Thibeault Serves Justice as Assistant District Attorney
Christine Thibeault, who graduated from UMF with a degree in psychology, is now assistant district attorney and division chief of the Cumberland County Juvenile Justice Division. She said what she learned at UMF is as important as what she learned in law school for prosecuting juvenile offenders and coordinating interventions that rehabilitate.
“To be successful in juvenile justice, you have to understand family systems and research about what works to change criminal behavior. My background at UMF provided a huge advantage with that,” she said. “How I feel about my world is a function of my incredibly supportive, loving family. How I think about the world, how I process life is a result of my experiences at UMF.”
According to Thibeault, if juvenile justice is to yield greater public safety, meaningful restitution and lower recidivism, then the long arm of the law must reach into the lives of young offenders and extend a guiding hand. “I focus on the roots of criminal behavior and the needs of the juvenile, then work with others to implement intervention strategies that hopefully will put an end to the criminal behavior,” Thibeault said. “It’s as much about the kid as the crime.”
As the vast majority of her offenders struggle with family conflict, substance abuse, mental health issues and educational deficits, Thibeault takes a holistic view of the offender to reduce recidivism. She orders and reviews psychological and psychiatric assessments. She meets with parents, the offender, attorneys, mental health service providers, case managers and educators to learn about the offender’s needs. And the needs form an integral part of an intervention plan that keeps the offender in some form of an educational program, requires the offender to make reparations and, most importantly to Thibeault, ensures public safety.
“We tend to think of the victim as an individual, but in many cases the community as a whole is a victim when the offender’s actions incite fear,” she said. “I see myself as a public servant. Part of my job is to create a safer community. I’m accountable to the public, and I have to assure the public that what I’m doing leads to public safety.”