Probation Department Members Honored for Making an Impact in Merced County

Barbara Glaze helps veterans who have found their way into the criminal justice system. Jaclyn Valenzuela regularly connects with troubled young people who no one else wants to deal with at the juvenile hall.

They both have difficult jobs in the Merced County Probation Department. But their dedication to their jobs and passion for people under their care are reasons why both members received awards at the recent Merced County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Awards ceremony.

“Not too many people know what probation does, and to recognize our officers for doing something different is really special,” said Merced County Chief Probation Officer Jeff Kettering. “For Ms. Glaze, it’s about her work with starting the Veterans Court. And for Ms. Valenzuela, juvenile hall is one of those things where the only thing you hear about it is that it’s bad, and it’s people like her that try to make the kids’ lives better.”

Glaze, a deputy probation officer, and Valenzuela, a juvenile institutions officer, both AFSCME Local 2703 members, were among more than a dozen honorees to receive recognition at the Elks Lodge in Merced.

The night was special because the officers and their families and supporters were able to take a moment to recognize the important service all law enforcement officers provide to their communities.

As Kettering explained to the crowd why Glaze and Valenzuela were receiving their awards, he noted that most probation officers that get honored are often recognized for their efforts in either making a lot of arrests or being tough on gang members. Glaze and Valenzuela were recognized for doing something nontraditional but just as important.

For more than two years, Glaze has been the probation department’s representative for Merced County’s Veterans Treatment Court, which helps members of the armed forces who found their way into the criminal justice system transition back into society.

The Veterans Treatment Court takes a collaborative effort from an entire team. The team includes the Merced County Superior Court, Merced County Probation, Merced County Public Defender, Merced County Deputy District Attorney, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Merced County Veteran's Services Office.

Since she’s been involved, Glaze has been instrumental in four graduating classes from the program. She currently has 18 veterans in the program, and every veteran is assigned a mentor.

“For me, the most rewarding part of Veterans Treatment Court is when the veterans complete their treatment goals, graduate from the program and their case is dismissed,” Glaze said. “These veterans have put their lives on the line for us, and now we are able to give them a second chance to address their issues that led them to have contact with the criminal justice system.”

Valenzeula has worked in the juvenile hall for years, and she has seen a lot of changes over the years but has always remained passionate about helping the young people who are behind bars.

“I’ve seen it first hand,” Kettering said. “Her goal is not only to help the kids but to create a safer community because these kids, when they leave us, they’re coming back into the community.”

Valenzuela was honored for her work with the juvenile hall’s behavior modification program. In that role, she has the difficult job of dealing with kids who are acting out and whom other staff can’t deal with because of their violent behavior.

She doesn’t mind, though. When Valenzuela is called in, she has conversations with the young people and builds rapport with them, and she is often able to get them to calm down and follow the rules without any more conflict.

“It’s amazing,” Kettering said. “She even talked a weapon out of a kid’s hand one time.”