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2019 News

Séan Ryan Retires as Head of Bucks County Probation & Parole

January 18, 2019

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Séan R. Ryan, who rose from humble beginnings to a seat of influence over Pennsylvania’s probation and parole policies, will retire next week as Bucks County’s Chief Adult Probation Officer.

Ryan, 66, of Hilltown Township, has headed Bucks County’s Adult Probation and Parole Office since 2007, a role in which he oversees a staff of 82 officers, managers and support workers. The office is responsible for supervising about 10,700 offenders placed on probation or parole by the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

Earlier in his career, Ryan had worked for 19 years as a Bucks County adult probation officer, supervisor and deputy chief. He left for 11 years when Gov. Tom Ridge appointed him to the State Board of Probation and Parole, where he served two terms from 1995-2006.   Ryan1

“Séan’s a special guy. He’s had a long, long career in public service, in a difficult arena,” County Commissioners’ Chairman Robert G. Loughery said at Wednesday’s commissioners’ meeting, where Ryan was honored with a proclamation and a commemorative Mercer tile.  

“I just want to thank my staff and the Court of Common Pleas and the Commissioners for all their support,” Ryan said. “I wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Ryan grew up without a father in Bobtown, a tiny coal town in western Pennsylvania. His widowed mother, a secretary for the local school district, sent him to the Milton Hershey School in Dauphin County, where he excelled in academics and football, was elected student body president, and earned a scholarship to attend Juniata College.Ryan3

Ryan earned a degree in social psychology at Juniata, where he was co-captain of the football team and earned second-team All-State honors as an offensive guard. He went on to graduate school at Lehigh University, earning a master’s degree in social restoration while also teaching death row inmates at SCI Graterford and co-facilitating a sex-offenders’ therapy group.

He initially was hired by Bucks County in 1976, rising to Deputy Chief Adult Probation Officer by 1987. Among his achievements was creating, in concert with the Network of Victim Assistance, an innovative sexual offender intervention program.

Gov. Ridge nominated Ryan to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole at a time of great controversy. The board had come under fire for its handling of the release and supervision of Robert “Mudman” Simon, a convicted killer who was paroled in 1995 over the objections of his sentencing judge, moved to New Jersey in violation of his parole conditions, and fatally shot a police officer there.

Ryan was among the board members appointed by Ridge to help change and stabilize a system whose practices the governor and others had sharply criticized. At the time of the appointment, news stories emphasized that Ryan had been selected by Ridge without having requested or received any assistance from state or local politicians.  Ryan headline

“He put his name in through the proper channels and was recognized on his merits,” then-State Sen. David W. Heckler told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1995, lauding Ryan for his “apolitical, no-nonsense, call-it-as-you-see-it approach.”

yan returned to Bucks County in 2007 to oversee the department he had left in 1995. During his time as Chief Adult Probation Officer, he led or assisted with initiatives including:

  • Drug Court
  • County Intermediate Punishment
  • The Pretrial Supervision Program
  • Using video conference technology for violation and bench warrant hearings
  • Administrative Disposition Hearings
  • Establishment of an Enhanced Collection Program using a retired judge
  • Automation of inmate parole applications
  • Establishing an armed departmental Arrest and Search Team
  • Facilitating the carrying of Narcan by his staff, which resulted in an officer saving a civilian’s life in 2018
  • Getting county-issued portable radios for all probation officers on Bucks County’s Police Communications System
  • Overseeing the conversion to a state-of-the-art Adult Probation Information Management System, and
  • Meeting with county inmates on a monthly basis to answer questions about probation and parole supervision

Ryan also has served as a consultant to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has taught or co-taught criminal justice classes at Temple University and Bucks County Community College for the past 30 years, has served on a number of state, regional and national corrections-related boards, and served as chairman of the Bucks County Prison Oversight Board.

His final day will be Friday, January 25. A successor has not yet been named.