Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day in the life of a juvenile probation officer

Here's a window onto an under-appreciated job from the Victoria Advocate (July 24), detailing a day in the life of a juvenile probation officer. Here's a notable excerpt:
In 2010, there were 1,809 certified juvenile probation officers in Texas, each of whom processed an average of 18 cases, according to the state's Juvenile Justice Department.

Victoria County, meanwhile, has eight field juvenile probation officers and three administrative juvenile probation officers, including the Chief Pama Hencerling, Assistant Chief Paul Zuniga and Juvenile Probation Supervisor Suzanne Tristan.

They work with anywhere from 100-200 juveniles, Zeplin said.

The job is often believed to be a thankless one, Hencerling said.

"One, it takes a special person to work with a juvenile at all," she said, "but you can imagine adding kids that have problems in their lives, whether it be criminal problems, substance abuse problems or whatever along with the maturing process, and it gets really complicated."

Zeplin, who already is raising two children, works with seven kids, but at one point as many as 29 were under her watchful eye.

"The first thing I'll tell my kiddos is, 'I'm going to be like your mama, you know? I'm gonna be right there. You do something, believe me, I'm going to find out. And if I have to find out from somebody else that you did something wrong, then we're going to have problems,'" she said.

And like any proud mama, she boasts about their accomplishments, especially because a disheartening 50 percent of the kids drop out of school.

On hard days, Zeplin likes to fish out a green thank-you card from the belly of her wooden desk. The bubbly handwriting on the card belongs to a 16-year-old girl, the same girl who used to fling not only obscenities but also fists at Zeplin.

"Thank you for everything and not giving up on me, like almost everybody around me has," the girl, who was charged with possession of marijuana, wrote.


Anonymous said...

I've always remembered my juvenile parole officer. Visited me once after release and then showed up whenever I'd get kicked out of high school (I think the suspensions totaled about a dozen over two years for things like having my hair too long, wearing a flower in a buttonhole, lighting up a cigarette as a stupid protest because another kid had been suspended for smoking at a different campus during a football game, etc. ) to make sure I got back in. Extended my parole until the day I graduated just to make sure I did.

He understood teenagers...and their stupidity. :~)

Anonymous said...

..."it gets really complicated."
Hell yes it is. What's she's saying is (1) they are underfunded for the volume of kids on probation and (2) they lack resources in their community to redirect these kids. It's always going to exacerbate the problems when those two elements exist. These are failures of leadership in the ledge because that ratio is unheard of and will certainly lead to referrals to the TDJJ Institutional division. Do you know if their biennium budget was increased to address this problem? I would bet not considering Whitmire is just fine certifying them as adults because it's cheaper to house them in TDCJ ID. Shame.

Anonymous said...

I worked as an adult probation officer for 29 years and I do not remember one year when our system was adequately funded or ever having adequate resources to do our job thoroughly, properly, and safely. That is the sad truth and anyone who is going in the juvenile or adult system..get over the fact that u have a thankless job with little positive recognition and low salaries and most of ur satisfaction will come from within, knowing differences were made in some offender's lives.

Anonymous said...

The LBB needs to understand that it takes funding for officers and programs to be successful in rehabilitating both adults and juveniles. This past session was a dagger in the heart when basic money from the state was cut because overall referrals were down. Last session we were told to go forth and prevent juveniles from entering the system and we did. Now we get funding cut because fewer juveniles were referred to the system. What's wrong with this picture??
Having first worked in adult and now at juvenile I remember the successes over the failures because every day I know that I worked my legs off trying to save just 1 child from themselves or their family dynamics. This can be echoed all across the state because every probation officer, adult and juvenile alike, has a heart for working with offenders because we sure are not in it to get rich. THANK YOU to my fellow probation officers. We do make a difference despite the lawmakers.

Anonymous said...

While the Post is regarding the "Day in the life...” one thing is for sure, it'll bring probation officers out of the woodwork to chime in and / or out. Despite doing so anonymously, it's up to the individual to discern if they are legit comments or not. If you don't like long winded comments you should consider sticking to the sound bites because this aint for you.

Since a few will be the real thing, I'd like to take this opportunity to quiz 'em about some issues relating to their 'duties' & how 'it' is directly related to the 97% Plea Bargain rate.

For instance, when a probationer is on his / her third year of a five year stint (for $75. worth of stolen items) - (say what?) & is pulled over while in the process of letting someone test drive a vehicle. The potential buyer is searched ("for being in a suspicious vehicle") and found to be in possession of stolen items in his pockets and arrested.

The cops take the seller also (on probation) simply for being on 'it' & put in the report he's arrested on an "Outstanding Traffic Warrant". He's not allowed to use the phone for 5 days, in which he's placed in Live Line-Ups' as a "filler" and is Positively picked out as a gunman that was originally described as having black hair and black skin, while he sports the complete opposite. The Detectives catch it but seek felony charges because he's on probation.

His family hires a lawyer that advises him to - "Stop the trial" (on day one just after the crime victim says "that's him but his hair is different") and take the plea. Guilty or Not you are going to prison for being on probation at time of arrest". It doesn’t matter that you have 5 alibis witnesses, it's 10 years, get out in 3 or 99 years".

Anonymous said...

Now, for the P.Os. in the house, is this legal advice 100% spot on and the probationer did the right thing by adhering to it - (Guilty or Not) or is it 100% bullshit and the probationer was railroaded by his very own lawyer?

