DOBSON — The hard work of several probationers was acknowledged Monday in a ceremony held at the opening of an administrative session of Superior Court.
“The message we want to send is one of hope,” Sunday Joyce, a community corrections officer, stated during opening remarks.
The success ceremony is held on a quarterly basis and recognizes those who have completed Cognitive Behavioral Intervention (CBI) program or earned placement on the office’s “Pictures of Success” bulletin board.
Every month, each community corrections officer nominates an offender from their case list who is going above and beyond to meet or exceed the terms of their probation sentence.
A committee selects the best of those nominations and the winner’s picture is posted on a bulletin board.
The incentive program and success ceremonies were implemented about a year ago, reflecting a statewide shift towards rehabilitation.
“There are a lot of offenders seeing the pictures of success and now have a goal,” said Whitney Bennett, community corrections officer.
“It used to be specifically, ‘where’s your wanted board?’” she said.
The ceremony also aims to provide a positive court experience for offenders and inspire those present to appear for a violation of probation.
‘I would play the system’
Rhonda Baylor, guest speaker at the ceremony, provided a living example of hope.
Baylor, who as a child witnessed her father be killed by his mother, started drinking at 16-years-old.
Homeless, with three children who were placed out of the home by the Department of Social Services, Baylor served two prison terms.
“I would play the system for a long time,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you my probation officer’s name because I never saw him.”
Baylor said the turning point for her was May 15, 2006.
She had gone to church and a woman there laid hands and prayed for her, and she hadn’t drank nor felt the desire to since.
“Instantly I was set free,” she said in an interview last week. “I’m out of the darkness. I can just see clearly now.”
However, kicking that addiction was only a first step.
She was still homeless, and continued to be so for more than 80 days.
After obtaining a fully furnished apartment through a transitional housing program, she still needed a ride from Statesville to Mount Airy.
“I had burned all the bridges with my family,” she told the courtroom. “I kept telling people I changed. Nobody believed me.”
She recalled making her way to Mount Airy with only $23, a trash bag full of clothes and a Tracfone.
Baylor continued to share a list of obstacles faced by many in the courtroom, having to overcome her own disbelief and doubt and others telling her she couldn’t make it.
She listened instead to those who told her she could: finding a new church, was given a car, and got a drivers license.
Now she’s employed in a fulfilling profession as a family advocate and is a homeowner.
“It means a lot,” Baylor said about speaking at the ceremony, hoping to help others with her story.
“It’s a door that’s opened up that I hid behind for years,” she said, the message she hopes to convey being that you don’t have to be behind that closed door either. “There’s life out there.”
Those present in the courtroom Monday gave Baylor a standing ovation.
Judge A. Moses Massey closed the ceremony by acknowledging the probation officers as well as the offenders.
“Probation officers never get rich,” he said. “They’re paid, but they do this because they care about people.”
He encouraged everyone to “every day try to lift someone up in some manner,” he said.
“Ms. Baylor is here because a great number of people chose to follow the invitation and command to help others. We all have the capacity to help people,” he continued. “A smile, a pat on the shoulder, a good morning, can make a difference in people’s life. There’s no way to do too much for other people.”
Pictures of success winners:
April – Leslie Slawter-Whitney.
May – Janie Smith Billings, Demorick Blakely, K.C. Crowell, Joshua McCormick, Nicole Hale, Melissa Merideth, Dixie Edwards.
June – Rachel Branch, Linda George, April Penn, Peter Volk, Chirs Mash, Charlotte Wallis
July – Nicholas Ceasar, Austin King, Penny Ellis, Naomi McLaughlin, Terry Bramlett.
August – Chistopher Holt, James Wood, Dustin Lovelace, Alisha Moss.
2016 CBI graduates:
Christopher Holt, Carla Moser, Naomi McLaughlin, Terry Bramlett, Tommy Akbas, Raymond Greene, James Wood.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.