N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--June 1998

Respecting others is the key to intensive probation officer's success

TAYLORSVILLE — Ann Herman said God must've had a hand in her becoming a probation officer, otherwise, she would have been a high school English teacher. Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, Herman may be right. Like yellow on a buttercup, Herman seems to fit right into her job as an intensive probation officer for Alexander County.

Herman has never met a stranger. She attributes much of her character to her father's early training. While working at his store, the Woodside Grocery in Taylorsville, her father told Herman to treat people with respect, whether they wore shoes or not. While she was washing windshields and pumping gas outside the store, the young Herman learned her people skills which make her adept at her intensive probation job where she continues to encounter people from all walks of life.

Her first job out of college was as a newspaper reporter, working for the Hickory Daily Record. She had never heard of probation until a high school friend suggested she take her job when she left. She applied and became one of three officers in Alexander County in 1989. The first intensive team came a few years later, and she became an intensive officer in 1994.

Her most taxing case was with a young hairdresser who had become addicted to crack cocaine. The woman's parents were in denial about their daughter's addiction and even called Herman a liar. When the hairdresser was nine months pregnant, she was so thin from cocaine use, that Herman couldn't tell even after a body search.

When the woman tested positive for drugs, Herman was concerned about the baby and was confronted with an ethical dilemma. Should she report the drug abuse to the woman's doctor and breach confidentiality, or not report it and keep her job? Fortunately, the Social Services Department got involved with the case, and she was sent to the Black Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

"She was just out of control," Herman said. "She had violations pending in court."

Herman got the young woman and her newborn accepted at Summit House in Charlotte where she rapidly improved during her year=s stay. She’s now doing very well and recently came off probation, Herman said. She has gained weight, returned to her job as a hairdresser and is back with her old boyfriend.

"Some cases require more effort, some deserve more effort," Herman said. "You have to make a quick assessment and put more effort in the case that has more possibility of success."

"I can deal with the stress of the job because I know in my mind, I've given someone every opportunity to turn their life around."

Herman said there are three types of people who come through the intensive probation office doors: The addict who controls everything, those who have made bad decisions, hanging out with the wrong crowd, etc, and those who are simply rotten people who have no sense of right or wrong, no sense of conscience.

"I've always been a Christian, and this job really taxed my religion," Herman said. "I felt myself feeling like, these scummy people. That thinking is in direct opposition to what I've always believed, that we are all God's children."

Herman pondered the dilemma and concluded that she was no better than anyone who sits on the other side of her desk.

"I don't think you can help someone if you think you are better than anyone else, and that's a problem overall with humanity today," Herman said. "Only by the grace of God, am I sitting on the backside of the desk and not the front."

When going through intensive training, her instructor, Kevin Wallace, made the remark, "Probation and parole officers are better than the person sitting across the desk." Herman couldn't let that remark pass, and spoke her mind. He told her later he made the remark just to see if anyone would react. She passed his test.

Herman has some perplexing cases like the 78-year-old man who, having been dry for a year, started drinking again a week before he was supposed to go off intensive probation. When Herman told him he was not coming off probation, he thanked her. With little family to support him, Herman thinks he may just be lonely and likes having someone check on him.

Herman's partner, Mike Harrison, said, "Ann is so easy to work with because she keeps abreast of offender's situations, so if a problem starts, it gets nipped in the bud. She keeps real good control of caseloads."

Judicial District Manager Roselyn Powell agreed. "Ann is very dedicated to her job and her community. Her never-give-up attitude has served us well and I'm proud to be associated with her." u

NC DOC Correction News- June 1998
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