Los Angeles County’s chief probation officer will be retiring from the post Jan. 18 after three years leading the agency.

“It has been a profound honor to serve as your chief probation officer and I thank you for the opportunity,” Terri McDonald wrote in a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “Because of the experience I have had leading this incredible department in this amazing county, it is with mixed emotions that I inform you of my intention to return to retirement.”

McDonald came out of retirement in 2016, months after stepping down from her job overseeing the jail system with the sheriff’s department. She previously worked for the Santa Clara County probation department and spent 25 years with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, starting as a prison guard and leaving as the undersecretary of operations.

McDonald noted in her retirement letter that she had originally committed to serve in the probation position for just three years “because I would be leaving my family after only just returning home following assisting in the jails.”

“I know there is much work that remains to be done and am committed to assisting with a smooth transition as well as to support the ongoing efforts in any way possible after I return home,” she wrote.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said McDonald “led our Probation Department during a time of significant transformation of our criminal justice system.”

“She oversaw the establishment of Campus Kilpatrick, which is regarded as a model for a trauma-informed approach to juvenile justice reform,” Hahn said. “She also implemented a plan to close nine juvenile detention facilities, with one of those closed juvenile camps being converted into a residential vocational center.”

The leaders of three county labor unions representing probation officers, supervising deputy probation officers and managers issued a joint statement calling for the next probation chief to “partner with us to bring stability to the largest Probation Department in the world.”

“Critically, it is imperative that the next chief respect the work of probation staff and quickly restore morale by focusing much-needed attention on properly training staff and reinstituting policies that assure staff safety in the juvenile institutions,” according to the union chiefs.

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