We’ve moved from a rehabilitation model to tail ’em, nail ’em, and jail ’em. You, the officer, can’t make a mistake. It’s all, keep your boot on the parolee’s neck as much as possible. We are different than Corrections. We don’t always see parolees at their worst, and we don’t loathe them. The caseload of a normal parole officer is like 80 bodies on the street at a time, which is insane, but different than prison, where correction officers are completely outnumbered.
The system is designed to make you fail. How the fuck does anyone make it?
I had a guy: three felonies. He had been certified upstate for asbestos abatement, and when he gets out and goes to get a license, someone tells him, “You need the New York City asbestos license.”
So the guy says, “Well, how do I get that?”
He finally gets the money, takes the test, and fails it by one point. And there is no study guide for this test.
He still can’t find a decent job, can’t get any traction in the ghetto. One day he is sitting in a barbershop on 125th Street, and somebody walks in and shoots the guy next to him in the head. He then goes to stay at his mom’s, who ultimately calls the cops on him because he broke a dresser. So he has to deal with that. When he gets away from Mom, someone breaks into his $700-a-month apartment and steals his paycheck—he’s working a midnight shift as an $8-an-hour porter. It’s a two-hour commute. He is always working in a hunger crisis. This is the genesis of crime.
As told to Geoffrey Gray