Parole agent cadets hit the books, and computers, at the academy.

Parole agent cadets hit the books, and computers, at the academy.

By Luis Patino, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Jessica Tabayoyong is ready to take on a bigger challenge and she’s not one to be easily intimidated.

That’s immediately evident on this morning in Galt as she undergoes cuffing techniques at the Parole Agent Academy  in a room full of other parole agent cadets, most of whom are taller than her.

Jessica Tabayoyong started her career with CDCR as a correctional officer.

Jessica Tabayoyong started her career with CDCR as a correctional officer.

“I would start by making them widen their stance, which puts them at a disadvantage,” says Tabayoyong.  “I’m the smallest one, cuffing the biggest one in class. Size doesn’t matter.”

Call it brain beating brawn, or if you want to get more philosophical about it, how about — the sheer force of inner strength and altruism, triumphing over ignorance and greed.

Most of these cadets would choose the latter.

Yoda would be proud.

After all, it was the small but mighty Star Wars character who uttered the words, “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”

Helping light the way out for parolees from a life of crime is exactly what motivates the cadets of the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) Academy Class of June 2016.

Tabayoyong , for example, joined CDCR as a Correctional Officer at the California Medical Facility in 1995. In 2000, she promoted to sergeant at the Reception Center at the Duel Vocational Institution. That’s what opened her eyes and put her on personal mission to help inmates find a way to be crime-free and successful in their communities so they can end the cycle of recidivism and enjoy a normal life. At the reception center, she says, she saw too many young lives enter into the cyclical wasteland of crime and incarceration.

“They’re coming in younger and younger,” she says.

So when she became a Correctional Counselor in 2009, she took a personal interest in working with the inmates’ families to understand what resources and rehabilitative programming could really help the inmates keep from coming back.

“I felt like if he came back, I failed.  I took it personally to see that they had the support system so that they wouldn’t come back,” she says.

She remembers once getting a phone call from one of the most violent inmates she’d ever encountered. He was was so anti-social, he’d barricade himself in his cell, and knowing that there would be a cell extraction, would rub his feces all over his body to avoid contact.  But when it came time to work with him on a parole plan, she treated him like she’d want to be treated.

“Sometimes they just needed to talk and you might get to the root of the problem. He said he never believed he would parole, that’s why he was so assaultive and acted out. He didn’t care. He had no hope,” she says. So when she got a call from the outside and it was him saying he was working to remain free,  it renewed her faith in the power of communication and rehabilitation.

“It’s gratifying.  That’s when you know you did your job,” says Tabayoyong. Now, the possibility of helping parolees rehabilitate motivates her deeply.  She knows agents frequently get similar calls from parolees or their families.  “Yeah,  that’s what I hear. I am really looking forward to that.”

“I’m extremely proud of the work the division training unit has put forth towards making this academy a success. I’ll be very proud to announce another solid class graduates on June 24. The effort of the students is a testament to their dedication to our department’s public safety commitment,” says Parole Administrator Douglas Eckenrod.

Brandon Balanza, the Parole Agent II Supervisor who serves as the Academy Coordinator, says that idealism and past experience exemplifies this academy class.  All of the 45 cadets have previous correctional experience. Ten of them are returning parole agents who left when the parole division downsized.

Balanza says DAPO refined the training process for this second academy class of the year after “getting positive comments from the first class and requests for even more information about the rehabilitative programs now available to address the criminogenic needs for the parolees.”

Cadet Carey Haidl, who has a bachelor’s degree and is currently working towards her masters in Criminal Justice, previously served as a Parole Agent I but transferred outside CDCR to become a Medical Board investigator in order to avoid being laid off.

Since she was out longer than three years, she was required to take the academy anew in order to return to DAPO.  She agrees that the Academy has undergone a remarkable evolution.

“The training is much more advanced 10 years after I first attended the academy.  It’s amazing how much more hands-on the training has become.  I’m so happy to be back.  I like the public safety aspect of seeing (the parolees) make positive changes in their lifestyle,” she says.

Cadet Samuel Harris will transition from the Division of Juvenile Justice to DAPO.  He’s no stranger to helping people turn their lives around or to seeing and feeling the former inmates on his caseload make the transition from inmates to productive members of the community.

“People call back.  They tell you they’re doing well, they have a job, a girlfriend … they’re changing their life in a positive direction,” he says. “They’re really great calls to get. People have choices to make. Sometimes they make wrong choices but doesn’t mean they can’t make better ones. I had people help me make right choices. That  usually comes from seeing the examples sitting right in front of us.”

If agents Tabayoyong, Haidl, Harris and the 43 other graduates of the DAPO Academy Class of June 2016 have their way, California communities will continue to get safer because former inmates will have strong role models and the right resources and programs to help them make a successful transition.

It’s all about communication, resources, programs, hope and inner strength.

That’s something of which DAPO and both its new and veteran agents have plenty.

A full list of all the DAPO Academy graduates and the photos from the ceremony held June 24 in Galt will be published in Inside CDCR next week.

To view the ceremony live online starting at 10 a.m. June 24 from WITHIN the CDCR Network:

mms://fdcmedia/opec/CDCRLIVE01

To view the ceremony live online starting at 10 a.m. June 24 from OUTSIDE the CDCR Network:

https://MEDIA.cdcr.ca.gov/OPEC/CDCRLIVE01