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home : news : news July 24, 2017

6/22/2017 2:29:00 PM
Veterans on county probation get an agent who knows

When judges in Center City open a case file and see probation agent Wade Coles’ name as the offender’s supervisor,  the judge immediately knows the person standing for judgment is a military veteran.  Coles recently completed his first full year as the county’s first ever probation agent working only with Chisago County veterans.  Word is it’s been a positive program.

It may seem like a small thing, but the justice system gets presented with very few pieces of the puzzle that underlies an offender’s life.  The greater the court’s understanding of someone’s background and experience,  the more apt they are to be successful. Knowledge is one more tool in the tool box, so to speak.

Probation Director Amy Chavez was managing some veterans’ cases in 2015 and she said she came across unique unmet needs and she was sure there were resources to achieve success-- they just had to be plugged into the correct case.   

Probation is a period of time where a strayed member of society gets a chance to prove himself worthy of being trusted again and show he or she is responsible.  According to agent Coles, it seems to hit a veteran extra hard to feel labeled as a failure or even making a bad choice.

Coles explained that often there are unique psychological issues getting in the way of confronting the triggers and challenges behind the offense.  Transitioning from military life to civilian expectations is an added hurdle.  
The veteran is a “passion of mine,” said Coles.  

Probation Director Chavez was seated nearby.  In early 2016 at the same time she re-classed an office support position to a case aide, who now monitors truancy cases,  she hired Coles.   Chavez noticed special situations and requests arising from a set of veteran files she was managing.

Coles was an agent in pretrial supervision in Texas for about 14 years, where he worked in that state’s cutting edge veterans’ core initiative. Chavez says Coles brought a host of innovative ideas with him that Minnesota wasn’t doing.

In his brief tenure here, Chavez says Coles has won all the judges’ support.   She adds, she was amazed to get a job applicant who could supply literally every qualification for starting up the new veterans’ probation service.

Coles brings the personality too. Even clients who have successfully completed probation (these are misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor level offenses) have been known to return to the office just to talk and stay in touch. 

Her philosophy as the director is for staff to have a connection with their clients,  open communication and “respect at both ends.”

“Veterans deserve somebody who is authentic and who listens and wants them to succeed,” Coles adds. They learn that he has a similar military background, and for the most part, the offenders relax and open up and then they can be receptive to altering their behavior.

Coles’ probation caseload numbers 82 and includes servicepeople from mainly the Vietnam era to current military duty.  The 2016 year had started before he was hired and in total for 2016 Coles had supervised 71 cases.

Half have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he reports.  He has six female offenders.  (Chisago County is home to in excess of 4,500 veterans, according to demographics data.)  


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