Where we are today and where do we want to go?
Interesting times. That has been the phrase used extensively throughout the Province these days. It has always been an interesting profession but it threatened to get a lot more interesting after Jan 17th this year. What it meant for me was the possibility of more change, whether as an organization or personally, and how I was going to handle that.
Last Newsletter, we were looking forward to Christmas and tried to put our anxiety aside to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. We knew "something" was looming and we didn’t expect that it would be good news. Well, now that we have the news it's time to push ahead and get on with the job at hand.
During my tenure with the executive with the BCPOA, our service has been undergoing change on a constant basis. How we adapt and react to that change has been the challenge for all of us. For some of us, the fiscal belt tightening by the Government has meant something as dramatic as early retirement, while for others, changes prior to the fiscal restraint measures has led to the delivery of Core programs or taking on the responsibilities for electronic monitoring. For those with the MCF Ministry, they are now looking to a move to a regional governance model and are wondering how that will affect their service. Successfully negotiating through all this change has and will be the challenge for all of us. We have done it in the past and I would like to think we can continue to do so in the future.
Nonetheless, all of this has brought questions. This year’s AGM is titled, "Where we are today and where do we want to go?" I think it summarizes our collective feelings with these possible changes in store for us in the next few years.
Our agenda starts off with Bev Roest, a long term Corrections Branch employee with the wisdom of the years to share, beginning the professional development day with her opening remarks. Bev has always been known as a positive, uplifting employee, so I am sure she will bring that attitude along with her.
She is followed by Dr. Daryl Plecas, U.B.C. Professor, to share his thoughts with evaluating what it is we do. Very often, taking a critical look at the work we do and objectively evaluating its effectiveness can be most difficult. I expect his discussion to be quite thought provoking and may cause us to take a hard look at some of the things we do in our work with clients.
Then, in the afternoon, we have Deb Foster from the Union to answer questions around the effects of the cuts in services and how this will impact our jobs. A lot of these cuts will directly effect our clientele and resources we have traditionally turned to for support in the work we do with our clients. Some of these cuts may significantly alter the availability of services to our clients whom we have routinely relied upon in managing risk in the community. In addition, some of the questions we have been fielding from members lately are around the possible move to a regional governance model for MCF employees. Hopefully, Deb can provide some insight into how that may cause change within that Ministry.
To round the day off, we will have Bev facilitating discussion about how we can manage these changes within the job and what we may do or need to do as an Association to assist our members. As an Association, we frequently have asked ourselves, "where do we go from here?" What do members want or expect from the Association? What should be our focus? What can we reasonably do and how should we do that? It would be helpful to hear from those who attend to try and address a number of questions. Perhaps that will be assist in trying to regain some focus for the organization.
So what has been accomplished for over the past year? Our goal last year was to continue to promote the "Survival Guide", to elevate our profile within Government and the Union, continue with the Newsletter so as to keep our people informed, and to look at other means of communicating with our colleagues. To that end, we are very near to having a website up and running (Thank you Barry Neufeld!), the Newsletter committee continues to put in countless hours producing a quarterly publication, Jamie Reid and Martin Hole have increased our profile with the Union, and we plan to meet with representatives of our new employers in the near future. Requests for the Survival Guide continue and copies will be available at the AGM for those who have not obtained one.
As I reflect on this past year, I would have to say it has been a good one. Sadly, however, for many of us, our terms with the BCPOA Executive are nearing an end. This year we will have a number of people stepping down, including myself, and we need to have people come forward to be on the Executive. Obviously, from where I sit, I believe it’s a worthwhile organization. But we can only continue to be a vibrant organization if we have the support of people in the field. So consider becoming more involved. We would love to have you!
Aside from all the questions and serious discussions, the best part about attending the AGM is still the opportunity to mingle with our colleagues, share our thoughts and views, but mostly, to have a good time. If you have the time and money, please do plan to attend. Remember, it is in Penticton, April 26-28/02 at the Lakeside Resort. As I said at the outset, "interesting times," and I do expect this will be an interesting AGM.
On October 15, 2001 Youth Probation Officer, Blair Peden made a presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. Following is a copy of that presentation. Thank You, Blair, for efforts on behalf of all probation officers.
