Virginia Parole Officer Helps Restore Civil Rights

Article excerpt

From a young age, Sandra Barr developed a strong interest in criminal justice but was unsure which particular area interested her the most. Upon graduating from high school in 1989, Barr took a job as a dispatcher for her local police department. "I remember feeling very blessed to have secured the job because I was so young and the employment required a great deal of maturity and responsibility," Barr recalled. After four years with the local police department, Barr became a dispatcher for the Virginia State Police. In 1998, she took a job as an inmate classification officer with the Henrico County Sheriff's Office. Through her new position, Barr's interests continued to evolve, and she began to understand exactly what she wanted to do. "This employment really sparked my interest in probation work as I became curious about what happened to individuals once they left jail, and the services afforded to them during incarceration," she said. As a result, Barr became a probation and parole officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections later that year.

It was through this job that Barr found her niche. Today, as a senior probation and parole officer in Smyth County, Va., Barr supervises three parole officers as well as the general day-to-day office activities. In addition, she manages a caseload of probationers and handles many additional responsibilities. Barr feels that the most rewarding aspect of her job is the service she provides for her community. "For me, my job is about working with people who have difficulties and transitioning them to a prosocial attitude that is more suitable for a safe and productive community," Barr said.

In March 2011, Barr further demonstrated her commitment to improving reentry services by developing a program to assist ex-offenders in applying for their civil rights to be restored. Barr began to advertise the class through newspaper articles and radio broadcasts. The program was open to all ex-offenders as well as members of the general public who wanted to learn more about the restoration process. "When I initially advertised the class I did not expect to get the overwhelming response that I did. The response was so great that it became not just one class but two," Barr said. …