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Beyond Bars: Parole not impossible if you follow the rules

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Mar 25, 2019

When I was in prison, the idea of parole was quite intimidating. I heard over and over how difficult it was going to be. “Near impossible” to get off parole is a comment I remember. I would have written this hyperbole off if it were not for the fact that many prisoners who had been paroled before would ask the Board of Pardons and Parole for their sentence to run until termination rather than attempt parole.

What this means is rather than take a parole date, they are requesting to serve a longer sentence. An example would be a prisoner serving a 1-15 year sentence would be given a parole date after 3 years, but the prisoner would ask for a termination date instead. Some requests would be denied and some would be granted. When they were granted, there was additional time to be served. I have seen up to two and a half years added for a termination request.

This led me to believe parole would be extremely difficult. What I didn’t know at the time was that was true for them because they refused to quit using drugs. I think the statement “parole is near impossible” is probably pretty accurate from the point of view of someone who is planning to use drugs while on parole.

There are three parolees I know who have all gone back to prison this month, and all of them failed for the same reason. They were using drugs.

I spoke to a prisoner the other night who told me his downfall was a girl. But that wasn’t it. His story was the exact same as the others. He wanted to get high.

It doesn’t matter whether it came from a girl, whether the guys at work are doing it, if you run into an old using buddy or you go and get it from the illegals at Pioneer Park because you lost your job or your dog got punted off a bridge. I hear the same story over and over: The parolee started using drugs again.

Rarely do parolees “get violated” – sent back – by their parole officer for an unintentional transgression, and even then this can usually be avoided by familiarizing oneself with the rules.

I asked one parolee what his parole officer thought about his job. He told me he had not talked to him about it yet because he wasn’t through the probationary period of the job and he did not know if he was going to stay with it, so he was going to wait. I let him know it was one of the rules. My extra advice to him was to over-communicate with his parole officer – not to the point of annoying him, but to make sure there are not any questions remaining on either side. He gets it, and I have high hopes that he is going to make it.

On the other hand, I gave a ride to another parolee the other day who I don’t think is going to make it. And it makes me sad because this guy was the closest prisoner to me for the year I was in the prison drug program. During this two-hour car ride, he told me all about what led up to him going back to prison three times since he was released from the drug program. I can condense the three “stories” though: Suboxone, alcohol and methamphetamine.

He said, “I need to be like you and follow the rules a little better.” I stopped him right there and explained, there is no “follow the rules a little better.” You either follow them or you don’t. He admitted to being super stubborn and made a comment about when stuff goes wrong then he says f— you. I asked him, f— who? And then told him the only person he is f——- is himself.

He really does understand, but won’t change it – at least not now. He’s put himself in a tough spot. He’s homeless right now and literally has nothing. I told him he should call his parole officer and explain that he had been kicked out of his mom’s house and see what help he can get. He said he was planning on calling his parole officer the morning of his physical check-in appointment.

I definitely have had it much easier than most, but I also have not made it harder on myself. My parole officer has been professional and, to my surprise, even courteous. Recently he decided to make a case to the Board of Pardons and Parole to terminate my parole early. He told me to finish paying my restitution and had me pay tuition for the schooling I received in prison from Snow College. Then he suggested I ask others to write letters on my behalf to the Board about my involvement with community service to submit along with the request.

I want to say thanks to Nolan, Cindy, Jared, and Kathy for the letters. We did it. The request for early termination was granted and will be effective 4/2/2019.


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