Jerry Williams beamed when he spotted the "Help Wanted" sign at a Northeast Washington construction site. He had been without a job since his parole from Lorton three months ago, and he was eager for work.

But as he filled out the job application, he became nervous. And when he reached the bottom line, he froze. "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

He wanted the job so bad he thought about lying. But that would do no good, because his parole officer would have to check up on him. So he wrote, "yes," then sighed. "The kiss of death."

He had applied for jobs as a cook, auto mechanic, youth counselor and construction worker, and he had heard from no one. The job hunt had become as humiliating as being fired from his first job as custodian after missing two days because of a toothache.

"I felt like he deserved a chance," said Ken Billings, director of housekeeping for Environmental Management Services, who hired Williams after his release from Lorton. "But he has to realize that when people offer him a job they are doing him a favor and he has to stick with it."

Now Williams realized what Billings meant, but it seemed he had learned too late. His girlfriend was threatening to leave him, again. Sometimes he lived at his sister's apartment, a household in which adults were expected to pull their weight. He could not sleep at night knowing that he had nothing to contribute.

"He stays on the go -- walking here, there, everywhere," said his sister, Christine Williams. "He'll pack up a pillow and sheet in a tote bag and just walk until he can't walk any more."

"I feel like I have paid my debt to society," said Williams, who is 30. "I say to myself, 'You could have been killed in that shower, or stabbed in that cell.' But I made it. And I never want to go back. But I get the feeling that nobody wants me out here, either."

Before his incarceration, Williams had developed a serious drinking and drug problem. He was hyperactive, but it wasn't diagnosed until he went to prison. There, he became a Muslim and kicked his alcohol problem, but he became hooked on valium.

Despite that problem, he was considered an exemplary inmate, completed most of his trade school classes and rose to the status of prison iman, in charge of teaching 12 Muslim students the proper way to eat, exercise and pray. He set his sights on becoming a youth counselor for the Police Boys and Girls Club when he was released, but when he applied for that job he was told, "no way."

For Williams, the pressures continue to mount. Last week, he was given his second urine test to detect drug or alcohol use, which would be a violation of parole terms. His first test revealed tiny traces of what could have been opiates, and the second test showed traces of what could have been barbiturates.

In the first case, Williams was able to prove that he was on medication for a toothache. By March 4, he must prove, as he has claimed, that the barbiturates were prescribed by doctors at D.C. General who found an ulcer in his stomach -- or a warrant will be filed for his arrest.

"He's worrying so much; he's more troubled than I have ever seen him," said his sister. "He had gotten himself into such great shape, and he took pride in being fit. He thought as long as he had his health he could make it. But now he thinks about death a lot, how his brother, Alphonso, had died in Lorton. It's depressing."

Maurice Hall, Williams' parole officer, said, "We're trying to shore him up and keep him out there, but he's walking on the edge. We had to call him in for a case conference and find out what's going on out there. I'd say things are pretty shaky." COURTLAND MILLOY A Man on the Edge

Jerry Williams beamed when he spotted the "Help Wanted" sign at a Northeast Washington construction site. He had been without a job since his parole from Lorton three months ago, and he was eager for work.

But as he filled out the job application, he became nervous. And when he reached the bottom line, he froze. "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

He wanted the job so bad he thought about lying. But that would do no good, because his parole officer would have to check up on him. So he wrote, "yes," then sighed. "The kiss of death."

He had applied for jobs as a cook, auto mechanic, youth counselor and construction worker, and he had heard from no one. The job hunt had become as humiliating as being fired from his first job as custodian after missing two days because of a toothache.

"I felt like he deserved a chance," said Ken Billings, director of housekeeping for Environmental Management Services, who hired Williams after his release from Lorton. "But he has to realize that when people offer him a job they are doing him a favor and he has to stick with it."

Now Williams realized what Billings meant, but it seemed he had learned too late. His girlfriend was threatening to leave him, again. Sometimes he lived at his sister's apartment, a household in which adults were expected to pull their weight. He could not sleep at night knowing that he had nothing to contribute.

"He stays on the go -- walking here, there, everywhere," said his sister, Christine Williams. "He'll pack up a pillow and sheet in a tote bag and just walk until he can't walk any more."

"I feel like I have paid my debt to society," said Williams, who is 30. "I say to myself, 'You could have been killed in that shower, or stabbed in that cell.' But I made it. And I never want to go back. But I get the feeling that nobody wants me out here, either."

Before his incarceration, Williams had developed a serious drinking and drug problem. He was hyperactive, but it wasn't diagnosed until he went to prison. There, he became a Muslim and kicked his alcohol problem, but he became hooked on valium.

Despite that problem, he was considered an exemplary inmate, completed most of his trade school classes and rose to the status of prison iman, in charge of teaching 12 Muslim students the proper way to eat, exercise and pray. He set his sights on becoming a youth counselor for the Police Boys and Girls Club when he was released, but when he applied for that job he was told, "no way."

For Williams, the pressures continue to mount. Last week, he was given his second urine test to detect drug or alcohol use, which would be a violation of parole terms. His first test revealed tiny traces of what could have been opiates, and the second test showed traces of what could have been barbiturates.

In the first case, Williams was able to prove that he was on medication for a toothache. By March 4, he must prove, as he has claimed, that the barbiturates were prescribed by doctors at D.C. General who found an ulcer in his stomach -- or a warrant will be filed for his arrest.

"He's worrying so much; he's more troubled than I have ever seen him," said his sister. "He had gotten himself into such great shape, and he took pride in being fit. He thought as long as he had his health he could make it. But now he thinks about death a lot, how his brother, Alphonso, had died in Lorton. It's depressing."

Maurice Hall, Williams' parole officer, said, "We're trying to shore him up and keep him out there, but he's walking on the edge. We had to call him in for a case conference and find out what's going on out there. I'd say things are pretty shaky."