First thing Monday morning --
(Has anything good ever come from a story that begins that way? Probably not.)
First thing Monday morning, I got a text message from my boss.
(Again. Nothing good ever comes of this. Nothing.)
The message was as follows:
"What is the highest criminogenic domain for each of our counties?"
See what I mean? Not good.
I work for a state district judge. Sort of. He's technically only the boss in that he can hire or fire me. Other than that, I am the boss of me.
(A bit of trivia for you: District Judges used to have day to day oversight of probation departments. Until one day when one of them got named in a law suit against a department. The Judge pleaded Judicial Immunity, but the Court said it didn't apply when it comes to oversight of the probation department operations. At their next policy meeting, they immediately drafted legislation resigning all control over their probation departments, other than hiring the directors.)
Like all government agencies, probation loves jargon. Loves it. We feast on buzzwords and live and die by acronyms. I hate jargon, yet there is no way to escape it and my conversation is often sprinkled with terms that make no sense to anyone else. For example, we don't call it probation any longer. Too self-explanatory, I guess. The correct term is Community Supervision and Corrections Departments, which is always shortened to CSCD. See what I mean?
Criminogenic is the latest buzzword in probation circles. Most especially "criminogenic risk factors". I'm sure there's an acronym for that, too. It means "reasons people do bad stuff". Your tax dollars are being funneled into research on identifying and treating these factors. That's not a bad thing.
It's also not a new thing. Buzzwords come and go. Policy changes and stratagems are devised. When I took over this department, five(ish) years ago, I had a part-time officer. She was older than my mother. By at least one decade. During a discussion of the buzzword of the week and it's accompanying requirements, she told me something she'd heard from another veteran officer years earlier.
"All you need to be an effective probation officer is a legal pad and a good pen."
It's absolutely true. Good probation officers are about people. Learning about people, educating people, understanding people's situations. You need to be able to listen. And then point people in the right direction. It's really very simple.
But we have to justify our funding. So we rock along with the latest research, the latest scheme for reducing recidivism and -- oh, sorry. See? I can't help it!
I'm not opposed to research. Or new ideas. And I could certainly stand to learn a few new tricks along the way. But when the Judge texts you first thing Monday morning to ask about how the current state policy-speak applies to our local jurisdiction you know that means more work, more data collection, more strategic planning and more, more, more documentation.
I looked at my phone and sighed before typing a reply:
"Anecdotally speaking, employment, or the lack thereof, is probably our highest risk factor locally."
I was staring accusingly at the huge binder labeled "2017-18 Strategic Plan and Grant Application" when he texted me back.
"Oh. I'm in a class. I have no idea what the instructor is saying. Just threw that question out there to show that I'm obviously in class."
My reply was swift:
He laughed. I'm still employed. And I have plenty of legal pads and one very good pen.