Parole Call

La Bodega Forges Alliance With Parole Officers to Help the Hidden Victims of Addiction

La Bodega's cozy relationship with law enforcement agencies makes some people uncomfortable. Ric Curtis, an anthropology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on urban drug use, calls the relationship part of a "worrisome trend" in criminal-justice reform efforts, which extend law enforcement's reach into areas of people's lives not traditionally under its control. Still, Curtis says, he applauds Shapiro's effort. About La Bodega's approach, he says,"Especially in the Latino community, it's a useful perspective to take. It's definitely families that you're dealing with, not isolated individuals."

This summer, the first study of La Bodega's effectiveness will be completed. In the ongoing search for strategies to stop recidivism, the stakes have never been higher. An estimated 614,000 prisoners are expected to be released this year—compared with 561,020 in 1998. Studies by the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that 40 percent of prisoners coming home return to prison within three years.

Caballero hopes his son will not become part of this statistic. The parole officer who stopped by his apartment warned Caballero what will happen if his son violates the terms of his parole—if he starts using drugs again or fails to show up for his appointments with her. "You know this is the first place I'm coming to look for him," Drayton said. "And I'm not coming alone."

Soon after La Bodega opened in 1996, Ana Nazario became one of its first clients.
photo: Bryce Lankard
Soon after La Bodega opened in 1996, Ana Nazario became one of its first clients.

Before the parole officer left the apartment, she asked where her parolee would be sleeping. Then she pulled out a pen and sketched a map. If she does have to arrest Caballero's son, she will likely come at night.

This time around, Caballero will have extra help keeping his son out of the streets. The father seemed grateful. "If you're going to be working with my son, anytime you need me you should call me," he said. "I'm willing to do anything for my son."

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