Chaffee County Probation Department / Image courtesy www.courts.state.co.us

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

25-year-old Kyle has lived in Salida, Colorado most of life. He has also been involved with the court system for almost half of his life. His first brush with the law occurred at age 14 for just being a kid. Riding a dirt bike was the gateway to his path of being a criminal.

Even though Kyle completes all of his community service and pays his fines, he can remember being on probation until he was 21 for one thing or another — dirty UAs, possession of ethanol alcohol or any other minor infraction would keep Kyle tied into the system for over a decade.

Kyle has been a probationer under just about every probation officer employed at Chaffee County Probation Department and knows all of the P.O.s on a first name basis. Over the years Kyle has lost respect for some of his former P.O.s because he suspects inappropriate conduct, which adds to his distrust for the justice system.

Kyle believes probation is a waste of time. Being on continuous probation has not discouraged Kyle from staying out of jail. He thinks parole is actually easier than probation because probation conducts routine UAs twice a week, random UAs every two-weeks, and requires P.O. visits every two-weeks. Parole only does two random UAs a month and bi-monthly visits with the P.O.

Kyle’s string of offenses has cost him many visits to the local county jail. He claims Chaffee County jail is easy. It is a two-year minimum sentence detention facility. He did a couple of stints at the facility.

Kyle has been incarcerated for possession of a controlled substance and has earned extended stays for contraband. He was sentenced to one year in jail for driving more than three times with a revoked driver’s license. Kyle’s most recent stint in the slammer was for aggravated-driving while under-the-influence. His weakness is alcohol and driving while intoxicated.  

Kyle’s visits at Chaffee County Detention facility did not bother him, in fact Kyle has been there several times and he didn’t mind going back. He describes his time incarcerated as, “like a vacation.” Kyle spent most of his time in jail visiting with friends and watching T.V. Kyle admits to worrying about how his bills will be paid while he is in jail, but he is grateful to have a girlfriend that maintains their home and a supportive family that sends him money to buy items at the jail commissary.

Kyle admits being behind bars is not always a “bed of roses.” There are only 2-3 case managers for 1000 people. To see a nurse takes three pages of paperwork. It took Kyle three weeks to see a dentist when he had a toothache.  

Even though most of Kyle’s incarceration experience is somewhat of a club-med holiday, court is not as much of a picnic. Kyle feels like he is caged and looked down on in court. He senses a hierarchy atmosphere with the Judge peering over and officials seated higher than offenders, but a little discomfort in the courtroom was not enough to make Kyle stay away from jail. Until …. his last visit.

Kyle’s recent and hopefully last incarceration was spent in Colorado Springs, Colorado at Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center. The Therapeutic Community (TC) reentry program run by the Colorado Department of Corrections is an intensive melting pot that rooms 20-25 people.

Finally, Kyle was housed in a facility that concentrates on lowering the recidivism rate instead of a jail where he can take a break, put his feet up and watch T.V. to pass the time. 

Drug classes, routine and random UAs, and P.O. visits did not prevent Kyle from reoffending. The alcohol classes just made him want to drink more after talking to his peers about drinking.  

All it took to inspire Kyle to stay out of jail was a few 50ish inmates with long beards doing life sentences coming into CMRC and talking to him about what it is like to spend your entire life in prison. The old-timers talked about how they haven’t seen their kids in 20 years. Kyle was also impacted by seeing children in Salida growing-up motherless because of alcohol related car accidents.      

Kyle says all it takes to stay out of jail is a semi-intelligent young person willing to learn. It’s a person’s choice, if they are going to break the law. 

Currently, Kyle has a bright future ahead of him. He recently signed up for college. His interests are business management, psychology, and advertising. Kyle has four jobs as varied as his academic interests. He is a cook at a popular local restaurant, Currents, cashiers at The Junk Drawer antique store, works construction, and sells fire wood.

Kyle says working four jobs helps with parole and keeps him from going stir crazy sitting at home.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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