“Totally by accident!”
That’s how Susan Rice, 48, starts to respond when asked how she got into probation work.
The “accident” occurred during her senior year at DePauw University, when she did a one-month internship with the Howard County Probation Department.
As a psychology major and sociology minor, she had no plans to go into probation work. But she “really enjoyed” the internship. After she graduated in 1987 with a liberal arts degree, she was asked to fill in for six weeks for a secretary on maternity leave.
Rice said she thinks she has always wanted to do something involved with helping people. So instead of following through on her original plan to go to medical school, she decided to make probation work her career.
Almost 27 years later, she’s chief probation officer for Miami County, having joined the department shortly after her temporary experience in Howard County.
Since 1991, Rice has headed a 10-person department, including herself, that supervises about 900 offenders. She oversees a budget of almost $500,000 that’s funded almost equally by tax dollars and fees clients pay when placed on probation.
Among her responsibilities are developing and implementing new programs, collecting user fees, and record-keeping. She reports directly to the three Miami County judges.
In the past, she has also written grants, including the original Community Corrections grant for Miami County. The funds were used to start the community corrections program here.
She said she will soon start writing a grant seeking funds to establish new programs that deal with domestic violence offenders.
In supervising offenders, probation officers are sometimes referred to as the “eyes and ears of the judge,” Rice said. “We do this by meeting with clients on a regular basis, monitoring their activities and behavior.”
Each probation officer has a caseload of approximately 200 clients. The juvenile officer has between 40 and 50 clients.