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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Adult Probation and Parole agent Chris Moore, left, and Assistant Regional Administrator Nathan Griffiths talk with probationer Brandi Corso, 23, during an unscheduled visit at her home Thursday July 31, 2014.
Parole officers’ new focus: more hand holding, less handcuffing

Probation officers shift their focus to help troubled women build their self-esteem and stay out of jail.

First Published Aug 03 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Aug 04 2014 09:25 am

Riverton » She told them to drop in anytime, so Adult Probation & Parole agents Nathan Griffiths and Chris Moore arrived unannounced in an unmarked car that they parked down the road.

The garage door was open. Two young boys played in the grass. As the officers approached, 5-year-old Kayden eyed the black guns on their belts, tucked neatly under their bulletproof vests.

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"Want to see mine?" he asked. "It shoots rubber bands."

Inside the house, Brandi Corso was drying her eyes.

Corso, 23, is a recovering drug addict and a convicted shoplifter. She’s been to jail, and she doesn’t want to go back. Her home life is strained, the demands of her probation stressful.

And, on Thursday, Corso’s grandmother died.

But she had told them to drop by anytime, so she smiled big as she invited in the officers.

Moore is Corso’s probation officer. Every week, he conducts random checks on the female offenders whose cases he’s been assigned. It’s part of the deal: random home visits, searches, drug tests. He’d never before found Corso at home.

"Glad we caught you," Moore said. "How’ve you been?"

Corso’s voice cracked before she could form the words: "My grandma died this morning."


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Moments later, she was standing in the kitchen crying as Moore listened thoughtfully, his head tilted slightly to one side. He asked when the last time was that Corso saw her grandmother. Had they had a chance to say goodbye?

In that moment, it didn’t matter that Moore was carrying a weapon or wearing a vest, that his badge gave him license to search Corso’s home or toss her back in jail for doing something wrong. He was employing what AP&P officials have found is one of the most effective strategies in dealing with female offenders:

Listening.

In the past year, AP&P has begun to use new methods in dealing with probationers and parolees — several of which are gender-specific. And Director Geri Miller-Fox said they’re seeing results.

"I want a safe community, but what we’ve been doing doesn’t seem to really accomplish that objective," Miller-Fox said. "Citizens need to ask more of its correctional system. They should look to us to make sure that when we release offenders, they are coming back a safer, better-contributing member of society."

A revolving door » Of all the people who end up in Utah’s prisons, the majority of them haven’t committed a new crime — they land there because they violated the terms of their probation or parole.

According to a study by Pew Charitable Trusts, offenders who failed to abide by the conditions set by a judge or the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole accounted for two-thirds of new prison admissions last year.

These re-entries contribute to an overall growth in Utah’s prison population — even amid a national decline.

Between 2009 and 2012, the nation saw a 4 percent drop in incarcerations, according to the Pew study. Utah had 6 percent growth.

Meanwhile, the number of Utah parolees and probationers who were successfully discharged fell significantly over the past 10 years. Nearly half will return to prison within three years of their release.

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