July 29, 2013

For more than 20 years, violence and drugs engulfed Sam Oliver’s life.

Oliver was arrested 42 times for crimes ranging from assault to possession of cocaine and heroin. While serving a 94-month sentence for robbery in 2005 -- his third and last stint in prison -- Oliver realized that he needed to change his ways.

“I was a father, I was a grandfather, I was a menace to society,” Oliver said. “But I knew I could be a different person.”

Oliver credits the staff in the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice’s Reentry Enhancement Coordination (REC) program with giving him a second chance. Oliver shared his story at the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners board meeting on July 25, where the board recognized July 21 through July 27 as Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week in Multnomah County.

This proclamation is part of nationwide celebration sponsored by the American Probation and Parole Association, to recognize work that probation, parole and supervision officers do to protect public safety and help offenders become productive citizens.

At the board meeting, Oliver recognized the Department of Community Justice staff for helping him and others who are transitioning out of prison to change their lives.

“Without the support, without the help, without the places to go,” Oliver said, “I can promise you that things would be different in my life.”

Oliver participated in the program while he was incarcerated. The Reentry Enhancement Coordination program seeks to reduce recidivism by providing drug and alcohol counseling, transitional housing, employment development, intensive supervision and support.

The Board of Commissioners praised staff for their supervision, sanctions and treatment resources to improve public safety and address factors that drive crime. The board also thanked staff for their work to help restore communities harmed by crime.

“This is a time to recognize and celebrate the dedicated and caring individuals in our community who work tirelessly to make our neighborhoods safer places to live and to raise families,” said Ginger Martin, the department’s deputy director. “Community corrections officials are a critical part of the public safety system.”

The Department of Community Justice operates 24 hours a day and serves the community, victims of crimes, defendants and offenders by providing public safety, services and protection for victims. It also works to prevent the recurrence of crime among juvenile and adult defendants and offenders.

The Department of Community Justice’s 650 staff members supervise more than 8,200 adult probationers and parolees and handle 21,000 pretrial cases. The department also serves 650 youth on formal and informal probation.

The department works with local and state institutions to insure that juvenile and adult defendants and offenders have a smooth transition back into the community by providing supervision and services such as alcohol and drug treatment, counseling and other services that aim to change problematic behavior.

“That support that I got when I got out helped me become the person I am today,” Oliver said. “Without that support, as in previous releases, I was locked back up. Yesterday I celebrated eight years of continuous sobriety.”

The Board of Commissioners praised DCJ staff for their continued work to better the community and for their efforts to help people change their lives.

“This is a great example of all of the good work that we do here at Multnomah County and the outstanding employees we have here,” Commissioner Diane McKeel said.

Today, Oliver takes pride in being a productive member of society.

“Today I am able to cash a check that was actually written with my name on it,” Oliver said. “I have a credit card in my pocket and it’s not one of yours. I go to the store today and I don’t have to worry about security being behind me. But most of all, I’ll never have to go back to that person that I was before.”