I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration from Lewis University, Romeoville, Illinois. I was initially interested in majoring in aviation, but I soon realized I was too short and didn’t meet the height requirement. Plus, I didn’t have the math skills needed to pursue this career. My undergraduate studies in Public Administration led to an opportunity to intern at the Statesville Penitentiary in Illinois, where I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Administrative Review Board; the prisons’ internal court system. I soon found that I had a passion for this type of work and began pursuing a career in corrections.
For the past twenty-seven years, I have worked for the Cook County Adult Probation Department. I was a probation officer for the first two years of my career and supervised adult felony offenders. Early on in my career as a probation officer, one of my probationers named Walter taught me that “success” can be defined in many ways. I was able to assist Walter in understanding that he was a valuable person despite the struggles he was facing; no immediate family support, homelessness, and substance abuse issues. Walter later sent me a letter thanking me for respecting and caring for him as a person.
My first involvement in training began when I was asked by the Training Department to orient newly hired probation officers. I soon realized that my skills were in training and I was good at it! I have remained in the Senior Training position for the past twenty two years. Currently, I am responsible for training newly hired probation officers. Classroom instruction for newly hired probation officers provides an overview of the department policies and procedures and court processes. The on-the-job training for probation officers consists primarily of working with an assigned probation officer to observe as well as perform job duties that include interviewing probationers, scoring risks and needs assessments, developing the best overall supervision strategies for probationers, completing supervision plans, conducting field contacts, attending court hearings and preparing court documents. Most importantly, training provides probation officers the tools necessary to provide public safety, offender accountability and behavioral change.
One of my additional responsibilities is serving as the internship coordinator for our department. Some of my goals for the Internship Program include combining classroom instruction with on-the-job training; introducing students to the criminal justice system; and allowing them to gain practical, first hand courtroom and case management experience.
In my career I have been fortunate to have the experience of being mentored by some of the most incredible people in community corrections. They have encouraged my self-development, identified my skills and supported me to become more involved in community corrections organizations such as the American Probation and Parole Association. Mentors often see something in you that you may not see in yourself. A mentor can be the person who identifies your hidden skills, encourages your involvement and supports you as you test your own boundaries. One of my mentors, a previous Chief of Probation, would often say, “You can never stop learning and you must always be ready!”
My advice to anyone beginning a career in corrections is to find your passion and follow it and you will be successful!