clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


She stands only 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 100 pounds, and fits into a size 3 dress.

She also packs a gun.Sally L. Powell is a probation officer for the Utah Department of Corrections. She and two male officers handle the department's new intensive supervision program, established in April of this year, which oversees the highest-risk offenders.

The probationers she deals with have been convicted of violent crimes against people, including attempted criminal homicide, aggravated robbery and aggravated sexual assault.

These individuals have been given probation instead of being sent to jail or prison and it's up to Powell to see that they live up to the conditions of their probation. If they don't, they can end up in prison.

She explained that paroled individuals have served time in prison for their offenses and have been given parole because of good behavior or some other factor. Probation, she said, is given in lieu of a prison or jail sentence because of the lack of a previous record or some other mitigating circumstances.

All of Powell's cases are men. One is in a drug treatment program and the rest are living on their own.

"Intensive supervision lasts at least six months. If a probationer fulfills the conditions set down by the court, he or she leaves the intensive probation program and is put on a less demanding schedule of supervision," Powell said.

"In intensive probation, individuals spend the first two months with a 7 p.m. curfew. If they manage to get through the first two months, they spend the next four months with a 9 p.m. curfew."

She said her probationers are monitored every day and must come into the Probation and Parole Office once a week for an interview.

Some of those on intensive probation are given electronic ankle bracelets to wear so their whereabouts can be monitored. Her department also checks on probationers by visiting them regularly, calling them at home or calling or visiting their employers to make sure they are where they are supposed to be and are complying with the rules set down by the courts.

Despite working in a criminal world all day and seeing the dark side of life - filled with various degrees of unhappiness, bitterness, hate, viciousness and failure - she has not become disillusioned.

"I feel I'm helping society. I've been working in the corrections department, first as a volunteer and then as a probation officer, for nearly five years and I'm not soured on life."

Powell said she gets great satisfaction helping convicted criminals get back on the right side of the law.

"It doesn't always work. A great many offenders end up repeating their offenses. With some people, getting into trouble is a habit."

She said she feels the offenders she works with respect her. "They are polite, even though they are tough cookies. From the beginning, "I let them know the rules, what I expect of them and what will happen to them if they don't live up to the conditions of their probation."

Powell says she has always enjoyed movies and television programs about police. "Being a probation officer is a fascinating job for me."

A native of Salt Lake City, she graduated from Hillcrest High School in 1973 and earned a degree in sociology from the University of Utah in 1983.

While going to school, she worked for an insurance company as a sales service representative for more than six years. After earning her degree, she became a volunteer worker for the Probation and Parole Office for nearly a year, spending 20 hours a week or more writing reports on probationers based on interviews with them and with the public.

In November 1984, she was hired full time as a probation officer and went through Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) to earn a Category II police certification. In April of this year, she went back to POST and earned her Category I police certification.

She began working with offenders sentenced by the 5th Circuit Court, including those who had been convicted of everything from DUI to assault. In July 1987 she began working with felony probationers, sentenced by the Third District Court, and had a case load of 70 to 100 probationers who had been convicted of everything from forgery to attempted murder.

As a probation officer, she has made many arrests and helped other departments with arrests. Often, she has had to face 200- and 300-pound men who tower over her. But she's never been hurt, she said.

"The worst experience I've had was not arresting a big, rugged man bent on mayhem, but arresting a woman who didn't see why she should cooperate with me.