presented the awards during the annual conference of the New York State Probation Officers Association in Albany.

Sean M. Byrne, acting commissioner of DCJS, said: “Probation officials perform an absolutely vital role in our criminal justice system, often behind the scenes and frequently below the radar. All too often, the work they do in protecting our communities in a very cost-efficient and effective manner goes unnoticed. I am very pleased that Catherine Lane, Debra Bonnerwith and Gene Traxler today received the public recognition that they have earned and deserve.”

Mr. Traxler, who was honored for exceptional service, dedication and professionalism, joined the Wyoming County Probation Department 16 years ago after previously serving as a drug and alcohol counselor, a special deputy sheriff in Genesee County, a police dispatcher and a youth board member and chairman. He was nominated by Wyoming County Probation Director Joan Kibler; the nomination was supported by numerous letters from law enforcement, courts, schools, and social services in Wyoming County.

“Gene Traxler works diligently to uphold justice and strengthen community corrections and has earned respect from all segments of the criminal justice system for his strong belief in probation as a change agent, and in promoting public safety and offender accountability,” Director Maccarone said. “Officer Traxler’s testimonials all pay tribute to his tireless professional  commitment to the field of probation and his hands-on motivational skills in fostering positive behavioral change in probationers under his supervision.”

Mr. Maccarone said Mr. Traxler has made “an indelible mark in the success of the drug court in Wyoming County” and has earned praise for advocating graduated sanctions consistent with public safety. 

“His collaborative spirit, coupled with a balanced and compassionate understanding of drug dependency and addiction, and his efforts in providing monitoring beyond normal business hours, has made a significant difference in the lives of many probationers to secure and continue treatment, maintain sobriety and lead law-abiding lives,” Mr. Maccarone said.

Ms. Lane and Ms. Bonnerwith received an award that recognizes program excellence and collaborative partnership between probation and social services which improves the lives of children and their families. They were nominated by Dutchess County Probation Director Mary Ellen Still, who praised their collaborative efforts in establishing and administering Dutchess County’s Juvenile Pretrial Program.

Mr. Maccarone said:  “Catherine Lane and Debra Bonnerwith have been instrumental in diverting numerous troubled youth from costly and unnecessary detention services and significantly contributed to the field of juvenile justice by strengthening youth and families through evidence-based practice and programs. Catherine and Debra have demonstrated leadership and partnered successfully in developing, securing funding and implementing innovative programs to improve outcomes for youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system and have made measurable strides in reducing the number of youth at-risk of placement.”

Acting Commissioner Byrne said that the work probations officers do with juveniles is critical, especially in light of the fact youth coming out of juvenile facilities have an extraordinarily high rate of recidivism.

“Studies have shown that New York State taxpayers are paying well over $200,000 a year to house each youth in a juvenile facility, and the return on that investment is an 89 percent recidivism rate for boys and an 81 percent recidivism rate for girls,” Acting Commissioner Byrne said. “If there is anywhere that effective alternatives to incarceration are needed, it is in the realm of juvenile justice.”

Mr. Maccarone also cited Ms. Lane and Ms. Bonnerwith for advancing new evidence-based policies and procedures to reduce detention.

“The juvenile pretrial programming with a graduated intervention model which incorporates curfew monitoring has helped to better promote early intervention with at-risk youth and their families and has led to more youth successfully remaining in the community without compromising public safety,” Mr. Maccarone said.

Ms. Lane has been with the Dutchess County Probation Department for more than 25 years. She has been a state-credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor for over 20 years, served as president of the New York Association of Pretrial Service Agencies and worked as a youth worker and elementary school teacher. She is currently president of the New York Association of Pretrial Service Agencies. Ms. Bonnerwith has worked with the Dutchess County Social Services Department for over 22 years and has performed child care work and case management at the former New York State Division for Youth and the Hillside Children’s Center.