Jobs key to completion of parole

Editor's Note: This is the second story looking at parole in Georgia and specifically the work done at the Conyers Parole Office. The previous story was published in the Dec. 26 edition of the Rockdale Citizen and appears on our Web site, www.rockdalecitizen.com.

CONYERS -- Employment is the biggest obstacle for parolees, according to a local official, but supervision and direction are in place to help convicted felons navigate through the difficulties.

Michael Evans, senior parole officer at the Conyers Parole Office, admitted a lot of employers do not want to hire convicted felons.

"That is most definitely true," Evans said.

The local office, staffed with seven parole officers, supervises the estimated 396 parolees in Rockdale County.

"I think the most they want the parolee to do is just to show up ... it's not that they're going to be a harm to anyone there or steal, so to speak," Evans said. "The main thing is they want to keep their business running."

The office tries its best to mitigate and clarify any apprehensions by maintaining "positive community relations" with the employers, which includes talking with employers and just making themselves known.

"Once an employer becomes familiar with our faces and becomes comfortable then, usually, they become comfortable with a parolee working in their organization," Evans said.

The office also works with the state Department of Labor to help pair parolees with employment opportunities.

"That's the main thing is to keep them employed," Evans said. "It keeps them from re-offending ... and having to arrest them (again)."

Those not reporting to their parole officer and abiding by their conditions account for about 10 percent of the local Rockdale County parolee population, according to Evans.

Evans explained some people are going to abide by their conditions, some people are "on the fence," and then some people are not going to do it, "and those have to apprehended."

"It's a give and take thing," Evans said.

Convicted felons stay under parole supervision for about two years on average, Evans said. But the length of parole depends on the length of the sentence, which often depends on the severity of the crime.

Employment is one of the six conditions convicted felons must abide by once released from prison, and they are discussed at the beginning of the parole. In their conditions, parolees must also abstain from anything that may get them arrested.

"It's a plan between the parole officer and the parolee themselves," Evans said.

Parolees are also required to regularly check in with their parole officer. It may also include going to a substance abuse counselor, which is available at the parole office.

The parole officers conduct impromptu visits of their assigned parolees at least once a month, "if not more," according to Evans.

Visits are to observe the parolee's living conditions, personal upkeep and "just to make sure they're following the conditions," explained Evans.

Supervisors may also conduct a drug screening and visit the parolee's employer.

Releasing inmates on parole costs the state less money than keeping them confined, Evans said.

"If they're on the outside, working, being productive -- that's a better situation for the state of Georgia and for us," Evans said.