ICYMI: Probation Department adapts to changes, maintains its mission
By Nick Sestanovich
From The Reporter.
The Solano County Probation Department is operating somewhat differently in the time of the coronavirus, but it is still adhering to its objective of making a difference in people’s lives.
That was the gist of a letter that was written by Katie Ward, the department’s social services manager. The department protects the community through services provided to the courts, victims and offenders. The department engages with its clients in conversations on behavior, housing, thinking processes family relationships and basic needs like food, Ward wrote.
“These conversations are what we call evidence-based practices in the community corrections world and it is what science tells us has the most significant impact on long-term public safety,” she wrote.
“Since 2012, the Solano County Probation Department has seen year over year reductions in recidivism, and this is directly related to the relationships we build and the services we provide to our clients.”
To adhere to health and safety guidelines, Ward wrote that the department quickly implemented a teleworking protocol to reduce the number of employees working in close proximity to each other and its clients. It also identified the necessary tools to work from different locations.
“Very little time elapsed between applying these health and safety practices and implementing creative ways to continue to ensure our laser focus on long-term public safety was intact,” she wrote.
Additionally, Ward wrote that the department houses and supervises youth at its Juvenile Detention Facility, which is operated by group counselors. The coronavirus, she wrote, has had impacts on family visitations, regular group activities and educational programs.
“Group Counselors bring their hearts to work every day, constantly innovating to care for and supervise youth who need a sense of normalcy in what is already a challenging situation,” she wrote.
Among the ways that probation officers and counselors have adapted, as noted by Ward:
- Spending time on the phone with a youth who is working on cognitive behavioral workbooks in quiet places like their mother’s car.
- Increasing virtual visitation time for youth at JDF and their families who are not able to connect in person.
- Coordinating re-entry services for state prison releases when services are especially challenging to secure.
- Hosting YouTube art classes and a paint party to help youth at JDF stay engaged, and creating a therapeutic environment to relieve anxieties.
- Holding virtual meetings and group classes via any means available, such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime or over the phone.
- Helping clients through the process of filing for employment.
- Partnering with the Police Activities League to pick up and deliver food to clients and their families who are struggling the most.
- Securing Chromebooks through a grant to ensure youth can enroll in college, take part in distance learning and stay up to speed in courses through the Solano County Office of Education, in the community and at JDF.