Recovery Month and Parole and Probation

By Kim M. Barry

National Recovery Month Observance is part of a national initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) observance of National Recovery Month emphasizes our belief in the value of partnerships with community organizations, local, and federal criminal justice agencies, city government, the faith community and individual citizens in promoting both successful reintegration and public safety.

CSOSA is a federal, executive branch agency providing parole and probation services to Washington, D.C. We supervise 16,000 people on supervision daily and 24,000 yearly. Ninety percent have histories of substance abuse. CSOSA is a research based, best practices agency.

This article examines the integration of SAMHSA best practices into the work of CSOSA.

Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.

In recognition of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month 2012, President Obama issued this Presidential Proclamation: “Every day, millions of Americans with substance use disorders commit to managing their health by maintaining their recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.  People in recovery are not strangers:  they are our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we recognize their strength and resilience.”

Research on Substance Abuse and Recovery:

According to research findings by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at least four major types of drug abuse treatment can be extremely effective in reducing drug use. These include supportive group therapy, urine monitoring during treatment, relapse prevention, and post-treatment involvement in self-help groups. In addition drug abuse treatment produces decreases in illegal acts and increases in full-time employment.

CSOSA’s Mission:

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s mission is “To increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and support the fair administration of justice in close collaboration with the community.” CSOSA contracts with experienced providers to offer outpatient treatment, long-term residential treatment, short-term inpatient treatment and a Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP). The Secure Residential Treatment Program provides an alternative to incarceration for offenders facing revocation of parole or supervised release as a result of illegal drug use, criminal arrest or other violations of their release conditions.

In addition, CSOSA‘s Reentry and Sanctions Center provides offenders with a 28-day assessment and treatment preparation program prior to placement in residential or outpatient programming. Also, CSOSA has Faith Community Partnerships designed to provide mentors for returning offenders and to establish a network of faith-based institutions that may have housing, employment, substance abuse, or other resources that can benefit returning offenders. In addition, CSOSA provides supportive services such as drug aftercare, relapse prevention groups, and educational seminars for family members.

Recent Developments:

CSOSA’s Director Nancy Ware stated in her Strategic Plan that over the next five years CSOSA will strive to enhance public safety by lowering the re-arrest rate among supervised offenders and increasing the numbers of offenders who successfully complete supervision. CSOSA will achieve this goal through continued use of assessment-driven case planning, evidence-based interventions, consistent use of sanctions and incentives, and effective partnerships with the community, law enforcement and other stakeholders. Integrating the efforts of regional law enforcement will also be critical to success. Ware stated that, “Through its supervision activities, CSOSA’s seeks to continually enhance the agency’s impact on a safe Nation’s Capital.”

Overview of the Treatment Management Team:

The goal of CSOSA’s Treatment Management Team (TMT) is to enhance public safety by providing supportive services to community supervision staff. TMT is responsible for making timely referrals to drug treatment based on clinical evaluations, matching offenders with appropriate interventions, timely processing of placements and monitoring of offenders in treatment.

In 2010, CSOSA contracted an average of 3,000 treatment placements into 1 of 4 treatment modalities, namely detox, outpatient, short-term or long-term residential treatment.

The Agency’s fiscal appropriation allows for CSOSA to meet 25% of the population’s addiction treatment need. CSOSA focuses its resources on high-risk offenders and strives to make clinically appropriate treatment placements. Lower-risk offenders are referred to the District of Columbia Department of Health, Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA), the agency primarily responsible for addressing substance abuse treatment needs of eligible District of Columbia Residents.

Conclusion:

CSOSA’s Director Nancy Ware states that “The long-term outcomes toward which CSOSA directs its efforts are the successful completion of supervision and the reduction in recidivism among supervised individuals, particularly those persons assessed as high risk”.

CSOSA embraces Recovery Month which spreads the message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

CSOSA’s vision is to create a model of community supervision that is recognized for positively impacting public safety by ensuring that offenders are referred and approved for treatment and supportive programs consistent with SAMHSA protocols.

