They Can Count On Her
May 18, 2018
Kris Geringer, left, assists Layla Wallace with a hummingbird costume for Olympia’s annual Procession of the Species Event. Geringer, a corrections specialist, recently received an employee of the year award. (Photo by Kay Schultz)
TUMWATER – If there’s anything that needs to be done efficiently and effectively, staff can always count on Kris Geringer.
Geringer, a community corrections specialist within the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) Sex Offender Treatment and Assessment Unit (SOTAP), was recently named one of the department’s employees of the year for her innovative work automating the scoring of the Static 99R Risk Assessment.
“I will always try to simplify or automate a process to improve accuracy and save time in the long run,” Geringer said. “My current supervisor sees the value in that approach and encourages me.”
Geringer was honored along with 73 others who received agency awards during a ceremony in Tumwater on April 20, 2018.
The Static 99R Risk Assessment is one of the department’s many tools used to fulfil its mission of improving public safety. The score and associated risk category is used to guide the department in prioritizing sex offenders for treatment, determining custody levels, field contact standards, and community Sex Offender Notification Levels. In all of these situations, decisions are often based on the assessed likelihood of recidivism, with resources being allocated accordingly to promote community safety. Most of Geringer’s responsibilities involve completing the assessment.
She says a college teacher helped her develop critical thinking skills, something she’s carried with her after graduation and throughout her law enforcement career. “It changed my life,” Geringer said of her professor. “I am very structured and organized, sometimes to a fault, but it lends itself well to developing systematic processes. I like to break things down into their simplest form to understand something. In the process, I am able to see how all the pieces fit together and find the easiest way to accomplish the task at hand.”
When Geringer started working in the SOTAP unit, the assignment process was tracked on an excel spreadsheet. She learned how to use SharePoint and developed a new process that automated much of the work that was previously tracked manually. In the process, she created job aids and a desk manual to help her co-workers.
“I have always been willing to share what I know,” Geringer said. “It’s not a competition. We all have the same goal—to get the job done. If I can help someone else succeed, it’s great!”
Her drive to help others succeed is apparent in the words of one of her nominators:
“There are not enough people who still enjoy and take pride in creating learning tools and sharing information like she does…We’re all busy but Kris is a person who truly sees the value in stopping in the middle of a storm to make sure everyone else is doing ok.”
From Law Enforcement to Rehabilitation
Geringer didn’t always know she wanted to work in the corrections field. She, at first, wanted to be a police officer. When she was in college, she completed an internship with the Olympia Police Department. But after further consideration, she decided her heart was in helping those already involved in the criminal justice system to succeed.
“I realized I was more interested in rehabilitation than in law enforcement,” Geringer said. A volunteer position at DOC led to a permanent job as a community corrections officer. From there, she’s held several jobs including a community corrections specialist, mutual reentry, and violator coordinator. She’s remained at DOC for 28 years.
Art as Healing
Geringer also believes in helping people and organizations in the community. For example, she has been a volunteer and board member for Earthbound Productions. Earthbound Productions is a non-profit organization that holds the annual Procession of the Species celebration in downtown Olympia. The group opens a community art studio and helps people create windsocks, costumes, floats, and puppetry. The artwork is then displayed through the streets each April to honor the natural world and the Endangered Species Act.
In the past, the organization has recruited volunteers from the local work release to help organize the art studio prior to the event. The residents work hard and enjoy helping, according to Geringer, adding that the experience the residents gain from volunteering helps them transition back into the community.
Geringer is also an artist—she’s created several pieces of art for past procession events, including a giant octopus. She says one of the most difficult, but necessary parts of her DOC job is reading reports that contain vivid descriptions of violence. She says art is a way to keep herself grounded when the hours get long and the stress starts to build.
“That’s why I try to get involved with other activities that are rewarding and healthy,” Geringer said. “If they involve glitter, all the better.” Additionally, she brings awareness to the communities she serves. For the past few years, Geringer has worked with local high schools to place educational displays in their schools during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which occurs each April. And the display locations aren’t limited to just high schools. They’ve been put up at other state agencies and libraries, too.
“I do it because I still want to have a positive impact on reducing crime and educating victims,” Geringer said.”