The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners proclaimed July 17 through 23, 2022, as Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision (PPPS) Week.
Every year, community corrections departments across the country and Canada honor the thousands of probation, parole and community supervision professionals who play vital roles in public safety and work to change lives.
Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice (DCJ) joined the annual occasion to recognize its workforce of more than 500, which includes probation and parole officers, juvenile court counselors, juvenile custody services specialists, corrections counselors, administrative staff, employment coordinators, victims advocates, community health specialists, program specialists, nutrition staff and many others who dedicate their lives to crucial work.
“We are experiencing unparalleled times,” said Erika Preuitt, director of the Department of Community Justice and the former president of the American Parole and Probation Association. Community violence is at extreme levels as the criminal justice system works to recalibrate because of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“In the midst of it all, I am so proud of how DCJ has shown up for our clients, communities and each other.”
Preiutt dedicated this year’s presentation to late senior manager Stu Walker.
“We lost a beloved senior manager,” said Preuitt. “He loved the work that we did. He cared about the work we did. He was passionate about the work that we did. He supported each of our staff and really knew talent and really knew how to develop people and encourage them to be the best that they can be.”
The Department of Community Justice supervises over 9,000 people. It receives over 2,800 youth referrals and serves approximately 979 youth and their families through programs that include diversion, informal and formal supervision, and detention. DCJ also processes about 1,000 dependency referrals.
Thursday’s PPPS Week presentation to the Board provided a glimpse of the work that unfolds every day, on nights and weekends, throughout a global pandemic, and any other challenge that may come.
“I’m extremely proud of our staff and how we’ve provided services to youth and families during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tracey Freeman, interim director of Multnomah County’s Juvenile Services Division.
The Juvenile Services Division encompasses a range of professionals from juvenile custody services specialists, nutrition services staff, support staff, juvenile court counselors and, more noted Freeman. The division provides community supervision and diversion services for youth. It also partners with community organizations to provide services that include parent mentorships, intensive case management, grief counseling, and tailored curriculum for youth, all with the goal of creating positive outcomes.
Each DCJ staff member makes an important contribution to overall community safety through the restoration, positive development and growth of youth and families, explained Freeman.
“Our juvenile court counselors have been working hard to help our youth and families deal with a range of challenges, from the impacts of COVID-19 to community violence,” said Freeman, adding that the counselors work closely with community partners.
“We are excited about the progress we are making with our Transforming Juvenile Probation initiative and the expansion of the H.E.A.T., or Habilitation, Empowerment, Accountability, Therapy, curriculum for our youth population.”
Jay Scroggin, director of the Adult Services Division, lauded his staff’s persistence and performance during continuously challenging times.
“Our staff in our Recognizance Unit continued to come in every day despite the pandemic,” he said. “They have also been working together with other public safety partners as we focus on pretrial reform.”
Buildings that were closed and services that were curtailed due to COVID-19 are now fully opened.
“They are currently piloting running restitution work crews seven days a week,” said Scroggin.
The Adult Services Division encompasses office support staff who greet people as they come through DCJ doors to corrections and records technicians, to corrections counselors and community health specialists.
Those community health specialists, who work within the division’s Women and Family Services Unit, connect justice-involved parents to resources and services, said Scroggin
“They have been able to provide resources such as books and access to camps to families impacted by gun violence,” he said.
DCJ staff continue to be important partners in the community-wide response to violence, stressed Scroggin.
“Our Gang and Family Services units have played an active role in addressing public safety issues and supporting justice-involved individuals and their families who have been impacted by this increase in violence. “
Parole and probation officers are key partners to other law enforcement agencies who are working to get guns off the street, and continue to play critical roles in missions that result in arrests and the confiscation of firearms and drugs.
Denise Pena, DCJ’s newly appointed deputy director, shared insights from the Director’s Office, which contains several units that, despite the challenges of COVID-19, have continued to offer levels of service that equal or surpass their capacity before the pandemic.
“Our Victim and Survivor Services Unit has been working hard to address the growing needs of our victims and survivors, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic,’’ said Pena.
“They work hard to connect survivors to resources and financial assistance and serve as advocates when needed.”
The presentation ended with a video highlighting the partnership between community health specialists and parole and probation officers. While parole and probation officers provide supervision and work to create positive change in clients’ lives, community health specialists provide the extra support to lift clients out of their struggles.
“Our work often flies under the radar,” said Preuitt.
“I would like to close by again thanking all the staff who work towards our vision — ‘Community Safety Through Positive Change.’ It is an honor to serve as director of this department.”
Remarks from Commissioners:
“This is difficult work during the best of times, and the past few years have certainly not been the best of times with the pandemic, increases in violence and behavioral health crises. And yet our staff show up every day and do this work and help so many people,'' said Commissioner Sharon Meieran.
“This is work that goes under the radar and it is so important for the long-term success of the people we serve and the community at large,” said Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. “The phrase that struck me the most was ‘helping everybody to find their good days.’ We all have bad days, and that’s what this work is about is helping people find their good days and staying with their good days and building on that.”
“The fact that there are threads of restorative justice, threads of building a solid, stable foundation to be able to transition if there has been any justice involvement — to have a better path forward, that work is important,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “It’s hard, but I think the way we’re doing it and making sure we’re building something that's different and that’s right for Multnomah County; It’s going to be as powerful as we can make it.”
“The public doesn’t think about the work that you all do, so having a proclamation like this, we’ll make them think about the work you do because there’s so much behind the scenes and it’s always so difficult to measure something that people don’t see the results of every day,” said Commissioner Lori Stegmann.
“It is about relationships. Even our normal friendships and systems of care haven’t been available to us. That just makes it all the more important that Multnomah County is there and really understands the human needs that people have. It really is about building those friendships, that trust and those families that sometimes people have lost as they go through the criminal justice system.”