Probation Officer #66: The atheist Pat O’Brien

“All right. You come back with a report that recommends something instead of jail but doesn’t sound like wet liberal bullshit. And we’ll work out how to sell it to the judge. And the cops. Come and see me with what you’ve got at one o’clock, and we’ll go and talk to the cops around four. Ok?”

boxWhen Jock had finished punching his juvenile crims bloody, he’d trust them with $50, maybe more, to use to get back to their mothers, or aunts, or whoever was most likely to look after them. Jock couldn’t afford to lose the money he lent those kids – they knew that, because he’d become a bit of a legend – and being trusted scared the hell out of them. Most of them wanted to earn that trust, and most of them paid the money back.

In a movie he’d have been played by Pat O’Brien, except that Jock was an atheist. He was, as they say, a better man than I was, or am. We had nothing in common. We faced each other, each time we met, completely baffled.  

“Ok. Thank you.”

“Yeah. I should think so. How’s that Ana girl?”

“What? Ana?”

“Well of course Ana. Have you fucked her?” 

Probation Officer #65: The timid sex offender

I picked up my afternoon’s work. “There still has to be a report.”

“Do you think Lance should go to jail?”

“No. He’s still not a risk to the community. Public safety.”

“He thumped someone.” 

“Yeah. Farm guy. But he was resisting unlawful imprisonment. And he didn’t thump farm guy very hard. Anyway, he needs to have to come in on the weekends and do a bit of work scrubbing graffiti and so on, to keep him tired. He needs someone who knows more about this than I do to get him to stay in his bedroom when he feels like having a wank. And he needs to stay out of jail, because that would fuck him up beyond repair.”

obrienJock looked at me. Blankly. “I’m not so sure he’s not beyond repair anyway. But I’d agree that jail will fuck him up. He’s a sex offender and he’s timid. He’s got victim written all over him. And if there was a dangerous idiot out on that farm, it was the farm manager. If he’d tried to lock me in his goddamn barn, I’d have thumped him too. All right.” 

I waited. 

Probation Officer #64: Jock the director

Jock, the director, said, “You’ve written a report? That’s something. Give it here.”

Jock took my report and turned away to skim it. I hate it when people do that with anything I’ve written. I like to read their faces while they read me. Jock was a terrifying bastard, with a big red face, a gorilla’s arm muscles and a pigeon’s chest. He’d passed the mandatory age but no-one had the nerve to tell him to retire.

He spun his chair back to face me. “It’s good in a way. And it’s bullshit.”

“Bullshit?” I was more surprised than offended. I thought I’d written something honest. 

“Yes. Read that and it’s clear that you’re to blame. You probably think writing that’s a noble … gesture or something.” 

“It’s just what I think was happening.” 

obrien boxes“Ah, bullshit, Jaime. Actually, I expected you to produce some bullshit. Just, I thought it’d be something that covers your arse. Since you’re a clever bastard. But this isn’t even clever.” Jock was known to take some of the cockier young offenders to the Police and Citizens boxing ring, to show them that a man in his sixties could beat them. He said he was demonstrating that violence is meaningless. Really, he thought it got their attention.

I was getting annoyed. “I was trying to protect my colleagues.”

“Y’arrogant little weasel, you think the people here need your protection? We’ve been doing this longer than you’ve known how to tie your own laces. You thought it’d be romantic to throw your career away. Make a big gesture, take all the blame and walk. That’s no use to us. We’d rather you turn up to work every day. Do your share.”   

“Well, Lance is going to jail. He’s not going to do very well there. That’s down to me.”

“Well, Jaime, it aint. Guess who’s fault it is? It’s Lance’s. You can’t mind him every minute of his life. You couldn’t stop him from fucking his life up when you weren’t around, because you’re not god. Contrary to what you seem to think. Here, take this report back. Keep it somewhere, and have a look at it if you ever start thinking you’re clever again.” 

Probation Officer #61: Holding his own

I didn’t have much time to think about Sa’afia once I got to work. The manager of a farm about ten kilometres out of town had caught Lance Holder masturbating behind a barn. When the manager challenged him Lance had run for it. The manager had caught up with him near the barn entrance, and punched him a couple of times while Lance got his pants up.



The manager had tried to lock Lance in the barn, so he could call the cops. Lance had hit him with a garden stake. The manager fell over, and Lance ran. Another farmhand called the police, who’d picked Lance up while he was hitchhiking back to town. The farm manager had provoked a pointless incident, and he hadn’t really been hurt, but he’d shown that Lance had more violence in him than anyone had thought. Lance’s career as a comic figure was over.

His violence had arguably been provoked, it was relatively trivial, and it was only indirectly connected to his sexual behaviour. But he was now a violent sexual offender. He was in police custody.

I got to see him after waiting three hours, but he had nothing to say. So I went back to the office and started a report on what the probation service had been doing with him for the past year, including the four months he’d been on my caseload. Because that was a question someone was going to ask.

There were many ugly aspects to the situation, but one of them was that I could see that we’d been wrong to think Lance wasn’t capable of violence, but I couldn’t see what we could have done to prevent that incident. Lance wasn’t in jail. If I wrote a report that really did say what I thought had gone wrong, it’d be referred above my head and get re-written. But even if I can’t write the full truth I like to have an idea what the full truth is. In this case I didn’t know.

So it was a bad day. Sa’afia called me in the afternoon. On my office phone. She’d been expecting to hear from me. She wanted to tell me off for not calling, and putting my mobile on “Do not disturb.” I stopped her. 

“Have you heard from your mother?”

“Yes. She’s still out. So you can come over tonight. If you still even want to.”

“Sa’afia, you can stop that right now. I expect you to call me and tell me whether your home is available or if you’re coming to me.”

“Yes, but -“

“Is that understood?” There was silence. I found myself cheering up, though I kept any trace of that out of my voice. “Do you understand, girl?”

“Well. Yes.” 

lipI considered asking if she’d just bitten her lip. She would have if I’d been there to see it. But there were parts of the game that couldn’t be played over the phone. Instead I said, “Yes, what?”

“Yes, indeed.” 

I had to grin. Sa’afia didn’t have a bratty bone in her body, but it was a good try.

Anyway, she wouldn’t see the grin. I made myself sound angry. “Sa’afia!”