Story by Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Photos by Terry Thornton, Deputy Press Secretary
Office of Public and Employee Communications
CDCR parole agents work around the clock to keep the community safe, from checking in on parolees on their caseloads to make sure they’re following their conditions of parole to connecting former offenders with resources that will help them be successful in their communities. One of the key roles agents play is in maintaining an open dialogue with parolees, explaining to them in no uncertain terms why it’s important to stay on the right track.
Parole Agent Charles “Chuck” Wallace began his day discussing with a parolee just why he’s sending him to a residential treatment program after being arrested for a DUI.
“You need to be in a stable environment. You’re 47 years old, you need to turn things around in your life,” Wallace told him.
“I’m working on it, but there are so many things going on right now, and I’m trying to sort it out,” the parolee said.
Wallace works out of the Sacramento North Parole Unit. He has been with CDCR for nearly 22 years, and has been a parole agent for nine years. His workload is heavy and he works mostly with gang members who are back in their communities. Wallace’s beat includes the Del Paso Heights and Oak Park neighborhoods of North Sacramento.
His job involves supervising parolees, working closely with community service agencies and arranging services for the parolees, including employment, housing, medical care, counseling and education. The parole agent may also be called to testify in administrative hearings and judicial proceedings.
“I enjoy what I do,” Wallace said. “It makes me feel good when I see guys turning their lives around, and getting away from the criminal lifestyle.”
Most days, Wallace visits his parolees in their homes. On this day he’s headed to Del Paso Heights.
At his first stop, an apartment building, he knocked on the door and entered the one-bedroom apartment where there are three children sleeping on the floor, a woman on a mattress on the floor, another on the couch, an infant in a crib and another woman asleep in the bedroom, along with the parolee he’s come to check in on. It’s 10 a.m.
“Why aren’t those kids in school?” Wallace asked the parolee. “I’m taking them when you all leave,” was the response.
Wallace said if it happens again on his next visit, he will alert Child Protective Services. None of the children are related to the parolee.
At the apartment, Wallace asked the parolee to urinate in a cup so he can check to see if he’s been using drugs. He can’t, so Wallace tells him to come to his office that afternoon so they can do the test.
As he’s leaving, Wallace said, “You want to form a relationship with them; you don’t want to come on as confrontational. You want to work with him so he can start turning his life around and trust that you want the same thing.”
At another stop, Wallace said this parolee is doing well. “He’s working at a sushi place in Sacramento, and living with his parents.”
The parolee is able to provide a sample for urinalysis, which Wallace says will reveal the results in a matter of minutes. Five minutes later, he’s declared clean.
Wallace says if he stays clean, and continues his employment, he might be able to be discharged from parole ahead of schedule. A parolee can earn discharge if he or she has fulfilled the terms of the agreement with the parole agent and has lived at the agreed-upon address, met regularly with the agent, stayed drug-free and has not committed new crimes.
“That’s what people don’t see is the guys who do make it,” he said, “There are plenty of men who do give up the gangs and the drugs and that lifestyle, but all you ever hear about are the ones who screw up.”
Wallace has arranged to meet fellow Parole Agent Clint Cooley to head to the Oak Park neighborhood together. Cooley’s entire caseload consists of sex offenders. Everybody he sees is wearing a GPS device.
“We’re able to track their every move,” Cooley said. “On the computer, it shows me where he is, and where he’s been throughout the day. Sometimes they develop a pattern that will get them in trouble either because of who they are seeing or where they are going, or both.”
In the Oak Park section of Sacramento, Cooley searched a parolee who’s under his watch. Wallace has his back.
Leaving the area, Cooley explains how the parolee’s whole family is heavily involved in gang activity, so he likes to have backup when he has to meet with him on the street.
After spending the morning meeting with parolees, Wallace heads back to his office to write up his report on each person he met. He said everything has to be documented for the sake of the department, him and the parolee.
“This job can be stressful, and my caseload is high, but I still really enjoy what I do because I feel like I’m making a difference and reaching some guys who really are ready to turn the corner,” Wallace said. “I want to be there for them and with them as they realize they can be good, productive citizens and not just always criminals.”