01/03/08 — Reporting center gets new chief

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Reporting center gets new chief

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 3, 2008 2:03 PM

When her younger brother committed suicide in August 1999, Theresa Barratt vowed that she would do whatever she could to help people in similar situations.

Now, Mrs. Barratt, the new director of the Wayne County Day Reporting Center, will have the opportunity to lead the efforts to give those people a second chance.

"I'm driven by a lot of passion. My baby brother, at 24 years old, got hooked on drugs and ended up killing himself," she said. "I promised myself that I wanted to make a difference in somebody's life. That's why I chose this direction in criminal justice and not the other. That's what going to make me succeed as director here. I don't want my brother's death to be just another statistic."

Mrs. Barratt, who has supervised the center's pretrial release program since 2005, was promoted to the center's director position just before Christmas. She is replacing Alvin Bullock, who retired in December after 16 years as director and 20 with the county.

"I just decided that it was time to go ahead and retire," said Bullock, a retired U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant. "I believe in helping people and that was my desire, to help those individuals who had made some mistakes in their life get back on the right track."

He has seen the center work, with several clients going on to four-year colleges after earning their GEDs and others coming back to work as substance abuse counselors after going through the program themselves.

"I truly believe this center is successful," he said.

And it was her desire to continue and improve on that work that convinced County Manager Lee Smith that Mrs. Barratt, a seven-year veteran of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, was the right fit for the job.

"She's passionate about law enforcement, but also about making a difference in the lives of the people they touch," said County Manager Lee Smith. "That's a big deal, to have a department head with passion."

Especially, he continued, when she is following in the footsteps of the man who helped elevate the center to the status of one of the state's best.

"It's effective and it works. Wayne County's Day Reporting Center is one of the top two or three in the state in how it's operated," Smith said. (Bullock) got this program started, and I think he did a good job of training (Mrs. Barratt) and getting her prepared.

"Al did a good job getting us here and making the program what it is, but Theresa can take it to the next level."

The center, which Mrs. Barratt described as a little known secret in Wayne County, is focused on helping people involved in the criminal justice system get a second chance.

Its clients are primarily offenders who are sentenced to probation and those who are awaiting trial on house arrest, though many of its offerings are open to any interested county resident.

Among its programs are substance abuse classes, anger management classes and GED classes. Most are offered cooperatively through Wayne Community College.

The majority of the center's clients are between the ages of 18 and 25, and their offenses range from substance abuse, to burglary, to assault.

"Basically we're an alternative to prison," Mrs. Barratt said. "If I can help one of our clients see there is another way of life ... If we can help only one person out of 10, then it's worth it.

"We try to break the cycle they're in."

And so, while she knows that the center has done a lot of good, she also knows it still has room to grow.

"I want to build on the foundation Mr. Bullock has made," she said.

She's hoping to soon have a mentoring program in place because, she explained, "a lot of these individuals, they don't have a real strong character in their life."

She's also hoping to partner with those businesses hosting work-release inmates from the state Department of Corrections to begin a similar program for her clients.

"A lot of these people can't find jobs and that just keeps them down," Mrs. Barratt said. "These are not bad kids. They just don't have the opportunities that others do. They need somebody to take a chance on them."

Mrs. Barratt, 38, will earn an annual salary of $35,460.