Saavedra retires as Carson City alternative sentencing director
If it wasn’t for the dedication of one woman, Carson City wouldn’t have its Department of Alternative Sentencing.
Claudia Saavedra built the department from the ground up in 1993, when she was contracted to create a community service program in conjunction with the school district and the city.
“It was a pilot program to assign community service people to the city and school district to fill in gaps they couldn’t fill in with budget restrictions,” Saavedra said. “It was a very successful program. All the people who were sentenced in court on a daily basis — so anyone with community service — what I would do is place people depending on their background, qualifications and skills.”
She retired as director of the Department of Alternative Sentencing last month after 25 years on the job.
“It was an amazing ride, it was, I really enjoyed what I did,” Saavedra said.
The Department of Alternative Sentencing is a law enforcement agency dedicated to reducing recidivism rates by providing supervision through community service and other programs to individuals on probation, court monitored sentencing, bail release and pretrial releases.
“The office plays an important role because on a monthly basis there are almost 400 people that report physically to the office and it is the responsibility of the department to make sure they are complying with the conditions imposed by the judge,” Saavedra said.
The department didn’t become a law enforcement entity until 1996 when Saavedra, Judge Robby Willis and District Attorney Noah Waters lobbied the Legislature to pass a statute to turn it from a contracted program to a government program.
And Saavedra hasn’t left DAS since then, changing from a contracted employee to a city employee. After the statute was enacted, Saavedra took a more administrative role, but the idea of the program didn’t change. For her, it was still about giving people a second chance.
“One of the things I tried to do over all these years was to treat people with respect regardless of who they are because if you treat people with respect that is what you are going to get back, is respect,” Saavedra said.
“Everyone who goes through the system, they aren’t all criminals. There are people who made mistakes and people who need another chance or are in difficult times, it was helping people pay their fines through a work service, through community service.”
And it’s this service that brings Saavedra satisfaction because at the end of the day, she was able to go home and know she helped someone.
“This job was a blessing and I will miss it,” Saavedra said. “I will miss the defendants because, you know what? You go to work on a daily basis hoping that something that you say will make a difference and you may change someone’s life and to be able to work in a department like this you have to believe that and if you don’t believe that then you don’t last there. It is that belief that people make mistakes, they aren’t all criminals.
“There is nothing more rewarding, nothing, than someone coming up to you and saying ‘thank you, I was in your office and you made a difference.’”
But had you asked Saavedra 25 years ago if she thought she would take this path in life, she would have said no.
“I didn’t think DAS would be in my future, even when I was contracted because I was contracted to start a community service program, utilizing their skills, putting people to work for the good of the community but I never thought it was going to turn into something amazing that I was going to have the opportunity to make a difference in people,” Saavedra said.
Over the last two decades, Saavedra has gained more than a career; she has gained a family.
“The people I work with (I will miss most). They are some of those people that became part of my family,” Saavedra said. “I don’t have family over here in Nevada except for my girls and grandbabies but they become part of your life. I was very blessed.”
The native Nicaraguan has been in Carson City since the late 1970s, so she sees her work as an opportunity to help her community.
“Carson City has been the place I have lived the most throughout my life and people are like, do you miss your country? And I am like, this is my country, Carson City is my town,” Saavedra said.
Though she loved what she did, Saavedra decided it was a good time to hang it up.
“Some people retire because they are just done but for me I just thought it was a good time to retire, a good time to explore new adventures and also have time while I am young to be able to enjoy time with my grandkids and enjoy life and travel and spend time with my parents,” Saavedra said. “So I am looking forward to this new beginning.”
Her new adventure is her second love — real estate. While Saavedra has had her real estate license for the last 14 years, she never had much time to practice and now, she gets to live out her other passion.
“So I still live liking my job and the people I work with but it was time for a new beginning,” Saavedra said.
And even though it’s time to move on, she has no regrets over the last 25 years.
“If I had to choose another job, if I was to live again, I wouldn’t choose any other job because I am really proud to have served the department,” Saavedra said. “It was a good ride. Twenty-five years and I am looking forward to this new adventure to see what it brings.”