Connecticut probation officer Rebecca Barrett describes her job as part social work, part law enforcement. The cumulative effect of her public service: safer communities.
Barrett works for Connecticut’s judicial branch in the Office of Adult Probation in Hartford.
It’s the right fit for this Judicial Professional Employees union member who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology.
“It’s tough sometimes. You really have to separate yourself,” says Barrett. “You can’t be judgmental and biased in this job.”
For more than two years, Barrett has been supervising sexual offenders. It’s an assignment she volunteered to do. Her caseload fluctuates but the division’s standard for sex offender officers is a maximum of 45 offenders to one probation officer.
Barrett’s caseload covers the gambit of sexual offenders. She’s had probationers as young as age 16 and as old as age 71. Some have done hard time. Some have not.
“Protection of the community is first and foremost,” says Barrett.
As everyone knows, that can be challenging.
It’s the court system that determines who gets probation, and it’s probation officers who provide the public service of supervision—making sure probationers don’t violate the many conditions of their parole. And in that process, it’s the probation officer’s goal to keep offenders on track and productive members of society.
“The only leverage we have is if they have jail time hanging over their heads,” says Barrett.
“One of the biggest issues in the sex offender field is lack of housing,” notes Barrett. “Nobody wants them living near them. [Meanwhile], we are trying to figure out where it would be appropriate for them to live considering the safety of the community. In many instances, these offenders end up in shelters longer because of housing restrictions.”
Barrett splits her time between office appointments and field visits. She’s required to see her probationers weekly. She also meets separately with treatment providers—treatment is a condition of probation—to discuss what is going on with the offenders.
“Sex offenders tend to be—on the surface—very compliant,” she explains. “They are on time for their office appointments. They go to group [therapy]. They can talk the talk. What’s important, especially with child molesters, is us getting in the field to see where they are living, where they are hanging around—what they are really doing.”
There are more than 60,000 people on probation in Connecticut at any given time.