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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Officers are 'making mark' on the communities served

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SIKESTON -- Some of the "unsung heroes" in the community are being recognized this week for the mark they make in the areas they serve.

"They are working such long and hard hours," said Angie Morfield, public information office for Probation and Parole, said of officers throughout the state. "They are out there working in the community and keeping the community safe for everyone."

This week, the Missouri Department of Corrections celebrates Probation and Parole Week. It is an annual event observed by the American Probation and Parole Association.

The theme for this year is "Making your mark on the community."

And that's something the officers do daily, said Morfield and Sharon Derrington, administrator for District 14, which services Scott and New Madrid counties.

"It really kind of says it all," said Morfield.

"I think they make their mark on that community by continually assessing clients for their risk to public safety," said Derrington. She said the decisions and recommendations officers make is "a huge responsibility" -- and one that is not taken lightly.

Derrington, who has worked in probation and parole for almost 24 years, said not many people realize what work probation and parole officers really do and all it entails.

"A lot of times, when I talk with people in general, they think we work with juveniles -- but we don't," she said. Officers supervise clients 17 and older dealing with both probation and parole.

Derrington said the majority of offenses those involved in probation and parole supervise are felonies.

Because of the nature of the job, it takes more than just the four-year college degree to work in probation and parole, she said.

"I think that you definitely have to want to work with people," said Derrington. "And you have to many times be able to set aside your personal biases. We have to treat everyone consistently and and supervise them professionally and ethically."

With several clients who are violent or sex offenders, it can be a risky job, too. "A lot of times they are out making home visits and that's a risk they are taking," said Morfield.

She continued that probation and parole officers often do work behind the scenes, too, when it comes to working with victims or situations involving domestic violence. "And a lot of times, it's on their own time," Morfield said.

Derrington said she often characterizes probation and parole officers as wearing "many hats." Two of the main ones including working with and as law enforcement and serving as a referral base to other agencies.

"We do that all the time, because there are people with a lot of needs," Derrington said. Those include mental health, substance abuse, anger management or just problems with finances or finding housing. "Our job is to assess that individual and to look at what that individual needs and is wanting to continue to be in the community and be productive within the community."

Derrington said the No. 1 goal of those in probation and parole is that their clients work.

"The best indicator of a person's success under supervision is their employability," she said -- adding that is something interesting to her, considering the other problems of the offenders those in probation and parole work with.

One thing Probation and Parole is especially celebrating this year is the lowering recidivism -- or tendency to relapse -- rates in 2007.

"For several years now, we have seen a lower rate of law violations among those we supervise," said Steve Long, chairman of the Probation and Parole Board, in a news release. "Fewer new crimes mean fewer new victims and reduced costs to the community."

The percentage of the caseload incarcerated for law violations decreased from 7.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2006 to 7.2 percent in FY 2007.

It has helped improve public safety in the past year by:

Collecting 14,500 DNA samples since July 2007, which aided in 258 criminal investigations.

Monitoring offender compliance in paying approximately $11 million in restitution to victims and offenders performing over 300,000 hours of community service work

Decreasing criminal activity among supervised offenders. The reduction in crime over a three-year period is due in part to the efforts of staff, according to the news release.