After one library patron complained, the Payson Public Library will no longer host parole meetings.
Donald Evans said when he found out the State of Arizona Department of Corrections Parole Department was meeting at the library twice a month with parolees, he contacted the town and demanded they meet somewhere else.
“The potential problems, dangers, and liability of allowing this to occur should be apparent,” he said.
“Using and allowing our public library for such official parole duties demonstrates a severe lack of good judgment.”
The Payson Police Department says parolee meetings would be held in their meeting room from now on.
When contacted by the town about the issue, Library Director Terry Morris defended the use of the library for parolee meetings in an e-mail.
“The parole officer called inquiring about a meeting space. He indicated that he had been unable to secure a meeting place and wondered if we could help. Since the library is a facility that is open to all, provided one behaves themselves, it was decided to help the parole officer out,” Morris said in an e-mail.
Morris said she set up guidelines for library use by the parolees, including limiting access to the computer area and banning urinary sample collection.
A mouth swab done in the study room by the parole officer was allowed.
Morris added the “whole process is very unobtrusive” with a parole officer visiting the library the second and fourth Thursday of the month for two to three hours.
“In the very beginning, I told the parole officer that we would provide the study room on a trial basis. If any problems arose, they would have to find another place to meet,” she said.
“Many of the parolees have been issued library cards and use the library frequently. Not one time has the library staff had to issue warnings for bad language or indiscretions of any kind.”
Evans said he read on the Payson Roundup’s blog that a woman had overheard a parolee arguing with a library staff member over coffee one day. The event left the woman upset.
When he read this, he went to the library to speak with Morris, but she was out of town. Evans said he left a message for her but never heard back. When he did not get a reply, he went to the town.
Evans said he has no problem with parolees using the library on their own time, but does not believe town resources should be used by a state agency for these types of activities.
“If they want to use the facility, I might not like it but there is not a doggone thing I can do, but it was being used as an official business office for the state parole agency,” he said. Evans worked for the Gila County Superior Court as an intensive probation surveillance officer before retiring. He also worked for the Los Angles Police Department as an officer for 25 years.
Early last week, the Payson Police Department agreed to host parolee meetings.
“We see this as a benefit for both the Payson Police Department and the Arizona State Department of Corrections,” the PPD said in a press release.
For more information or with concerns, contact PPD Chief Don Engler at (928) 474-5242 ext. 209.