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Parole office sets standard for 'successful completion'

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

For the third year in a row, the Jonesboro Parole Office has one of the highest rates of parole completions.

The statewide average for the Board of Pardons and Paroles officers comes in at about 73 percent. The Jonesboro office, which supervises about 600 parolees, has a successful completion rate of more than 80 percent.

"We're kind of proud of it, really," said Chief Parole Officer Joey Morris. "When they do the right thing, go get a job, pay their taxes, take care of their kids, and complete their parole, everybody wins. There are no losers in this scenario. Everybody wins."

The completion rate is the percentage of people released from prison on parole who "pretty much behave themselves and do what they're supposed to do," said Morris.

Even though successful completion is up to the parolee, to some extent, the officers in Jonesboro say they know they can help their transition into rehabilitation.

"There are things that we do, we have procedures and practices, that we've refined over the years, that helps people make better decisions," Morris said.

Substance abuse treatment and counseling is a big part of a successful parole, Morris said. He added, the vast majority of inmates in Georgia prisons suffer from some sort of substance abuse and "substance abuse drives the system."

Parolees are dealt with on a case-by-base basis, but anyone with a history of drugs or alcohol sees a substance abuse councilor, early in his or her parole.

"We'll do whatever's necessary to get them whatever assistance they need," Morris said.

The metro-area offices also have the advantages of giving parolees access to treatment centers, counseling facilities and job opportunities.

"Being close to Atlanta, we have an advantage," Morris said.

L. Gale Buckner, the Pardons and Parole Board Chair, said the secret to parole completion success is really the work of the officers.

"Parole supervision is an integral part of law enforcement, yet parole officers' work often goes unrecognized," Buckner said.

"Our success as an agency, and our reputation as a leader among paroling authorities, are largely due to their diligence. They are on the front line, and they are making Georgia safer."