Taking a chance on a second chance: Juanita Holmes spearheads the Department of Probation

July 13, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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As New York City grapples with rising concerns of crime and public safety, a somewhat lesser-known agency is working tirelessly in the background to offer alternatives to incarceration and reduce recidivism.

The Department of Probation (DOP), under the firm and committed leadership of its newly appointed commissioner, Juanita Holmes, is redefining the ways in which justice is served and working to ensure a safe transition for probationers back into society.

Holmes’ appointment to the DOP earlier this year by Mayor Eric Adams marked a major shift in her illustrious law enforcement career. A product of the New York Police Department (NYPD), Holmes boasts over three decades of service, ascending through the ranks to become the NYPD’s first female Chief of Patrol, and for a time, the highest-ranking female member.

In an insightful interview with the Jacob Kaye of the Queens Daily Eagle, Holmes shed light on her vision for the DOP and her overarching mission to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism. Describing the DOP as an “individualized supervision support system using evidence-based practices,” she emphasized the thorough assessment that probationers undergo, taking into account their family backgrounds, economic circumstances, and other relevant factors.

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As the former head of NYPD training, Holmes acknowledges the synergies between the DOP and the NYPD, viewing the two as complementary in terms of reducing crime and offering people a second chance. “The only thing is, now, this is your first experience with the criminal justice system. As a result of such alternatives to incarceration, you are given a second opportunity,” she told the Queens Daily Eagle.

While arrests have been on the rise recently, Holmes revealed that the number of people under probation supervision has actually decreased. She attributes this seemingly incongruous trend to potential lag effects related to COVID and court staffing shortages.

One of her main goals as commissioner is the reduction of recidivism and helping probationers to reintegrate into society in a productive manner. This includes assisting them in obtaining an education and employment, even helping them with basics like filling out a job application or securing health insurance. She believes in giving them not just a job, but a career, and helping them find a field they love where they can build a successful future.

Holmes has introduced initiatives such as exit interviews for probationers, a crucial part of assessing their needs and preparing them for a smooth transition back into society. In addition, the DOP has created Neighborhood Opportunity Network spaces where probationers can check in with probation officers, participate in job training, learn financial literacy and more.


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