As CDCR observes Parole Services Week, Parole Administrator Mark Cruise gives us a closer look at the life of parole agents.
Cruise started his career as a Parole Agent in Oakland.
Since then, he promoted to Parole Agent II and III, where he served in management and supervisory roles.
He has worked for two fugitive apprehension teams and managed over 400-plus new parole agents at the Parole Agent Academy.
For the last eight years, Cruise has served as a Parole Administrator for CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO).
What does a typical day as a case-carrying parole agent look like?
A typical day sometimes depends on what is due for that day. After checking voicemail messages and emails, parole agents check the Parole Violation Disposition Tracking System (PVDTS). This is the database that tracks all parolee information. Agents prioritize completing reports to ensure timelines are met.
Following reports, agents spend a majority of their day in the field checking on their assigned parolees. Parole agents meet newly released parolees at the parole office. There, we conduct an initial interview to go over expectations. In this, we notify parolees of their general and special conditions of parole.
When emergencies arise, parole agents make themselves available to address the emergency to ensure public safety. Parole agents do the job needed to safely go home at the end of their shift. We prepare to do everything all over again the next working day.
How has parole changed over the years?
There have been a few significant changes. Parole now supervises less offenders than in the past due to the passage of AB109. This law shifted the responsibility of supervising certain non-violent and non-serious offenders to local county jurisdictions. This led to a decrease in the parolee population. Parole agents can now focus on the serious and violent offenders.
Another change being many parolees are subject to a two-year, rather than three-year parole term. If a parolee remains violation free for one year, they are discharged from parole supervision. Enhanced training has served as a positive change for parole agents as well.
Parole supervision has remained the same. Over the years, the focus has shifted to put a higher emphasis on remedial sanctions in lieu of incarceration. Before arresting a parolee for violating technical parole violations, agents are trained to look at alternatives to incarceration. We refer the parolees to the right program to address violations and parolees criminogenic needs.
What advice do you wish someone gave you when you started in parole?
I wish someone had told me to buy some time towards my retirement. I should have put a portion of my paycheck into a 401(k) or 457 when I first started with parole. Although the retirement benefits for Peace Officers are great, in most cases, a pension does not live past us. A hundred percent of 401(k) and 457 dollars can be passed down to family members.
More great advice is to be present where you are. Meaning, when you are at work, focus your attention to the work you are tasked to do. When you are off and at home, focus your attention on your family and outside-of-work interests. A healthy work/life balance is vital to employee wellness.
Another bit of advice shared with me was to learn to be comfortable and acceptant of change. CDCR/DAPO is always changing. We must be able to roll with the changes so we have a long career and avoid unnecessary frustration.
Outside of Work
Away from DAPO, Cruise is an adjunct Professor for San Joaquin Delta Community College. There, he teaches an Introduction to Probation and Parole course.
Prior to starting his career as a Parole Agent, Cruise played college and professional baseball. He traveled with the Oakland Raiders for five seasons as part of their security detail. Cruise is a huge sports fan and considers himself a fantasy sports “Hall-of-Famer.”
“Over the years, my job has been challenging but extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. I am very thankful to be a California Peace Officer,” said Cruise.