My name is Blair Peden. I am a Probation Officer with 26 years service in B.C and I speak to you today on behalf of our members who are the Youth and Adult Probation Officers, Parole Officers, Bail Supervisors and Family Justice Counsellors within your provincial civil service.
In ten minutes it might be difficult to explain the age old question of what is the difference between a Probation Officer and a Parole Officer, let alone expound on the effective work we do in fulfilling our organizational goal of "Protecting Communities and Assisting Families," but I will try.
Probation Services have a unique role within our justice and social service delivery systems and almost 60 years of distinguished and sometimes entertaining history to reflect on. The association I represent is a volunteer organization devoted almost solely to engendering a sense of pride and family among the almost 500 dedicated people who perform these duties throughout B.C.
Probation Officers- and I will use this term generically to describe all the people who perform the different functions – supervise adults and youths on probation, adults on parole who have been released from provincial correctional institutions and the very important pretrial service of bail supervision. Family Justice Counsellors perform the often stressful and always delicate service of mediating parental custody and access disputes, mediated settlements that have the focus of the best interests of the children so often caught in the middle.
Probation Officers spend a significant percentage of time writing Pre Sentence and
other reports for the court to assist Judges in their decision making in a variety of different
applications such as sentencings, bail hearings, custody reviews and others. No other function, perhaps, is more important or sacrosanct that this responsibility to report fully, accurately and objectively the social circumstances of accused persons and the feelings of their victims to the Judiciary whom, on a daily basis, must make informed decisions than can significantly impact lives. There can be no short cuts of time or credentials necessary to prepare these reports. Judges in B.C have come to expect excellence in the quality of the reports they receive and, as a profession, we are determined to maintain that highest possible standard.
Supervision of offenders consumes the majority of a Probation Officer's time. At any given time B.C’s Probation Officers are supervising 1000 sex offenders, 4000 people convicted of domestic assaults, many more generic violent offenders, gang members, drug dealers, addicts and increasing numbers of mentally disordered offenders who require a unique blend of medical/correctional monitoring within both the community and our jails. Highly specialized and cost effective programs, policies and procedures have been developed to address the challenges presented by these different offending populations. All that’s needed is enough Probation Officers to properly implement them, and currently that’s a problem.
According to governments own statistics, between 1990 & 1999, Probation caseloads increased by 84% while Bail Supervision caseloads registered a 225% increase with only a corresponding 24% overall increase in staffing resources. To accommodate that overload, successions of creative initiatives have been implemented in an effort to maintain our viability and credibility. Five years ago, a politically directed reorg of our service delivery systems amplified the existing stress. These factors necessitated the extraction of every last drop of efficiency to be wrung out to the point where I seriously doubt that you could find a leaner, more efficient operation anywhere in the public or the private sector. In speaking about the above measures taken, the A.G’s own website concludes;
"These responses, however, are not sustainable and new strategies are required."
So, these in part are the duties of a Probation Officer, and now you also are aware of the severe workload issues that impact those responsibilities. But what does Probation service delivery look like in real life.
A few years ago, a few days before Christmas, I was called to the front counter late in the day to be faced with three guys with goofy grins in their mid twenties wanting to see me. It probably took longer than it should have to recognize three of Vernon's more infamous young offenders of ten years past. These three, who had created their own distinct property crime wave spanning several years, were back in town visiting their respective families over the holidays and had decided to get together. After a short while at the pub, they decided that their reunion could not be complete without the Probation Officer who had made their lives so miserable (& vice-versa) for so long, so they trudged up the hill to make the invitation in person. Feeling both honoured and obliged I joined them – upon the completion of my 7.78 hour work day I should add – and had a thoroughly enjoyable time catching up, reminiscing and philosophically debating all aspects of crime and punishment.
Bottom line? All three were employed living crime-free lives (I checked that out on CPIC before I joined them), one had a young family and the other two appeared to be living reasonably responsible single lives. We had been through a lot together in those three or four years and we had a definite bond. I remember leaving that reunion feeling exhilarated, sensing that these troubled and difficult teens had developed into responsible and enjoyable young men and feeling proud that I had contributed to that metamorphosis.
My point in sharing this story is to illustrate that these relationships are hard fought and labour intensive. Winning the hearts, minds and respect of offenders is every Probation Officer’s goal. It’s often a long process and is never easy. Having respect for the law and the rights of others cannot be ordered or demanded. It must be mentored, it must be role-modeled, it must be made attractive and, at the end, it must be earned. Court orders provide guidelines for expected conduct. It is the Probation Officer’s job to make offenders want to behave that way.
