Romance blossomed between Tonia Watson, 41, and Alan Wood, 49, in 2011 when they found themselves together on parole in Pontiac, Mi., in a 1-square-mile neighborhood some offenders call Parole Town, says the Detroit Free Press in the second in a series on Michigan parole practices. Later their rental home burned to the ground in a suspicious fire. Police investigated them for new crimes, and Watson continued to test positive for drugs. In November, they reportedly stole items from a home to buy drugs and slit the throat of the 80-year-old homeowner.
Most parolees who are released from prison in Michigan are emphatically forbidden to congregate with other felons. A 7-month Free Press investigation on how well the state is supervising its 70,000 parolees and probationers shows hundreds are being housed, largely unsupervised, in close quarters in apparent violation of the state’s own parole regulations. Experts say scenarios like the one involving Wood and Watson illustrate why allowing offenders to live with or near one another can be dangerous. “You don’t want them to have close associations with other people who have committed crimes because the chance they will go on and likely keep doing that is higher,” said Robert Coombs of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.