The Hendricks County Flyer on 09/01/2017 by Stephanie Dolan
DANVILLE — The vision of the Hendricks County Probation Department is to reduce recidivism through evidence-based cognitive behavior self-change programming and case planning.
Hendricks County Probation oversees both adult and juvenile probation as well as home detention. Cases that come through the probation office range from theft to drinking and driving to battery and sex offenses.
Recently, the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana (POPAI) announced that Brittany Stodghill and Ben Neureiter of Hendricks County Probation were winners of the Rookie of the Year Award and the Line Officer of the Year Award, respectively.
“These guys were both nominated for a number of reasons, and they were unanimously voted winners by the committee,” Chief Probation Officer Susan Bentley said. “Nominations have to be received from judges as well as co-workers or supervisors detailing reasons why the candidate is the best one to receive the award.”
The honors ceremony will be officially awarded this month at the POPAI Fall Conference in French Lick, but only Neureiter will be in attendance.
“I’ll be on my honeymoon,” Stodghill said.
Stodghill started with the probation office as an administrative assistant, and was offered the position of probation officer the following year.
“It was actually a year ago today that Susan offered me the job,” she said. “It’s very rewarding, and I love it. Most days I leave very satisfied knowing that I’ve tried to make an impact on at least one person. I try to help as many as I can, but you’re always going to have those who aren’t receptive to your help or to what you say.”
Stodghill said the best thing about her job is knowing when she does have a positive impact on someone and that she’s helped to change a life. She also said that growing up with an alcoholic father who was very abusive to her mother and often in and out of jail is what inspired her to enter the field.
“Maybe he didn’t have a good probation officer who could have helped him like they should have,” she said.
She added that she was pleased and surprised when she heard about her award nomination.
“But I really didn’t think I’d win,” she said.
Neureiter was just as surprised to hear that he’d won Line Officer of the Year. His focus is mainly on sex offender cases, along with field work.
“When I first started, I was like Brittany,” he said. “I thought I was going to change the world. But then the job humbles you real quick. I actually started hating it because I got sick of every case failing. I moved to South Carolina for two years. But I came back. When I did, things were a lot better. We have different judges with different philosophies than those we used to work for.”
With regard to the offenders with whom Neureiter typically works, he said that he looks at them as he would any addict.
“I worked with the drug court a little bit, and I have a new appreciation for addicts,” he said. “We all have our vices and issues, and when I was working with the drug court I’d meet with those offenders two to three times a week and figure out how they got to that point. Sex offenders are no different. When you do this job, you learn that there’s a reason that everybody is where they are.”
Neureiter added that dealing with sex offense cases can certainly be more difficult than others, but there’s always an explanation as to what brought them to the point of offending.
“You view it a little bit differently,” he said.
Both Stodghill and Neureiter said that remaining neutral is integral to the role of a successful probation officer.
“To be a good officer, you have to be non-judgmental,” Neureiter said. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“When a client first comes in, I don’t judge,” Stodghill added. “I ask a lot of questions, and I want to get to know the client. I think you have to have the attitude that everyone has a chance, but they are ultimately in control of their own lives. We can’t make them not get in trouble. We can only believe they can do it.”
Neureiter added that he believes probationers often get a bad rap.
“[Offenders] have done stuff that many of us have done,” he said. “They just got caught. When I graduated from college, I had no direction. Probably should have been on probation myself. There are people who get in trouble over and over again, and those cases are frustrating. But then there are those who just simply made a mistake.”
For more information on the Hendricks County Probation Office, visit the website at co.hendricks.in.us.