Being a Parole Agents is one of the strangest jobs in Law Enforcement, you are tasked with getting to know convicted criminals, sometimes dealing with them for years. We know a lot about them, what they do, who they live with, where they work and all kinds of other details. These are details Police Officers do not have to know, Investigators might know superficially and Jailers know about only when those details directly effect their secure environment. Meanwhile Parole Agents walk into these people’s home, talk to their mothers, paramours, grandparents and children. We know full well what they are capable of after reading their criminal history, we might even have read their mental health evaluation, drug use history and are familiar with their intelligence. Furthermore it is not just one convicted criminal, it is a dozen or so over the course of day, ranging from serial DUIs, thieves, sex offenders, drug dealers and even a few murders.
This strange job is over for me, my time in Law Enforcement is at an end. Parole Agent for 13 and half years, before that at a maximum security prison for 18 months (more than enough for me); before that I was in private security for 7 years, and after college the Army, doing three different jobs there, Infantry, Military Intelligence and finally Criminal Investigator.
That adds up to roughly about 28 years in jobs doing unnatural things. You see taking away people’s freedom, practicing to use deadly force on people, or being in on the planning of attacking other people is unnatural.
I fully agree with Lt. Col. Grossman’s book “On Killing” where he makes the point that very few people are born killers. Most people have to overcome psychological barriers to be able to kill. I believe in that same vein that we go against our basic nature taking people into custody and locking them up.
I am not saying arresting someone is wrong, I have never taken a person into custody illegally (well there was that one time in West Philly but he did come into our office and we let him go right away). Arresting people is not wrong, in fact in many cases it is the right, it is very justified, and a good thing to do. But taking away another person’s freedom is an unnatural act. We as human beings are free creatures, not built, intended, designed or created to be locked away, and taking away another persons freedom is an unnatural act.
So to my brothers and sisters in Law Enforcement know that these unnatural acts are taking a toll on you. It is not as serious as taking a life, but it weighs on your soul/psyche. Even the easiest arrest I have ever been on; Art Rothwell and I went out to declare a guy delinquent at his approved residence, and guess who answers the door, the Parolee who immediately without a word exchanged between us turn around and places his hands behind his back and say ‘okay’ I am ready to go. Even this is an unnatural act because no matter how easy it was I was still taking away another human beings freedom.
So know the damage these unnatural acts are doing to you. Take precautions, examine the job you are doing, look at the big picture and how you fit into it. Know both your importance and lack of importance in the world (it is sort of a duality of man thing).
I enjoyed (mostly) my time being a Parole Agent, I took great pride in attempting to keep the citizens of the Commonwealth safe, I also liked (sometimes) my interactions with the Parolee’s. If you are a Parole Agent and did not believe in rehabilitation in some shape or form then you are in the wrong job and probably incredibly unhappy and should probably leave before you waste any more of your life. I am not naive in believing that I changed any lives but occasionally I could give a few nuggets of wisdom that would set off a light bulb in their eyes, give a few words of praise when a convicted felon did something right or teach them a life skill that they somehow missed growing up.
The basic nature of the job did not change over the years, the circumstances of our employment did I can only attribute this to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, and as Forest Gump says “And that is all I got to say about that.”
So stay safe comrades, time for me to write my next chapter. Be fair, be competent and realize there the only thing that is left at the end of this long slog is the people you love and if you can manage it they might love you back.
Sidebar: One of the stories I told male parolees over the years was about the importance of fathers.
“I grew up with my father, he was home and a big part of my life. Now my father was born deaf in one ear, so when he really wanted to hear something, or listen to someone he would cock his head a certain way and lean towards you. When I was in my thirties I noticed I was cocking my head and leaning in towards people the in the exact same way. I do not need to do this, my hearing is very good in both ears, but I learned from watching him that if you really wanted to pay attention to someone that is how you listened.
Then I would ask my parole’s about their fathers, what lessons they learned from them, and what lesson they were teaching their children not only with their actions but how they lived their lives.”