CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

The benefit of recategorizing parolees after they serve time

Feb 2, 2024, 1:00 PM

An application for parole with an approval stamped onto the form....

An application for parole with an approval stamped onto the form. (Canva)

(Canva)

DRAPER, Utah – It’s easy to categorize people who are serving time, but should a person’s mindset change once they get out?

Billy Luke is a supervisor of adult probation and parole. In essence, he works with people, or “residents,” who once lived behind bars. More often than not, their motivations once they’re out don’t sound too different from our own.

“I had a gal that I supervised,” Luke shared, “she had been away from her kids, and after I had supervised her a little while she asked, ‘Billy, can I skip making my monthly parole supervision fees? This is the first opportunity I have to buy my kids presents.'”

This woman’s desire to be a mom was huge for Luke, but he knows any resident carries the baggage of serving time. Still, he says anyone can help by showing a little kindness.

“Smile, wave, invite them to your BBQs, treat them how you’d like to be treated.”

Community returns

The Golden Rule is foundational to help former residents feel welcome. The Department of Corrections civilian training coordinator Dennis Walker reminds the community that parolees are more  common than people think.

“Over 90% of them are going to be released. They’re coming back to our communities,” Walker said.

“They’re going to shop where we shop. Their kids are going to go to school where our kids go to school. They’re going to worship where we worship. They are going to reintegrate into society the very best they can… We want them to succeed.”

That success is more than just emotional. Walker said parolees who successfully reintegrate have a return investment of 5:1 when you account for how much it costs to keep someone on parole.

They’ll also continue to benefit the overall economy as they reenter the workforce. This commitment to working leaves an impact on those around them.

“They teach their family,” Walker said. “And people around them see this person has changed their life.”

To Walker, it’s all the more reason to welcome residents.

Appropriate Boundaries

If someone chooses to accept parolees back into their community, then Luke offers one caveat: set boundaries when it comes to interacting with registered sex offenders.

“We have the registry for a reason,” Luke reaffirmed. “But I have them in my neighborhood, you have them in your neighborhood.”

To this end, it’s important to set those boundaries as a person gets to know them.

“I’m not going to let them babysit my children,” Luke said. “But have I seen them in my community? Absolutely. Do I wave at them as I drive by? Absolutely.”

“We have to establish our boundaries,” Walker added. “Have a discussion with them. It’s OK. People who have been incarcerated are OK with having accountability discussions to understand boundaries…Come to an agreement with them. Be reasonable and listen.”

Walker said every positive interaction moves them forward.

“Eventually, they won’t see themselves as an offender anymore. Hopefully, they’ll get to that point where that was a blip on their radar.”

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The benefit of recategorizing parolees after they serve time