Her jaw is set in stony determination; her black leather jacket reflects the evening lamplight. A 9mm Smith & Wesson is tucked discreetly out of view; her thumbs locked defiantly in the pockets of her faded blue jeans.

Sharon Daurelle looks street-punk tough, talks street-punk tough and when she has to, she can act street-punk tough. It's her job.Daurelle is an Intensive Supervision Parole agent for the Department of Corrections. She also supervises 15 of the most violent, habitual criminal offenders currently on parole.

Daurelle is one of nine ISP agents supervising the "worst of the worst" currently on parole. To do their job better, the agents have cultivated an image: merciless, relentless, tough and efficient.

"I think we got their attention," Daurelle said, a smile cracking over her tough exterior. "Yeah, sometimes we do break down their doors. But there's always a reason for it."

In the Utah State Prison, the tales of the agents' exploits and tactics have reached mythical proportions. Consequently, inmates of Utah State Prison both fear and hate ISP.

"If they think you are mean and merciless, you don't have to go around like a storm trooper," said Daurelle. "If they respect you or fear you going in, there are fewer problems down the road."

Since the inception of the program four years ago, ISP has become one of the most effective tools in law enforcement to fight crime, winning unanimous praise from lawmen around the state.

Intensive Supervision Parole means just that: intensive.

Whereas regular felony parole officers may supervise 50 to 70 parolees each, ISP officers supervise no more than 15. Whereas regular officers spend most of their time buried in paperwork, ISP officers spend most of their time in the field, on parolee surveillance and in conducting surprise visits at least once a week, usually three or four times a week.

The inmates never know when the agents are coming or when they might be watching.

"We have more hands-on with the clients," said Agent Jim LaBounty, Daurelle's partner. "We're watching them closer and sending them back (to prison) sooner."

In fact, ISP officers make no bones about it: Their job is to crack down on parolees, not rehabilitate them.

"Our main job is to protect the community," said LaBounty. "That means getting dangerous people off the streets before they have a chance to commit a violent crime."

ISP agents focus their attention exclusively on violent and habitual criminal offenders - those with histories of repeat offenses.

"When we see them begin to revert back to criminal-type profile, we get them off the streets on technical violations," said LaBounty.

Hopefully, LaBounty said, that is before they have a chance to rob a convenience store or burglarize a house.

Up to 150 inmates are involved in the ISP program. Two-thirds will be back in prison before their six-month stint on ISP is up. Most average four months on ISP before being returned to prison.

Almost all of them are sent back on technical violations: curfew violations, possession of alcohol or drugs, associating with the wrong people, missing work, failing to perform required community service, missing drug and alcohol therapy. The parole agreement is lengthy and detailed.

"Some guys don't last one day on ISP," said ISP Supervisor Dick Sullivan. "And there's one guy who's been sent back to prison 10 times."

However, a lot of inmates perform well on ISP. The rigid parole requirements and constant supervision provide a welcome transition to some inmates who can't perform in society without a structured environment.

That structured environment includes 7 p.m. curfews, mandatory employment, once-a-week reporting to a parole officer and three or four surprise home visits by officers each week. As the inmate succeeds on the program, the curfew is lifted to 9 p.m. and the surprise visits become less frequent.

"We usually won't take them back on one technical violation, though they think we will," said Daurelle. "It's more a cumulative effect: Are they missing work? Is he missing therapy? Is there evidence of alcohol or drug use?"

The inmates most likely to succeed on ISP, said Sullivan, are second-time parolees who are growing older and growing tired of prison. "The worst are the young tough guys who go around saying, `I'm tough. I deserve this,' " he said.

Veteran criminals also provide an interesting challenge. Many old-timers have become so familiar with ISP they will simply live straight-arrow lives for six months. When they complete ISP, they then resume their criminal behavior, said Sullivan.

"But that's six months of protection for society," he said. "We'll take what we can get in this job."