Mission Statement

Seeking the good, the light and a smidgeon of sanity out of tragedy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Probation Office Visits

Home inspection…or invasion? Our household gets reviewed by the Federal Probation Office.

I’ve been silent for two months but not for lack of activity going on behind-the-scenes with my family. There has been a lot going on behind-the-scenes. However, it was never my intention to turn this blog into a salacious “tell-all”, which may mean that to the average reader it’s not as riveting or juicy a read as it could be. But then there comes times, like today, that this blog really does serve a purpose and that is as a pipeline of useful information and communication to a handful of relatives, acquaintances and those who are interested. So here it goes…

At 7:30AM today, two Federal Probation Officers, one man and one woman, arrived at our doorstep. We did expect them, but note, they did park around the corner from our house, instead of in front, so they would arrive without warning and unannounced.

They requested us to sit down at the dining room table, declined coffee and got down to brass tacks.

My father put in a request with the Probation Office to stay in our home, and in order to accomplish that mission, we have to be willing and they have to approve.

A 50-minute interview later, and after a walk-through of our house, let’s just say a lot of illuminating facts came to light. Please note that each felon’s case and the conditions of their parole is very individual, so what I state below is in relation to just my father’s case, but I do need to share these details – they are important.

For starters, my father’s halfway house assignment is mandatory. He has to report to the halfway house, live there, abide by their rules as well as meet the conditions of his court-ordered instructions, before he would even be allowed to go into home confinement. In short, he has to earn the privilege of going into home confinement.

During his mandatory halfway house assignment, he is under the FBOP’s jurisdiction. He is not allowed a cell phone or computer at the halfway house. He has to find a full-time W-2 job, and out of that income he earns, the Feds will pull 15% off the top to begin his court-ordered restitution payments.

He cannot leave the halfway house without a pre-approved moving address. And this is key: he then cannot switch addresses three months later. It will not be allowed! He cannot up and move to Philadelphia, or to New York… (note: we are in California).

Let me make this clear: we have to be willing to confirm to the Probation Office that my father could potentially stay with us for up to the three years of his “supervisory” period, which does not begin until his official release date of March, or until that time he can prove he is making sufficient W-2 income where he can pay restitution and for an apartment as well as other expenses.

The female parole officer read me the conditions of his release. They include such items as:

  • My father is not allowed to open any credit lines without prior approval, and is not allowed to use any existing credit lines (i.e., should he use any credit cards, it would be in violation of his parole agreement);
  • He is not allowed to do any capital venture/fundraising work. There was a specific legalese statement that denies him to engage or do anything of that nature; (this would be the equivalent of a felon convicted of check fraud and the court prohibiting said felon from opening or having any checking accounts, writing or passing any checks as a condition of their parole);
  • He has to maintain full-time W-2 employment (independent contractor work is usually not acceptable because they take the restitution payment process very seriously and he has to prove steady, reliable income);
  • And he cannot associate or do any work for any felons he has met on the inside or know to be convicted felons.

If he stayed at our house…

  • We would be subject to random and periodic, unannounced search inspections by the Probation Office. Yes, this means they can show up at our door at 8PM Sunday night during dinner, and we have to drop everything and show them around and answer questions, and yes, this means they could show up at 5AM Wednesday morning, and we would have to oblige another random inspection. It can happen anytime 24/7.
  • We have to remove such items as the decorative pirate swords from the living room walls (all 5 of them), as well as the hunting knife in the closet; these items are not allowed while he would be here. (My father is NOT a violent man, nor convicted of any violence; this is merely standard procedure with ALL felons.)
The parole officers stressed that because they do not have an overly heavy load, my father would not be lost in the system, or ignored, and they do most of their work in the field, showing up at his place of employment and at the address he is assigned to.

California vs. New York

Because California is outside the jurisdiction of New York where the judgment went down, and the extra steps needed for him to come here, the POs told us straight out that he could not move within three months of starting his supervisory period in March. We would have to commit to much, much more time than that.

However, they did allude that the process would be more lenient under the court jurisdiction in New York. An address under the New York umbrella would not have to necessarily be inspected so rigorously.

They also openly stated concern about the job market out here vs. New York. We have one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates out here.

So I asked my Dad in the letter I wrote him immediately:

Do you not think you would have better luck at obtaining a steady job in New York vs. out here?
And here’s an observation: my father has made it crystal clear to me and others that he intends to go back to New York. The Probation Office here would not allow that for some time hence, so wouldn’t it be more advisable that he makes that his target right from the beginning rather than this circuitous route?

My father’s friends, contacts and Church are in New York.

There is only me out here, and from my impression, he was only targeting California because he thought he could serve his whole halfway house assignment here at our home, and then move. And as we just found out, that is not the case.

I did express doubt to my father, however, that my “Lost Brother” would, or could, pass this inspection process. My “Lost Brother” would not only have to establish a steady residence for months prior to his arrival, but he would also need to prove gainful, steady employment for himself and that he could maintain the apartment for months after my father’s arrival. The home has to be a “home” also, not a temporary fixture with a cot and futon. The Probation Office does check criminal records and perform background checks, and my brother also has to be open for home inspections at a moment’s notice. Let’s be honest: my brother has not been squeaky clean in recent years, so the Feds finding contraband or violations jumps by leaps and bounds – if he can even pass muster in the first place.

So, there it is. I know for a fact my father does not want to make years’ worth of commitment to staying and working here in California, so I strongly urge him in my letter to reevaluate his direction and game plan. (And dear cuz’s, your homes would be inspected and evaluated in the same manner mine was, so do not feel guilty.)

I do not have a clear-cut answer for my father, but having him turn my life upside down for something he is only half-hearted about does not feel like a good or reasonable solution. He has to come up with another.