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Probation officer week recognizes those behind the scenes

Joe Kryschyshen is part of a team being recognized during Parole Officer Week this week. He's been a probation officer with Washington County for over 30 years. (Bulletin photo by Riham Feshir)

It's a field that requires a lot of patience, a belief that people can change and a passion for making a difference in someone's life.

This week is national Probation and Parole Officer Week, marked by the American Probation and Parole Association to recognize their work across the country.

Washington County is recognizing local probation officers this week as well along with all of the Community Corrections staff.

Joe Kryschyshen has been a probation officer for more than 30 years in Washington County, serving the area of Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport, Woodbury and Denmark Township. He's done work with juveniles and adults where the stakes vary from client to client.

Though he usually has faith in all the cases that come through the doors, it's difficult not to get frustrated when some are unable to stay on the right path.

"They're on three to five years' probation, half that time it's a struggle where they can't overcome their obstacles," he said, later adding, "You put a lot of time and energy in a lot of people and it's just not working out. If you've been around for a while, you don't take it personal."

But numerous changes that have taken place in recent years, including more collaborative programs with other local organizations, are helping keep low-risk offenders out of jail.

One program dubbed "Thinking for Change" teaches them how to make the right decision. It may sound like a no-brainer and unworthy of its own program, but Kryschyshen said it's necessary to fill the gap.

"Basically turning around thinking patterns," he said. "Some have never learned how to make good decisions."

Additional programs like the "Women in Recovery," "Driving for Care" and collaborative partnerships with local schools, are cutting edge best practices that parole officers have begun implementing.

"There is a lot of programs that I as a probation officer can plug people into," Kryschyshen said.

Though things don't always go as planned due to a number of different reasons, his experience proves successful for some who stay employed, finish school or fix family relationships.

"I had one that came back last week to say 'hey, I did it,'" Kryschyshen said of a client who recently graduated college.

Many realize the consequences they face if they don't behave and they begin to make up for mistakes they've made in the past and contribute to society.

"Not only are they working, but they're getting promoted, they're getting raises," he said. "'I'm getting along with my wife, my kids like me, we're doing things as a family,'" are some of the messages.

Safety of the community is always the top priority and probation officers are required to hold people accountable for their actions, which is part of the reason why some offenders end up back where they started.

"Things don't always go real smooth," he said.

But sometimes that's what it takes to find the silver lining, a reality check. Sometimes getting close to going back before a judge is what it takes to turn things around, he said.

"Most adults seem to figure out things quick, whereas kids it takes longer," Kryschyshen said. "For adults if you don't get with it, you have a lot to lose."

Washington County has a total of 47 probation officers working with juveniles and adults. Most cases come through the court system, while some are on probation after being released from prison.

"There is never a boring day," Kryschyshen said. "Every day there is something else that happens."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.