Holding parolees accountable to parole conditions is only part of the job
GPS Units of the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) have a highly specialized mission but at the core, it’s all about helping parolees with rehabilitation.
For 17 years, Parole Agent Chris Arevalo has helped fulfill CDCR’s mission of public safety through rehabilitation. Today, he’s part of the Delta GPS Unit based in Stockton.
“I take great pride in knowing I am helping the community by assisting parolees on their journey to becoming productive members of society,” he said.
Inside CDCR caught up with Arevalo to learn more about the GPS Unit and what they do.
What is the GPS Unit?
The GPS Unit supervises primarily sex offenders, as well as some gang members and high profile parolees. As a GPS agent, I track the location of where my parolees are, and where they have been in the community. If I am reviewing a sex offender’s GPS tracks and notice he or she is lingering near an elementary school, it is my job to investigate why they were there. DAPO uses GPS technology to increase public safety.
What do you find is a common misconception about the GPS Unit?
It would be the workload. Supervising parolees on GPS is considered a specialized caseload. I currently supervise sex offenders, spending a lot of my time ensuring they are abiding by their conditions of parole. Those conditions could include not entering an area they are not allowed to, and making sure they attend their mandated sex offender treatment groups. These are in addition to what a non-GPS agent would normally have to do.
How are your interactions with most parolees?
I treat my parolees like people, because they are people. Even if we are arresting a parolee for violating their conditions of parole, I still conduct myself in a professional manner. Because of this, most of my interactions with parolees are positive. I do my best to connect them with the resources that are available, such as shelter, substance abuse treatment, or even access to free groceries.
Many parole agents say the job often involves social work. How do agents in the GPS Unit differ from other areas of DAPO?
The GPS Agent position involves social work on a daily basis. It is more social work intensive than a regular caseload. Sex offender parolees can have the same criminogenic needs as regular ones. Sex offenders have more requirements for their parole. For example, they must participate in mandated sex offender treatment. As an agent, I help to enforce participation in sex offender treatment. Another challenge I have faced is the limited access to programs for sex offenders. A lot of programs have exclusions for sex offenders. For example, California penal code limits the number of sex offenders that can live inside a residential treatment program at one time. Also, the scrutiny placed on the GPS Agent is higher. As an agent, I try to do my best to prevent them from re-offending. These unique sets of circumstances make it a stressful but a very rewarding position.
What are some of the obstacles faced by the agents?
The main obstacle faced by Agents is finding a residential program that will accept our parolees. From my experience, certain sex offenders are extremely difficult to place into programs. Access to shelter, as well as treatment, are a vital tool for a successful reintegration back into the community.
How have you seen DAPO’s focus change since you started with the department?
I believe parole agents conduct more social work now more than ever. The department focuses on reintegration into the community, which often includes working with different government agencies. For example, the department has collaborated with EDD, Social Security, DMV, and Social Services to ease the transition back into society.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The GPS agent position is very challenging. Our ultimate goal is to increase public safety. We accomplish this by using intensive supervision, motivational interviewing and forming partnerships with community programs to reduce the likelihood that this population will re-offend.
Nuts & Bolts: How it works
DAPO monitors approximately 9,000 offenders on Electronic Monitoring Devices (EMD). These include offenders who are required to register as sex offenders per PC 290, High Risk Gang Offenders, offenders participating in the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP) and Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP), Alternative Custody Program (ACP), Medically Vulnerable Release Program, and Electronic In-home Detention Program (EID).
The EMD devices have the capability to work with Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency (RF) technology. In both areas, the EMD is a receiver looking for a signal, whether it be for GPS or RF signal, depending on how the EMD is programmed.
The RF technology is used for the EID program and ACP which requires the EMD to be tethered to a beacon. The beacon is placed inside a residence, by the supervising agent.
When the EMD tethers to the beacon, the EMD uses cellular technology and sends a notification that the EMD is in range of the beacon to the software. The beacon should not move or be powered off. If either of these happen, when the EMD gets in range of the beacon, the EMD will notify the supervising agent, via cellular technology the beacon has been moved and/or has power loss.
The EMD will provide all event notifications, via cellular technology, to the software for agent notification such as; charging, low battery, critical battery, dead battery, shielding, jamming, inclusion/exclusion zone events, message gaps, strap tampers, no motion alerts, curfew violations and the like.
The GPS technology is used in all other programs except the EID/ACP programs. The EMD is continuously looking to receive GPS signals from satellites. Once the EMD receives the GPS signal, using cellular technology, the EMD will call in the data obtained from the GPS satellites to the software to be plotted on the map for review.
The EMD will call in all information to the monitoring center to include, location, charging, low battery, critical battery, dead battery, shielding, jamming, inclusion/exclusion zone events, message gaps, strap tampers, no motion alerts, and similar issues.
Story Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photos by Clarissa Resultan, TV Specialist
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Learn more about CDCR’s parole agents.