Retired Parole and Probation Officer/Correctional Counselor
SHELLEY FOX-LOKEN Retired State Parole and Probation Officer/Correctional Counselor
"It's amazing that, once in, anyone makes it out of the criminal justice system. We make it almost impossible."
Shelley Fox-Loken was one of the first few female correctional officers to work at Oregon's only maximum security prison for men. While earning a BS in criminology from Southern Oregon University, she worked at various juvenile facilities, and then served as a corrections officer at Oregon State Penitentiary for four years. She spent eleven years working as a state parole and probation officer in Oregon.
During the time Shelley was a parole and probation officer, almost all of her clients were drug offenders. She learned a great deal about addiction and says our current system prevents people from getting treatment because of skewed law enforcement priorities. She says, "I locked up people who had children to care for. I watched police violate rights in the name of 'justice' and I probably did a few times myself. I saw my caseload grow and grow until it became so unmanageable that no one was getting supervised, including those who really needed it, such as sex offenders and people with truly violent histories.
"I felt isolated from my profession as I saw the effort to deal with the very real problems of drug addiction shift from social services to guns and force. I was saddened by the change in the relation between law enforcers and civilians. People don't trust the police as much as they used to. Ironically, they have come to fear the very people who are supposed to be protecting them.
"What I absolutely know is that the vast majority of my clients wanted and desired to work, have families, and just be left alone," she insists. "We need to stop using drug use and addiction as a reason to invade people's lives where we wouldn't have otherwise." Shelley also witnessed how drug users and addicts in the system are held to a different, higher standard - one that even drug abstainers would have a hard time complying with. "We expect this population to overcome all obstacles in their paths and persevere. I found that unrealistic to say the least.
"I am so very happy to have discovered LEAP and to be able to represent my colleagues who have learned the hard way that drug abuse is a health, not a law enforcement issue. I am proud to speak for LEAP."