People often ask me, “Why do you work in Corrections?” This question typically comes up in conversation when I’m meeting new people for the first time or in a group setting, especially after I tell them my College Degree is in English Literature. My typical answer is that I was fresh out of College and was unable to find a job where I could use my English degree and fulfill my need to make a difference.
I graduated College from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 1993 with a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences. Although I loved reading and creative writing, my true passion was Sociology and I began taking Sociology courses. In 1995, after working for a local bookstore, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a job as a Correctional Officer. I thought the job sounded exciting so I applied and was hired at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.
After working as a Correctional Officer for about a year or so, I applied to be a Unit Caseworker, was hired and was assigned to Segregation and Death Row. My job as Unit Caseworker really educated me as to the workings of a prison and what life is really like for inmates serving time. Working with the inmates taught me patience, understanding, and how to interact with folks who haven’t always had things easy.
After three years of working with Death Row inmates in the Segregation Unit, the Librarian position opened up. I applied for the position and became the Librarian between the years 1999 and 2003. In 2003 I became the Library Coordinator, and began to work closely bridging the gap between the inmates, the Librarians and upper level Management. There were challenges as I struggled how best to deliver library services to the inmate population with limited funds. During this time, we installed legal computers in the law libraries, obtained budgets for the libraries, and installed reference computers to help inmates learn basic skills such as typing, job seeking, and resume writing. I worked as the Library Coordinator from 2003 through 2009.
In 2009, the Parole Officer position became available. After 14 years of working inside the facilities, I knew it was time to make a change. I felt that I could better serve the inmate population as well as the public I applied and was hired as a Parole Officer in July of 2009.
Becoming a Parole Officer was the best change I ever made in my career at the Department of Corrections. I’m able to work directly with parolees and see the progression of my clients from civilian to inmate, inmate to parolee and parolee to civilian. The job is not an easy one; the workloads can be high at times and there are some parolees who don’t understand that I am just trying to help them achieve their goals and become productive citizens. But the successes make my job seem worthwhile, important, and life changing. When a parolee comes into my office after serving a twenty-year sentence, and I can help that parolee to obtain employment, remain sober and learn how to live within the rules of society, then I know I’ve done my job. I enjoy working with the parolees, their families, and their support systems, as it’s a team effort. As a parole officer, sometimes I am the only person in a parolee’s life who has told them something positive about themselves, and for the first time, they feel important and useful. That is why I do what I do, and why I chose to work as a Parole Officer. I feel as though I’m helping those who want the help to make a change, and sometimes even parolees who don’t want to help themselves are also making progress. The challenges will always be present, but once a parolee realizes that they have some self-worth and they can give something back to the community, I feel as though I’ve succeeded, and so has the parolee. That is why I come to work, and that is why I’m happy to be a Parole Officer.