Spotlight: Judicial Branch Court Support Services Professionals

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Members of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Judicial Professionals Union have in recent years made significant contributions that are improving the quality of life across our state. The record of success demonstrated by state employees in the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division has also received national recognition.
 
Click here to learn more about our JPE Union.

 
Curbing recidivism and helping people make better life choices has been a major accomplishment for our member criminal and juvenile justice professionals. Their efforts have contributed to reducing Connecticut’s 24-month adult probation re-arrest rate from 47 to 40 percent over six years -- significant progress considering the population of over 55,000 at the beginning of this period. 
 
"I have been told on numerous occasions by clients that I have been the only person outside of the facility that has communicated with them," said Nicole Grella an Adult Probation Officer (APO) based in the branch's Waterbury office. "Knowing that there is someone working on their discharge plan lowers anxiety and makes them feel like someone is listening to them," said Grella. 
 
Highlighting the sometimes personal connection criminal justice professionals provide to their clients is among the the goals of National Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week. At the same time it's important to acknowledge the risks of supervising clients who often have mental health needs, substance abuse issues or an impairment due to a traumatic event.
 
"As an instructor who trains other officers in safety techniques, sometimes we even forget that there is a dangerous piece to our job," Grella added.
 
The need for greater safety and security for criminal and juvenile justice professionals in Connecticut was the driving force behind successful recent efforts to gain additional job protections. JPE Union members, together with AFT Connecticut leadership and staff, in 2014 won legislative passage and the governor's signature of a bill shielding personal information from clients under their supervision.
 
Click here for photos of the bill signing ceremony at the State Capitol.

 
The accomplishments of our members in the branch's Juvenile Residential Services section have shown how adept they are at juggling both the enforcement and guidance aspects of their roles. 
 
Our members have received the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award for exceeding national confinement conditions standards and theirs was the first facility to be certified under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Additionally, the Court Support Services Division's multi-dimensional family therapy program was the first of its type in the nation.
 
"Our primary focus is not the enforcement of the law, but to act as agents of change," said Thompson Lewis, a Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) from the branch's Rockville office. "The training we receive centers around fostering motivation in each client to behave in a way that benefits themselves, and their communities. Like teachers we try to cultivate the innate strengths of a child and give them the tools to succeed," Lewis added.
 
The motto chosen for this year's National Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week, "A Worldwide Force for Change," speaks to the value of the type of training Lewis refers to.
 
The national effort to recognize the work that probation, parole and community supervision professionals do in support of public safety is spearheaded by the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA). The international organization is made up of individuals practicing criminal and juvenile justice and providing community-based corrections services, as well as educators, victim advocates and volunteers.
 
Click here for national Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week resources.

 
Click here to learn more about the APPA.