NewsPlus - Operation Spotlight

February 26, 1998
(Page 3 of 3)

The first few years out of prison after a long sentence are critical for any offender, McDonnell said. But the danger arises when the inmates come from outside the area.

Some out-of-state prisoners are forced by the criminal justice system to remain.

Others lose contact with their families and friends during long prison stays and stay in the communities in which they were imprisoned.

McDonnell said these offenders pose special challenges. In addition to lacking family support, there is no one close to them to shame them out of poor behavior, she said.

"They're just immediately a risk," she said.

Supervising sex offenders also differs from other wrongdoers, McDonnell said.

This is one of the areas in which the Spotlight program pays off, she said.

Making face-to-face visits at the homes of sex offenders allows for observations that would not have been possible under previous circumstances, she said.


"I look for things like toys, things that should not be there," she said.

One small victory

A week later, McDonnell's client from the YMCA - the burglar from Annapolis - has made it to the Massie program. The residential program lasts 30 to 35 days. While Matthews is undergoing treatment, his case will be inactive.

When he completes the program, Matthews will return to supervision. Hopefully, McDonnell says, he will have kicked his addictions.

The case represents one small victory in the struggle to keep parolees and probationers on the straight and narrow. With that case taken care for a time, McDonnell will able to devote a little more time to the rest of her clients.

Until the next one comes along.

McDonnell's Day

A glance at a sample of parole and probation agent Jackie McDonnell's caseload offers a sense of the daily challenges she faces.

As the designated agent for Maryland's Operation Spotlight, McDonnell has the luxury of dealing with only half as many cases as a typical agent does. The tradeoff is that her cases are those the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation has determined pose the highest risk of committing another crime.

The offenders, who are on parole, probation or under mandatory supervision, live among the rest of society in shelters, hotels and private residences.

Some examples from a recent trip with McDonnell:

- Larry Good, a 43-year-old drug dealer from West Virginia. Sentenced to 20 years in prison for cocaine distribution in Allegany County, Md., seven years ago, he was paroled on Jan. 22.

McDonnell said her client would like to return to West Virginia. But he must first post $1,300 bond, which would cover the cost of two law enforcement officers to go and pick him up should he violate parole.

Having spent the last seven years behind bars, he has not had many chances to earn big bucks. That $1,300 will take time to raise. Until he does, he lives in the Dagmar Hotel in Hagerstown.

McDonnell says interns in her office helped him write a letter asking officials to waive the bond. But she said his reason probably is not compelling enough to earn him such an exception.

- Steve Clem, a 49-year-old Frederick, Md., man, on parole for five counts of uttering.

On a recent visit to his room at the Dagmar, which he shares with his girlfriend, Clem answered the door in a tattered white T-shirt.

McDonnell noted improvement. The last time McDonnell was there, the room was filthy, with garbage scattered about, she said.

"We got the place cleaned up," Clem said. "We borrowed a vacuum cleaner."

- Charles Stambaugh, a 31-year-old man who was convicted of a fourth-degree sex offense for fondling a 5-year-old girl in Allegany County.

Stambaugh, his wife and their baby live in a tiny apartment in Hagerstown that they rent for $115 a week. Making rent is difficult for Stambaugh, who brings home $180 a week from a $6.25-per-hour job.

"It's just too much money," he told McDonnell on a recent visit.

McDonnell said she spends a fair amount of time talking to his wife, even though she is not a client. In addition to their baby, she has seven other children, of whom she is trying to win custody.

- Robin Harmon, a 40-year-old former Miss Maryland on probation for conspiracy to distribute drugs. The Hagerstown native was given a five-year suspended sentence and three years probation.

After moving in with her parents in Hagerstown, McDonnell said Harmon has found a job at a nursing home and completed a drug treatment program.

- Danielle Panaia, a 24-year-old woman on probation for drug distribution who is living in a halfway house.

She, too, has found a job and is doing well, McDonnell said.

- A 57-year-old Hagerstown man who was convicted of a third-degree sex offense for acts against his 11-year-old stepdaughter.

The man, who asked not to be identified, served six years of his 10-year sentence with credit for good behavior and is under mandatory supervision until February 2001.

He is living in the Alexander House and assured McDonnell that his life is in order.

"I'm getting it together," he said.

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