But upon graduation, the school sent her resume to several law enforcement agencies. She ended up becoming an Investigative Probation Officer Trainee in adult services with the Department of Probation.
Over three decades, Powell worked her way up. In 2008, she left 100 Centre Street to become a supervising probation officer for family court in the Bronx.
“It’s about changing lives, saving lives and protecting lives,” she said. “We consider ourselves agents of change.”
Their objective as probation officers, she said, is to help people stay on a path to become law-abiding citizens. Powell said officers make supervision plans based on individual needs in consultation with the court and family members.
“We’ll set up these plans for them, but we hold them accountable,” she said. “We do everything we can to not send them back to jail.
“Probation is an agency where you’re given a second chance at life,” Powell added. “I really believe change does come.”
In 1990, Powell was appointed to serve as a delegate to the United Probation Officers Association. She was elected president in 2016.
Still in that role today, she represents over 800 probation officers, supervisors and trainees throughout the five boroughs.
Her current challenge, in addition to negotiating increased salaries and pension reform, is getting city officials to understand the important role probation officers play in society.
“When you think about criminal justice reform or bail reform, you should think about probation,” she said. “Everything they talk about, we’ve already been doing it.”
Powell doesn’t want to make promises to her members about what changes might be coming, but she doesn’t shy away from advocating on behalf of her colleagues.
“I will never stop being a probation officer,” she said.