After completing my education at the University of Texas at Arlington and receiving my B.A. in Sociology and my Master’s in Urban Studies, I began working for the Texas Department of Public Welfare as a food stamp caseworker for 5 ½ years. During that time, the Probation Department was located on the 2nd floor of my building and I was always intrigued by the kind of work they did and became interested in probation. I applied for a position there but was initially rejected as I did not pass the screening board. I decided to follow-up, so I met with the assistant director of Dallas County Adult Probation regarding the interview process I completed with that agency. I explained to him that my answers during the interview process had reflected the policies and culture of the welfare system for whom I had been employed and not the corrections system. However, I felt I would be able to enforce the directives of probation and the court system. About a month later, I received a call from the director of the department and was offered a probation officer position. I later learned later that one of the reasons I had been offered the job was due to the fact that I had a told the assistant director I needed to conclude our meeting as I did not want to keep my next client waiting. I have come to realize that you never know what will impact someone who is interviewing you- I was just being honest- not attempting to impress him but that statement evidently contributed to my receiving employment in community corrections.
My first assignment was as a supervision and field officer. I worked in that role for six years and then became a felony court officer for eleven years. I then was offered and accepted the Victim Services Coordinator position, which was a relatively new position, and have been a part of the Victim Services Unit for the past eleven years.
There have been several factors that influenced my move into the victim services role including understanding that issues of victimization need to be addressed. If a victim does not identify and address their concerns, these issues may remain unresolved indefinitely. The most important thing I can do for a victim is to provide them information. I act as a liaison between the victim and the supervising officers, our court units and the court itself. Victims need to know that their offender is being held accountable and I attempt to provide that reassurance. Additionally, I have learned the importance of addressing their issues in a timely manner and that victims should be treated with dignity and respect.
My niece was killed in a vehicular homicide several years ago and that experience has increased my ability to understand a victim’s perspective and assist me in my position as a victim advocate. Although that was a devastating experience, it has given an insight into the significance of victim issues and rights and the need for sensitivity in working with this part of the criminal justice field.
As the Victim Services Coordinator I also provide training to our department staff regarding victim rights and concerns and the available resources within the community that aid victims of crime to heal physically, financially and emotionally.
I have been active in APPA’s Victim’s Issues Committee for about ten years. The friends I have developed and the knowledge I have acquired through this committee has been of tremendous assistance to me and I believe I have been able to help others because of the contact I have had with other committee members. Because of this involvement, I am more aware of laws that influence victim rights, the resources that are available on the national level and of grant money that is available to provide victim services and enhance crime victim rights.
I want to tell those considering community corrections employment that my career as a probation officer and a victim advocate has been most rewarding. I have always loved my job and have great respect for my department and the probation/parole field. I feel I can make a significant difference in the lives of victims and offenders. That impact may not initially be apparent as we are not always aware of what is going on in the lives of those with whom we work. However, I am certain that my position does allow me to make some positive changes in the lives of those who need it most.