Chief Judge Evans names interim leader of Adult Probation

Released On 01/02/2018

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today appointed Dr. Thomas Lyons to serve as the Interim Chief Probation Officer of the Adult Probation Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Dr. Lyons, 51, succeeds Lavone Haywood, who retired on December 29 after a four-decade career with the department. Under the interim appointment, Dr. Lyons will temporarily vacate his current role as the Director of the Research and Evaluation Unit in the Office of the Chief Judge.

In October, Chief Judge Evans launched a nationwide search for the next Chief Probation Officer. That process to hire a permanent replacement will continue.

“Dr. Lyons has demonstrated a commitment to justice and a strong desire to provide treatment to individuals who can be rehabilitated and restored to the community,” Chief Judge Evans said. “He has a deep understanding of human behavior, and he knows the supervision and services that probation clients need to be successful. In addition, Dr. Lyons is a leader who has helped secure $4.2 million in grants to fund programs in the court system.”

Dr. Lyons leads two collaborative criminal justice reform initiatives in Cook County on behalf of Chief Judge Evans: the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge and the Cook County Justice and Mental Health Collaborative.

In the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, Dr. Lyons is the project director who helped obtain two grants totaling $2.2 million. The funds primarily support efforts by Cook County elected officials to safely reduce the jail population, divert certain nonviolent offenders from the court system and track efforts to remind defendants about future court dates.

He also serves as co-chair of the Cook County Justice and Mental Health Collaborative, a partnership between the court and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System to divert certain individuals with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system and into community-based treatment.

Dr. Lyons played a key role in obtaining $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The money supports the treatment and case management of defendants in Drug Court programs.

In addition, Dr. Lyons helped the court secure $200,000 to open the Restorative Justice Community Court this year in the city’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Funding came from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the grant is administered by the New York-based Center for Court Innovation.

Dr. Lyons possesses a strong understanding of the pretrial process for felony defendants in the Circuit Court of Cook County. He has evaluated the scientifically based risk-assessment tool that the Arnold Foundation provided to the court. The court began using the tool in July 2015 to provide more information to judges regarding a felony defendant’s level of risk if he or she is to be released to the community while the case is pending.

“I am honored to serve in this important role,” Dr. Lyons said. “For most of my career, I have been working to understand the factors, such as substance use and poverty, that lead to crime – and how to address them with programs that work. In my time with the court, I have developed great respect for the men and women in the Adult Probation Department. Now I look forward to working with and learning from them.”

Dr. Lyons has 15 years of experience in research, program evaluation and program development in the criminal justice system.  Prior to joining the Office of the Chief Judge in April 2015, he was Associate Professor and Director of the HIV/AIDS Research and Policy Institute at Chicago State University, with an appointment as Research Fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author or co-author of more than 30 scientific publications on topics including HIV among incarcerated populations, substance abuse treatment interventions and re-entry. He has been principal investigator on three research projects funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

He also has served as program evaluator for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), an organization that works closely with the Adult Probation Department to connect probationers to substance-abuse treatment. While at TASC, he was the principal research analyst for the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission (2009-2011). 

Dr. Lyons holds a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Chicago, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in HIV research at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was also elected a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology in 2012.

The Chief Probation Officer oversees all of the operations of the department – such as budgeting, personnel management, strategic planning, resource acquisition, statistical analysis, training and working with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. The department has an active caseload of about 20,000 probation clients and about 4,500 defendants on pretrial services. The Chief Probation Officer oversees a staff of 540 employees.

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