By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer
Almost two years into his job as District 27 District Attorney, Brian Kuester is enacting some changes in his office’s probation program.
Kuester said his office receives just 40 percent of its annual budget from the state of Oklahoma. The probation program, where offenders placed under district attorney’s office supervision pay the office $40 each month, accounts for a chunk of the remaining 60 percent.
“Those offenders are typically non-violent offenders and those with misdemeanors,” Kuester said. “In effect, people who DOC (Department of Corrections) won’t supervise, and who would have no supervision otherwise.”
Kuester said there are three changes he’s making to his program, which encompasses probationers in Adair, Sequoyah, Cherokee and Wagoner counties:
• The program’s name will change from DA Supervision to DA Probation;
• Community service will be a probation requirement; and
• Increased probation programs aimed toward working toward education and counseling.
“Unemployed defendants need jobs; defendants without high school diplomas need GEDs; defendants without some basic life skills need a little coaching; and defendants with addictions need counseling,” Kuester said. “My goal is to point these defendants in the right direction to the resources that are available and offer them incentive to succeed.
“This is an opportunity to send them in the right direction.”
Kuester said the number of nonprofits and government entities in District 27 that can use community service hours is “almost limitless.”
“We’re just now getting it off the ground with baby steps,” Kuester said. “We have to make sure there is infrastructure to handle the changes, so it might be a slow process, but it will be a beneficial one.”
The education aspect of the program is in the pipeline, and Kuester said he hopes to see it well on its way by the end of the year.
“What I believe we’ll find is that certain counties may end up having its own strength,” Kuester said. “Where Cherokee County may possibly have a resource that’s not available in one of the other counties. It will be a process that we have to get through to kind of see where we are on it.”
The community service began earlier this month when five probationers took to Wagoner parks, picking up trash.
“That’s maybe not a big deal to some,” Kuester said. “But someone has to do it.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help
District 27 District Attorney Brian Kuester said his office would like to build and expand an education program aimed at pointing those on probation without a high school diploma toward a GED program.
Anyone who would like to teach a GED course to District 27 probationers can call (918) 485-2119, Kuester said.