Tell us about yourself your name, home country and brief background
What section of the criminal judicial system do you work with? For how long have you worked with the department?
What does an individual in your line of work do?
What are your specific roles?
As a woman of minority ethnic background, do you face any challenges and obstacles in performing your duties?
State specific obstacles you face as an individual.
In your opinion, is there a difference in the way male and female probation officers are trained, or the way in which they perform their duties? What are the differences if any?
Issues concerning women also revolve around sexual harassment and sexual orientation discrimination. Kindly share your opinion on this.
Does the federal government support female professionals working in the correctional department?
What changes would you like to see made in the department of corrections to make it more conducive to the minority/ female workers?
WhenI came across Vidya Pratap Singh, I found that she does notnecessarily consider herself a strong or unique woman by anystandards, despite working in one of the most difficult and riskydepartments of the criminal judicial system in the United States.Vidya is a probation officer in Phoenix. She has held her currentposition for the past six years, a job which has seen her facenumerous triumphs and massive challenges. This is mainly due to thefact that she is a female of minority ethnic background, directlyinvolved with the criminal world.
Iinterviewed her and she told me that she was born in a remote povertystricken section of India thirty years ago, her family was lucky tomove to the United States when she was 15. Her pathetic life backhome and the cold reception upon arrival in the United States madeher desire to help people. This desire often led her to think thatshe would one day become a lawyer working with women and probablydisadvantaged families. However, she later found herself drawn toreformation and correctional facilities where she assumed the role ofprobation officer.
Probationofficers are social workers who supervise and work with a widespectrum of offenders as well as their families in the community, incourts and prisons. The offenders range from minor initial offendersto habitual, serious sexual and violent ones. The probation officersare charged with preventing repeat offenses by evaluating theoffenders, challenging their behavior, altering their attitudes andbehavior, ultimately protecting the public from harm. They alsoprovide pre-sentence reports to courts which assist judges andmagistrates in coming up with the most appropriate sentence. Once theappropriate sentences have been passed, the probation officer mustenforce and manage the court orders to ensure that the offendersparticipate in assigned programs, attend supervision sessions andalso participate in unpaid work beneficial to the community. In eventof non-compliance, the probation officer must arrange for offendersto return to court for further punishment. This does not augur wellwith offenders, who often threaten to retaliate for such actionagainst them.
Asdemonstrated, the roles pose obstacles and difficulty for officers,especially Vidya, a woman of Indian origin trying to penetrate aharsh and male-dominated world of criminals and law enforcers.Visiting male prisons and crime-infested communities is especiallydifficult and risky for her as an individual, not to mention herfamily. Challenges faced from interaction with offenders are oftenrelated to their role of authority, while gender issues are oftenground for negative comments and attitude. On many occasions,harassment, stereotyping and verbal abuse are also experienced frommale colleagues. As an individual, Vidya experiences negativecomments in regards to her ability to perform professionally. Thesecomments are highly intertwined with her gender and race, oftencasting doubt on her ability to perform her duties professionally. Ina bid to shed more light on the challenges faced, Vidya cited oneexample of a 2007 case where the New York State Division of HumanRights awarded Alicia Humig close to $1 million. Alicia was a lesbianprison guard who received harsh verbal abuse as well as physicalthreats directed at her by a male colleague. This abuse was done infront of inmates she was guarding and other colleagues. This went along way in undermining her authority in performing her duties(Gunnison, Bemat & Goodstein, 2017).
Bracken,D.C. (2015). Probation Practice with Non-Irish National Offenders inthe Republic of Ireland. IrishProbation Journal.12 94-112
Gunnison,B., Bemat, F.P. & Goodstein, L. (2017). Women, Crime, andJustice: Balancing the Scales. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.