August 06, 1990 12:00 PM

HBO (Tues., Aug. 6, 10 P.M. ET)


The pay cable channel scored last year with documentaries on AIDS (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) and abuse of women (Battered). Now they tackle the subject of the American parole system and come up with another winner.

This disturbing documentary says there are 400,000 parolees living among us (the number is expected to double in five years). The program focuses on the 50-person caseload of parole officer Alex Estrada of Long Beach, Calif., who handles former felons.

There are some success stories but, overall, the situation is abysmal. Over a year, a shocking proportion of his 50 charges end up back behind bars. We won’t ruin the program’s drama by revealing the number-just say this could change even the most ardent liberal’s feelings about parole.

Whatever your political bent, you can’t help but sympathize with some of the parolees. Credit top-notch camera work and great storytelling for that. We don’t find out how Estrada’s grueling and thankless job affects his personal life. But that is a minor quibble with a major work.

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