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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends
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3100 Railroad Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58501

701.328.6390 · Phone
701.328.6651 · Fax

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Parole and Probation: History of Parole and Probation

The concept of parole was first discussed in 1888 in a report generated by the ND State Penitentiary directed to the governor of the Dakota Territory. A few years later, the ND State Penitentiary initiated an early release program for short-time prisoners to the custody of an employer, typically a farmer. The local sheriff returned parole violators to the prison when the employer tired of them, usually after harvest.

The ND Pardon Board assumed the duties of paroling authority in 1939. At that time, the Legislature authorized the Executive Branch to hire a staff of one person to manage parolees. Art Vandal was appointed Chief Parole Officer. Mr. Vandal was responsible for the development of the ND parole and probation laws, the supervision of parolees, and the duties of clerk to the ND Pardon Board.

In the mid 1950’s, the ND Pardon Board appointed Irv Riedman as a Parole Officer to help with the increasing workload. Parole Officer Riedman became Warden of the ND State Penitentiary in 1957. The Warden he replaced, Oscar Nygaard, then assumed the duties of a Parole Officer. Don Seibert was appointed to the Parole Office in 1958. Parole Officer Seibert supervised parolees from around the State of ND while Parole Officer Nygaard worked the growing caseload in Fargo from his home in Bismarck. Parole Officer Nygaard relied on the train as his means of transportation to manage his caseload in Fargo, ND.

In 1963 the Legislature authorized a dual board system which allowed the ND Pardon Board to review requests for pardon and required the development of a separate Parole Board to review requests for parole. The two boards worked independently of each other.

In 1966, Chief Parole Officer Art Vandal retired and Warden Irv Riedman was appointed Chief Parole Officer. The courts were utilizing probation as an alternative to prison at the same time. Chief Parole Officer Riedman responded to the courts alternative to prison by hiring more parole/probation officers to fill the growing needs of the courts. He created district offices in the larger major cities in the State of ND. At the time of Officer Riedman’s retirement in 1982, 29 people staffed nine district offices.

Jim Marion was appointed Chief Parole Officer in 1982. He continued the programs put in place by Officer Riedman. The 1989 Legislative Assembly enacted legislation creating the ND Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation effective July 17, 1989. Officer Jim Marion left the agency when it joined the ND Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. At that time, the ND Parole/Probation Office under the direction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was supervising about 1,500 offenders with a staff of 34.

The new department brought all state operated correctional services for adult offenders under one organization and direction. It also included the Division of Juvenile Services which was administratively created by the Governor within the Director of Institutions Office in July of 1987. The creation of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been very positive for both the citizens of ND and for the clients who have been placed in the department’s custody. The coordination of services has resulted in improved, as well as more efficiently operated, services.

This reorganization offered a new opportunity for a closer working relationship between the ND State Penitentiary and the Division of Parole/Probation. In 1990, Director of Corrections Elaine Little appointed Warren Emmer as the new Director of the ND Division of Parole and Probation. At that time, the ND Parole/Probation staff jumped on the correctional roller coaster of the 1990’s managing approximately 2,800 offenders with a permanent staff of 48 people located in 16 district offices around the State of ND.
Since July of 1989, it has been a goal of the division to put in place a structure and support staff that will assure a comprehensive program of community corrections for ND. All the professional staff play a key role in accomplishing this goal. A number of areas in the adult criminal justice system were identified for creating opportunities with enhanced services to benefit offenders.

To accommodate the needs of the offender and enhance public safety, offender supervision has changed dramatically over the years. Offenders are supervised in a manner that will maximize public safety, as well as the rehabilitation needs of the offender. A risk assessment tool, along with the officer judgment, determines the level of supervision the division provides offenders.

The administration of justice through the parole/probation officer is very challenging with a variety of alternative programs available to both pre- and post-incarcerated criminal offenders including: Administrative Supervision, Community Placement Program (CPP), Electronic Monitoring (EMS), DOC&R Room, 11 Community Service/Restitution Programs, victim-offender mediation programs, a variety of treatment alternatives, Intensive Supervision (ISP), Day Reporting Programs, Intermediate Measures, Tribal Programs, Community Corrections Boards, House Arrest, Half-Way Houses.

To insure that offenders are properly supervised, systematic internal audits of the work performance of all parole/probation officers are completed by supervisors. This ensures that parole/probation is allocating its resources in the most efficient manner.

With the addition of the James River Correctional Center, as of April 1998, the Adult Services Division has been reorganized. It is now comprised of the ND Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Prisons Division and the ND Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Parole/Probation.

As of September 2000 Parole/Probation employs 72 professional staff in 14 district offices around the State of ND and 15 in the central office in Bismarck. The offender population under active supervision is 130 on parole, 2,719 on probation, 33 on community placement and 399 on Interstate Compact for a total of approximately 3,281.

The small step in 1888 with the implementation of the program for short-time prisoners release was the cornerstone of our future programming in the parole/probation aspect. The Division holds a vision for responding to futuristic corrections challenges. This vision embraces restorative justice for victims and promises a more effective process for partnerships in our ND communities. The Division eagerly embraces the philosophy of community partnerships and community safety. Combined with a long history of exceptional professionalism, strong leadership, and excellent volunteerism, the Division is advancing to help design and implement futuristic tools and programs which include the following: a Parole/Probation Revocation Center, Special Needs Program, Sex Offender Assessment Instrument, Home Custody Program, Offender Skills Enhancement Program, Low Risk Diversion Program, Reparative Justice Programs, Family Group Conferencing, Sentencing Circles, Domestic Violence Satellite Tracking System, and an increased number of victim-offender mediation programs.

In a cooperative effort with our sister divisions, law enforcement, the judicial system, our communities, victims, and offenders we know we can make a difference just as the little cornerstone from 1888 we are built on made a difference at that time 100 years ago.

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