Thrown for a Loop

I’m a big fan of plans. I like case plans, treatment plans, plans for the weekend, plans to hang out (online, at a bar, at a show). Hell, I make plans on the way home, “First I’ll do the dishes, then I’ll get some water. I’ll play/read/write till dinner…” etc, etc.

I had planned, this month, to write up on the war, health care and a few other things. At least, that was the plan. On Monday things changed dramatically. If I could write it all up, I would, but I value confidentiality more than I value a good blog post. Confidentiality is only one part of this equation. Respect for the others involved is the other.

While I have decided to stop beating myself up over this–as this particular change was not my fault–it is going to take some time before I’m back on my game. While I plan on getting back into the swing of things by reading up on the war, health care and Woody Gutherie, it maybe some time before I completely shake this funk.


Yesterday, I learned that there are huge changes coming to my office. While I am not going to be hugely impacted until August, I actually may have an opportunity to change jobs.

I’m back to the question I needed to answer to years ago: Do I go clinical or work with computers? Expect more musings on this topic.

Blogging Like It Was Yesteryear

The great thing about probation work: It is cyclical. There will be slow, boring days where I can catch up with paperwork. There will be insanely crazy days where I have two evals due on the same day, and both evals are terrifyingly bad. Currently, work is the latter. I know in a few weeks, it’ll be the former.

Its the few weeks that’ll kill me. I used to be able to de-stress by blogging about it. Usually what’s driving me batty is policy. This time its details about the cases. I can’t blog this.

There will be friday fiction this week. Till then, someone give me a blog topic for tomorrow?

Whose Hands Are Tied?

I do not think prison for juveniles, as institutions, encourage the same amount of change for as community based services. Prisons are not deterrents. They do not reform prisoners. They serve as barely humane punishment for individuals who have violated the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens. Prison, hereafter referred to as The Department, for juveniles, should be the last resort for their safety and the safety of the community. The services provided by The Department, while not as robust as community based services, are better than nothing.

I do not not make this decision lightly. At least, not normally. After I finished my most recent eval, I recommended The Department. It was easier than I expected. In fact, it scared me with the ease in which I came to this decision. I am rather worried about burn out. When Burnout affects a PO, its the kids and communities who suffer. I went over my notes, talked with my coworkers and spent a lot of time examining my rationale. In the end, I was comfortable with my decision. This kid was too dangerous for the community.

Today, while the judge agreed, he felt as if his hands were tied. In essence, she indicated* that she was not comfortable sending this client to The Department given that The State agreed to a plea bargain of 18 months probation.

My coworker blamed the judge. The Judge blamed Probation and the State. The state blamed the judge. I felt bad for the victim.** The blame game ignores the fact that the system has failed the victim, the community and the offender.

Probation has been told not to violate probation for failure to attend school. There are other options at the disposal of probation to correct this behavior. This wasn’t done. The state, who knew of these issues, did not take them into account when they made the deal. The judge, who was furious with the State for making the Deal, ignored the opinions of two probation officers because they differed so greatly from the deal AND because the minor has not had additional findings. He just had additional police contacts. In fact, he had more police contacts than the rest of my case load cases combined (and doubled).

My colleague should have documented the sanctions she put in place. The state should have grilled me about my recommendations. Finally, the judge should have recognized that her hands were not tied by the agreement. When the agreement was made, they had no idea as to how patterned this kid’s aggression is. They made the JSO evaluation as a formality. Given that we work with a wide range of kids, I do not think the state expected this particular client to be regarded as such a danger to society.

To be clear, this kid is a danger to society. It is only a matter of time before he offends again. What happened today was not a fault of the system. The failure today stems from the players within the system. The fault lies with the individuals who saw their job as a distinct from the rest of the system.

The kid was released with a number of sanctions and supervisions that he will be caught when he violates his probation order. According to the judge, this will be enough to send him to the Department. We, as probation, should not set up a client to fail to keep the community safe. We should get it right the first time.

*I am aware I’m changing the gender of my pronouns. It is for an added level of confidentiality.

**Honestly, all the players–except the client (But including the Public Defender)—felt for the victim. The state made the plea offer to protect the victim from the additional trauma of testifying. Before being sexually assaulted, she was suffering from some mental health issues. After the offense, she is doing worse. She hasn’t received any additional services. In short, she’s being hung out to dry. That isn’t fair for her. Then again, it is never fair for the victim.

Writing Project #1: The Kid Who Scares Me

At the end of the workday on Friday, I found my hand written notes on my writing projects. Some of them are nerd based, some are work related, but a few are the ones for the “Friday Workshop” day. Up first is something on the kid who scares me to this day.

As a general rule, I am not afraid of my clients. I worry about what they will do if they don’t get the treatment they need or how their lives will turn out, but I have never been threatened by a kid I worked with on a long term basis. Even the kid who scares me (I guess now he’s a full grown adult) never threatened me directly.

So I want to write about this client examine why this one–this brilliant, scary and thoroughly damaged youth–affected me so much.

Anyone have any advice, or direction, on how to approach this matter?

Saturdays With Delinquents

I typically work one Saturday a month for the Juvenile Advisory Council–the new program we have at the court that relies on youth input to make probation more effective. I’ve blogged about it before and I’ve mentioned how much I love the program, today was only a little different. Instead of running the exit interviews or a peer jury, today I facilitated the orientation program. This means I gave a small pep talk and then ran a power point presentation for the youth reps.

Turnout was low. Given the weather–cold, wet, snowy–I didn’t expect more than fifty people. We had twenty total, for both programs. It wasn’t a waste per se. I got practice, those twenty kids learned something (or probation learned something from them). The problem is I don’t feel as energized as I normally do after these sessions. In fact, I feel positively drained. It wasn’t a particularly difficult crowd. The youth reps did their jobs beautifully. Other than a few misspoken words, the program went off with out a hitch.

Maybe I’m forgetting how draining it is to work another shift, but I don’t think it is that simple. I think I’m expecting My Plan to work super quick, when in fact, it will take a few weeks for it to kick in.

I’m using this as an excuse to put up a pitiful blog post. I have another one about religion brewing…. but first you have to listen to This American Life’s program on Heretics. Go listen. I expect to finish the post by sunday.