Understanding the need for human connection

Nelessen_Carla_webCarla Nelessen, from Neenah is a non-traditional Human Services Leadership major in her last semester at UW Oshkosh. I am taking  She has been married for almost 26 years, has four children and is also taking classes at University of Upper Iowa (via Wausau) to obtain a Social Work Certificate after graduating from UWO. Her personal goals are to do things well, with her heart and mind engaged, and believes you are never too old to learn. Follow along as she shares about her internship experience.

Since I’ve started my internship with VIOS, I have learned so many things. The Human Service areas that Outagamie County Volunteer in Offender Services (VIOS) impacts are far reaching and needed. In the beginning of my internship, the director of VIOS, Mr. Stuart Driessen gave me two books to read. The first was “Games Criminals Play” by Bud Allen. The purpose of this book is to explain the subtle ways the inmates test to see if they can get employees (volunteers) to violate minor rules and eventually gain peer status and contraband. The book explains the subtlety of deception by providing a tool for recognizing and reckoning with these manipulative processes. I learned that there are some ways to not be susceptible to manipulation. The second book I read is “The First Offender” by Joe Alex Morris. This book was written in 1970. Keith Leenhouts was a young judge in Royal Oak Michigan, he wanted to prevent young lawbreakers (mostly charged with misdemeanors) from turning into habitual felons.

To help me best understand what VIOS stands for, Mr. Driessen pointed me to the website: http://docs.legis.wi.gov/statutes/statutes/973/11/1/a/2. He explained the Wisconsin Statue 973.11,  called placements with volunteers in probation program. In part it states: Directive to a volunteer to provide one or more of the following functions for the defendant:

1. Role model.

2. Informal counseling.

973.11(1)(a)3. 3. General monitoring.

4. Monitoring of conditions set by the court.

This is just a small excerpt of the statue that was written and put into place in 1991.

I feel like I am just getting my feet wet concerning all the areas VIOS is at work, through the law, community outreach, connections with other human service organizations and individual lives.  One of the ways VIOS best influences the community is by the interaction with the offenders. The goal is to help the offender develop new attitudes and thought patterns about him/herself and society. The effectiveness of VIOS is the personal contact the offender has with the staff and volunteers at VIOS.

This blog is just some of my thoughts and experiences I’ve had during my internship at VIOS. I think I have re-learned that people just want to be heard, even though these clients do not have much of an option in coming through VIOS doors. Many of them are receptive to change because of the environment that is created by the team of people that work in the jail and office of Outagamie County VIOS. It was helpful to me read the books that the director gave me, however, I believe the most helpful thing to me is observing the staff interact with the various clients.

One of my first experiences with a client was back in November and this person was very resistant and unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. The staff person who met with this client was concerned that things would get worse in the client’s life before they would get better.

Actually, that is what happened. The client had another run in with the law (within the next month) and things and the problems escalated to more serious consequences. To my surprise, the next meeting with the client went extremely well! The client had a huge change in heart and mind, partly due to family members who gave a “tough love” action. The staff member decided to continue to work with the client and explain to them that the road will not be easy. It was at this point, that I realized, that people can change and are willing to change especially when the people in their lives are willing to help but not enable.

I attended the Outagamie County Impact Panel of Victim & Offender of Drunk Driving. There were about 40 to 50 people in a room. Those in attendance have been court ordered, as part of their conviction as a second time drunk driving offender. The purpose of the panel is not to blame or judge, but rather to reach the audience on the emotional level. The goal of this program is to reduce the rate of repeat drinking/impairment and driving. There were two people who told their heart wrenching stories of losing their young adult children to drunk drivers. The audience seemed responsive to the speakers. I thought the speakers did a good job of telling their stories without shaming the people in the audience. I thought it was important that VIOS also handed out a survey after the presentations to ask the attendees questions about what they heard.

Being involved with this internship has helped me understand the need for human connection.

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