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Rock-Nobles Community Corrections keeping tabs on 1,000 offenders

Rock-Nobles Community Corrections agents (from left) Ed Anderson, Bob Jirele, Shannon Thier, Angel Otero and John Ramlo stand in front of the area at Prairie Justice Center in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
The entrance to Worthington’s Prairie Justice Center, home of Rock-Nobles Community Corrections, is shown. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — On any given day, the 11 staff members of the Rock-Nobles Community Corrections office have approximately 1,000 clients — both adults and juveniles — with whom they are in contact.

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“That’s in both Rock and Nobles counties, and the severity and amount of supervision varies a great deal, but yes, we have about 1,000 clients in our data system on any given day,” said Jon Ramlo, director of Rock-Nobles Community Corrections for the past 11 years.

Cynthia Cordova, who became employed with the agency two weeks ago as a half-time agent to work with juveniles and supplement pre-trial supervision of offenders, recently joined the ranks of agents, community service crew leaders and support staff who join with Ramlo in seeking to fulfill the agency’s mission.

“Our mission is, in cooperation with the community, to improve lives through public safety, victim restoration and offender change,” detailed Ramlo.

“What we do is provide probation and parole services for adult and juvenile offenders in Rock and Nobles counties.”

Ramlo explained his agency recently received budgetary approval from its corrections board to add a half-time agent. Cordova, he said, will be a secondary juvenile back-up agent and will also assist with pre-trial supervision of clients — those who are ordered to follow certain conditions until their court hearing is established.

“That might mean maintaining sobriety, for instance, so to ensure compliance, with the numbers we’re serving, the corrections board allowed us to add a half-time agent to provide more adequate, greater supervision of these people,” said Ramlo.

Court-certified interpreters are often used by Rock-Nobles Community Corrections to assist when language barriers arise or documents must be signed, and in emergency situations, the interpreter line ELSA is activated.

Because Cordova, as well as longtime community service crew leader Angel Otero, is bilingual in Spanish and English, the office’s ability to communicate easily and on-the-spot with Spanish-speaking clients has improved.

“Yesterday, for example, after juvenile court, Cynthia was walking back from court to the probation office with another agent, who was talking to the juvenile in English,” Ramlo related. “Cynthia shared with the parents, who were not proficient in English, what their child’s conversation with the other agent involved.

“It will definitely be an asset to have her directly in the office to assist with cases like that.”

Job requirements for corrections agents include a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in a criminal justice-related subject and at least 400 hours of supervised, volunteer internship time at a probation facility/agency.

“Cynthia’s internship was in Cottonwood County with the probation office there,” said Ramlo. “People are not even eligible to apply for a position in probation until they have those 400 hours in; in South Dakota, only 180 hours are required.

“Sometimes, it takes students a year or more to get the hours in, and they aren’t allowed to start the internship until they’re done with their junior year.”

Because of that requirement, Ramlo said his office usually has up to two interns at a time working with staff.

“We have one starting soon for the spring semester,” Ramlo confirmed. “It can get pretty challenging for college students to get those hours in, and it’s an unpaid position. Diplomas are not even issued until the internship is completed.”

A stringent requirement, certainly, but one that makes it possible for new agents like Cordova to hit the ground running, once they have achieved employment status as a corrections agent.

“The internship helped me become familiar with the forms and computer software used on the job, as well as the kinds of situations agents encounter,” said Cordova. “I’m ready to plunge right in.”