Probation Officers deal with a large variety of offenders. These boys would fit my "Yahoo" category. Hell bent for leather, somewhat self destructive and always a challenge to keep up with. Then there’s the "Ventilators." They’re usually mad at everybody and have an opinion on everything as long as it’s unreasonable and unrealistic. As MLA’s you probably know the type. They are demanding and exhausting but are usually manageable time – bombs as long as they are treated with dignity, respect and firm but fair play. When supervising a "Ventilator" one hopes that with time and osmosis some common sense and problem-solving skills will wear off. Lots of time needed with these folks. As long as they have somebody in authority that they view as an ally, their dangerousness is significantly diluted.
The Cons and the Predators are a different breed. Often engaging, usually smart and always manipulative, their stories and perceptions need to be challenged and double-checked on a regular basis. This is particularly so if they are sex and/or violent offenders. It’s very dangerous to take short cuts with these guys.
The mentally disordered offender ranges from sad, distant and spooky to wild, histrionic and palpably vibrating. Their unique needs and high potential for unpredictability make them very high maintenance.
While young offenders come in all the above categories and many more, one universally accepted tenant of social science is whatever you do or don’t do with kids – get to them early. The supervision of difficult young offenders demands the utilization of every trick, social and profession skill in ones reserve. Most of all they require patience and consistent discipline – no matter how time consuming that may be.
Adult or youth, it’s sad to say, but there is another category of offenders who are in conflict with the law primarily because they’re simply not too bright. They may be nice and they may be well meaning but, at the end of the day, they make poor choices. By their very nature they require extra time to register the necessary life lessons.
Lastly, the scariest probationers of all; teen girls. Way too complex and disturbing a topic to discuss here!
The not so subliminal message I’ve tried to implant across these offender groups is that to practice probation effectively you must be willing and – more to the point – able, to expend at least an adequate amount of time on each. The one certainty in Probation is that there is no certainty. Chaos usually rules. The easy going minimum risk offender who is doing well today can blow the top off the high risk scale tomorrow when he has a personal crisis, stops taking his meds and starts to drink excessively. Probation Officers are constantly forced to change priorities and reassign energy in the direction of the clients who are posing the greatest risk to our communities safety at any given time. On some days that may require the dropping of everything else as you work with police or mental health staff or social workers or family or schools or Crown Counsel or everybody as you try to reign in this potential threat. Simply stated, Probation supervision – done properly – is a very hands-on, labour intensive exercise. Short cuts can be counterproductive and, at times, dangerous.
In the coming months, our provincial government will have to make some very difficult fiscal decisions. Like every other service, government will look to Probation services in both the Solicitor General's ministry and M.C.F.D to realize savings by cutting fat and improving efficiency.
May we respectfully suggest that years of inadequate funding of our apparently invisible service have already forced that accomplishment on us. . It is critically important here to note that correctional services, both institutional and community are one of the very few services in government that have absolutely no control of their intake tap. We have no discretion as to who we will or won’t incarcerate or supervise on bail or probation. Those decisions are made by others in the justice system. Unless the government is prepared to impose pro-rata cuts on the police that arrest offenders, the Crown Counsel that prosecute them and the Judges who sentence them, cuts to Probation services in isolation will create a bottleneck in our small end of the justice system funnel and a disproportionate ballooning of already excessive case loads. This will inevitably and directly result in a reduction of our report writing and supervision capacity and overall ability to protect the safety of the communities in which we serve. With minimum risk caseloads already in the 200 range in many areas, the only room to further dilute service will be in the medium and high-risk categories. To exacerbate matters significantly, such reductions could hasten a priority shift within individual Probation Officer’s from pride of service to simple emotional and physical survival. An active sense of dedication can make up for a lot of organizational and budgetary shortcomings. Sad fact is, that many Probation Officers are hovering around that demarcation line as it is. As a professional association, that worries us greatly.
In conclusion, may we respectfully recommend that great care, thought and planning go into decisions that would impact our services. The age old adages of "penny-wise, pound- foolish" and "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" may sound corny, but may be appropriate benchmarks from which to approach these very difficult decisions. When it comes to community safety, pounds of cure entail much more than simple dollars and cents.
