TDOC officer in hometown brings sense of belonging to offenders

Jaleesa Gaston
Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 20:24:05-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Approximately 62,000 Tennesseans are under some form of community supervision with the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Probation and parole officers are there to make sure offenders follow the court's orders, like random drug tests or attending rehab.

Jaleesa Gaston works as a TDOC probation/parole officer in Gallatin. She's a native and has always been intrigued by a career in law enforcement.

She's spent 11 years, so far in the profession.

"It's comforting to me to know that I am recognized in the community not only as a member of probation parole for TDOC, but as a friend or someone that can be trusted," said Gaston.

Since Gaston is a probation/parole officer in her hometown, she ends up supervising some familiar faces.

"A lot of the people that I come in contact with the majority of the time are people I went to school with. People that live in my neighborhood. People that still live in my neighborhood," said Gaston.

It’s a position that comes with a lot of responsibility. She’s supervising people who are charged with felonies. They now need supervision to make sure they follow the court’s orders.

"A lot of the time we are their first line of defense or the only person in their life that is there to give them that structure," explained Gaston.

Her goal is to get offenders the resources they need to succeed and to give them a boost in life. She wants to let them know offenders are not defined by their past.

"You may have been brought up a different way, but we are here to help you. Bring you back to society and give you a sense of belonging," said Gaston.

Parole and Probation officers are also tasked with working to keep people from getting in trouble again.

TDOC's recidivism rate is 32%.

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