written by Marry Ann Zammit

Nothing can alter my perception that working as a Probation Officer makes a person unique and interesting but it also brings a lot of stress. This job is very various which at times can take its toll on us. Our main task is to deal with offenders who are given another opportunity in the community to change their lives. Some of them do, others progress is slow, and some is nothing at all.

And going day by day with all these activities, did we really need a pandemic? No, but it still came. Going back in time. It is the year 2020 and like other colleagues, I am planning to keep the daily routine, compiling Pre Sentence Reports, Parole Reports, attending at the Court of Justice and Supervision of clients. Till one day dawned and it changed everything.

In February 2020 the world woke up to a new reality ,that of a new virus, to covid-19. Suddenly it spread all over the world, attacking rapidly, infecting people and even leading to deaths. In a short period of time, covid-19 has frightened us and made us uncertain. The number of covid cases increased and to prevent widespread contamination we went into lockdown. For the Department of Probation and Parole in Malta, it meant working remotely from home. Nevertheless, this was going to be a new challenge and a new experience for Probation Officers.

Reality of remote working 

This was going to be my first time working from home and I was used to the conventional method of working. Many questions came to mind; how I was going to deal with the clients and their supervision? It seemed like a journey into the unknown, without the slightest idea how things were going to turn out. Or worse what if I got infected with covid?

I call to mind that warm Spring day in March, when I found myself packing all the files and the necessary documents for this new journey. But before I left I looked at the desk and thought. When will I return? It was a odd period with a lot of emotions, but I picked up my courage and left.

Adjusting at home

The journey has started and I noticed I had to be creative. Working from at home required discipline and I needed a new strategy. There was also the technical part which included the transfer of files from the work computer to the notebook at home and getting accustomed to all the systems.

First day at home went well. Communication with clients involved telephone calls, video calls and skype calls while I used zoom for communicating with other professionals. I noticed that my clients were getting used to this new way of communicating. One of the issues I came across was taking urine testing from my clients. Although it was impossible to take the test I found out that my clients were being open about their drug use. Yet, still the covid cases kept going higher and we kept living day after day in this new scenario. And week after week I found myself adapting to this new lifestyle and even after work hours I was finding time to organize myself with my artistic life, which is writing and painting.

What did I learn?

This new work scenario helped me to develop more skills personally and as a probation officer. For sure it was an exercise for flexibility and adaptation, but most of all it was an opportunity to adapt to the technology. I believe this applies also for our clients.

To conclude, our work as probation officer is already a journey for growth and self development. Every case brings new insights but the pandemic has been a big lesson for growth. It had taught me that nothing in life is static and what’s meant to happen, will happen. And that is that we need to be ready for the unexpected and to use skills of adaptation. We need to be there for our clients. For sure it will remain a mile stone in my story as a probation officer.

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