Spotlight: Judicial Branch Probation Officers

The state's Judicial Branch plays an important role in protecting Connecticut's quality of life by "resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner." That effort is being hampered by the $77 million in resources for court services slashed in the legislative package signed into law last month by the governor.
 
Click here for recent press coverage of budget cuts to court support services.

 
IB ImageMichael Barry (right) is a juvenile probation officer (JPO) at the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters in Rockville with 20 years of service in the agency. He's concerned that political leaders don't understand the critical role he and his colleagues play in criminal justice and public safety.
 
"Our job is much different than those outside the system would think." said Barry, who also serves as the secretary of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union. "We are here to be agents of change," he said, adding, "it takes a uniquely trained officer to affect change in a young person’s behavior."
 
Barry is particularly worried about the consequences of courthouse closures, along with the elimination of effective educational and treatment services that have helped keep youth offenders from re-committing crimes.
 
"Our clients are underage and cannot legally drive — and many of their parents are dealing with significant life issues, as well," he said. "This will undoubtedly result in more 'Failures to Appear' and more incarcerations — the exact opposite of our mission," Barry added.
 
Along with the deep cuts to vital court services, the austerity budget has laid-off hundreds of Judical Branch employees since pink slips were first  issued in April. The result has been increased caseloads for the state's remaining criminal justice workforce.
 
Click here for recent press coverage of ongoing state employee layoffs.

 
IB ImageBryan Chong (left) has worked as an adult probation officer (APO) for nearly nine years and is currently based in the Bridgeport Office of Adult Probation. He is anxious about the negative impact that short-sighted job cuts will have on the ability to effectively supervise court-sentenced individuals — and what it means for public safety.
 
"You can’t really expect the same quality of service when you have less people working to provide that service," said Chong, also a member of our JPE union. "Individuals are going to fall through the cracks — and if those individuals then commit crimes, that’s going to put the average citizen at higher risk of being a victim," he added.
 
Echoing fellow state employees who have since February urged better choices than painful public service and workforce job cuts, Chong seeks fairness and balance from state political leaders.
 
"There needs to be something done without raising taxes or balancing the budget on the backs of working class folks," he said. "Those who make a little bit more should have to pay a little bit more. We are financing their ability to make money — they should in turn give a little bit more."
 
Click here for our previous "spotlight" featuring state employees speaking out for Connecticut's quality of life.

 
Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week should be a time to pay tribute to the men and women whose work helps former inmates successfully reintegrate into society. It should be a time to honor the criminal justice professionals whose dedication and commitment have won the Judicial Branch national recognition and awards for reducing recidivism. It should be an opportunity to celebrate state employees whose contributions are critical to ensuring the governor's "Second Chance Society" reform initiatives succeed.
 
Click here for our 2015 PPPS Week member "spotlight."

 
Despite their expanding caseloads and diminishing supports, Barry, Chong and their colleagues continue providing vital services that Connecticut residents and businesses depend on. They should be fully supported for demonstrating the motto of this year's PPPS Week — "The Future of Justice Reinvestment" — each and every day.
 
Click here for the American Probation and Parole Association's national PPPS Week resources.