Another quick update on what is going on across the province. The theme this quarter appears to be what else? Retirement…
QHats off to Bernie Jordens from Duncan Community Corrections, Russ Flower, Claudia McGregor and Les Reid from the Sidney Community Corrections office, and Dave Gilmore and Ellen Gablemann from Victoria Community Corrections as they prepare for lots of retirement fun.
JThumbs up to Angela Celenza of the Tri Cities Community Corrections office. She and her husband anticipate the arrival of their third child this summer.
CAll systems go for Pamela Ackerman of Surrey Youth and Bob Telling from Squamish Youth as they work away at their Masters in Justice and Public Safety Leadership.
QAll the best to Glenn Angus of Vancouver Metro, Carole McKnight of the Justice Institute, Satch Zanet of Surrey Southeast Community Corrections, Gary McQuatt of Mission Community Corrections and Vern Frizzell of Chilliwack Community Corrections as the next phase begins.
And last but not least an update on CHICKEN WING NITE from Derek Tangedal
I realize everyone is on "pins and needles" with anticipation to find out if a record was set last night...
Well, sadly to sayRob Krilic was once again a NO SHOW (for the second time)...
Therefore, by a unanimous "EX PARTE" vote we have approved a50 wing FINE for not showing and added another 50 wing FINE for ALL THE TALK leading up to wing night.
Also, one other notable no show wasDean Ginther, yes you know who you are, you too face a 50 wing FINE ... once again voted unanimously.
(NB: both fines are due next wing night with NO extensions granted, you need not apply)
TWO BIG HATS OFF TO...
SO, everyone else that attended looks like we get to share 150 FREE wings next time compliments of Rob "ALL TALK BUT NO ACTION" Krilic and Dean "WHERE WAS I" Ginther...and for those others who no-showed, well, what can we say?
PS. One other note, Rick Gill did eat a decent number of wings but I think at one point he was laughing so hard, one got lodged which required additional laughter to free it! I am happy to report he is OK.
The End of an Era
A number of wonderful colleagues retired at the end of March. To all we say a big congratulations. ENJOY, ENJOY, ENJOY!!! All of us at the Tri-Cities Adult Probation Office would like to extend a big, fond farewell to our Local Manager, Roger Nadarajan. As many of you know Roger is truly a special person to know and work with. We have all been fortunate to have had the opportunity. Roger taught us many wonderful things over the years. He taught us the difference between crisis and problems. He taught us that most problems can be solved over a good meal. He showed us daily through example that all people no matter who they are or what they have done, deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. He did not worry if we crossed every t and dotted every I but he asked that we do the very best job we could for each and every client. The Roger stories are legendary and we know that these stories will provide many smiles and laughter in the future. We all wish Roger good health and continued good wealth. ENJOY CHIEF, we will miss you.
Love Tri-Cities Adult Probation
Community Corrections Director, Rob Watts has given permission for Adult Probation Officers to take a half day travel to attend the AGM/ STAFF DEVELOPMENT workshop in Pentiction. The following provisions apply:
The Tenth Annual General Meeting and Conference of the British Columbia Probation Officer's Association April 26-28, 2002
April 26, Friday evening:
April 27, Saturday
Educational, Component #6, will brief members on union info, actions and recommendations. Our component is made up of members who directly deliver services to the public in the form of Youth and Adult Probation, Family Justice, Child Protection and placement for disabled adults as well as Financial Assistance Work. There are other members: library services and certain information technology services which come under the aegis of our component. We can be said to be the "social conscience ".
Sunday, April 28
2002 BCPOA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING REGISTRATION FORM
( To complete this form, please print it, and then submit form with payment to the address listed below)
Significant Other: _____________________________________________________
Mailing Address: _____________________________________________________
Tel: (office or residence) ___________________________ Fax: _____________________
Email Address: _____________________________________________________
Please select one of the following:
Probation Officer ______ Family Justice Counselor _______ Correctional Officer ________ ISSP ______
Cheques can be made payable to:
The British Columbia Probation Officer’s Association
C/O Barry Neufeld
#16-46689 First Ave
Chilliwack, BC V2P 1X5
For More information you can E-mail
Barry Neufeld email@example.com
Darlene Jamieson firstname.lastname@example.org