Orientation meetings provide information, support for parolees

Parolees get information at the Parole and Community Team orientation meeting .

Parolees get information at the Parole and Community Team orientation meeting .

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

Dozens of parolees gathered recently at a Sacramento church to begin the next chapter in their lives.

The Parole and Community Team (PACT) orientation meeting is a mandatory event that gives people just released from prison a chance to see what services are available in their communities to help them succeed at home.

Jeffrey Bigley is a Parole Agent II who is part of the team overseeing Northern Region programs for CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO).

“Studies have shown that the recidivism rate reduces and the success rate climbs when they’ve completed a program,” he said. “What it’s really doing is supplying them with a stable residence, employment referral and an opportunity to save some money and really put some tools in their tool belts to deal with their substance abuse issues.

Agencies sharing information at the meeting included Men’s Empowerment, Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, Counterpoint Recovery Facility, Cosumnes River College, Computerized Literacy Center, Narcotics Anonymous, California Council on Problem Gambling, Family Law Facilitators Office and Sacramento County Department of Child Support Services.

Vinnie from Narcotics Anonymous was the guest speaker.

“For those of you who think there is no hope, there is, and you need to take advantage of the services provided here today,” he said. “It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting where you’re sitting. I don’t get paid for this. I was state-raised, so I’m here to give back and show you that you can get out of the criminal lifestyle you’ve been living.”

Recognizing that offenders are individuals who belong to families and significant social networks, parolees are encouraged to bring their spouses or significant others, their parents any family member supportive of what they’re trying to do to turn their lives around. This is in keeping with DAPO’s implementation of systems designed to change dysfunctional social patterns and restore healthy family systems.

“That family member who attends is an extra set of eyes and ears, so it also educates the public and the people around the parolees as to what’s available,” Bigley explained. “We often hear that family member say, ‘Hey, you need to go here or go there for this opportunity or this program.’”

One woman in attendance stopped by the Sacramento County Department of Child Support table to ask about child support, and how to seek out past-due child support.

“Just come into our office, we’ll open the case and we’ll start from the beginning,” she was told. “We’ll locate the other party, we’ll serve the other party, we’ll set court dates, and once we get the court order, we’ll enforce it. We do it all, and it doesn’t really cost anything.”

Parolee Andrew Moak is just 22, but says he’s sick and tired of living the criminal life and wants to change.

“Doing five years in prison, that’s what made me realize that this is what I don’t want anymore,” Moak said. “I’m one of those guys who wants to change, you know? I’ve family and I want to provide for them – I’m tired of living like a bum.”

Moak said he’s looking forward to his upcoming interview with Caltrans.

There’s one final step before the parolees exit Bayside Midtown Church.

Before exiting Bayside Midtown Church, the parolees are asked to share what they’ve learned.

“Before they walk out the door, they have to get three signatures from the providers here, the things that interest them, the things they didn’t know about and maybe would like an opportunity to learn more about,” Bigley said, “Most of the services are free to them, and helping them to understand that, and all they have to do is take advantage of what’s here, is kind of a big deal.

“It’s a real awakening for most of these guys.”