Probation supervisor talks about his career with students at Orleans/Niagara BOCES

Posted 27 September 2017 at 8:43 am

Provided photo, Orleans/Niagara BOCES – From left: Security and Law Enforcement teacher Steve Browning, Alexandrea Tomaino (Lockport), Lillian Strickland (Lyndonville), Breanna Islam (Medina), Jeff Sheehan, Patrick Brien (Albion), Jessica Shoemaker (Newfane) and Security and Law Enforcement teacher Dudley Gilbert.

Press Release, Orleans/Niagara BOCES

MEDINA – Part of the curriculum of the Security and Law Enforcement Program at the Orleans/Niagara BOCES is to learn about various careers in the field.

Recently Orleans Career and Technical Education SLE teachers, Steve Browning and Dudley Gilbert, invited Niagara County Probation Supervisor Jeff Sheehan in to talk to their classes about the role of a probation officer and his own roundabout career path. Officer Sheehan said originally he wanted to be a teacher.

“That was my goal, but I could not find a job in that field,” he said. “I saw a job opening at an alcohol and drug treatment facility and I ended up working with people with addictions. It was very frustrating because you kept seeing the same people coming back after being rearrested.  They would ask for help, but would not take it.”

After encountering probation and parole officers in his line of work he thought that it sounded interesting.  He took the civil service exam for a TASC (Treatment Assessment Screening Center) Case Manager, which helps to make sure that clients have the tools and resources necessary to help them complete their treatment programs. They offer support and help to hold the individual accountable for their behavior.

“Even though I enjoyed that job, I left because it was grant-based and I never knew if I was going to have a job year after year,” Sheehan said. “That is when I thought about becoming a parole officer and in 2002 got hired by Niagara County for that position.”

He explained that probation officers supervise people who have been arrested for nonviolent crimes and try to assist them with their rehabilitation.

“We wear several hats,” he said. “We are still peace officers who wear uniforms and carry weapons. We act as social workers because we provide supervision and prepare detailed psychosocial evaluations on our clients about their background, family and their surroundings. How did they grow up? Where do they live now? Are there weapons, vicious dogs in the home? Are there mental health issues, physical disabilities?  Are they unemployed?”

These reports are given to a judge along with the probation officer’s recommendation about if they should be given parole or be incarcerated.

“I base that on if they have remorse or if they are at risk for being rearrested,” he said.

Officer Sheehan has 20 officers that work with him and they write between 12,000-13,000 reports a year.

“We also do drug and alcohol testing and act as sort of a social worker with not only the offender, but their families,” Sheehan said. “Some of the home visits can be very eye opening and help us make our determinations if they are a good candidate for parole.”

He showed the classes the various equipment they use to monitor the offenders and shared stories about situations he has been in with some his assignments.

“This is a great career if you are interested in law enforcement and social work,” he told the students. “Even though this wasn’t my goal, I was able to take the work experience I had and turn it into something that has been interesting to me.”

He told the students that the civil service exam is offered every four years.

“We really appreciate Officer Sheehan taking the time out of his schedule to talk to our students,” said Mr. Browning.

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