Despite the much appreciated answer(s), it's my opinion that, when a probationer is advised to plea bargain for prison just for being on probation at time of arrest on a new unrelated charge, the P.O. is just as Guilty as the lawyer, the bad cops, the even worse Detectives, the ADA and the Court itself for allowing a verifiable charge not to be vetted prior to trial. And for allowing the probationer to go to court without his P.O. being present or worse, not being on the defense or state's lists’ is a recipe for Plea Bargain abuses.

A nonexistent OTW that goes un-vetted by every single person on the list (including the P.O.) that results in an aggravated robbery jury trial 100 days later and a prison sentence just for being on probation at time of arrest on a new unrelated charge - Guilty or Not? fails to make me want to hug a P.O. and feel for them as they endeavor a job they get paid to do.

In my experience, I blame the P.O. for not being at the half day trial. He could've told me the truth and saved the taxpayers a shitload of cash. With an entire criminal justice system having no problem with what's seen as the great Texas TapOut, it won't be very long before we learn about them celebrating the 100% Rate.

There’s' no way in Hell all of you are UN aware of this take the plea you are going to prison Guilty or Not bullshit. You should be pissed enough to make damn sure you are at every single client's trial to make sure they aren’t lied to. Those that already do this are on my must get to know list, for there are heroes and there are assholes just there for a check and we must elevate the best of the best so that they become role models.

Who knows, the next jury trial might end in "Not Guilty" simply because you were there to the very end. I go to no less than 10 jury trials a week and make damn sure that the defendant's family knows the Plea Bargian is coming if he's / she's on probation. And, once the truth is known the plea is rejected and the ADAs' flip the hell out as the "Not Guilty" is read aloud. To this day, haven't seen one P.O. present at any of the felony jury trials. Be the first to make a difference in your county or continue to cash those checks and look away. It's up to you to decide that since it's been over a month since you've heard from a client to do nothing or check the city jail's Line Up folks, He / she could be filler just waiting to be positively picked out. The Rate depends on you whether you know it or not.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Huh++++4. I cant figure out what the guy was all??? Tell me if I missed somethg.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:26

In Texas, theft of property valued at $75.00 would be a class B misdemeanor. The maximum amount of time, per Tx CCP for a misdemeanor probation is 2 years. Your histrionic ramblings make no sense.

Anon 11:27.

I think you and Anon 11:26 smoked the same stuff.

Anonymous said...

Looks like he or she typed in English and purposely posed it to Probation Officers only vs. you and you and you. Silly kids and their mouthbreathing "HUH?" interrupting adults.

Anonymous said...

*But, from your halfass attempt to be helpful, I was able to learn that this person seemed to have been f*cked over by the system with an extra three years of probation. From further reading, it appears that his or her P.O. never came to jail or court during or after a jury trial and believed the attorney.

It will be intresting to learn the answer to the question surrounding ”issues relating to their 'duties' & how 'it' is directly related to the 97% Plea Bargain rate.”

Anonymous said...

I also had no problem reading or understanding the question.

“…a lawyer that advises him to - "Stop the trial" (on day one just after the crime victim says "that's him but his hair is different") and take the plea. Guilty or Not you are going to prison for being on probation at time of arrest". It doesn’t matter that you have 5 alibis witnesses, it's 10 years, get out in 3 or 99 years".

The "guilty or not take the plea" legal advise seems to be the sticking point and when combined with excessive probation, one can see why this is questionable.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, he or she showed exactly what he or she was talking about.

“Now, for the P.Os. in the house, is this legal advice 100% spot on and the probationer did the right thing by adhering to it - (Guilty or Not) or is it 100% bullshit and the probationer was railroaded by his very own lawyer?”

You guys with the childish Huh? need to stick to the Chron. and stay away from windows and sharp objects.

Anonymous said...

I'll be contacting the Adult Probation departments in Texas in an attempt to find out if they are aware of this legal advice being associated with probationers and mandatory plea bargaining for both those that take it to a jury trial and those don't alike.

I think I'll start with the bigwigs that office in Tyler.

Donna said...

It sounds like the above poster is referring to ADULT probation, not juvenile which is what THIS POST is about. Where I know that our system is FAR from being the greatest one and it's definitely got some broken pieces...this post was about HOW one specific Juvenile Probation Dept/Officer attempts to help juveniles on probation. Despite what you may think, there are some officers out there truly interested in making a difference and helping juveniles make a change in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Didn't see any indication of the age of the former probationer revealed but that's what assuming will get you when you base your comment on a word in a totally different post. In your haste to chastise strangers while patting yourself and others on the back, you chose not to answer what seems to be a very simple Yes or No question.

Anonymous said...

Good grief, if you don't know about "our system" and the plea bargain parties by now, you don't know. If you want a hug that bad. Hug. Hug.

Anonymous said...

Notice that she failed to lists these “broken pieces”.

Wonder if one them is the practice of putting a 16 year old girl on probation for possession of weed vs. treating the underlying causes of her seeking it out? Sounds like a no-brainer and very broken.

Anonymous said...

I got a few kiddos off weed & other bad things by talking to them. The majority of the issues were bullies and boys wanting to get to any Base available. And if they didn't take a puff, pill or drink they were called names like narc, 50, prick teaser or worse. You'd be surprised how easy it is to teach & learn no contact self-defense.

On the same note, Peer Pressure & the Bird's & Bees' combined with Baseball Sex is like all forms of pressure, you just have to know how to prevent or relieve it before vs. afterwards. You don't have to put someone on probation to get them away from bad things. Just have to be there for those that aren't taught right from wrong the right way.

Want to fund something, fund that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:53AM said,

"I think you and Anon 11:26 smoked the same stuff".

That there, is exactly what it looks like when one of your personality's comments while the other is wiping & wiping with one ply. Oh, the endless wiping. You missed a spot.