Conversations at the dinner table were different growing up in the Callahan home.
When your mother is best known for her work with sex offenders, that’s to be expected.
“Some of my earliest memories were of dropping her off at a prison and picking her up,” said Barbara Baer, the oldest of Marilyn Callahan’s three grown children. “I didn’t know anything different. That was her profession, just like other families had parents who were attorneys and doctors.”
Callahan is a retired licensed clinical social worker, renowned locally as a pioneer in sex-offender treatment during a 50-plus-year career. The Oregon chapter of the National Association of Social Workers presented her a Lifetime Recognition Award in 2006.
She’s worked in adult prisons, at juvenile corrections facilities and the Oregon State Hospital, as well as in private practice. She’s counseled and cajoled clients in just about every imaginable setting.
Even now, at the age of 83, Callahan facilitates regular group sessions inside Oregon State Correctional Institution as a volunteer. Records at the medium-security facility show she’s been doing that since at least 2010.
Only a broken hip recently kept her from her weekly visits to the prison east of Salem.
Callahan is on the mend now, promoting a book she co-authored with Tim Buckley. It’s called “S.O. The New Scarlet Letters: Sex Offenders, Their Treatment and Our Challenge.”
She was in the news in her early 70s when one of her clients wound up homeless in Polk County and she expressed outrage at county officials for not doing more to provide transitional housing for offenders.
“I don’t want you to think I’m a weeping heart,” she’s quoted in a Jan. 5, 2006 article in the Statesman Journal. “I’m not a do-gooder. If I didn’t believe people could change, I would give up and stop doing this.”