The last time I saw Lucinda was around July 4, 2003. Marching around with sparklers in her back yard, drinking beer and laughing, she showed no ill-effects of being a California parole officer. Lucinda, forty-one, is now a California state investigator of lifers, and an aspiring roller derby vixen. Her boss approved this interview, but, due to the sensitive nature of her job, we changed her name.
Alex: So tell me that Viking tattoo story again.
Lucinda: Back when I was a parole officer, my ex-husband went to a bar with his volleyball team and karaoked onstage with a guy who had a Viking tattoo on his forehead—the helmet, the horns; everything. He told me about it; and I got hysterical, telling him, “Oh my God, that guy’s on my caseload.” It’s a white supremacy prison gang tattoo. He was not allowed to be in a bar.
Alex: You used secondhand info to put him back in jail?
Lucinda: No, we did an alcohol test the next day. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking because he had a commitment offense.
Alex: When I visited a tattoo removal clinic one time, I saw the pain ex-cons and or ex-gang-bangers went through to get rid of really stupid tattoos. Do you feel some sympathy toward some of your clients?
Lucinda: My experience has been that all of them level out in their mid- to late forties. When someone’s a parolee, it’s not like the first time they’re in the system; they all have long rap sheets. Some people think they’re scumbags, cockroaches, dirtbags. I don’t think like that. I’ve seen so many people outgrow the behavior; they’re winding down.
Alex: How do you cope with the stress?
Lucinda: There’s a lot of gallows humor that goes along with the job. In the field as a parole officer, I remember getting impressed with crazy crimes. One guy got a violation after drinking in a garage—these teenage boys were being cocky and harassing him. He dragged one teenage boy into the garage and put his head in a vice, and the neighbors intervened.
When he got out of prison and went on parole, I met with him. I shook my finger and said, “Everybody wants to put a teenager’s head in a vice, but you’re not supposed to act on it.”
Alex: How do you view your career?
Lucinda: I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not doing the stuff I used to do as a parole officer: drug testing, knocking on doors, etc. I do investigations on lifer inmates, specifically battered women syndrome. I check out their claims that their crimes were a result of domestic violence experiences. If true, it can be used as a mitigating factor in parole hearings.
Alex: I have a friend who gives pregnant inmates health assistance. What’s your interaction with prisoners who are also mothers?
Lucinda: As an investigator of battered women syndrome, I see a lot of mothers. I can see being in prison affects women really badly. They’re lifers; their children are going to be raised by someone else. The women usually don’t press for communication. It’s a little sad; but I think when you have a lifer mom, it’s better to be situated with a new family. As part of the investigations I often have to talk to kids. They’re pretty bitter toward their moms.
Alex: How’s the roller derby team going?
Lucinda: I made it into the training program in July.
Alex: When’s the first meet? Is it called a meet?
Lucinda: It’s called a bout (laughs).
Alex: Do you have to tell them what you do for a living?
Lucinda: I don’t want to say what I do—I just said on the application that I’m an investigator. The crowd for the Sac City Rollers league is mixed. Some have purple hair, hipsters, but some are rough looking.