OAKLAND (KCBS) – Both local and national fiscal woes have hit several areas hard and are proving to be an especially challenging problem for probation departments.

David Muhammad is the new chief of the Alameda County Probation Department and said he knows this to be fact and that he and other leaders have to start to think outside the box to come up with reasonable solutions.

“The county is $138 million in debt. The state is billions of dollars in debt,” said Muhammad. “We’re going to be taking a pretty sizeable budget cut. It’s very challenging, but my experience is when you’re broke, you’re more creative.”

KCBS In Depth Interview With Alameda County Probation Department Chief David Muhammad:

The 37-year-old Muhammad had a difficult upbringing of his own and said it took help from a teacher at his high school in Oakland to get him on the right track. And now, he’s trying to do the same for youth in Alameda County.

“I want to be able to provide the opportunity, support and services to young people and adults who need to be asked, where will you be in ten years and is this behavior going to get you to where you want to be,” he said. “Then, give them the resources they need to get to where we want them to be and they want to be.”

Muhammad said his number one goal is always to protect the public’s safety.

“I think that the way you protect public safety is by turning people’s lives around. But historically in this country, the thought has been the only way you can do that is to incarcerate. And that has proven ineffective,” said Muhammad.

While he knows he has a challenging job ahead, Muhammad said he is confident in his ability to succeed.

“I want to turn the probation department into an efficient and effective organization that helps to protect the public safety and helps turn people’s lives around,” he said.

Muhammad said he hopes to have probation officers in the community and at schools. He said the job is difficult but beyond everything else, he hopes that officers have a “true passion and care for young people.”

Growing up in Oakland and having spent time in both New York and Washington D.C., Muhammad said he hopes to bring the lessons learned from his own past and jobs he’s held to help reform the criminal justice system in the Bay Area.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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