“The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other country. With an estimated 6.8 million Americans struggling with drug abuse or dependence, the growth of the prison population continues to be driven largely by incarceration for drug offenses.” - Justice Policy Institute, Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety, 2008
Parole is conditional early release of someone who has served a portion of their prison sentence, perhaps due to good behavior, decided upon by the parole board. Violations of the terms of parole or other offenses would result in revocation of parole and serving the remainder of the sentence. Per the American Probation and Parole association, “parole is a means of allowing for a period of transition, testing and assistance, which affords a continuing measure of protection to the public while supporting the individual offender in establishing himself as a productive and law-abiding member of the community.” With this stance in mind, the role of a parole officer is to enforce parole conditions, provide investigation and reports to the parole authority, and aiding offenders with services and programs that help the offender reintegrate into society successfully.
In theory, this strategy seems to balance the needs of the community along with the needs of the offender. For a drug addict, a parole officer may very well be the key to moving forward and continue life in a successful manner after incarceration. The country is still marching ahead with the “war on drugs” campaign that was started in the 1970s. Consequently, imprisonment of drug addicts has increased and thus reincarceration of said addicts due to parole violations as well.
As with any profession, there may be a mix of hardline sticklers and others that may try to go above and beyond fulfilling the minimal scope of the job description. Ultimately, protecting the public is paramount for parole officers but the manner in how the drug addict is dealt with greatly impacts the outcome.
Currently, Georgia is pioneering a new tactic. It has reduced the number of parole offices from 48 to 9 by turning their state vehicles into mobile parole offices.
"It puts us out in the community," says Michael Nail, executive director of parole for the state. "It puts us where the offender lives and works and attends treatment."
Officers have been equipped with mobile printers, laptops and smartphones permitting them to be out in the field visiting parolees in their own communities. They are now assigned a partner so as to work in pairs, not only for safety issues but it increases efficiency. This also facilitates appointments since parolees who are
expected to hold a job, would be working during government office hours.
Of course no system is perfect. Drug addiction is still treated more like a crime than an illness. Under today’s parameters, parole officers can provide guidance with programs and services that assist addicts in becoming productive members of society but their reach is hampered by certain barriers. If a drug addict has a drug conviction, access to federal benefits and services may be blocked due to a number of federal laws. This was most likely to reduce drug use but sadly it ends up hindering reintegration.
Treatment for drug addiction prior to entering the justice system may no longer be an option but it is never too late to get help. Find a doctor or treatment center that fits your needs or those of a friend/loved one at addictionrecovery.com. Have the comfort in knowing that others in your situation have given them the seal of approval.