Ferguson order takes State's Attorney out of probation picture

Ann Knef Feb. 16, 2005, 8:08am

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson

Under an administrative order issued by Madison County Circuit Court Chief Judge Edward Ferguson on Feb. 7, probation violators will no longer be subject to the reprimand and prosecution of the State’s Attorney’s office.

With an “administrative adjustments grid” as its guide to sanction violators, the Madison County’s Probation and Court Services Department is now in charge.

The order stunned attorneys in Madison County State’s Attorney Bill Mudge’s office.

“It’s a good day for criminals,” said an assistant state’s attorney who asked not to be identified. “This is an overreach by the Chief Judge. It violates the separation of powers.”

A spokesman for Mudge said the State's Attorney's office was "trying to deal with the administrative order."

"There's been some confusion," said Stephanee Smith. "We're trying to figure it out."

The order, which defines "technical" violations as "any infraction of a court order of probation, conditional discharge, or supervision other than an allegation of a subsequent criminal act."

It also states: “An Administrative Adjustments Program is hereby established…to ensure speedy and equitable adjustments to the conditions of probation as a result of technical violations by adult and juvenile offenders sentenced to probation. The Program shall be administered by the Probation and Court Services Department pursuant to this Administrative Order.”

The state’s attorney who provided a copy of the order to the Record said Ferguson’s action was wrong and will not serve the public good.

The only way to challenge the order is through an appeal, according to the state's attorney.

“So, in other words an offense would have to occur first and we would have to know about it--which may or may not happen," the state's attorney said.

Subsequent to being denied authority to intervene because of Ferguson's order, a case would have to be brought to the Appeals Court.

According to the order, “The purpose of the…program shall be to respond to technical violations of probation in a consistent manner that considers the risk and needs of the offender, in proportion to the risk of the community, and utilizes the least restrictive responses to achieve long term positive behavioral change.”

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