September 12, 2017 at 9:03 am

Happy Beginnings | As Probation Officer, Alum Works to Understand Offenders

Samantha Szenay Light

Samantha Szenay Light

Editor’s Note: The Happy Beginnings series features recent College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school and service.

Samantha (Szenay) Light ’14 is an Adult Probation and Parole Officer for Lebanon County Probation Services in Lebanon County, PA, where she has been working since she graduated in 2014 from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University with her B.A. in Sociology-Criminology and a minor in Psychology.

She started as a Pre-Sentence Investigation Officer preparing Pre-Sentence reports for the four judges of the county. This included interviewing offenders prior to sentencing as well as running criminal background checks and calculating prior record scores. After a year in that unit, she moved to a field caseload unit.

At any given time, Light supervises 80 to 120 offenders in a specific geographical location and a certain supervision level. Her duties include office visits, home checks, and detaining those who violate the conditions of their probation or parole. In the state of Pennsylvania she is protected by Title 42 as a peace officer with police powers.

She explains that a lot of what she does is read people, their mannerisms and behaviors – both inside the home and outside the home, and work to understand addiction. Any caseload in her office includes at minimum 75 percent of those who struggle with addiction of some kind whether that be alcohol and/or narcotic drug use.

“It’s all about understanding where it all started and what you can do to facilitate a better non-criminal lifestyle moving forward.”

Her favorite part of this job is that no day is the same. She feels consistently challenged and learns a lot from offenders.

“Every situation and every person has a different story and different background and you become a multitude of things; a drug & alcohol counselor, a family counselor all while still maintaining your integrity as an officer,” she says.

Loved Deviant Behavior Course

“I LOVED deviant behavior with Becca Collins!”

It was by far one of her favorite courses at OHIO and what got her interested in probation and parole. Understanding how society labels individuals as deviants and using real case studies was so interesting to her.

She also enjoyed all guest speakers that came to Athens, especially hearing Michelle Alexander speak about the New Jim Crow and Mass Incarceration.

“Sociology-Criminology wasn’t just a study of research methods and attempting to obtain jobs in social change,” she says, “It was about helping to be the social change by understanding the criminal mind. I wouldn’t have chosen any other major.”

She cannot overstate the value of her minor in psychology and all the classes she took that addressed criminal behaviors!

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