Duncan wraps up 36 years with parole and probation
07/02/2010
The Calvert Recorder

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This n' that

Agnes "Gill" Duncan completed 36 years of work this week with St. Mary's office of the state's division of parole and probation, and a career of meeting with probationers, visiting their homes and writing their life stories.

The "hundreds" of presentence investigation reports compiled by Duncan during the last eight years helped judges determine the right penalty for the convicted offenders before them, which may have made her the county's most prolific biographer.

"The judges tell me that," Duncan said Wednesday at the office in the Carter state office building in Leonardtown. "I truly believe in giving the judges enough information to make a good sentence."

The same report "follows the person" to provide information on what programs would help a prisoner in the state's department of corrections, Duncan said, and after the prisoner's release, the report can help a parole and probation agent steer them toward a better chance of success.

"That's why I write volumes," she said. "Because it's going to help somebody along the way."

Duncan, now 63, arrived to St. Mary's in 1972 when her father, a retired Navy captain, was a civil service worker at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. She previously served as a VISTA worker in the Caribbean, and pursued postgraduate studies and a brief stint as a substitute teacher before she became a probation agent in 1974. Then-Gov. Marvin Mandel had just ended the restriction of having male probation agents supervise male offenders, and female probation agents supervise only female offenders.

"We were then allowed to have mixed caseloads," Duncan said. "We broke a lot of ground that year. I was the first full-time [female agent] in St. Mary's County."

Duncan spent most of her first 25 years doing supervision work, witnessing and enduring the recidivism rate among released offenders, but through the team approach of a HotSpot program which involved visiting them in their communities from 1999 to 2002 encountered many success stories.

"It's a good feeling. People come up and say, If it wasn't for you ,' [but] I tell them, "You did it,'" Duncan said. "We give them support, but in the end, it's up to the person."