Parole officer watches over sex offenders for sake of public, three daughters
Lisa Canizalez is a working soccer mom who is very proud of her children; but you won’t find their pictures on her desk or walls. The usual business stuff is there, but nowhere in sight are the three young girls she cherishes.
|Region IV District Parole Officer Lisa Canizalez says supervising sex offenders has made her a better mother.
Photo by David Nunnelee
That’s by design. Lisa Canizalez supervises paroled sex offenders for a living and believes in taking precautions.
“I would never put pictures up because I don’t want them to know what my kids look like,” said Canizalez, a TDCJ district parole officer who, for the past five years, has supervised convicted sex offenders released to San Antonio and the surrounding area. “I want my daughters to be safe, and I know what type of crimes these men have committed.”
At least once a month, more than 30 sex offenders, all men, report to Canizalez’s office at the Parole Division’s Region IV headquarters building as a condition of their release from prison. Beyond that, she pays unannounced visits to their homes and workplaces to ensure that they are complying with the terms of their release. And like her six colleagues in the sex offender unit at the San Antonio I District Office near the Alamodome, she also often attends the therapy and counseling sessions that are mandatory for her clients so as to further monitor their rehabilitation.
Supervising sex offenders may be part of Canizalez’s world now, but it is not what she envisioned while working toward her degree in sociology at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She started out in the Bexar County District Clerk’s Office before becoming a parole officer in December 1998. For almost three years, Canizalez supervised a regular caseload, one made up of men and women convicted of offenses other than sex crimes. But in October 2001, she found herself assigned to work a “specialized” caseload, one made up exclusively of sex offenders, many of whom were men convicted of sexually assaulting small children like her own. She was frightened by the very thought of it.
“I almost quit,” she said. “My kids were very small at the time and I couldn’t handle it. I really didn’t want to accept it, being around people that did things like that to children. I didn’t want to be placed in that situation, supervising sex offenders.”
Region IV Parole Director Mike Lozito, who moved to his supervisory position after Canizalez’s reassignment, said gender doesn’t necessarily enter into caseload assignment decisions.
“When we assign officers to supervise sex offenders, we basically look at experience,” he said. “We really look for the officer that follows policy, shows good common sense, and has good supervision skills. She’s a good officer.”
Still, Canizalez took three days off to mull things over before deciding on her future.
“My co-workers supported me,” she said about her reason for returning. “They helped me out and gave me enough time, enough room, to accept it and to learn how to deal with it. Honestly, I look at sex offenders differently because I am a mother. But I deal with them with respect.”
Actually, Canizalez says learning first-hand how sex offenders lure their victims has made her a more conscientious parent.
“Being here, I’ve learned to be a better mother,” she said. “It shows me what to look for. My kids are very aware of what I do. They understand. They know it’s not just the stranger danger they teach in school. They know it can be family members. I have to talk to them about it because it scares me. I never would have told them that if I hadn’t worked here.”
Canizalez, who coaches a youth soccer team in addition to hauling her daughters to practices and games, is just one of a handful of female parole officers who work almost exclusively with male sex offenders. Only one other woman in her unit does the same.
Despite the initial reaction to her reassignment of five years ago, Canizalez has settled into her job. Now she questions whether she could return to a regular caseload.
“I’ve mentioned that I’d like to, but I don’t think I could,” she said. “I think right now that I’ve learned to deal with it. I’ve learned to manage and to understand that what I’m doing is really a great thing. It’s really a great thing because I’m making sure that everybody is aware of what can happen, and that I’m watching these guys. And they know I’m watching.”
back to top