When Morisha Brown took her place as a U.S. probation and pretrial officer, she had no idea she was one of a few Black women in that type of role in the entire state.
But nearly seven years into the role, she stands out for things much more important than race, bringing a mission mentality to her job helping the previously incarcerated re-engage as productive members of society.
“What helps me be good at my job is an awareness of who I am and an appreciation for who other people are in their intersectionality and what caused them to be who they are,” she said.
“As I’m interacting with people, I’m being aware and appreciative of the lived experiences that created who they are. That’s what allows me to serve people where they are versus whoever I think they should be based on my lived experience or my journey, my demographics.”
Desire To Serve
Brown said working in criminal justice has been a longstanding goal dating back to her childhood where she’d watch Law & Order on television with her grandmother. But it wasn’t the “hook ‘em and book ‘em” that appealed to her; she saw criminal justice as a way to serve others who needed it.
“My main motivation was to truly be a helper and allow people to be seen and treated well, despite what they’ve done,” she said. “I grew up in north Omaha and a lot of people have been cheering me on. People have been excited to see someone in this role who gets it, who will stand up and say everybody from north Omaha isn’t bad. I get to be that advocate.”
In addition to her daily role, she also launched Career Emergence, a youth program that partners with community organizations to provide young people with hands-on experiences on the right side of the criminal justice system.
“It started with a conversation around diversity and what are we doing about it,” she said. “It boiled down to people not really knowing who we are and what we do. I had no idea what this job was until I was in grad school. There’s this whole other career that no one had ever talked to me about.
“One of the things I appreciate about my office is they embrace that I bring a different perspective and that I value diversity. I’ve been given a lot of opportunity to bring in projects and do outreach efforts and things that I think not only will increase diversity but to bring about more inclusivity and understanding what we bring into our position impacts the lives of the people we serve.”
Sharing The Credit
Brown has received numerous awards in her work but refused to talk about them because it goes against her belief that her role in parolees’ rehabilitation is merely as facilitator. She said any credit for the hard work goes to them.
“I always tell my clients, I will not take credit for your success, and I will not take credit for your failure,” she said. “It can be so easy to be like, ‘Oh, I helped them.’ But the truth of the matter is, while our job is important in how we show up and how we influence and what interventions we put in their path, I can’t want it enough for someone else. They have to do the work in their life.
“When that happens, it’s so beautiful to watch. It’s so beautiful to have a front row seat to that and be able to see positive long-term change. That’s part of our mission. That’s what we want.”