Recognizing probation departments (Part 2)

  • Ryan Decker
  • Sarah Thornley
  • Tod Dillard
  • Torrey Bourn
  • Alanna Lowder
  • Andria McLaughlin
  • Corey Suter
  • Julie Davis
  • Kelsie Roberts
  • Laura Bergman
  • Melissa Machino

Photos/Kyla Hurt

Part 2
by Kyla Hurt

Coinciding with Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week, the staff and support team at the Morgan County Probation Department deserve special acknowledgment. To follow is a brief introduction to those in the office.

Tod Dillard: Director Tod Dillard heads up the department of probation, holding the title of director of court services for the 7th Judicial Circuit.

Dillard has 29 years of experience in the field; he had a short stint in Cass County but has been the director in Morgan County since 2003. Dillard says he enjoys working with people and furthermore, “not many jobs provide you with the opportunity to affect someone’s life on a daily basis.”

Julie Davis: Davis is the office manager at Morgan County Probation & Court Services. She began 18 years ago because she was interested in what probation was all about. For Davis, the hardest part is seeing people relapse after doing so well. On the other side of things, she finds it extremely gratifying to see “people completing their term and complete turning their life around.”

Davis adds that as office manager, she enjoys keeping the office running smoothly and she has the best co-workers.

Kelsie Roberts: In October, Roberts will have worked eight years in this field of work. She says she started because, “I love helping others, and I also know people personally who have struggle with drug addiction. Being able to be a positive support in our clients’ lives is very special to me!”

As a probation and drug court officer for the Morgan County Probation & Court Services, she finds the hardest part of her job is seeing the potential in clients that aren’t quite ready for change; however, she notes that it is very rewarding being able “to help people who have made mistakes in their life, overcome their struggles, and walking beside them as they make changes to live a more positive life.”

Torrey Bourn: Morgan County Probation & Court Services Senior Probation Officer Bourn has 24 years of experience. Bourn became interested in probation after obtaining a psychology degree and wanting to work with children and teens; in fact, his first position at the Morgan County Police Department was working with at-risk juveniles.

Bourn says, “I believe one of the hardest parts about being a probation officer is that you are constantly learning and adapting new strategies to help individuals who are dealing with a variety of life issues.”

The most rewarding aspect of his job, he says, “is when you help motivate and empower clients to make the necessary life changes.”

Ryan Decker: Decker is an adult probation officer with the Morgan County Probation & Court Services. Fifteen years in the field, Decker says his career in probation began “after working in multiple facets of the social work field … I was led to probation and from the beginning, I have found the job to be very rewarding.”

While Decker feels his career as a whole rewarding, the most fulfilling part is “helping clients realize and achieve goal that improve their lives,” he says.

A challenge is “attempting to convince and induce change in certain individuals who cannot see the necessity for, or the desire to change.”

Corey Suter: Twenty years in this career choice this November 1, Suter says he started in this field to help individuals when he can and to hopefully impact the community for the better.

Suter says, “The hardest part of my job would be twofold; wanting to help someone that does not want help and seeing the effects on clients’ families when clients are not engaged in self change and self-investment.”

“Saving grace is when a former client approaches me, writes me, or calls and tells me how they have managed to change their life for the better. Whether they thank me or not, it is rewarding.”

Laura Bergman: Twenty-two years in this field of work, juvenile probation officer Bergman originally found her start because her mother was a substance abuse counselor. Bergman says because of this, “I always had a goal of being in a helping profession.”

“Dealing with the attitude/belief that the kids I work with are ‘bad’ or that an effective consequence is for a kid to be ‘thrown in jail’,” are the hardest parts of her job, according to Bergman. The most rewarding: “Seeing people succeed!”

Alanna Lowder: Lowder has been the secretary for three years at the Morgan County Probation & Court Services. Lowder says, “I’ve always been interested in criminal justice and I enjoy tackling tasks and getting things done in an orderly fashion.” Though she says multitasking can be a challenge at times, it is gratifying to work with such wonderful co-workers, “treating everyone with respect and kindness. You never know when you can brighten someone’s day.”

Andria McLaughlin: As the Morgan County Probation & Court Services Pretrial Program is new to Morgan County, so is the role of pretrial officer McLaughlin. Just four months in, McLaughlin says there are changes and adjustments every day in order to make the Pretrial Program as successful as possible, which can be challenging.

This particular position was of interest because “I am assisting the Judiciary in determining release and I am making sure that they have all the necessary in formation the make that decision,” says McLaughlin.

McLaughlin says the position is gratifying because “I feel as if there is a direct purpose and true meaning in what I am doing on a daily basis.”

Sarah Thornley: A new addition to the team at Morgan County Probation & Court Services, adult probation officer Thornley is four months in. As she recently began, she feels the hardest part for now is simply “learning everyone there is to know about my position and my clients.”

Thornley had worked at an inpatient alcohol and substance abuse treatment facility prior which prepared her for this line of work, she says; however, she adds that she is excited to now be able to help in a different way. The best reward for her is a simple thank you from a client – regardless if it was for something big or small.

Melissa Machino: Machino is a juvenile probation officer with the Morgan County Probation & Court Services, saying she knew she wanted a job helping kids since she herself was a kid. Machino notes, “In spite of problems, behaviors, trauma and challenges, each person has value and worth. It’s my job to help my clients build confidence and identify their potential, talents and goals, and help them overcome destructive patterns of behavior that create unsafe and unhealthy consequences for themselves and others.”

The biggest challenge to tackle in her opinion is working with kids who have little family support, but “to see families with strained relationship become stronger … [to see] parents [and the] kid rebuild trust” is something very rewarding.

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