Letter: Letters to the Editor-Overlooked Probation Office

Letter: Letters to the Editor-Overlooked Probation Office

To the Editor:

Over the years, the Alexandria Gazette Packet has published many favorable articles about our Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office. They are both excellent agencies and certainly deserving of the accolades provided by the countless stories, editorials and letters to the editor. However, there is another law enforcement agency in the city that has labored in relative obscurity, the Alexandria Office of Probation and Parole. The chief in this office, Lisa Stapleton, has a staff of 11 probation and parole officers, a surveillance officer and four administrative personnel.

Basically their charter is to supervise those persons, mainly felons, placed on probation or parole by the courts who have served their time and been released back to the community from the Alexandria jail or a state penitentiary. The mission of the office is twofold. The first is to enhance community safety and the second is to work with the offenders making it possible for them to turn their lives around. In their efforts to ensure the safety of the community, probation officers utilize various techniques and levels of supervision based on the offender’s criminal record and an in-depth assessment of their risk to re-offend and their needs to mitigate that risk. There are many tools available to the supervising officer in his or her efforts to work effectively with the offender. These include counseling, referrals, home visits, urine testing and a variety of other evidence-based interventions. Basically those who want help, want to get their lives moving in a positive direction, get a job, and a place to live will increase their chances of success by working with their officer. On the other hand, those who already have all the answers, who decide they know best, don’t need or want help, and fail to follow their court-ordered conditions and the instructions of their probation officer will soon find themselves back in front of the judge.

The probation office has helped hundreds of their clients achieve the success they may have thought about while incarcerated. And they have also taken the steps necessary to get those who posed a threat to the community off the streets and back into an institutional setting. This is important information for you because unless a person has been given a life sentence, they will be released some day. They will come home and if Alexandria is their home, this is where they will be living. You all can help the Alexandria Office of Probation and Parole in their efforts to enhance community safety and assist in the positive transition of offenders through a Governor McDonnell initiative called Virginia Community Reentry Initiative.

Kevin Bergen

The writer worked in the Alexandria Office of Probation and Parole.