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3 min read

Empathy and Accountability: A Probation Officer’s Unique Partnership with UGM

Picture a man with a badge and a gun chaperoning women at a recovery center Valentine’s Day gala. Now, picture him in tears as he presents handmade certificates of achievement to each one individually, calling them by name and saying how proud of them he is. This is our friend Clinton.

He’s a unique kind of UGM partner, working for another agency but having a powerful influence in many of our guests’ lives. Since 2013, Clinton has worked for the Idaho Department of Corrections as a Senior (and now Lead) Probation and Parole Officer, managing the faith-based caseload. He works closely with any women who come to UGM out of prison or who come as a way to avoid a prison sentence.

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“I get all the law enforcement stuff, plus I get to work with people,” he says. “I get to see the success stories, you know. Get to help people.” Clinton grew up wanting to be a police officer, but discovered a passion for this slightly different work in his twenties. “I can see that God has led me here, and a lot of my strengths go directly to this work.”

Before COVID, Clinton would come into the Center every first Friday of the month, to eat with guests and staff, strengthen connections and demonstrate honest approachability to the women on his caseload. “It’s not, ‘give me respect’,” he says, “it’s humility. I think that’s what they respond to. I don’t want to come in like somebody who is lording over them; I have a genuine desire to see them do well and I treat them with respect.”

“It’s not, ‘give me respect’, it’s humility. I think that’s what they respond to. I don’t want to come in like somebody who is lording over them;
I have a genuine desire to see them do well and I treat them with respect.”

Clinton’s sincere desire to see these women thrive is evident to all who get to know him. Sometimes it takes a while for residents to open up to a man in a uniform, when often all they’ve experienced from authorities in the past is negative or at least impersonal. But they do open up, as he earns their trust.

“You get people that have been, most of them, abused. It’s going to take them time, and it’s on me to show them that I’m not here to punish them or anything. I want them to succeed.”

Because UGM’s program is faith-based, Clinton feel’s it’s important to have a Christian working his caseload. “It’s not a requirement, it’s just—I think it helps if you understand what the program is trying to accomplish and what the women are being taught.”

He also says he’s grateful that he can speak freely about his own faith while on the job at UGM. “I’m not scared to have conversations about faith and I’m not afraid to talk to them about the hard stuff, about forgiveness and my own life dealing with forgiveness, and struggling with swearing you’re never going to do it again and then doing it again. Some of the girls who come, this is their first time trying to understand who God is. They come in, they’re all excited, and ‘life’s going to be perfect’ and then it’s not. ’Cause it’s hard. And so, having those conversations—maybe they respect that because it’s real.”

Clinton’s goal is to be real and empathetic, but also to hold the women accountable to both the requirements placed by the court and expectations set by themselves and program facilitators. 

“I understand I haven’t been a perfect person in my life and so I can take that and go, well, people make mistakes and I can treat them as humans. But you start pushing boundaries and I’m going to hold you accountable. It’s about showing empathy but also holding people accountable. That’s love.”

“I understand I haven’t been a perfect person in my life and so I can take that and go, well, people make mistakes and I can treat them as humans. But you start pushing boundaries and I’m going to hold you accountable. It’s about showing empathy but also holding people accountable. That’s love.”

He does demonstrate a Christ-like love for every woman he works with. On many occasions, Clinton has showed up to celebrate small and large successes, chaperone women at the annual gala, attend phase promotions and just share a meal with residents and staff.

We asked him why he goes so far above and beyond his job description. He said it's because he sees UGM as the best place possible for these women. He puts in the extra effort to help ensure they can reach the finish line (and thrive, going forward.) “Places like this can do far more than any government agency does. The state doesn’t have to pay for the women who come through here. We don’t have to put them in prison, we don’t have to pay for their bed. It’s like, why don’t we just partner with the people who are already doing the work? You guys are going to do it far better than we ever will.

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“In this job, we go into people’s houses and see the impact on the kids. And it kills you and breaks your heart. So, you see that and then, coming here, you see how happy the kids are. They’re with their moms, and their moms are getting a lot of help. You see this beautiful place and the children’s department and all the nice things provided to them. I tell women, really, you hit the jackpot coming here.”

“I tell women, really,
you hit the jackpot coming here.”

Clinton’s partnership is unique, but his heart is like so many others: rich with the desire to help our guests succeed. Whether they volunteer in medical clinics, offer business practicums or donate needed goods, our partners make the ministry what it is. 

Which kind of UGM partner are you? Take the quiz.

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