Probation officers get a pat on the back
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. If you see someone rafting with a blindfold on, it could be a probation officer.It’s a meditative, team-building exercise for probation officers, whose jobs are normally challenging and busy.”Their job tends to be hectic,” probation supervisor David Snearly said. “This is a time when life just slows down.”The 9th Judicial District Probation Office is doing some things like this to celebrate probation week. The American Probation and Parole Association is recognizing the work of probation departments July 15-21.There are about 21 employees of the probation office, which has branches in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Meeker. Each probation officer has 60 to 80 clients at a time that they consistently meet with. They also manage another 40 to 80 cases administratively, meaning they manage cases in which the client is supervised in another jurisdiction.The job can be tough. Probation employees handle convicted clients who often don’t want to deal with probation or the programs that go along with it.Probation officers don’t always get a lot of support or recognition. It can even be difficult for them to discuss their work with spouses because talking about criminals can be viewed as unpleasant. But it’s rewarding when some clients realize officers are actually trying to help them and end up thanking them for changing their lives, Chief Probation Officer Shawnee Barnes said.”These professionals are a critical part of the public safety system, safeguarding the public from criminal activity with prevention, intervention, establishing community connections and victim advocacy work,” Robert McCallum, public information officer for the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office, wrote in an e-mail. “One day they may play the part of a counselor, the next they are enforcing the rules of an offender’s supervision. They may help a single mother find day care or a job in order to abide by the conditions of her supervision. They are problem solvers, crime-prevention specialists, motivators, educators, facilitators and oftentimes they are the only support system an offender may have. The work they do is one of the most important jobs in community safety, yet the public often does not know how this vital job is performed.”Besides supervising clients and connecting them with resources, completing pre-sentence investigations is one of the most important jobs probation officers do. Judges rely heavily on probation officers’ pre-sentence investigation reports in order to get a big-picture view of the person they are sentencing. The reports delve into most aspects of a person’s life and give judges insight beyond just the crime the person has committed.During peak activity last year, 9th Judicial District Probation Officers wrote about 80 pre-sentence investigation reports in one month.
Barnes thinks of her chief probation officer job not as an administrative position, but rather as working for the probation officers.”I really work for them,” she said. “The key people in this job are the line officers. All I try to do is to make it so they can do their job.”She said the probation office has recently gotten its officers vests, jackets and flashlights. Those help when officers do home visits in dark or unusual areas. The office also just got radios to give officers so that they’ll be connected with dispatch and other law enforcement.Barnes has worked in the 9th Judicial District Probation Office for a little more than two years. She has a background in management after serving as a supervisor of a child abuse investigation unit for the state while working in Price, Utah.She said working to investigate child abuse for 12 years in her hometown really burned her out. She needed a change and applied for the 9th Judicial District job in response to an online ad. She had never seen Glenwood Springs before, but interviewed with the late Judge T. Peter Craven and decided to make the move.She doesn’t regret the move.”I love it here,” she said.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or email@example.com