CDCR Parole agents, administrators believe change is possible for parolees
By Luis Patiño, CDCR Public Information Officer II
When Parole Administrator Anthony Ivanich travels around his community, he inevitably runs into a former parolee who has turned his life around.
“It exists, daily,” he said. “Up and down the central coast district – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey County – I will come across a discharged parolee. I talk to them and their families and I can see they’re doing great. They’re self-sufficient and they’re deciding to make the right choices.”
According to Ivanich, it’s the side of most parole agents’ jobs which don’t often make headlines, but it motivates him.
The people of the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) work day in and day out to change their communities for the better – one former inmate at a time.
Like Ivanich, most agents will tell you it’s tough and sometimes frustrating work, but well worth the effort.
“I’ve come across numerous cases of parolees who I arrested, violated, and return to custody, but today they’re off parole, they’ve turned their lives around, they’re taxpayers, they have full-time jobs and they’re doing well,” he said.
So Ivanich was elated when Robert Ambroselli, Regional Parole Administrator, Northern Region, launched the first-ever promotional ceremony for parole agents at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to recognize those efforts and successes.
“I thought we should spend a little more time recognizing people for doing these positive things. I thought that it’s also important that their families get to see positive impact of their loved one’s work,” Ambroselli said.
On Feb. 26, DAPO’s Northern Region held its first Supervisory Recognition Ceremony at California State University Monterey Bay.
The program was created to eventually recognize every peace officer and non-peace officer supervisory promotion in the Northern Parole Region. The recognition ceremony is planned for once a quarter, in every location of the region, giving staff and their families an opportunity to attend.
The awardees this quarter comprised Parole Administrator Ivanich, Parole Agent III Jesus Villareal, Parole Agent II Supervisor Jerry Gonzalvo, Parole Agent II Supervisor Damon Medina and Parole Agent II Supervisor Steve Van Bebber.
DAPO executive staff in attendance included Director Dan Stone and Deputy Director Bobby Haase. The police chiefs from Pacific Grove, Monterey Police Department, Seaside Police Department and the CSU Monterey Bay Police Department were also present.
“Our staff is the greatest investment our department can make in public safety and the supervisors who lead them are the backbone of the department,” said Ambroselli. “Recognizing them when they promote and celebrating those accomplishments with their families strengthens our commitment to professionalism and dedication to our mission.”
Supervisor Medina agreed.
“It meant a lot in terms of recognition. We’ve never had a ceremony like this where the larger department is doing this to motivate and inspire their people,” Medina said.
Medina is a former Marine who was born and raised in Bakersfield. Many of his relatives are either retired or current Correctional Officers or support staff. He said being a part of CDCR “runs in the family.” He was happy his wife Carol was there to celebrate his promotion with him.
It was equally important to Administrator Ivanich.
“It was a good feeling to have the support from the family all these years. My wife’s been there since day one of my time with CDCR,” Ivanich said.
According to Ambroselli, observing these milestones helps strengthen the division and the families within them.
“When agents promote, they have to deal with heftier problems. It’s important for families to know what’s going on so the supervisors and administrators will have the understanding and the support they need. Things change,” Ambroselli said.
“You have the greater responsibility of supervising staff; you go from managing a caseload to managing your people,” he said. “That has its own set of challenges that require leadership and mentoring, but you don’t get paid overtime – no vehicle because you’re not traveling to see parolees anymore. There are longer hours and the greater degree of responsibility that sometimes comes at a cost to their personal life.”
He said it’s important for CDCR families to know how important the work of DAPO agents and supervisors is to the safety and success of our communities.
Staff are awarded a certificate of promotion, a resolution of recognition from the California State Senate and Assembly, and a new Parole Agent badge with their supervisory designation on a ribbon during the promotion ceremonies.
Non-peace officer awardees will be given a certificate of promotion, a resolution from the legislature and a DAPO lapel pin.
Senator Jim Beall and Assemblywoman Nora Campos sent the awardees legislative certificates.
For Ambroselli, the effect of the recognition is immediate.
“I can see hope and excitement in their eyes as they are accepting their responsibility. You can feel the sense of pride in these ceremonies,” he said. “It’s an important moment that helps entire families commit to supporting their loved ones as they take on larger challenges. “
They are challenges new administrators like Ivanich know are well worth the effort because of the benefits their efforts provide to his community.
Ivanich believes change is possible for parolees.
“(They) can change. They can make the right choices and do the right thing. That’s how I was brought up, and that’s how I was trained within CDCR,” Ivanich said.
He said he’ll gladly take on tougher challenges in hopes of making even greater strides in helping former criminals turn their lives around.