Probation Officers Sort Out Life Turnarounds, Con Jobs


Los Angeles County probation have heard it all, from every crook and small-timer and smooth-talker who assured them their life of crime was behind them, says Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons. Sometimes it is true. Orange County probation administrator Tom Wright, who spent 16 years working cases, told of a man who did several stints for drugs. When he showed up with a dog, Wright told him he’d need to clean up his act if he was going to take care of a dog. “That dog meant survival to him,” Wright says. “He’s still got that dog, and he’s never violated the law again.”

Shawn Small, another county administrator and a former longtime probation officer, said, “Some of the hardest cases to supervise are those people you actually like. Every once in a while, you get someone who you say that, ‘Outside of this circumstance, I might actually be friends with this person.’ And you hope for the best of them.” Good probation officers generally can tell what’s what, but no one is infallible. Small tells of a guy he’d come to like, won over by his personality and his insistence that he was turning his life around. It turned out that Small had been conned by a drug dealer.


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