Work Cited:

  1. NIH Press Release- New Research Documents Success of Drug Abuse Treatments-12/15
  2. A Guide To Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within The Court Services article/28820
  3. CSOSA Fact Sheet-CSOSA Office of Legislative Intergovernmental and Public Affairs
  4. CSOSA 2011-2016 Strategic Plan
  5. Presidential Proclamation—National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month 2012 issued by www.whitehouse.gov/the press-office/2012/08/31

 

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A Guide to Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within CSOSA

A Guide to Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within the

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA)

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

 Updated, Summer, 2011

Please see our website at http://www.csosa.gov and our social media site at http://media.csosa.gov.

All of us at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) receive telephone calls and e-mails from family and friends asking for information on programs to assist their loved ones currently under parole, probation, or supervised release.

 Family involvement, support and encouragement are crucial to successful outcomes of people on community supervision. We appreciate your interest.

In an effort to assist those who are trying to help, we offer the following overview of services. CSOSA’s Community Supervision Officers (CSOs—the professional supervising or assisting the offender—known elsewhere as parole and probation officers or agents) are your first contacts for information.

CSOSA is a federal, independent agency supervising and offering services to people convicted of D.C. code violations or who have been accepted for supervision through the Interstate Compact Agreement. We do not provide assistance to individuals not convicted of D.C. code violations or accepted through the Interstate Compact Agreement; we do not assist individuals living in adjacent states.

The CSOSA Website

 Many of the resources listed on the CSOSA website (see below) are available to anyone. Please note that there are a wide array of government and private organizations providing services beyond those offered by CSOSA.

 Please see www.csosa.gov. The top of the main page offers a button marked “Offender Reentry.” The section marked “Reentry Resources” provides a comprehensive overview of assistance available throughout the city.

Examples include:

  • A directory of helpful resources created by the Public Defenders Service
  • An emergency food and shelter directory offered by the Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington
  • “Starting Out-Starting Over-Staying Out” by D.C. Cure
  • CSOSA’s Faith-Based Initiative

There are many additional services and opportunities to explore on the website, as well as a series of television and radio programs featuring the experiences of people on supervision with CSOSA.  See link on the website (main page on right) for “DC Public Safety.”

Washington, D.C. Government and Non-Profit Providers

The District of Columbiagovernment provides the majority of services available to people on CSOSA supervision. You can find comprehensive, up-to-date listings of social services available through the DC government at “211 Answers, Please!” (http://answersplease.dc.gov). For general employment information available at the District’s one-stop workforce development centers, please contact the DC Department of Employment Services at 202-724-7000, or see (http://does.dc.gov/).

Services Available from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

CSOSA supervises 16,000 offenders on parole, supervised release or probation every day.

CSOSA enforces the conditions and requirements imposed by the court or the US Parole Commission (such as drug testing and finding employment) and also refers individuals to supportive programs .

An individual supervision and treatment plan is developed for each offender.

The CSOSA Starting Point: Risk and Needs Assessment

Every individual entering supervision receives a comprehensive risk and needs assessment.  The assessment identifies the particular areas in which the offender needs assistance and accountability. The assessment is updated throughout the year.

The Role of the Community Supervision Officer (CSO)

We encourage you to contact your friend’s or relative’s CSO, but please note that most information regarding an individual’s status on supervision or program participation is protected under the Federal Privacy Act.  This information cannot be shared with anyone other than relevant government agencies without the offender’s written consent. Within these limitations, however, CSOs can be helpful and encouraging to family members and loved ones trying to assist offenders.

If you are uncertain of the name and telephone number of your loved one’s CSO, please contact 202-585-7377.

The CSOSA/Faith Community Partnership

CSOSA works with a wide variety of faith institutions throughout the city to coordinate a network of support services for people returning to the District from prison.  Many of these services are also available to offenders not under CSOSA’s supervision, as well as probationers.  CSOSA’s faith partners provide an array of services including mentoring, drug counseling, emergency food and clothing, job placement, housing assistance and more. See the CSOSA reentry web site mentioned above.

Substance Abuse Treatment

 In fiscal year 2010, 90 percent of offenders entering supervision self-reported a history of illicit drug use.  The connection between drug abuse and crime has been well established.  Long-term success in reducing recidivism among drug-abusing offenders depends upon two key factors:

  1.  Identifying and treating drug use and other social problems; and
  2. Establishing swift and certain consequences for violations of release conditions.

