Friday, September 29, 2006

Being a Parole Officer

Yeah, I think I've finally had enough distance to share a few stories from my days in Criminal Justice. This was an interesting period in my life. I was a brand new Baby Social Worker ! The ink was barely dry on my Diploma ! My 2nd ex-husband was working for the Sheriff's Office and this position that would give us some common ground.
I found out later, much later, that the Regional Supv. hired me not only b/c I had a degree in Social Work and the new attitude in Parole was on Rehabilitation, but also b/c I had long, shapely legs. Brains and Beauty, that's me in a nutshell.

My first day, I got a call at 6:30 am from the District Supv. to report to a different address than where I had interviewed. When I got there I found out that the week before a parolee had broken into the office and set almost all the records on fire and darn near burned the entire office up. He was afraid his Parole Officer, Randa, was going to submit a "Report of Violation" about his recent activities and try to get his Parole revoked.

He was right. She had already sent the Report to the Regional office and the Warrant had already been issued. He got picked up about a month later. Thanks to good work by the Arson investigator, and sloppy work by Mr. Stupid Parolee, his prints were found all over the office, he got new convictions for Arson and tampering with Gov't. records and Burglary of a bldg. Since this was the Parole office he wasn't offered a plea bargain. They did give him concurrent sentences, though. He got out after 10 years.

Since I started in mid January, I worked one day and then got the next day off for MLK day. I thought it was a pretty cool gig.
Working for the State you get most of the National Holidays off, but you also get some cool State holidays, too. Some you get outright, but some are what's known as "Skeleton Crew" holidays. A Skeleton Crew day means that everybody can take off, but whoever is the "Duty" officer and one clerical person. Sometimes, in big offices a Supv. will stay, too. Confederate Heroes Day and LBJ's birthday are good examples of Skeleton crew days.
I found a postcard once that had a skeleton leaning on a timeclock. The caption read, "Skeleton Crew Day". I bought it and put it next to the mailboxes so everyone could enjoy the humor.

We stayed in the temporary offices about four months. And just as we were finally getting settled in... The old offices had finally been rebuilt and it was time to move back.
During that time, all the Parolee files had been rebuilt. See, anytime a piece of paper was generated in the District off, a copy of that paper was sent to the Regional Office and sometimes, the State Office. All that Parolee's efforts for naught.

My first reaction to the refurbished offices was the same as everybody else's, PEEYEW!!! It was like working inside a chimney flue. I smoke, and it was overwhelming. Whoa! Man it was awful. It took about 6 months to get used to it. We kept the front and back doors open 'til June just to help things air out. There would still be Mondays when we'd walk in and the odor would be like a slap in the face. Or you'd open a file that hadn't been burned, but had been in the office during the fire and that smoky smell would just waft up and fill the room.
Office Ghosts.

My Office was pretty cool, though. Nice and roomy. Had a window wall that looked oout on the hall. It had those Floor to ceiling vertical blinds. If I wasn't too busy I'd leave them open. If I didn't want any distractions, or if I was interviewing a newly released non-violent offender I'd shut them. However, if I had a violent offender, or once I started handling Sex Offenders the blinds stayed open and so did the door.
The single most important safety rule I was taught as a new Parole Officer was: NEVER LET THE PAROLEE GET BETWEEN YOU AND ANY DOOR, NEVER.
Followed closely by: NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON A PAROLEE, NEVER.
Words to live by.

A general health rule I had learned when I was doing an internship with Child Protective Services I carried with me to Parole and other positions where I had to do home visits:
Do NOT sit on or within 6' of upholstered furniture if at all possible.

Now, those of you who have not had to visit in the homes of the poor or lazy or filthy or those with children who attend school with all of the aforementioned may not understand that rule, so I will explain. Lice may be teensy, tiny little creatures, but they not only live in upholstered furniture and pillows, but they can jump up to 6'. And they are a double dog bitch to get out of curly, permed or long hair. And whether you get them or not, you WILL be scratching your head when you leave a particularly filthy domicile if you even THINK there were lice or other creepy crawlies there.

In fact, I think that will be tomorrow's blog... "Creepy Crawlies I have seen on Home Visits"

1 comment:

G Bro said...

And I thought you had blanked out that aspect of your life from your memory. Looking forward to more out-of-jail tales.