MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan recently announced the retirement of Chautauqua County Probation Director Linda Shields effective May 2.
Shields was appointed as probation director in September 2008, but her career with the department began in 1981 when she was first employed as a part-time probation officer. Over the years, she earned her way up in the department serving as a senior probation officer, probation supervisor and acting director.
As director, Shields effectively worked to uphold the department's commitment of holding court-referred offenders accountable for their actions, working with probationers to facilitate positive change in their behavior, creating a safer community, and advocating for victim's rights.
"Throughout the course of her career, Linda has worked closely with schools, police departments, courts, community agencies, and other county departments to monitor the compliance of probationers and connect them with the services and programs they need to become and stay law-abiding citizens," said Horrigan. "Her leadership, strong work ethic and determination to help others will certainly be missed."
Shields was also instrumental in establishing the 200% of Poverty Alternative to Incarceration grant program through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in 2013. This program supports community-based alternatives to incarceration programs for eligible individuals with families whose income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level. One of the programs connected to this grant is Ready, Set, Work. The Ready, Set, Work training program is offered through a collaboration between the Chautauqua County Jail and the Chautauqua County Office of Probation. It provides probation clients and incarcerated individuals with the tools and information to achieve not only employment as they re-enter the community, but to start a career. Shields and 23 staff members were trained to become Offender Workforce Development Specialists and in April 2013 the Ready, Set, Work program successfully graduated its first participants.
Another part of the 200% of Poverty grant is the Thinking for A Change Program. T4C is an integrated, cognitive behavioral change program for offenders that includes cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and development of problem solving skills. A number of probation staff have also been trained in T4C and will be offering this program to probation clients beyond those who qualify for 200 percent of poverty.
Shields will also be receiving the Sarah Tullar Fasoldt award for her leadership later this month from Robert M. Maccarone, deputy commissioner and director of the New York State Office of Probation and Correction Alternatives.
"Probation has been a wonderful career for me and I have enjoyed facilitating positive change in the lives of others," said Shields.
Horrigan will establish a bipartisan search committee to help him find the most qualified individual to serve as the new director.