JEAN RUSSELLTo observe overseas female probation, parole & prison procedures - UK, USA, Sweden, Canada
Tasmania established its Probation & Parole Service in 1946, and in 1955 appointed Jean Russel its first female officer: supervision of court-referred clients followed strict gender lines then, and for many years to follow. Jean’s field was the entire State, in all weathers and in what amounted at times to risk-ridden encounters. Jean brought to the position a love of humankind, in whatever condition, and her training and experience as a deaconess working in the Victorian court system. She described the essential qualities of an effective probation and parole officer as including the voice of an angel, the wisdom of Solomon, the wiliness of a serpent, the strength of an ox, the patience of Job, the gentleness of a dove, and a sense of humour!
Jean undertake an arduous eight month tour of institutions and programs for women offenders in the United States, Canada, Britain and Sweden and there is no doubt that what she learnt from this was influential in her approach to her work upon return to Tasmania. The trip also enabled Jean to meet with relatives in Canada and County Donegal, Ireland, and this thrilled her as it strengthened her feeling of anchorage within the family.
FELLOWSHIP CONCLUSIONS & OUTCOMES
Jean certainly demonstrated that ‘strength of an ox’ in all that she did, but add to this that in 1960 she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She faced the ignominy of being avoided and considered drunk when her gait was hard to control and she fell in the street on occasion, kept up full-time work for the next eleven years. But MS was to be Jean’s debilitating companion for the rest of her days – she was grateful for the assistance of the MS Society and was generous in her relations with them.
Predictions were many that Jean would not reach 80 years, yet with customary defiance she celebrated that milestone a month before she died in 2003, with a most enjoyable afternoon tea outing – her last real social occasion, and a high note indeed.