Rehabilitation doesn’t stop at the gate

Denise Milano, Northern Regional Parole Administrator

Denise Milano, Northern Regional Parole Administrator

Denise Milano named DAPO professional of the Year

By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

The successful reintegration of offenders into their communities is a vital part of CDCR’s efforts. At the forefront of this charge is the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO), tasked with supervising thousands of former inmates as they return home.

Under the direction of Denise Milano, Regional Parole Administrator for the DAPO Northern Region, DAPO has successfully developed supervision models for a diverse and increasingly high-risk parolee population. For these efforts, she is recognized as the DAPO Professional of the Year.

She was recently honored at CDCR’s annual Medal of Valor Ceremony.

Milano was closely involved in the development of the supervision plans for lifer parolees, Proposition 47 offenders, high-risk gang offenders and DAPO’s sex-offender population. Her expertise in budget management and personnel services greatly influenced DAPO’s efforts to reinstitute the Parole Agent Academy after several years of staff reductions.

She was instrumental in developing DAPO’s electronic monitoring program, which is recognized as a model for the effective use of electronic monitoring of high-risk offenders. Her efforts on the National Institute of Justice Special Technical Committee has helped to define performance standards for offender tracking system equipment and software nationwide.

Milano discusses both her long CDCR experience and the department’s emphasis on rehabilitation during and after prison, in this Q&A.

Tell us about your career path here at CDCR.

I started my career with CDCR 27 years ago in 1989 at Correctional Training Facility-Soledad (CTF) and worked in various administrative and supervisory capacities at CTF and Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP). In 1994 I became a correctional officer and worked at MCSP and San Quentin, promoted to sergeant in 1999 and shortly thereafter came out to parole.

In my 17 years with parole, I have held positions of Parole Agent I, Parole Agent II, Parole Agent III, Parole Administrator, Assistant Regional Administrator, Chief Deputy Regional Administrator and Associate Director. I am currently assigned as the acting Regional Parole Administrator, where I have oversight of Northern Region’s field and administrative operations.

What changes have you seen at DAPO, and how have they affected the services offered?

Our focus has changed as we stabilize our parole population and staffing needs after AB109 (Realignment). We experienced a culture shift in parole supervision by incorporating the latest evidence-based supervision and rehabilitative techniques into our daily operations and implemented the California Parole Supervision Reintegration Model.

Parole agents previously focused on the law enforcement component of their jobs but now embrace and focus equally, if not more so, on the rehabilitative component. They place their efforts on the quality of the parolee’s rehabilitation to include in-depth pre-parole planning, re-entry services, rehabilitative programs, motivational interviewing and enhanced casework services.

DAPO additionally expanded supervision by implementing caseloads to more effectively supervise gender responsive and long-term offenders. DAPO prioritizes their collaboration with internal and external stakeholders to help broaden the opportunities available in the community that will assist with a successful parole plan during and after parole.

Our parole population has become accountable for their parole term and are better equipped to handle life after parole. DAPO management supports the efforts to continuously improve all levels of parole operations as parole agents more actively contribute to providing better parolee case planning and services. We will continue to evaluate best practices.

What does it mean to you to be chosen DAPO Professional of the Year?

I was honored to be chosen this year to receive this award. I have enjoyed the many years of hard work, the wonderful opportunities and the dedicated people I have worked with who have contributed to my successful career. This award is very rewarding.

Where do you see DAPO in five/10 years? Do you think there will be a lot of changes and if so, what might they be?

I believe much of the groundwork for DAPO’s future five to 10 years out is being laid out right now. We are on our way to becoming national leaders in all aspects of parole supervision. DAPO is currently implementing the “3 Years to Excellence,” a refined vision that strategizes the efforts of a premier division.

We are focusing on enhancing our staff and future leaders through professional development and succession planning. We are continuing to integrate a quality family systems approach that includes active participation and engagement with  parolee families, and we are seeking accreditation and establishing performance measures.

Most significantly, DAPO is incorporating technology that will leverage the latest training and rehabilitative techniques within a new case management system that is currently under development. This new system will provide management and parole agents more visibility of DAPO’s efforts, challenges and successes than ever before.

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3 Responses

  1. Susan M. Tuesday, September 20, 2016 / 8:18 am

    I agree that an incarcerated or paroling individual coming out of the CDCR system must develop an understanding about the negative “drivers” that have impacted their lives and life circumstances for positive change to occur. Having said that, the process in making better life choices and positive changes aren’t any different for an incarcerated individual than for the rest of members of society. I don’t think shame and condemnation encourages anyone to seek help and move toward making better decisions in life. You can’t shame and bully a person into recovery but you can impact a life by giving people options that lead toward self awareness, personal responsibility, incremental success and developing the resiliency necessary to “see it through” in making better decisions in life that can benefit society as a whole. It doesn’t mean to say some will be inspired to change, but at least we are not compounding the problem and stigmatizing what already exists in society. The changing concepts towards rehabilitation for parolees can’t hurt, and in the process, we challenge ourselves to face our own biases.

  2. Kim G Monday, September 19, 2016 / 9:19 am

    I have read the article about Ms. Milano. This in no way is an attempt to take anything away from her hard work and dedication to making CDCR more capable of assisting inmates/parolees successfully reintegrate into society. I believe that if the opportunity presents itself, a seed can be planted.
    Having said that, I wish to share my experience as a Correctional Officer for 6 years, and now a Parole Agent for over 16 years. The help has to be wanted, not forced. The desire to change has to come from within. You can have all of this programs, and classes available to convicted felons both in, or out of custody, but unless, and until they are willing to, “eat” what we have prepared, nothing is going to change. They will just, “go along to get along”, and not really be serious about the help given, or do something to get kicked out of the program.
    True change comes from being sick and tired of being sick and tired, and realizing that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Once the inmates/parolees get tired of doing what they’ve always done, they won’t keep getting what they’ve always got….

  3. Jim Symington Monday, September 19, 2016 / 8:51 am

    Congratulations Denise. It is great seeing you being recognized; well deserved.

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