A strong predictor of an offender’s success in the criminal justice system is the support they have from others. One of the saddest things I have heard as a probation officer is that I am an offender’s best friend. Can you imagine your probation officer being the closest thing you have to a friend?

I came from a very traditional family. My parents were married for 48 years prior to my father’s death last year. We certainly had our share of bickering, but we loved one another and we supported one another. If something goes awry in my life, my family is still who I call. I have often wondered how different my life would be without the support I have had. I suspect there are times in my life when I wasn’t very easy to be around. Without my family and friends I would have been alone. This is the sad reality of what our probation officers see every day.

Some twelve step programs place a strong emphasis on changing your “playgrounds.” These are the people you associate with, the places you go and the things you do. What is often missing for those in the criminal justice system are healthy playgrounds. In order to truly change the behavior and help create healthy playgrounds, we have to focus on changing the culture. One of the ways we have tackled this in our organization is by creating a Community Outreach Committee (COC). Members of COC spend time speaking at schools, churches and community events. We are attempting to educate the community about healthy lives, healthy relationships and positive recreation. Cultural change will not happen overnight, but Tarrant County has a group of probation officers who will not give up.

I’ve learned so much about love, support, family and perseverance through those I have encountered as a probation officer. Family and friends have always been important to me but my career choice has brought it to the forefront. Success at anything is about relationships. It is about having someone to lean on when you have hit rock bottom. It is about having someone that loves you when you are unlovable. Change is easier when you have these things. I know we can’t pick the families we come from, but we can certainly be a supporter to those who weren’t as blessed as we have been. One step at a time, and one person at a time, I believe we will see a cultural shift that will reach generations in those we are willing to invest the time in.