July 21 through 27 marked Probation Services Week – a nationally recognized time to celebrate the work done by probation, parole and community supervision professionals.

July 21 through 27 marked Probation Services Week – a nationally recognized time to celebrate the work done by probation, parole and community supervision professionals. Siskiyou County Probation officers are finding new and creative ways to make sure offenders and youth are getting the help and services they need, said Chief of Probation Allison Giannini.

Many changes have occurred in the county’s probation department over the last couple years. The Charlie Byrd Youth Corrections Center was converted to the Juvenile Day Reporting Center and Day Reporting School in 2018.

The school now operates year round. Yreka High School counselors refer some students for credit recovery. Probation staff go to students’ houses and pick them up to bring them to school, making it as easy as possible for the students to succeed and remedy chronic truancy.

The Day Reporting School engages students in pro-social activities like swimming, hiking and bowling. Students have also taken part in community service projects, including visiting Rescue Ranch to help feed and walk the dogs. The youth have also picked up trash following school football games and raked leaves in local cemeteries. For students participating in the school’s truancy program, community service hours are a requirement to get back into school.

Supervising Juvenile Corrections Officers Ryan Betts and Ben Stallings agreed that they wish the public better understood the many ways in which probation staff impact the lives of youth that they may not see.

“We provide a lot of services that they wouldn’t get at a regular school,” Stallings said. Those include job skills, anger management, emotional and psychological counseling and many others. “We’ve helped kids find houses, get jobs, get signed up for college,” Stallings detailed. The Juvenile Day Reporting Center also provides a food pantry and free laundry services.

Betts said youth can learn how to grocery shop and budget. Stallings explained that the students have debit cards and must learn to manage their finances.

Probation Officer Roxanne Strangfeld said that officers focus on “meeting families where they’re at and seeing what they need.” She expressed, “We really care about the kids.” She knows that sometimes members of the community may get a negative impression of the work probation officers do when they see young people being put in wristlocks or handcuffs. Those measures are to keep the community and kids safe, she said.

Siskiyou County Probation is trying to upgrade the services offered for youth, Strangfeld related. More broadly, the department is trying to innovate the juvenile justice system, she noted. Many advances have already been made. The probation department used to send youth to Behavioral Health Services for counseling, but now offers those services in house.

In addition to all the programs offered for young people, Siskiyou County Probation is just as committed to helping the adult population. “We have really great, active officers on the adult side making sure offenders get the treatment they need,” Giannini said.

The department employs an evidence-based tool to find out what offenders most need and then address that need first. Officers spend a lot of time getting to know offenders ­­– both juvenile and adult – and their needs and helping them to become productive members of society, Giannini noted.

The probation department offers different treatment programs for drug and alcohol issues, batterers, sex offenders and anger management. A lot of people have changed their lifestyles for the better thanks to the services the probation department provides, Giannini said.

“I cannot say how proud and appreciative I am to have the officers we do,” she shared. “They put so much time, energy and dedication into the community. They truly care. They know the balance between law enforcement, social work and being a counselor, and they strive to be better than they were the day before.”

Giannini said she would like members of the public to understand that sometimes accountability looks different than they may expect. “Arresting someone doesn’t always solve the problem – sometimes it means access to services,” she explained. Additionally, much of the work officers do is confidential, she said, so the public may not be aware of services and programs an offender is participating in in order to better themselves.

“It’s hard to change the misconception of, ‘That person did something wrong; they should be arrested,’” Giannini added. Siskiyou County Probation’s mission is to provide quality investigations to the Siskiyou County Superior Court, enforce court orders, hold offenders accountable, promote positive change in offender behavior through evidence-based practices and assist in restoring victims.

That positive change begins with changing people’s lives at home, Giannini said. From there, neighborhoods are changed, then a town, and then the county.