Emily Ball (BS ’07)and Amanda Isaac (BS ’08) are responsible for a special caseload of about 30 sex offenders released from Texas state prisons, including serial rapists and child sexual predators, in Walker, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Houston, Trinity and Polk counties. As parole officers with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the two have unique tools to keep track of their charges, including intensive electronic monitoring and regular polygraph exams.
“We only have two sexual offender parole officers in a seven county area for high and low risk offenders,” said Isaac. “You would be surprised how many people out here are sex offenders.”
Students from an SHSU Criminal Justice class pose with the parole officers.Students from the Special Ball and Isaac recently returned to Sam Houston State University to discuss their caseloads with a Special Offenders class in the College of Criminal Justice. They talked about the many tools they use to keep the community safe and the impact the assignment has had on their own lives.
Many sex offenders are put on electronic monitoring, which provides GPS data on their movements on a daily basis. It also alerts parole officers if they leave their home without their monitoring devices, which include an ankle bracelet and a clip on monitor.
This is the electronic monitoring system worn by some sex offenders in the area.In addition to tracking a parolee’s movements 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the device can be set to identify areas where offenders are prohibited from going, such as child safety zones, and alert parole officers if the offender breaches those areas. The device can capture information on where an offender drives, even keeping track of the speed of his or her vehicle.
Some high-risk offenders have super intensive supervision, which provides a minute-by-minute schedule of their day. Violations of that schedule can land them back in prison.
Another condition of parole for sex offenders is regular polygraph exams, which are used to help supervise the parolee and predict the next offense. Through regular visits and by working closely with group therapists, the parole officers collect information which can be used to identify issues during the next polygraph.
With sex offenders, little is private. They are regularly questioned about their sex lives, including who they are having sex with, when they last masturbated and the materials used. Sexual partners are notified about their crimes, and parole officers become familiar with their specific perversions to looks for clues during visits. For example, a Sears catalog may be used as pornography for a child sexual offender, or a juice box found in the home may be a clue that a child was present.
Isaacs (foreground, right) and Ball (background, right) talk to students in an SHSU Special Offenders class.“You are going to have to deal with it,” said Ball, regarding the ongoing discussions about individual’s perversions. “Sex offenders have a different mentality when they think about sex… We fish every single day. We have to stay two to three steps ahead of them at any point of the day. If you don’t, that’s another victim.”
Other conditions of parole for sex offenders may include substance abuse treatment or counseling, approved living arrangements, the payment of fees for court costs, supervision and crime victims, group therapy and frequent visits. Ball and Isaac also deal with parolees with mental health or mental retardation issues, which include their own set of conditions, including participation in programs and medications.
Parole officers also enroll the help of local police in monitoring sex offenders, sending out bulletins when one is released into the community. Ball and Isaac said they deal with both men and women sex offenders, and even a handful who have been voluntarily castrated, but continue to offend.
Even though Ball and Isaac work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, monitoring sex offenders is a 24/7 job. While a command center monitors offenders in the evenings and on weekend, the two constantly have their phones on, ready for the next alert, so they can get a warrant to pick up offenders who violate conditions of parole.
“You can’t turn it off,” said Isaacs. “We are supposed to have our phones on 24/7 and I have law enforcement calling me at 2 or 3 in the morning to say one of our offenders is standing on the porch of his house and it just doesn’t feel right.“
It is also tough for friends and family to understand their work. Ball is always warning her mother to stay more alert out in public so she doesn’t become a crime victim. Isaac said often the only one she can talk to about her caseload is Ball.
“She is my only outlet,” said Ball. “We are the only two in my office that understand what we do 24/7.”