Treatment reduces drug use and criminal behavior; it also can improve the offender’s prospects for employment.

CSOSA’s treatment resources are focused on the highest-risk, highest-need individuals.  We also work with District government to place other individuals, as appropriate, in city-funded treatment as slots are available.

Offenders access treatment in several different ways:

  • By testing positive for drug use, which usually results in referral for assessment and possible treatment placement;
  • By talking with the Community Supervision Officer and requesting treatment;
  • By having a condition for substance abuse treatment imposed by the U.S. Parole Commission or D.C. Superior Court; or
  • By completing the pre-treatment program in CSOSA’s Reentry andSanctionsCenterand being discharged to continue treatment.

The CSOSA substance abuse treatment continuum includes the following programs:

  •  7-Day Medically Monitored Detoxification,
  • 28-Day Residential Treatment,
  • 90- to 120-Day Residential Treatment,
  • 120-Day Residential Treatment and Transitional Housing for Women with Children,
  • 120-Day Residential Treatment for Dually Diagnosed Offenders (mental health and substance abuse),
  • 90-Day Supervised Transitional Housing, and
  • Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient Treatment.
  •  After the individual completes treatment, he or she generally is assigned to an aftercare support group.

 The Reentry andSanctionsCenter(RSC)

CSOSA’s 102 bed Reentry and Sanctions Center (RSC) provides 28 days of intensive assessment and pre-treatment programming for individuals with long-term histories of substance abuse and criminal involvement.  These individuals are the highest-risk, highest-need offenders under CSOSA supervision.

Offenders are generally referred to the RSC directly upon release from prison or early in their supervision period.  Participation for offenders is voluntary, though some defendants are court-ordered to participate.  The program provides offenders and defendants with tools to prevent relapse, improve family relationships, and modify deviant behaviors.

After completion, most participants are placed in custom-designed  community-based programs to continue treatment.

The Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP)

 The Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP) is a 32 bed, residential 180 day program operating within the DC Department of Corrections’ Correctional Treatment Facility.

The program is an alternative to incarceration for individuals facing revocation by the US Parole Commission. The primary focus is a comprehensive, intensive cognitive behavioral model aimed at the inmates’ individual criminal and substance using lifestyle rather than a focus on substance abuse alone.

Core treatment components include pre-screening, intake, orientation, assessment, crisis intervention, individualized treatment planning, inmate psycho-education, abstinence directed counseling, supportive group and individual counseling, urine toxicology screening, comprehensive case management, anger management education, spiritual education and group counseling, recreation therapy, group/individual psychotherapy, relapse and recidivism prevention, community re-integration, supervision compliance planning, discharge planning, introduction to community support meetings and continuity of care planning.

 Mental Health Services

CSOSA contracts with mental health service providers for psychiatric screening and evaluation; psychological case reviews; pretreatment counseling; aftercare counseling; medication compliance/education groups; and full battery assessments on an as needed basis.

CSOSA does not provide mental health therapy or medication management.  Based on the assessment results, CSOSA will refer the individual to the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health for appropriate services.

CSOSA has a supervision branch comprised of six teams that specialize in managing offenders with mental health issues.

Violence Reduction Program (VRP)

 The Violence Reduction Program (VRP) is a programmatic intervention that blends best practices from the literature – such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mentoring – into a three-phase treatment intervention for men, aged 18-35, with histories of violent, weapons, and/or drug distribution convictions.  The goal of the VRP is to help offenders:

  •  Develop non-violent approaches to conflict resolution,
  • Increase problem-solving skills,
  • Adopt communication styles that improve social skills,
  • Establish an alternative peer network by promoting pro-social supports and accountability networks, and
  • Learn and apply skills to regulate anxiety.

Specialized Treatment:

 Several specialized treatment interventions are provided to offenders who have committed certain types of crimes or are assigned to special supervision caseloads:

 Traffic Alcohol Program (TAP) 

 Offenders are court-ordered to complete the Traffic Alcohol Program (TAP) following conviction for traffic and/or alcohol related offenses.

