Ventura County Chief Probation Officer Mark Varela has been named as the president of the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC). The 55-year-old organization is based in Sacramento and Varela is the second member from Ventura County to serve as its president. He has previously served as the CPOC Legislative Chair, Secretary and Vice President.
Varela, age 49, is a Ventura County native. He was raised in Oxnard, attended Santa Clara High School, and received his bachelor’s degree in Law and Society from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He started with the Probation Agency as a Deputy Probation Officer and rose through the ranks, becoming the Agency’s Director and Chief Probation Officer in 2010.
“Our job at Probation is to keep the community safe by balancing the sanctions we apply to the offenders in our care against the needs of the victim and the community,” said Varela. “We believe we can bring positive changes to lives of the youth and adult offenders under our jurisdiction by accurately assessing their risk to the community and the extent of intervention necessary. This approach is currently being done successfully by many probation departments across the state through CPOC.”
The Chief Probation Officers of California provides leadership for probation departments and programs and stresses public protection including detention and treatment, evidence-based programs, victim services and the prevention of crime and delinquency.
“The CPOC goals fit very well with our goals for probation in Ventura County,” said Varela. “Our vision here is guided by the belief that our decisions and actions today determine the quality of our lives tomorrow. Everything we do, we do to make the future better for those in our custody, their families, crime victims, and the community.”
Varela oversees nearly 450 deputy probation officers, corrections services officers and specialized support personnel. They are responsible for the supervision of more than 15,000 adults and juveniles on probation, the supervision of adults and youth in custodial facilities, direct investigative report services to the Ventura County Superior Court and the delivery of specialized services to hundreds of people participating in other programs.
During his 26-year career, Varela has had a major leadership role in the design, development and oversight of many innovative and successful delinquency programs in Ventura County. He also played a key role in the Juvenile Justice Center’s construction oversight and policy development team, and he was instrumental in establishing California’s first Boys and Girls Club inside a juvenile detention center. Varela also received an award as the Camarillo’s “Public Servant of the Year” in 2010 and the “Courageous Leadership Award” in 2013 from the W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity for his work in implementing strategies and interventions that contributed to a significant reduction in admissions at the Juvenile Facilities for youth of color, particularly Latino youth.