I've always been impressed at how well-informed this guy is about what's going on in the larger community, and how he thoughtfully ties social policy issues in with his real world observations from prison.
Shannon also offers a lot of tips to parolees and prisoners' families (prisoners can't read blogs) about how to navigate the system safely, both inside and outside prison walls, and maintains an open invitation for dialogue with community members about his observations, experiences, and ideas. I found the following post on the challenges of parole and problems of recidivism when I hit his site recently, and thought it was a good way to introduce him to you. Take what you need and leave the rest.
You can drop Shannon a line at:
Shannon M. Clark #113372
AZ State Prison - Lewis
Eagle Point 2C2
PO Box 3500
Buckeye, Arizona 85326.
Check out his blog and let him know what you think. He's a decent guy.
For the past year, I've noticed dozens of guys being released on Community Supervision (Parole) after completing 85% of their prison terms, only to return for parole violations. Few of them are reinstated onto Community Supervision at their parole violation hearings.
Having spoken to many of these guys, I've learned the following information. hopefully providing this information will help those of you with loved ones on parole, or soon to be on parole.
With nearly everybody I've spoken to, two things were huge contributing factors in their returning to prison. Drugs and lack of adequate support.
Most guys stepped out of the prison gates with good intentions and the desire to successfully complete parole and get on with their lives. Returning to prison to kill their numbers wasn't even a fleeting thought.
Foreseeably, the job market, economy and costs of living were a huge problem. All of these guys had $50, or less, in their pockets upon their release, their loved ones had no income due to recently being laid off, and had no state government assistance due to legislative budget cuts to DES, AHCCCSetc, so employment was a priority, although a hopeless one.
Most of them immediately began searching for employment with a positive sense of responsibility. Responsibility to loved ones and self. In order to help contribute, lessen burdens and occupy time. In a couple of instances, loved ones may have pushed their family member too insistently to gain employment out of desperate urgency for finances. All of them scoured the community for any legal form of employment. All of them came up empty-handed daily. Within 3 weeks, most of them were highly stressed, feeling hopeless and that they had failed their loved ones. Not only could they not find a job and contribute, but they felt they'd become another financial burden on their family.
Feeling employment wasn't a possibility any time soon, many of these guys went to ask for food stamps, AHCCCS (health insurance) and any other help they could get from local government.Most waited for hours in rooms packed with other people in need of help, only to be told that they don't qualify for help for various reason, although I suspect legislative budget cuts to these agencies and programs were the true reason. A few guys did get referrals to local churches for clothing and food box donations. One guy told me about a church in East Phoenix who gave him clothing, a food box, and a bus pass that was valid for a month to help with his job search.
Now, as many addicts will tell you, we all have our triggers. We all have something that sets off our giving in to our addiction. Combined with high stress, feelings of frustration, fear, hopelessness, defeat, failure, and uncertainty of what to do, many addicts relapse. For parolees, relapsing into using drugs/alcohol is a prelude to recidivism. Random urinalysis is common while on parole. Most parolees with any history of drug use are placed on "colors". The parolee is given a "color" by their PO. Every day the parolee calls a number where random colors are announced. If your color is announced-you go to drop a UA. Everybody's color comes around sometime.
Some POs don't send you back to prison on your first dirty UA. They'll give you a chance to stop, go to counseling, and get back on track. Others will send you back, just to rid you from their huge caseload. Most of the guys recently were sent back for one hot UA, although one had six over a three month period.
Times are tough for most of you in society who don't have a cool million in the bank. Our state government here in Arizona has made a huge mess of our financial system in AZ. And seems to continue to make it worse. Legislators and our governor refuse to stop all of their political bickering and fix our budget properly. So, until that happens, things will remain tough and even worsen. How can you help your loved one on parole survive and get off parole? Here's my suggestions:
Try not to overwhelm him/her with hurrying them to get a job, but continue to encourage them to find work. Jobs are scarce, but it's good to keep looking. Stressing won't help either of you. Also, let your loved one know that it's okay if they can't find a job and encourage them to keep looking. If you can, join them in their job seeking.
Take a little time to talk with your loved one. Let them know that it's great to have them home and that they aren't a burden. In prison, we don't talk much about our feelings. Sometimes we'll feel that we aren't contributing or are in the way. We're not used to hearing kind words and encouragements so it'll go a long way.
Most importantly, if you loved one is an addict, pay attention to signs of them using or getting ready to. And in my opinion: many would argue in opposition, don't turn them in to their PO or the police for using, unless they are a danger to themselves or others. Talk to them. Try to get them to stop and/or into counseling. Telling their PO or the police will only get them locked up again, and could harm the relationship and will likely no help at all. Prison is full of drugs readily available. A sad reality. Due to AZs Dept of Corrections and lawmakers' budget cutting decisions, prisons no longer have effective substance abuse classes, much less anything else to give your loved one help with addiction. You can persuade them to take advantage of innumerable meeting and groups out there. Free.
Communication, trust and patience. You'll all make it through these times. What do you think?