A CDCR Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) pilot program to help released life-term parolees, or lifers, adjust to life received strong endorsements at a discussion meeting in the Los Angeles area recently.
The program’s purpose is to connect released lifers with the community resources to give them the help they need to stay out of prison. (In California, some life sentences include the possibility of parole.)
More than 136 former lifers attended the program. DAPO agents were instrumental in persuading parolees to attend the meeting by pointing out the numerous possibilities of aid.
“It was a good beginning. I was very impressed with the commitment,” said Sam Osi of Amity Foundation. Mr. Osi has been on the outside for two years after serving 22 years on a life sentence. (Amity Foundation is a non-profit group that helps people overcome substance abuse.)
Other groups and people interested in helping former lifers stay out of prison also attended.
• Friends Outside represented by Sam Lewis, a former lifer.
• Parolee Service Center represented by Parole Agent II-Stephen Brodi.
• Health Right 360 (SASCA) Alan Johnson Michael Brenner, Regional Director.
• Peter Getoff, a CDCR clinical social worker supervisor.
• Parole Agent III Annette Foster representing Rehabilitative Services.
Mr. Osi said the DAPO program promises to help former lifers find some of the services they need the most – health care, jobs and housing.
Another released lifer said the meeting was a pleasant surprise.
“I had no idea what it would be about. Most ex-cons are pretty negative and think the worst, so I was really surprised when I walked in to a room with food in it,” he said. “We thought it had to be for staff, not us. That was a big deal.
“Lifers are a tight group and a lot of us try to stay in touch and be supportive. I saw guys I thought were dead. It was like a class reunion. I didn’t hear any guys say negative things.
“They made us feel welcome. We heard parole now is less about sending you back to jail than trying to help you make it. Coming to parole isn’t so bad anymore,” the lifer said.
Mr. Osi gave an example of how important support is for lifers. He said he recently dealt with a former lifer who had been out more than 30 years but had an anxiety attack.
The former lifer said he wanted to go back to prison and was talking about committing acts that would send him back.
However, Mr. Osi said because the former lifer was part of a support group, he reached out to them first. Mr. Osi and others got the man help and he returned to non-criminal behavior.
“This is an example of what could happen if there are no resources,” Mr. Osi said.
Parole Agent III Francine Mitchell of DAPO’s LA Central #1 Parole Unit said the discussion group was part of a DAPO pilot program to connect released lifers with the resources they need to stay out of prison.
“One important thing that I learned from this discussion is that the Life Term Parolee is smart educated and most importantly wants to give back to the community and most importantly their victims families and we (DAPO) would like to assist them and be a part of giving back,” Agent Mitchell said.
The discussion group included Life Term Parolee’s from the Midcity District and La District units.
DAPO supervisors and administrators contributed toward refreshments for the meeting.
Meeting was facilitated by Agent Mitchell.