Tazewell County welcomes new court services director

Steve Stein GateHouse Media Illinois
John Horan

John Horan bristles when he hears someone say a defendant in a crime has been sentenced to “just probation.”

Horan is the new director of court services for Tazewell County Court in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

At any time, his 24 probation officers are overseeing as many as 900 active adult and juvenile cases, much of them drug-related. The officers make 10,000 to 11,000 home visits annually.

“Their job is to use every resource available to help these people get their lives back on track after they’ve made poor decisions,” Horan said.

“That isn’t easy. The dynamics of each situation are different and there are demands and expectations.

“Probation officers aren’t recognized enough for the skills they possess and the impact they have on individuals and communities.”

Horan, 42, thought so much of the department he now directs that he decided he wanted to come back after spending three years as a probation operations supervisor in the administrative office of the Illinois Supreme Court in Chicago.

The Chillicothe native and Bradley University graduate worked in Tazewell County from 1997 to 2011, including a stint as chief adult probation officer from 2005 to 2011. He replaced his former boss, David Mills, who retired in October, as director.

Horan said his work in Chicago overseeing probation departments north of Interstate 80 and the 10th Judicial Circuit verified what he already knew about Tazewell County.

“We have one of the most progressive and respected probation departments in the state,” he said.

A big reason, he said, is probation officers are assigned to districts for adult cases. And each district has an assigned armed probation officer who deals with high-risk offenders.

“This is rarely done, but it’s very efficient,” he said. “Each probation officer gets to know the neighborhoods, the community leaders ...”

Horan’s department also has six supervisors, three staffers in a legal services division who determine if a defendant is eligible financially for a public defender, and six support staff.

Besides the hundreds of active cases, the department also oversees about 2,000 administrative cases that don’t require supervision and provides court-ordered supervision to suspects before trials.

Editor’s note: Michael John Horan is a 1989 Illinois Valley Central High School graduate and is better known by his nickname, Duber, in Chillicothe.