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The Criminal Justice System from the viewpoints of a U.S. Probation Officer and a prisoner
Joseph A. Marro's memoir of some of his cases combined with the observations of Al Sailer who spent 26 years in federal and state penitentiaries offers insight as to why rehabilitation programs do not work.
Joseph A Marro opens with recalling his 23 years of dealing with the criminal elements of society as a United States Probation/Parole Officer. "Each day was different from the last as I worked with a wide range of personalities, among them probationers, parolees, prisoners, lawyers and even judges. My experiences are unforgettable and I feel it may benefit others if I write about my interactions with those individuals who broke the law and whose cases were assigned to me."
Marro describes his most memorable case, that of Alfred Sailer, whose mother, a former newspaper editor, had a very strong, domineering personality. Al's problems began while he was in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II. After going AWOL he found it easy to exist by passing worthless checks. He was on probation when he broke into another auto and stole a check book which he used to his advantage. Prison became his home for more than half his life.
"When you spend a lot of time in prison, it's almost easier to go on living there than to come out," he said. It becomes kind of a haven, a way of life and lonely and meager as it is, you don't have to worry about the necessities of life - a place to sleep and food to eat."
While confined he took part in studies of dentistry. Although he was trained to make dentures and partial plates and bridges, he told Marro that he was called upon more frequently to re-set broken jaws. With time on his hands, Sailer also discovered his artistic talent. One of the first of his "grey period" works entitled "The Weight of Time", shows a severed hand holding a pocket watch with the suspended hand held fast by a huge block and tackle. The drawing is reproduced on the cover of Marro's book.
While in prison Sailer communicated with Marro by letter. In one he wrote, punishment to me reeks of vengeance... He suggests that "we need real change where the purpose is to rehabilitate. Forget about education, forget about a skill, forget about proper work habits. Give us proper thinking habits and the rest will fall into place."
Over the course of many years Sailer compiled a manuscript about the criminal justice system and institutional programs, and general conditions that he saw as an "inside man". He titled it "A View from the Bottom" and gave it to Marro to publish.
Eventually Sailer was released from prison and it was Marro's role as his parole officer to assist him in adjustment. Based on their interaction he was confident that Sailer would be able to lead a lawful productive life without resorting to his past endeavors. Sailer secured a job in a hardware store, developed a relationship with a woman his age, received commissions for his art work. Marro was pleased to hear of his progress. But, just when things were going so well Al fell on an icy walkway and fractured his spine, and later died from complications.
Marro's book offers the reader insight from a caring parole officer and an articulate prisoner.