Facebook Twitter



Steven Saunders was supposed to be in his apartment in the Windsor Hotel. But he wasn't. He was supposed to have been there five days before. But he wasn't.

Steven Saunders was a parolee. Now he's a fugitive."They run away a lot," said Jim LaBounty, a parole agent who's been tracking Saunders. "Some of them won't put up with the parole. They can't stand to have someone else tell them what to do. That's why they were in prison in the first place."

LaBounty is one of nine officers assigned to Intensive Supervision Parole - a successful program to supervise the worst and most violent criminals released on parole. It is a program, started in 1984, geared for high-risk offenders that is heavy on supervision and light on paperwork.

Where a normal felony parole officer may supervise 50 to 70 parolees at a time, ISP officers supervise no more than 15 each.

"The regular parole people are buried under an avalanche of paperwork," said ISP Supervisor Dick Sullivan. "They'd love to get out in the field like we do, but they have so many cases to deal with they can't. The whole idea of ISP is to be out and about on the town, not pushing paperwork."

Sullivan says no other law enforcement agency in Utah has nine people "living with the crooks and dealing with them on this kind of level," and that kind of hands-on field experience results in invaluable intelligence information. They get to know the inmates' girlfriends and families, as well as the crooks themselves.

They then use those sources to track criminal behavior and assist police departments with unsolved crimes. For example, ISP Agent Scott Carver used an intelligence source that identified the photograph of a former parolee wanted in the slaying of a West Valley woman in a Kearns video store.

It's a never-ending process for officers like LaBounty. They see the same faces in ISP time and again. Two-thirds of the 150 parolees on ISP will violate their parole and will be returned to prison.

Eddie Houser has been on ISP three times. Three times he has been sent back to prison, the last time in late April.

Houser hadn't checked in with his parole officer for weeks, nor had he been home when officers had dropped by. He's been missing for three weeks - a telltale sign a parolee is up to his old ways.

"It's been awhile. Maybe he thinks we've stopped coming by and has gone back home," said Sharon Daurelle, an ISP agent who's been looking for Houser.

On this particular night, the hunch paid off. Houser was home watching television with relatives. Minutes later, Houser was handcuffed and on his way to the Salt Lake County Jail.

"I've been to your house three or four times and you haven't been there, Eddie," she said.

"I checked in by phone," Houser said. "Besides, Thursday night you came by early. I didn't have to be home."

"You didn't report, Eddie. You didn't let me know if you got a job. You haven't checked in in three weeks. You've only showed up to Community Service once. You know the rules."

"I called in," he said. "I've been to Community Service. I've been around."

"You on drugs, Eddie? Am I going to find something in your pockets that shouldn't be there?"

"I'm clean."

Eddie's pleas fall on deaf ears. He now sits in a prison cell awaiting a parole revocation hearing. Houser calls the ISP program "ridiculous" but better than prison.

"I'm not dangerous," he said. "I was in for theft by receiving. Tell me how that makes me a violent criminal? I don't believe I should be on ISP at all."

Daurelle smiles, unbelievingly. Houser's "rap sheet" also lists arrests for rape and robbery.

"Convictions don't tell the whole story," she said. "Eddie is a dangerous man, especially when he's on drugs. He likes dope too much and it gets him every time. He knows what the rules are."

Houser doesn't like ISP. Nor do most of the other parolees that participate in the program. Most of them have been in the program before and have had their paroles revoked.

"It's kind of petty," said two-time parolee Steven Velasquez. "They send you back (to prison) if you're 15 minutes late getting home. It's crazy. I'm willing to give it a try, but I don't think it will help keep me out."

Parolee Carl Lacy doesn't like it, but he has no gripes with ISP officers.

"Everybody sent back (to prison) has some hard words about them," he said, "but they've done me no wrong. I don't like parole at all, but maybe it will help keep me out this time."

Some parolees like the program. Some even request it.

"This is my second time on ISP, my fourth time on parole," said LuDean McCandless. "I requested it. I do well with a lot of structure in my life. I do good in prison. I do good in halfway houses. I don't do good when they just turn me loose."

For many, ISP is a last hope.

"Parole is what you make it," said convicted robber Michael Collins, 29. "I'm a four-time loser. I've spent 14 years in prison. I have to make it this time. I lose this time and I'm gone forever."