Nobody would guess her line of work


December 10, 2022

Elizabeth Hendrickson

by Jeff Olsen

Almost 75 years ago, there began a long running popular TV show called What's My Line?

The panel would try to guess a contestant's gimmick, endeavor, or line of work.

Please meet Elizabeth Hendrickson, a young lady who possibly might be an educator, a dance instructor, a nurse, or a fighter pilot.

The sky's the limit.

Let's skip the questions.

Elizabeth works in a prison and who would have guessed that?

The 2009 Roseau High School graduate probably never would have imagined that career choice.

Recently, she recalled her high school days while home for Thanksgiving from her job in Jamestown, North Dakota.

"I played volleyball for a few years and then played basketball and softball throughout high school."

Additionally, she was a member of the Roseau Chapter of the National Honor Society and a member of the student council.

"That was pretty much it," she said.

After high school, Elizabeth did her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, a four-year program.

"I got a bachelor's of science degree in psychology and a minor in courses related to criminal justice and sociology."

Hendrickson next completed her master's degree at the University of North Dakota in 2015, a two-year program.

"I have a master's degree in counseling psychology, and I was at the James River Training Consortium during my internship at three sites including the North Dakota State Hospital and James River Correctional Center."

Her duties involved providing a higher level of care within the North Dakota prison system where people are committed for extended sentences.

In 2016, she was assigned to the James River Correctional Center.

"I am a full-time employee at the prison and work with a male population from the ages of 18 upward. I work on an individual basis and in group therapy for substance use disorders."

Hear any cussing?

"Yes, there are quite a few who do more swearing, but a lot of them are very respectable. I've never really had any issues with the clients I work with."

She added that some of the inmates are in their sixties and older.

"I am technically an addiction counselor supervisor. So, I have a couple of additional addiction counselors that I supervise."

Any rewards with this job?

"I have some of them getting released. Some people will call me or call my office and give me an update on how they're doing," she said, noting that some of them who have been released will see her around town and they'll chat for a few minutes.

"I do have people who end up coming back. That's a whole other conversation." she said about the repeat offenders.

Ever come home and say, "That was a tough day!"?

"Yes. Sometimes I say that at 8 o'clock in the morning."

She laughed.

"But we get through the day."

Is it easier working with gals or guys?

"Men!" she said without hesitation.

Any recent success stories?

"I have a few people whom I'm currently working with that have been incarcerated for a period of time and just seeing the progress that they've had within the prison system where maybe they started out getting into a lot of trouble and were fighting on a regular basis. And working with them, they're able to communicate, use those different healthy coping skills, aren't really getting into trouble, and are much more future focused."

Wear a uniform when on duty?

She was dressed in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt.

"Well, this sometimes," she laughed. "For my role, I do not have to be in a special uniform. We have to dress professionally. We can't have ripped jeans, and I tend to keep it more business casual."

A lot of drugs in this prison?

"You know, in the prison system, there is always going to be those risks related to residents making hooch, which is homebrew alcohol," she said, adding that there are different situations where contraband and illicit items enter the prison.

"We're working with a very crafty population. Where there's a will, there's a way!"

She smiled.

It's her line of work as a Licensed Masters Addiction Counselor at James River Correctional Center in Jamestown.


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