Opportunities are there for the taking

I’ve been asked to try something new — submit articles that have meaning that people might want to read.

I always look forward to a new opportunity. So, I got to thinking, what should I write about? Well, I got to looking, and since I capitalized opportunity, I thought, there’s my first article; talk about opportunities in the probation department.

I’ve often been asked what you do as a probation officer. Hopefully, during the past 33 years in the business, I’ve been able to come up with some proper information.

Probation is simply allowing a person convicted of an offense to stay out of jail with supervision from a probation officer. The object of probation is to produce a law-abiding citizen and at the same time to protect the public against continued criminal or anti-social behavior.

Probation is a statutory sentencing alternative and is left to the court’s discretion. The granting of probation is purely a favor by the trial judge, not a right. A probation officer acts as an arm of the Court. He or she investigates cases and supervises, but it is the court itself that has the authority to grant probation, establish its conditions and revoke it if they aren’t followed.

Probation gives many opportunities to individuals, but when a person becomes a danger to himself or others, well, it’s my job to find him a nice secure home where he can think about his actions and wait for the next opportunity.

I’m sure in my career, I’ve requested more warrants on offenders than any law enforcement officer in the county. The reasons are many: failed drug tests, failing to keep in contact, leaving without permission or committing a new offense.

When this occurs, then the court has a new opportunity, to re-evaluate that individual and decide what is in the best interest of society.

The probation department provides protection to the community by identifying continued criminal behavior, reinforcing law-abiding behavior and providing appropriate services and programs for offenders to support their rehabilitation.

We all have many opportunities in life. In football, there is an opportunity to score on every play (our Dragon friends at New Palestine tried to show that last season). We need to take those opportunities and use them to our advantage. We may not always appreciate an opportunity when it is first looked at, but hopefully, in time, it becomes very valuable.

An example of this is actually my story. To say the least, I fell into the job at Hancock County probation. I graduated from Greenfield-Central and was so interested in football, track, chorus and being Charlie Cougar that I forgot you need to do quite a bit of studying to get the grades.

When I graduated, I thought I would go off to college. I applied at Ball State University and received a letter in the mail saying I was accepted — however on their Academic opportunity program. I still remember the summer evening when I was there for a pre-orientation speech.

I wish I knew the woman that spoke, but I have no idea who it was. She said, “Welcome to Ball State. Although we know most of you will never make it through school, we are proud to give you this opportunity to try college life so that you will always know you tried.”

I took it as “We all know you are too danged stupid to make it through college, but since your parents are willing to pay for the tuition, we will give you an opportunity to attend until you flunk out.”

I decided that me and my good friend — you know, that guy that looks back at you in the mirror — were going to show them. I was going to graduate. First quarter, I took basic English, reading, math and science. No actual grade, just listed as passed, so I could stay.

I knew at that point, I was going to graduate. I wasn’t stupid — maybe a little ignorant but not stupid. I do wish I knew who that lady was because I owe it all to her that I graduated. She gave me the opportunity to look at that guy in the mirror and decide I can do this.

Realistically, that’s all probation is. A person gets the opportunity to go free. They just have to accept the rules of society are worth the freedom.

My words of wisdom this month are as follows: The only person who can guarantee your success is that person that looks back at you in the mirror. Pretty simple, right?

Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department and owner of Another Addison Auction.