SAMPLE PAGESSERIES FORMAT
The exceptional viewer appeal of "Street Time" is based on a simple fact -- almost all of us have strong opinions about the criminal justice system, but few of us know anything about the hidden world of the parole agent or the tense and inspiring drama that confronts him on an almost daily basis.
Among the dozens of police, detective, FBI and other crime shows, courtroom and lawyer dramas, past and present, "Street Time" offers a unique look into the rarely seen and often misunderstood world of the dedicated parole agent [PA] and the ex-convicts he is charged with overseeing. Grounded in hard, reality-based stories from the streets of America's major cities, "Street Time" takes viewers on an absorbing and sometimes troubling journey as PAs struggle for balance on the delicate line between protecting the public and rehabilitating paroled felons. This is the essence of parole -- and of "Street Time" -- a fascinating subject never before dramatized on television.
Best portrayed as an action drama about PAs, [some
call them "social workers with guns"], the series centers around the character
conflicts between criminals, their victims, the parole agents themselves
and the families and friends who love them -- all set against the constantly
shifting background of a legal system that is severely stressed, frequently
abused and always on the edge of 'melt-down.'
Sharing series action are the parolees themselves
-- their own deeply personal and sometimes painful stories are a critical
component of the "Street Time" mix --honest and realistic characterizations,
coupled with edgy and down-to-earth anecdotes of life on the street. While
some parolees fail and return to prison, many succeed, breaking the mold
of their past and rebuilding shattered lives.
After the brutal murder of his long-time partner, a parole agent confronts disturbing changes in his comfortable life when he has to partner up with a female ex-felon.
Joe Shabaz' new partner, Samatha 'Sam' Petrie, has been hired under a federal program that funds the training of ex-felons to be parole agents. Haunted by the memory of his dead friend, Joe finds himself at the center of a political and emotional firestorm. His boss argues that the office needs the federal money but the staff is bitterly split on the issue of having an ex-con on staff. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Sam won't be able to carry a gun during her training period because of her status.
As he sets out to capture his friend's murderer, Joe struggles to find answers: can he continue to believe in a criminal justice system that mistakenly put the killer of his partner back on the street? Can a female ex-con handle the tough demands placed on a new parole agent? Finally, can he really protect the public while helping to rehabilitate parolees as they serve their "street time?"
Some of his questions are answered as he gradually
comes to respect and rely on his new partner who brings to the job a first-hand
experience of life on the streets that few traditional agents can match.
Slowly, the idea of an ex-felon as a parole agent, regardless of gender,
begins to make sense to Joe and even to some of his skeptical colleagues
-- for as Sam frequently reminds him: "you can't con a con!"
From the grumpy old-money estates of Pasadena and the smart media-rich Malibu beach houses to the ethnic enclaves of Boyle Heights and Watts and the working class suburbs in the south, Los Angeles is a city defined as much by a child's laugh as it is by the Rodney King videotape or the burned-out buildings of South-Central. A startling mix of traditional values and new-wave thinking, the city finds itself moving reluctantly toward an unknown future on an uncertain road pockmarked with crime, poverty and social unrest.
Tucked into the scruffy, booming Los Angeles waterfront, the busiest commercial harbor on the Pacific Rim, the parole office is housed in a once ornate 30's era ferry terminal. By day, the neighborhood hustles with office and dock workers, delivery trucks and street vendors. At night, the area is empty and dark except for Manny's, a small coffee shop which stays open all night to accommodate the erratic schedules of fishermen, longshoremen and commercial sailors from all over the world.
The parole agents work in crowded, cluttered
cubicles -- silent confirmation of an ugly state budget crisis and a hostile
public increasingly reluctant to fund the rehabilitation of criminals.
Access to the inner office is controlled by a receptionist working behind
bullet-proof glass while the reception area is a collage of mismatched
chairs, discarded tables and a bulletin board that only rarely contains
notice of an available job.
JOSEPH 'JOE' SHABAZ
Mid-40's. A senior parole agent whose life is a metaphor for the system in which he works -- governed by good intentions but fraught with conflicts and impossible situations. He knows that his personal problems, like many of the issues he faces as a PA, will not be easily resolved, and some may never be. As a divorced man with no children, he is again experiencing the life of a single man and when not working, is as likely to be found at home alone reading, as he is out on a date.
He's sensitive and sincerely interested in helping parolees make the transition from prison life to 'street time,' but he can also be tough if they violate significant parole conditions. He and his PA colleague Burt Heidenberger have an ongoing argument about this issue: Burt's a hard nose who believes in violating [returning to prison] all parolees for even the slightest rule infraction while Joe is more willing to overlook minor transgressions if he thinks it will help the parolee get on his feet.
Though he's well-liked and respected for his professionalism by most of his office colleagues, Joe's nonetheless considered a loner. No one at work really knows him well, with the exception of Marge Bennett, a friend of many years, with whom he shares his feelings.
After almost two decades as a PA, Joe, like many in his profession, faces 'burn out' -- a disabling, self-defeating loss of faith in a judicial system that once inspired and nurtured him. Now, with the death of his friend and partner and his struggle to adapt to a new partnership with Samatha 'Sam' Petrie, he experiences a slow and sometimes painful transformation and, ultimately, the rebirth of his passion for life and dedication to his job.
SAMATHA 'SAM' PETRIE
30's. She's a bit of a tom boy, who projects confidence and self-reliance, perhaps to cover the fact that she's still defensive about her ex-con status. Her skill at quickly sizing up people makes her good at the job but her frank observations sometimes offend co-workers and parolees.
A woman with a past, Sam made what was essentially a healthy attempt at self-defense by killing her abusive boyfriend in the last of many fights that dominated their crumbling, dependent relationship. Sentenced to ten years for involuntary manslaughter, she served four years until a recalcitrant Texas governor pardoned her after deciding that the "battered woman syndrome" was a genuine defense for women in fear of their lives.
After a year on the outside -- during which she held a job and completed a BA degree begun in prison -- she's been chosen for a Dept. of Justice program which funds the training of ex-convicts to be parole agents. Her partnership with Joe turns out to be a blessing for both of them. At first, he's skeptical, both of her and the training program, which he regards as another useless scheme cooked up by inept bureaucrats. But Sam's cocky independence and unquestioning belief that she really can make a difference begins to chip away at Joe's mistrust, inspiring him to renew his faith in the system and in himself.