Idaho parolees have 62 percent success rate

Statewide, there are about 15,100 offenders under supervision

By Ruth Brown
Idaho Falls Post Register

BONNERVILLE COUNTY, Idaho — For Josh Perotto, the struggle to stay clean and be honest with an officer who could put him back in jail is the most difficult aspect of successfully completing his probation.

Perotto, 37, was placed on probation for eight years following a 2007 kidnapping conviction that also sent him to jail for a year. He said he never would have committed the crime if he hadn't been addicted to methamphetamine.

While Perotto admits his addiction led him to a life of crime, he also fears trying to live his life without drugs.

"I think the hardest thing about being on probation for me is being able to trust someone," Perotto said. "Because there is a mentality of 'you versus them' and being able to talk to somebody honestly about what's going on (is difficult)."

Perotto is one of about 1,400 offenders on probation or parole in the 7th Judicial District, which includes Bonneville County.

Statewide, there are about 15,100 offenders under supervision, said Nancy Espeseth, District 7 Probation and Parole manager.

Idaho's rate of parolees who commit new crimes is 38 percent, not including the parole violations that offenders may rack up while under supervision, Espeseth said.

First-time probationers have a lower rate, with a 6 percent chance of reoffending, she said.

Although some offenders struggle with successfully completing probation and parole requirements, "it can, and it is done," Espeseth said.

"The people that come through those doors are broken people," she said. "They have numerous problems - drug addiction, marital problems, employment problems, financial problems - and the chances of them violating probation is a reality and it's there."

But Espeseth said many offenders do succeed.

In her eight years of working as a probation and parole officer, her experience has shown women are much more likely to successfully complete their probation than are men.

Perotto said he does not drink but avoiding drugs always will be a battle for him. He has been sober since Aug. 31, 2010.

Without drugs, Perotto said, life isn't the same. He started using drugs when he was 15, meaning he's spent more years drugged than he has been sober.

"When you get off that drug, things don't feel real. Your emotions, your conversations, everything seems less real," Perotto said. "It's hard to feel that because it doesn't seem right because you've had this going on for so long."

Senior probation and parole officer Tobin Bird said Perotto has done an "outstanding" job obeying his probation requirements.

The requirements of probation and parole are basic and differ based on the level of offender supervision, Espeseth said. Those requirements include obeying all laws, getting permission to change residences and not leaving the state or an assigned district without permission. Additionally, someone on probation or parole can not possess, purchase or consume alcohol or enter a facility where alcohol is the primary source of income.

Offenders also may not possess a firearm, are subject to substance abuse testing and must cooperate with their probation officer's requests, among other things.

Any new crime committed while on parole or probation could land an offender back in jail.

Drug possession and driving under the influence are the most common violations committed, said Russ Wheatley, section supervisor for District 7 probation and parole.

The state has several treatment programs and opportunities for those in prison, Wheatley said.

"Idaho doesn't just warehouse offenders like some other states," Wheatley said. "You can lock people up and let them sit their time, but Idaho has been really good at providing offenders with the opportunity to change.

"They give them drug treatment or sex offender treatment, teach them how to write a résumé, get a GED and give them stuff that betters their position when they come out (of prison)."

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