Bachelor's in justice
John Oulton bought a car last summer. The 2008 Chevy Cobalt isn’t big or fancy. Car and Driver magazine described it that year as “an acceptable choice as a transportation appliance.”
Nevertheless, buying it was a big step for a UAF student who was raised in a town where the roads aren’t connected to the outside world. Oulton grew up in Bethel, on the banks of the Kuskokwim River in Southwest Alaska.
Oulton bought the car after summer 2017, when he worked alternating weeks of 12-hour days as a hospital security guard in Bethel. He was about to start a senior-year internship with the State of Alaska’s Division of Juvenile Justice in Fairbanks. Hence, a good time to get some wheels.
He drove the car north from Anchorage, beginning his internship and final year at UAF in September 2017.
Oulton sought the internship, which gave him a real-world look at the system, as part of his justice degree program.
“I usually write petitions for my co-workers, [the probation officers],” Oulton said in March 2018, while he was still on the job. “And then we often go to court. I went to court yesterday for arraignments and detention hearings.”
The petitions discuss juveniles coming into the system.
“It’s basically a list of charges from the police report,” Oulton explained. “In these petitions, we usually have to find probable cause of crimes committed — factual evidence or statements from witnesses, the victims or from the juvenile. After we have written them, we submit them to the court, and they’ll give us a case number and then they’ll give us a date to proceed to the court.”
The detention hearings involve juveniles moving out of the system, with any luck.
“We discuss the cases, their transition planning out of detention into these outpatient areas around Fairbanks,” Oulton said.
Oulton said working with the probation officers has been excellent training in his field. “They give me a lot of direction in my petitions, areas I can improve on and just really good advice,” he said.
His career direction runs in the family. Oulton’s father, who is originally from New York, just retired from correctional work in Bethel.
For Oulton, attending UAF also followed a family path. His mother, who grew up in Toksook Bay, earned a master’s degree from UAF in 2010. She teaches Yup’ik, her ancestral language, at an elementary school in Bethel.
Oulton was familiar with UAF because his family came to Fairbanks almost every summer when he was young. He also attended UAF’s Rural Alaska Honors Institute in 2014, the year he graduated from high school.
“The community here is really great,” he said.
After earning his degree in May, Oulton was planning to join a family road trip from Anchorage to New York.
The Cobalt, sadly, was expected to stay home.