New approach helps parolees

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ATLANTA --- Monthly check-ins with parole officers often means lost work time for parolees -- and sometimes lost productivity for their employers.

But a novel approach that uses modern technology and some bureaucratic flexibility is turning out to be a solution.

Under a unique accord between Augusta beef processor FPL Foods and the Augusta Parole Office, parole officers tote their laptops to the company's breakrooms on the first Thursday of each month so parolees can check in without the often two-hour trip to the parole office disrupting their work schedule and their employer's profits.

Parolees verify their employment and residences, pay their $30 supervision fees, take drug tests and discuss any brushes with the law with their parole officers, said Jerry Davignon, senior parole officer.

Three parole officers can interview about 50 parolees in less than an hour.

"We hit them at breaks and at lunch so they don't miss a bit of work," Mr. Davignon said.

That flexibility eases the burden on the company, which would see much of its 700-person workforce go missing temporarily on check-in days, and on parolees who occasionally face obstacles finding employment, Mr. Davignon said.

"What we have found is the workers are always on time, they work very diligently, and they look at it as an opportunity to take a step forward," said a company spokesman who did not want to be identified.

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