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The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

The Student News Site of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Sentinel

John Jay Alumna, Dalvanie Powell Makes Strides in Pay Equality While Serving as the First Black Female President of the United Probation Officers Association

    UPOA President, Dalvanie Powell
    UPOA President, Dalvanie Powell

    Dalvanie Powell, a John Jay Alumna was recently re-elected to serve as the President of the United Probation Officers Association (UPOA). After she became a probation officer in 1987, Dalvanie made history in becoming the first Black female President of the UPOA. She also received a Bachelor in Criminal Justice from John Jay College in 1987. 

    Probation and supervising probation officers work with their clients to redirect their life path. This task does not exclude New York’s youth. 

    With 30% of those on probation in New York being minors, in our interview, Powell revealed how she has invested in these individuals throughout her career. This included holding a talent show for youth on probation, through a creative arts program. Powell noted this is one of the things she values in her job, “The good thing about probation is you’re allowed to use your creative juices and your creative skills to bring out the best in your clients.”

    President Dalvanie Powell with DOP Commissioner Juanita Holmes

    With decades of experience, Powell explained how since taking her position, she is incorporating empathy and mindfulness into her work, as well as protecting communities at a large scale. “See, my thing is, by the grace of God there go I, since I can be sitting at the other end of that table any given time. So I believe in treating people like human beings” said Powell. 

    Although Powell and her colleagues are working endlessly to save lives, The UPOA is suing New York City over low pay rates for probation officers. “Based on the last contract, the hiring rate for a probation officer is $45,934. The incumbent rate after two years is $53,461” explained Powell. Probation officers can’t live on the low salaries, which Powell says has led to the “number of officers decreasing by half.”

    The longevity of the pay disparity is shocking, considering the lengths probation officers, like Powell, go to in order to help their clients. “I have members who have been here for 25-30 years and they’re only making around $68,000 annually,” said Powell. 

    Powell is determined to fight this pay disparity, and made it abundantly clear that this should not deter aspiring probation officers from pursuing the great profession. “This is not to discourage anybody, because I’m going to fix it. I’m going to get it right. I trust in this administration that it’s going to get right,” said Powell.

    Powell advised any student interested in interning in a probation office to contact Michael Blaizes of the HR department. She explains a large portion of probation interns are a part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. Through this New York City program, student employees are exposed first handedly into the work of a probation officer. She is happy to help John Jay students succeed, as Powell considers her alma mater to be “the #1 in terms of Criminal Justice.”

    Powell does not only want John Jay students to be successful, she also explained in our interview her alternate approach to ensuring the success of probation clients. “Our whole objective is about not being punitive, but is it about building relationships and building that trust” said Powell. 

    Powell also explained one of her aims while serving as President is to make probation officers uniform law enforcement officers, as they are currently considered civilians. No longer considering probation officers civilians would provide them with additional protection while on the job. 

    Supervising probation officers like Powell are determined to change the lives of their clients for the better, especially the youth. During our interview, Powell shared a thought provoking story of her and a young client while she was working in the family court system. “I told them [minors that are on probation] to take a piece of candy [that was on my desk] and I said to them ‘Savor that. Because that’s the taste of freedom. That you can come in my office, go to the store and get a piece of candy. Everybody can’t do that’” Powell said. 

    Dalvanie Powell at Equal Pay Day 2023 Event

    Between being a “fierce advocate” for adequate pay amongst probation officers across New York City, to changing the lives of her adult and minor clients, Powell is making strides in her role as the President of the UPOA, and should be regarded as a role model to all New Yorkers. 

    Powell explained how she feels being the first Black woman in this prestigious position, “I love being the President of the union. To know I’m gonna make a difference in these people’s lives supersedes the hiccups.” Powell added, “To know that you made a difference in somebody’s life or you saved somebody’s life—that’s priceless.”

    She also regarded her workplace as being, “a great place to work” despite the pay concerns. A common theme throughout the interview was the pricelessness of a probation officers impact on the client, and the community. Powell explained the immense amount of trust that has to be reciprocated in order to make these changes last, “They have to have that confidence in you that you’re gonna be there for them while giving them their own independence” she explained. 

    Supervising probation officers, like Powell believe it is never too late to change a habit. Not only is her approach non-punitive, it restores hope into her clients. She explained in order to achieve this goal, probation officers have the ability to “adjust the plan” if one method isn’t effective for their client.

    In Powell’s office, no goal is out of reach for those who are on probation. Her advice to those on probation is, “to appreciate this opportunity to get it right, and don’t let New Year’s Eve be the time we make changes.”

     

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    About the Contributor
    Alexandra Cortese, Editor-in-Chief
    Alexandra Cortese is a sophomore at John Jay College, majoring in Law & Society (BA) and minoring in English Literature. Alexandra has previously served as the Web Editor for The Sentinel during the 2022-2023 year, as the Managing Editor for the Fall 2023 term, and is now the Editor in Chief. Alexandra’s love for writing motivates her to also write freelance for the student-led newspaper and has been doing so since September 2022. Next year, Alexandra plans to take the LSAT, the next step in fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming the first attorney and college graduate in her immediate family. Alexandra is also a member of The John Jay Honors Program and was a Research Assistant at The Legal Disruption Project.  Alexandra’s favorite story she has written is “Greek Life at CUNY.” Greek life is controversial, and she feels her story pushes the envelope on that subject matter, in the voice of John Jay students. Alexandra’s story dives into the stained reputation of Greek life and how John Jay sorority and fraternity members are challenging that narrative by emphasizing diversity, equity concerns, and community service. Alexandra’s favorite quote is “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I'm Possible!” - Audrey Hepburn.

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