‘Hard to walk away' for Odom
Cubicle walls in Sutter County's probation building on Boyd Avenue have been rearranged to create classroom space — part of a new adult resource center.
Sutter County Chief Probation Officer Christine Odom now has four counselors working in the building. Criminals under her supervision get a variety of services under one roof, including drug and alcohol counseling, mental health resources, and workforce counseling.
The juvenile unit was relocated in July. Odom's headquarters building now sees only adult criminals.
"Certainly, it's added responsibility," she said. "But it takes a long time to recreate a system, and that's what we are trying to do."
Her agency gets more serious offenders than it did in the past.
"But the challenges that led them to incarceration and involving them in the criminal justice system — they are the same," Odom said.
A large bulletin board in the building's main corridor features before and after photos of criminals who are now leading productive lives.
According to Odom, 70 percent to 80 percent of offenders her agency sees have drug and alcohol problems.
That statistic holds for those who committed lesser offenses, as well as for those with a more serious rap sheet.
"It's the most significant problem we deal with, and before, we didn't have the resources to effect much change," Odom said.
An influx of funding that has accompanied realignment's new requirements is part of what persuaded her to stay on with the county, she said.
"For the first time, we have state money to develop programs for preventing reoffense," she said.
And in her current post on the Adult Services Committee for the states chief probation officers, she said, she has a voice in the way those funds will get used.
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Brian Aronson said Odom's recent decision to serve as interim chief "is a very good thing."
"She's really been the leader in implementing all these realignment programs," he said.
"Trying to change the behavior of somebody who's been outside society for a long time is not an easy job," he said, "but she takes that job very seriously."
Odom said retirement still is just around the corner, and it's something she looks forward to.
"I work a lot of hours, and I take it all to heart. That takes its toll," she said. "But it's hard to walk away."
— Nancy Pasternack