Probation

Probation isn’t as awful as I thought it would be. The federal probation officers I’ve met have been surprisingly courteous and, dare I say, compassionate. Their goal isn’t to punish you (that’s what the courts are for) but rather make your life as tolerable as possible while making sure you adhere to the conditions of your release.

Since beginning my probation in early November, the curfew and electronic monitoring have been the most difficult to live with.

Curfew is based on the supervising officer’s discretion. Before I lost my job, I was allowed out from 7 AM to 9 PM. Now that I’m unemployed, I must stay home during the afternoon and am only allowed out from 7 to 11 AM and 5 to 9 PM. I’m still allowed out from 7 AM to 9 PM on weekends.

Initially, I didn’t think the curfew would be too much of a hassle because I’m somewhat of a homebody and rarely stay out past 10 or 11 at night—or so I thought. With the curfew in place, I’ve come to realize now how restricting it can be. Visiting family during the week is impossible and dinners are always rushed; chores such as laundry and grocery shopping must be planned in advance; and even simple things like taking out the trash are a nuisance.

What’s worst is the ankle bracelet, not just because it’s bulky and uncomfortable. It’s become my scarlet letter, a symbol of failure and shame. I get paranoid when my boyfriend’s leg brushes against it in bed. Despite his support and forgiveness, surely he must feel some loss of respect or blame.

The other conditions of my release include mandatory psychiatric treatment; computer and internet monitoring; the prohibition of pornography, smartphones, gaming consoles, and social networking websites; and no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18.

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