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Robert Maccarone 1984

As director of the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives for New York State, Robert Maccarone oversees the system that is responsible for 125,000 adult probationers – that’s twice the size of the state prison population – and another 17,000 juveniles who are supervised by probation departments. His daily work includes promulgating regulations and standards, and ensuring that probation officers are trained to the highest standards; for example, the state has developed an evidence-based curriculum for probation officers. All this, Maccarone says, is directed toward one goal: “making New York State safer.” It’s a refrain he returns to constantly, the touchstone of his career.

In order to improve and protect public safety, Maccarone’s office focuses on what he calls the drivers of criminal activity: criminal attitudes and thinking, criminal associates, drug and alcohol dependency, and family dysfunction. This approach makes sense when you consider that Maccarone’s undergraduate degree was in psychology, his graduate degree in criminal justice. He is also a former prosecutor and director of criminal justice in Westchester County. Maccarone decided to pursue the law because he saw it as having a huge influence on public policy; he always intended to use his law degree to drive public policy to improve public safety.

There have been many successes. For example, Maccarone says, New York is the safest large state in the country now, with crime at its lowest level in 40 years, and recidivism at its lowest level in a decade. The state prison population is also down from a high of 72,000 ten years ago, to 56,000 today; this is partly because of the reductions in crime and recidivism, and partly because the state has reduced its reliance on incarceration, meaning that probation is playing a larger role in the state’s sentencing structure.

Maccarone also cites Leandra’s Law as a success. The law, which makes driving while intoxicated with a child in the car an automatic felony, took effect in December 2009; in the first year of enforcement, the state racked up 658 arrests under the new law. Convicted offenders are required to install an ignition interlock device that tests their blood alcohol level before the car will start. Maccarone, who oversaw the implementation of the law, says the sheer number of arrests was shocking. “We knew it was important,” he says, “but we had no idea of the numbers.”

Despite his long career as a public servant – Maccarone has worked for the state since 2002, under four different governors – he still views his position as a privilege. “Public service is a grant of authority to do the right thing and serve the public interest,” he says. “You use your limited time to do as much good as you possibly can.” In addition to his work for the state, Maccarone is a proud longstanding member of the Westchester County Advisory Board for the Salvation Army.

Maccarone recalls his education at Pace Law School as a wonderful preparation for a career in criminal justice, and adds, “I still consider myself a student of the law. I don’t think an attorney ever leaves that position.”