Every Indiana probation officer knows John Augustus. Thanks to a grainy video copy of “Sentence Deferred,” a 1957 episode in The Christophers television series, probation officers learn at their orientation that John Augustus was a Boston boot-maker in the mid-1800’s and is credited as the father of probation.
The Probation Officers Advisory Board of the Judicial Conference of Indiana created The Order of Augustus in 1993 as an honorary award presented annually to a probation officer whose commitment and personal dedication have exemplified the ideals and philosophy espoused by Augustus. His creed was: “to raise the fallen, reform the criminal, and so far as my humble abilities would allow, to transform the abode of suffering and misery to the home of happiness.” According to the story in “Sentence Deferred”, Augustus was concerned that poor drunks and offenders of petty crimes were receiving mandatory sentences that were not warranted by their backgrounds. He felt that first-time offenders could best be rehabilitated if spared the experience of a prison sentence and persuaded a Boston court to let a “common drunkard” be left in his care instead of going to prison. After three weeks of being in Augustus’ care, in which Augustus found him a job and made him sign a pledge to stop drinking, the offender and Augustus returned to astonish the court—the offender was completely sober and his appearance and demeanor had drastically improved.
Although times have changed since the days of John Augustus, the work of modern-day probation officers remains nearly the same. This is made evident by Henry County Chief Probation Officer Susan Lightfoot, who was named to The Order of Augustus for 2013. Ms. Lightfoot has served as a probation officer for 28 years and is known for her compassion toward adult and juvenile offenders in need of rehabilitation. She is also known for her efforts to improve probation services in Indiana through the use of innovative programs and technology. Upon receiving the Augustus Award, Ms. Lightfoot said, “I’m so humbled to receive this prestigious award. Probation officers do important work, and it is really gratifying to help people make positive changes in their lives. I feel very fortunate to have spent my career working with great judges, staff and colleagues while pursuing the ideals of John Augustus.”
Ms. Lightfoot is a former member of the Probation Officers Advisory Board and former chair of the Board’s Hot Topics Committee, a member of the Risk Assessment Task Force, an active member of the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana (POPAI) and a frequent presenter at Judicial Center probation conferences.