Yes, it’s a clunky title, and how. But getting Arizona to approve an Arkansas parolee for Interstate Compact transfer to the Grand Canyon State looks like it’s going to be pretty clunky, too–if it’s possible at all.
Either way, this post is designed as an open forum. If our readers have IC (Interstate Compact) insights or questions or experiences or just a need to vent, please do give us a holla in the Comments section. My wife and I have a prison pen pal in need–well, she will be in need when she eventually gets parole–and believe me, we can use all the feedback we can get.
Because it looks like we’re the people the system is designed to reject as a host family for our friend. That’s the demon word right there, see? Friend.
Doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, does it? Unfortunately, a friend is neither father nor mother, sister nor brother, sibling nor spouse nor even a mouse but merely…other. We’re not even the dreaded boyfriend or girlfriend, fiancée or bookend.
And yet we need to look at the system as closely as possible, keeping in mind that Karen and Lynne (not their real names) are as crucially important to us–and vice versa–as any blood relative. Pam (real name, my wife) is deeply disabled on a number of fronts, including early Alzheimer’s disease. No woman of mine is ever going to a nursing home, period. After nearly nineteen years of searching through more than two hundred prison pen pals, we’ve gratefully identified Karen and Lynne as the two assistants I’ll desperately need to help me take care of my redhead as her progressive diseases progress. Twenty-four hour care? Sure. Eight hour shifts for three people (Ghost, Karen, Lynne), 24/7, doable.
Fortunately, parole is not an issue for Karen. She maxes out in 2017 and will be joining us from the great state of Georgia at that time. But Lynne, incarcerated in Arkansas, is facing a different situation. In her case, eventual parole is virtually certain. At this point, she believes she can be approved for transfer to our home in Arizona, or if not that, then to a halfway house in Arizona. Pam and I believe she’s badly mistaken…but we’re more than open to being proved wrong.
In fact, we’d love to be proved wrong.
Based on the research I’ve done to date, she should be able to gain approval for the move via the federal Interstate Compact guidelines…but the willingness of Arizona (and other states) to abide fully by the spirit of the Compact is something else altogether.
With that in mind, I wrote the following letter to Lynne today, detailing the reasons I believe we have to be thinking about ways to support her (especially emotionally) in Arkansas, should she in fact end up being required to do every lick of her parole there.
We received two snail mail letters from you in two days; awesome!
The first item I need to address, covered in some detail in the letter we received today, is parole, to wit:
1. No, neither Pam nor I have ever been convicted of a felony–or even charged with one, for that matter. However, Jennifer has, and she will definitely be part of our household by the time you could (if approved) be paroled to Arizona. That’s not the only problem with parole to us, though.
2. While I’m not doubting the truth of what you say regarding others who have paroled out of state successfully, I do strongly suspect those success stories were paroling to immediate family members, which of course we are not. (By our own standards, yes we are, but not according to the State.) The Interstate Compact FAQ page remarks that the rule governing the approval or disapproval of the Compact will generally be simple enough: Is the home in the new state going to give the parolee a better chance at success than the home in the original state? If so, the transfer should be approved.
3. However, that’s the Interstate Compact federal guideline and nothing more. No individual state is required to accept a given individual…well, they’re supposed to follow the guidelines, but they don’t always…and on the Internet forums, where real people and their loved ones post their actual experiences, I’ve found a whole lot of posts like the following one by 2sleepy, which is typical:
02-18-2011, 09:03 PM
receiving state has 45 days to respond to the request. there are 2 kinds of transfers- one is ‘mandatory’ that means the offender is going to live with his/her spouse or immediate family (mom, dad, sibling). As long as the offender is in compliance with parole in the sending state, has paid restitution, and the home meets the approval of the receiving state, then they have to approve it.
The other kind of transfer is non-mandatory (discretionary) which means offender is going to live with girlfriend/boyfriend or establish their own household. Those can be, and in fact are usually denied.
4. Every state is different, but the situation described in the following forum post by Fedup referencing Oklahoma is quite possibly even worse in Arizona; being a border state with Mexican cartel mules running drugs through Arizona in huge amounts and in fact invading America, our state is double jumpy about anything whatsoever to do with drugs.
May 8, 2014
You might check with Nebraska s Interstate Compact because I know here in Oklahoma they do require a active job search be in process with at least a pre offer of employment to transfer here on IC so as was stated above it could be a Nebraska thing.. the other thing here in Oklahoma is the crime if it is drugs then they must show that they can be gainfully employed before the transfer is approved because they think they will come here and not find work fast enough and start dealing drugs to get money or some crazy stuff .
