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Asked and Answered

‘I Spend Just as Much Time Protecting Felons from Society.’

A New York parole officer on GPS monitoring, the biggest challenges facing former inmates, and whether parole makes a difference.

What is your average daily caseload?

In numbers, we call it "30 bodies on the street." On paper, they’re a bunch of scoundrel, manipulative, violent, dangerous losers, void of any redeeming qualities, unlovable even by their own mothers. In reality, they are people plodding along in life in ways similar to how you and I would handle it given the same challenges.

What is the hardest thing a parolee faces when reentering society?

For a moment, imagine you dropped out of the 9th grade and that you have never, not once, had a balanced meal in your life. Let’s also say you are a tad on the impulsive side, for whatever reason. Now let’s take away the last three years of your life based on a random poor choice you may have made. Now let’s make it so you have had no opportunity in the past three years to have nookie with anyone you are remotely attracted to. Let’s have you live in the shelter and give you an appointment to show up at the parole office. Oh, and let’s give you $48. What might you find hardest? Doing the right thing.

On average, do you believe that people are on parole for...

Too long
☐ The right amount of time
☐ Not enough time

What is the best part of your job?

The honor of making a difference in the lives of others and being effective with persons who allegedly nobody can be effective with.

What is the worst part?

Using a Toyota Prius without a cage to transport large persons to jail who do not want to go to jail.
Bureau meetings.
Irregular hours.
Being micromanaged.

What is a common misconception that people have about what you do?

That I protect society from felons. I do, but I spend just as much time protecting felons from society in order to protect society from felons.

How often do you think parolees are lying to you?


Does parole make a difference? Please explain.

It could be an opportunity to train people to regulate their behavior in the environments they operate in, but so much of it gets bogged down in BS. Since social services imploded long ago, it’s like feeding an elephant with an eyedropper. These guys need so much, and the only tools we are afforded is force.

Do you think most conditions of parole are...

Too strict
☐ Appropriate
☐ Not strict enough

What is the most important rule that parolees have to follow?

From the New York State Parole Handbook:

No. 2: "I will make office and/or written reports as directed," and,

No. 4: "I will permit my parole officer to visit me at my residence and/or place of employment, and I will permit the search and inspection of my person, residence, and property. I will discuss any proposed changes in my residence, employment, or program status with my parole officer. I understand that I have an immediate and continuing duty to notify my parole officer of any changes in my residence, employment, or program status when circumstances beyond my control make prior discussion impossible."

Also as for rules, at times I do find myself telling my guys, "It’s okay to lie to me. It’s okay not to go to program, and it’s okay to do drugs. BUT, it’s not okay to do all three at the same time. If you could get that down to two, we might be okay."

What is the most ridiculous rule that parolees have to follow?

No. 7: "I will not be in the company of, or fraternize with, any person I know to have a criminal record or whom I know to have been adjudicated a youthful offender, except for accidental encounters in public places, work, school, or in any other instance with the permission of my parole officer."

Is there a specific parolee you often think about?

I think about these guys all the time, all day and night. I will share their joy and sorrows. I've had favorites, particularly strong or smart guys, guys who were particularly screwed. For me, they are part of the fabric that makes this city great.

If you had the power to do one thing that would improve public safety, what would it be?

Have public safety policy operate off science, not fear.

How do you feel about developing parole technology, like GPS monitoring?

Show me one scientific document that links GPS to anything other than making money for GPS, Inc.

If you weren’t a parole officer, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?

Working in mental health. Maybe working in a homeless shelter. Maybe coaching baseball.