Probation officer part of support system as offenders try to get on with their lives
By Shavonne Potts
Bobby Haynes admits he made a huge mistake. It’s one for which he continues to pay.
In 2002, when Haynes and his wife were serving as foster parents, he bought cigarettes and alcohol for two foster children, both girls. He then tried to rape one of them, a 17-year-old, while she was asleep.
A year later, the Salisbury resident was convicted of soliciting to commit second-degree rape and sexual activity by a custodian.
Haynes, 52, is one of more than 3,000 people now supervised by Rowan County probation officers.
Kristie Purvis, a 13-year veteran officer, sees Haynes once a month at her office and once a month at his home. On a recent Wednesday, she drove to his well-kept mobile home off Beagle Club Road.
Haynes welcomed the officer inside. They exchanged pleasantries, then Purvis looked around to make sure Haynes didn’t have anything he shouldn’t. As part of his probation, Haynes cannot possess pornography or drugs.
He also must:
– Participate in therapy.
– Register two times a year as a sex offender.
– Not allow himself to be alone with any child, including his
At first, Haynes admits, he didn’t accept blame for his crime. But after two years in prison, he started therapy. A few weeks into those sessions, he was able to say out loud, “I did it.”
Many offenders don’t admit guilt until they’re in therapy, Purvis says, and that’s when treatment really starts.
“When you can take responsibility for the charges,” she says, “then it can begin.”
Haynes agrees. “For the rest of your life you have to think about the decisions you make,” he says.
Besides the prison term, Haynes’ decisions cost him: five years of post-release supervision, 10 years on the N.C. Sex Offender Registry and 16 years without direct contact with his granddaughter.
He can’t open the door when his granddaughter visits. He has to turn her away or have his wife answer the door.
“I can’t take her to the park, spend time with her. It’s been taken away. I took it away,” he says.
A burly man whose hair has turned nearly white, Haynes shakes his head thinking about the predicament he put himself in.
“I’m not supposed to be in parks, campgrounds and recreational places,” he says.
He finds probation nerve-wracking and depressing. His advice to new parolees: listen to your probation officer.
“If they’d just listen to her, they wouldn’t be back in prison,” he says.
In group therapy, Haynes gives a prison perspective to younger
offenders who haven’t been there. Those sessions have helped shed light on his own past, but looking to the future, an offender like Haynes worries most about accidentally running into the victim or the victim’s family, Purvis says.
Offenders spend a large portion of treatment sessions figuring out how to get out of bad situations.
Purvis and therapists suggest offenders not go anywhere alone. Haynes travels with his wife. She’s his support system and a witness.
Purvis also checks with Haynes’ wife, other relatives, his therapist and his minister to make sure he’s not straying.
Building a rapport with offenders is important, Purvis says. Probation officers always harbor a little fear when visiting those convicted of dangerous crimes.
Robert “Joey” Dickerson was on a destructive path. He didn’t care if he lived or died.
“I just felt like I’d crapped my life away,” he says.
At 20, Dickerson drove drunk. He was charged with driving while
impaired. Soon after that, he wrecked his father’s car while driving drunk again. He received 30 days in jail and avoided more jail time by going to an out-of-state treatment facility.
His probation officer, Lisa Bame, helped him find the program.
Dickerson spent four months in Sandhills Teen Challenge, a
Christian-based detox facility in Southern Pines, and later eight
months in a Reading, Pa., program.
If he hadn’t gotten the help he needed, Dickerson believes he would’ve driven drunk again and killed himself ó and possibly others.
When he first returned from Pennsylvania, Dickerson was on intensive probation, meeting Bame once a week. Each night, someone came by his house to make sure he was there.
Looking back, he’s glad for the supervision. “I needed someone to
hassle me,” he says.
Dickerson “cut connections,” with old friends and co-workers who
offered only bad influences. He left his job and eventually found
He found support in his parents and Bame.
“It was a morale booster,” he recalls, to hear them say, “You don’t have to be like that.”
Now, Dickerson meets once a month with Bame, either at his home or in her office. And he undergoes random drug tests.
The 24-year-old must keep a job and show his probation officer the pay stubs.
Within two months, he hopes to move to unsupervised probation.
He doesn’t see the supervision as “a hardship.” While jail didn’t help him, probation has.
“If you do what you’re supposed to, it will help,” he says.
“… It’s better than jail.”
Dickerson praises Bame. “She doesn’t just push people through the
system,” he says.
Once a month, Bryan Martin meets with probation officer Brett Hughes.
He used to do so begrudgingly.
“I used to hate him with a passion,” Martin recalls.
Martin admits that he also hated himself, and showed it in repeated failed drug tests. Probation was an inconvenience, and he wasn’t trying.
He now knows Hughes was “just doing his job.”
He’s been on probation since 2006, following convictions for two DWIs and felony larceny and 30 days in jail.
He still submits to random drug screening and must see Hughes in the office or at Martin’s home monthly.
Of the people who don’t find success through probation, Martin says, “You can’t blame anyone but yourself.”
Probation, he says, helped teach him consequences for his actions. It also keeps him in line. It’s like the probation officers are always watching.
Now, he has a renewed purpose, a job working with mentally ill children at One Love Developmental Services, a fiance and a young son.
And he credits Hughes and his future wife.
“It doesn’t feel like I have anything to hide,” he says.
Purvis began in the administrative office, then worked mainly
misdemeanor cases. Now, she’s an “intensive” level probation/parole officer dealing with high-risk offenders who have committed multiple crimes.
Besides their homes, she visits them at their jobs and agencies where they are assigned community service work.
Purvis and other officers will also sit in on group therapy or
individual treatment sessions. Without counseling, she says, most
offenders will likely return to prison.
Lisa Bame, a 19-year probation veteran, sees herself at various times as teacher, financial consultant, relationship counselor and therapist.
Bame finds many offenders, especially those who’ve been incarcerated for years, have missed a lot of things. She teaches people how to use cell phones, pay bills and perform other tasks most people take for granted.
Bame conducts anywhere from six to 10 home visits a night and 30 to 35 on a weekend. No day is the same.
Bame and Purvis say they have no quota. They strive for quality
contact, not quantity.
With so many cases, probation officers can get overwhelmed at times.
But other officers know how to step in and help with home visits and paperwork.
The two veterans have fewer cases than officers who handle low-risk offenders. So they’re more likely to step in and help other officers when needed.
Some probationers are so careful not to “mess up,” they are constantly checking in with the officer.
“Some need a little guidance,” Purvis said.
“And some just aren’t going to make it,” Bame adds.
There are success stories like Dickerson and Martin, but there are some who commit other crimes and return to jail.
“About 60 percent are a success,” Bame said.
“If they’re not willing to do it themselves” they won’t succeed, she said. “It’s gotta start with them.”
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or email@example.com.