I obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Radford University, and I am currently enrolled at the University of Maryland in a dual master’s degree program to obtain my Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in Criminal Justice Administration Management. I have been employed as a Supervisory Community Supervision Officer (SCSO) for Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) in the District of Columbia for 6 years. In that capacity I hold the responsibility of supervising a team of 6-9 Community Supervision Officers (probation and parole officers) and nearly 400 criminal offenders. I am instrumental in the development of policies and procedures for case management and supervision strategies. I work on a team where I have created an atmosphere of compassion, service, and excellence. I exemplify the passion necessary to not only serve as a change agent for offenders but I also serve as an advocate and supporter for the Community Supervision Officers to empower them to achieve their full potential. But, the questions is, how did I end up here from a small town in southern Virginia. To understand, we have to go back to my mother and father’s influence.
Nearing graduation from high school, everyone I knew was going to college. Neither of my parents or siblings had enrolled or entered college and really had no way of guiding me through the process. I depended on my guidance counselor in high school, to assist me through the process. I began with the goal of majoring in elementary education and as I studied, I wondered who helped the kids who were kicked out of school and/or didn’t have the support to regularly attend or complete their education. I wanted to help those kids. I enrolled in a criminal justice class, and was surprised as to how many people wanted to enter law enforcement with the intent of arresting and detaining individuals who, from my perspective, needed a little more guidance and support. I began to listen to my colleagues and began to wonder who assist individuals who want to break the cycle of criminality. One of my classmates, while enrolled in college was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison, and it all became real. I could not believe a “choice” was going to cost him 25 years of his life.
I graduated from college, not wanting to work in law enforcement, not wanting to arrest anyone, but really had no idea about how to begin my career.
I moved to the District of Columbia, and was hired as a vocational counselor in a halfway house. I was tasked with verifying employment of recently released offenders from the Bureau of Prisons. I applied for a job as a correctional officer with the Department of Corrections, but I did not have experience in the field. Within three months, there was an opportunity to work as a correctional officer in a private prison in DC.
I was a little nervous about working in a confined environment and seeing people everyday that had lost their freedom. I began working as a correctional officer, and was asked to work in the receiving and discharge unit. It was explained to me, the importance of “maintaining an accurate count” of inmates entering and leaving the facility. I was tasked with sending and receiving inmates from court, hospital and other prisons once sentenced in the District of Columbia. I learned a great deal from the officers and the inmates in the facility.
I remember conducting an intake of an adult male, who was sentenced to raping a 12 year-old while babysitting. As I read his presentencing report and the victim impact statement of the rape victim, I understood that some people “need” to be in prison. I thought about how the actions of these inmates had started a ripple effect to others in the community. And then I began to wonder how the ripple had begun with them. Working in security, maintaining order was the main goal and any attempt to understand the inmate was not acceptable.
I met a case manager who worked with the Youth Studies Unit where test and assessments were completed, which were compiled in a report and provided to the Judge to assist with sentencing. I volunteered to work in the unit after my work hours. I volunteered to work in the evenings and weekends to better understand how these children entered the criminal justice system. While volunteering and working in the jail, an opportunity became available to work as a case manager with emotionally disturbed youth in a group home setting. The only problem was I would have to take a pay cut, to gain the experience working with the youth. I jumped at the opportunity.
I worked with emotionally disturbed youth from the age of 9-18 that were ordered to the group home by the court or by social services agencies. I worked with therapist, case managers and teachers to provide these children an opportunity to change their current course. I met a 16 year old, who would hoard food because prior to his placement, he would get so hungry, and he would not know when his next meal would come. I met a 17 year old who was molested for years by his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend went to prison, but the mother blamed the son for ruining her relationship and “kicked” him out of her home.
After two years of working with the children, an opportunity working with D.C Pretrial Services became available. I began working in a drug surveillance unit, were adults had pre-release conditions to drug test with pending cases. After 6 months, I applied for a position as a community supervision officer or parole and probation officer. I entered an 8-week training academy to work with offenders sentenced and releases either on probation or parole. I began to understand that people, who were making bad choices, were making the best choices for their situation and there should be attempts to understand and help, not judge, them. I worked in that position for five years volunteering to work extra hours in the community in mentor programs and school programs and was given the opportunity to train new probation and parole officers.
I currently serve as the regional representative and board member of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA). I have presented to undergraduate classes, graduate classes, and law students at American University, George Mason University, Georgetown Law School, George Washington University on what to expect from the criminal justice system and how to best interact and engage the individuals who find themselves in the system. I have presented to local high schools and middle schools on career day and have served as a mentor to young girls and boys with incarcerated parents. I have a strong knowledge of best practices in mentoring, youth development, and after school initiatives.
I advocate and influence; act as a resource and conduit for information, ideas and support; develop standards and models; and collaborate with other disciplines. I have been interviewed by the Washington Post, Washington Times and a book written by Robert Pierre entitled A Day Late and A Dollar Short, which has a chapter dedicated to the process of re-entry by an offender I motivated to change when he was released from incarceration. The successes of the offenders that I have supervised is, perhaps, the greatest reflection my achievement. I have counseled and motivated drug addicts to recover from their addiction, and worked with populations of homeless people to obtain housing and pushed employers to hire ex-offenders seeking employment. My interactions with mothers and grandmothers have helped in preventing youthful offenders from partaking in additional criminal activity. I have led initiatives to develop resources and contacts to establish additional services and ensure that lives are affected from a holistic perspective, rather than simply law enforcement.
The achievements I have earned stretch far beyond money and awards; they are deep-rooted in the community and the clients that I serve. I believe these skills have given me the fidelity, compassion and enthusiasm to assist people with terminating drug use, gaining life skills, and changing their way of thinking thereby reducing their risk and desisting from continued illegal activity. As a result of their abstaining from illegal drugs and activities, the community is safer, recidivism is reduced, and the cycle of crime is broken—one person at a time.