The probation vocation

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 26/00) - Despite the high stress environment she sees on a daily basis, probation officer Bethan Williams-Steinwand says she doesn't get discouraged easily.

Even her large client base doesn't stop her from being friendly, calm and good-natured.

Yellowknife's adult probation officer has a full plate, but isn't complaining

"My theory is if we can help one out of 10 people, and they don't re-offend, then we're doing OK," she said.

Williams-Steinwand is the currently the only probation officer for adult offenders in Yellowknife, and carries a caseload that varies from 50 to 90 clients at any one time.

For each client she monitors his or her conduct, counsels the offender, takes action to prevent serious breaches by laying necessary charges and monitors community service, restitution payments and victim-offender reconciliation.

In doing so, Williams-Steinwand attends territorial court, makes field visits and maintains a network of contacts with other workers such as alcohol and drug treatment representatives.

"We try to build relationships with the offenders so we don't have to chase them around," she said.

The people Williams-Steinwand deals with vary in many ways because of the variety of offences and the different personality types.

"We're dealing with a lot of very different types of offenders," she explained.

"Some have very violent histories, sexual dysfunction, psychiatric disorders and they are sometimes my clients.

"They can be very unpredictable but I've never had any real problems."

Williams-Steinwand went into this kind of work due to her interest in the legal system and the courts, she said.

But more importantly, she enjoys working with and helping people.

She has a bachelor's degree in science and criminology with a minor in psychology.

She moved back to Yellowknife, where she was born and raised, in 1995.

After working at the Yellowknife Correctional Centre and in the Dogrib communities, she took on a role with the Department of Justice in April.

Each of her clients have interesting stories but, because of confidentiality, Williams-Steinwand isn't able to go into a lot of detail about them.

She did recount one, though, that really made her take notice.

"The first pre-sentence report I ever had to write was on a fellow that went out to drink with his brother and his uncle," she said.

"They were at a lake and this man pulled out a gun and he said, 'Come on and party with me' and they said, 'No, no put down the gun' and he started shooting them.

"He shot his uncle in the leg and shot his brother also through the leg. His uncle was almost 70 years old and he managed to jump into the lake, swim across and ran out on the highway to flag down a vehicle ... and then the vehicle hit him.

"So he gets nailed by the vehicle, flies probably about 75 feet and gets up and walks away ... he was also blind in one eye, which probably didn't help him," Williams-Steinwand said, adding, "After everything was said and done ... everybody loved each other and they all forgave this fellow for shooting them."