5. In Montana, this would be about 10 or 11 years ago when we thought we’d found a great person to join our household–though in the end she showed her true colors prematurely, tried to work Pam and me against each other, and after three years of getting to know each other, we cut her off cold about seven months prior to her release–I personally visited with a Montana parole officer who happened to have his office in our then home town of Anaconda, Montana. He told me flat out that the odds of our (then) friend being accepted by Montana were slim to none. In fact, he’d never seen one approved except to immediate family: Mom or Dad or son or daughter or spouse yes, fiancee no. “Other friend” didn’t even make the list.
Of course, he could have been lying, just working the angles to keep from adding one more person to his case load. There’s no way to be sure about that. But my sense was that he was telling the truth.
6. In Arizona, I have not done the face to face thing but did make a couple of telephone calls to Arizona parole people at the state level a few years ago and was told basically the same thing.
7. I have nearly as much trouble believing you can successfully parole to Arizona (either to us or to a halfway house) as you have trouble believing you can’t. Between now and the time you come up for parole, it would obviously behoove both of us to keep doing research on the subject as we can.
8. If you cannot, then we (you, Pam, me) need to consider how we can provide you with strong support in Arkansas until your parole is completed and you are free to move wherever you like. We have a little while yet to figure it out one way or the other–and we are NOT going to lose you, no matter what it takes, okay? You’re far too precious a find.
9. While you’re talking with others about this, you might want to ask three specific questions:
A. Is the Interstate Compact success story you’re hearing…was that a mandatory (family) or discretionary (non-family) transfer that was approved?
B. Did Miss Success of the Year actually manage to go directly from prison to her new state of residence or did she have to wait a while under Arkansas parole supervision before being allowed to process the Compact?
C. How close to the source is your informant? That is, is she talking about her sister or perhaps a friend of a friend of a casual acquaintance who heard it through the grapevine? In other words, how accurate is her information likely to be?
10. The following entries are quotes from a U. S. Dept. of Justice study done on the Interstate Compact in 1998. (Yes, that’s a while back, but for the most part these things change slowly if they change at all.)
1. Interstate tensions, policy differences, and serious inefficiencies seem to characterize current Compact operations.
Note that the percentage of transfer requests denied in a one year period works out to 37% for Arizona and 15% for Montana. The report does not indicate how many of those denials were for discretionary transfers.
Within a l-year period, state-level Compact offices nationally submitted more than 67,000 requests to transfer offenders to other jurisdictions. State Compact offices reported that they accepted 43,433 out-of-state cases for supervision during the same period.
Among the 28 states that track the outcomes of their requests for transfer, approximately 30 percent of transfer requests were denied….
2. Some states are too restrictive in accepting cases…Three agency administrators stated that some states are imposing formal laws or policies or creating informal barriers that deter transfers and thereby violate the guidelines and spirit of the Compact. Thirty-three (33) probation and parole field staff also noted this complaint, stating, for example, “Individual states [are] adding additional rules to the Compact or changing the definition of a resident.” A Compact administrator observed, “Receiving states need to recognize that interstate transfer is a right not a privilege.” Appendix D provides examples of laws and policies from two states that are contrary to the spirit of the Compact.
A parole agent from a midwestern state observed that some states “are very bad about denying appropriate cases requesting transfer….
Well, enough of that for now. I’ll get this in the mail to you tomorrow and respond to the rest of your letter by the day after….
Will Lynne “wake up and smell the coffee” when she reads what I’ve written? I don’t know. I do know that denial can be a powerful force. When we first began communicating with Karen nearly ten years ago, she was still a couple of years shy of the midpoint in her twenty year sentence. Understandably, she looked forward to the chance to make her case to the Parole Board. When I told her I’d checked the Georgia DOC site (Department of Corrections) and that it stated unequivocally that her sentence contained no parole option, she blew me off.
It was hard to blame her. Her own aunt had asked the staff at the facility where she was incarcerated, and sure enough, the aunt was told her niece would indeed be eligible for parole after serving ten years. Even worse, her own in-prison counselor told her the same thing. Obviously, add in her own wishes in the matter, and who ya gonna believe?
When the hard news smacked her in the face at that ten year point, it destroyed her for a while. For nearly three years, she dropped off our radar, refusing to write or call. In the end, she did take hold of herself, wrote us a letter… and the Universe had a great deal of mercy. She’d last known we were living in Colorado. Her letter was forwarded to us in Arizona one day before the forwarding ran out.
With Lynne, we can’t let that happen. If she continues to believe the impossible is possible until the last moment and is cast out into civilian society in Arkansas when she believed she’d be approved to go to Arizona, helping her get through that crushing disappointment will be a monumental task and then some. Alternatively, if Pam and I are wrong, if there is a way to get her parole transfer to Arizona approved, we definitely need to find out sooner rather than later.
Talk to us, people. We need to hear from you.