Sex Offender Assessment and Treatment

CSOSA contracts with treatment providers to assess and treat individuals convicted of sex offenses, as ordered by the Superior Court or U.S. Parole Commission.

 Domestic Violence Treatment

As part of CSOSA’s supervision of offenders with domestic violence convictions, offenders convicted of domestic violence may be court-ordered to participate in an 18-week Family Violence Intervention Program or a 22-week Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

 Women Offenders

 One example of a community-based program providing services for women offenders and their families is Our Place DC (www.ourplacedc.org). The phone number is 202-548-2400. Our Place works with CSOSA to bring comprehensive services to women offenders.

CSOSA has specialized supervision teams, treatment services, and groups for women offenders.  Women offenders have unique and challenging needs that are best met through gender-specific groups.

 Anger Management

 CSOSA Treatment Specialists facilitate a 12-session Anger Management group program.    Participants attend one 90-minute session each week.

Educational Assistance and Job Placement–Vocational Opportunities, Training, Education, and Employment Unit (V.O.T.E.E.)

The Vocational Opportunities for Training, Education, and Employment (VOTEE) Program assesses and responds to the individual educational and vocational needs of offenders.  Vocational Development Specialists provide direct assistance in preparing offenders for job readiness training, community-based vocational and rehabilitative programs, and job search/placement and retention assistance.  The unit also provides adult basic education and GED preparation courses at one of four learning labs staffed by CSOSA Learning Lab Specialists.  The Learning Lab Specialists assist offenders in improving their educational levels.  In addition, the Learning Labs provide information systems technology training and referrals for certification training.

 Conclusion

CSOSA’s Community Supervision Officers (CSOs) are responsible for creating a supervision and treatment plan for each offender under CSOSA’s supervision. Please contact the CSO supervising your friend or family member if you would like to discuss your loved one’s needs. Your support, encouragement and guidance are often critical elements that keep many offenders from returning to crime or drugs.


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Returning From Prison to Washington D.C. “We Make Transition Possible”

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

The name sounds like the essence of bureaucracy-the Transitional Intervention for Parole Supervision unit, or TIPS. The TIPS teams of Community Supervision Officers evaluate and assist the vast majority of offenders returning from prison to Washington, D.C. They are part of the federal, executive branch agency that provides parole and probation supervision in the nation’s capital, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA).

CSOSA supervises approximately 15,500 parolees, supervised releasees and probationers on any given day. Each year, approximately 2,300 men and women return to Washington, D.C. from any one of the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities throughout the United States. For most of them, the first CSOSA staff member they meet is a TIPS officer.

The TIPS unit was a core requirement when CSOSA was initially established as a new federal agency in August of 2000. Recognizing that the District of Columbia’s Lorton prison would soon close, and that D.C. offenders would be housed in any one of the Bureau of Prison facilities, CSOSA knew it would be difficult for D.C. offenders to successfully reintegrate and reestablish ties with their families and the community. To address this need, the TIPS unit was established to work solely with returning offenders.

TIPS is truly unique. Through a collaborative, working relationship with the BOP, TIPS staff begin to work with offenders long before the offenders are released to the community or a BOP Residential Reentry Center (RRC, also known as halfway house). TIPS staff begin working on an offender’s case once they receive notice from the BOP of the offender’s pending release. TIPS staff begin to identify the offender’s needs and investigate the offender’s proposed home and employment release plans. One TIPS team is located in an RRC, working closely with offenders living there, but still under BOP’s supervision. In addition, CSOSA established a relationship with the faith-based community that links offenders to mentors who serve as a positive role model and community resource for the returning offender. TIP staff serve a vital role in this function by determining offenders suitable for participation in the program and linking them to mentors.

“TIPS staff perform a key, critical function in the reentry planning process,” says Thomas H. Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. “TIPS staff not only address offenders’ needs upon release so they can have the opportunity to successfully reintegrate in the community, but also help ensure public safety by approving or denying offender home and employment plans.”

TIPS officers can be compared to air traffic controllers: They take a look at thousands of incoming “flights” and organize their “arrival.” They act as persuaders and negotiators with offenders, families and service providers. They “set the stage” for the offender’s future supervision. Their first priority is public safety while being an offender’s advocate for needed services.

“I was doing a home plan for a returning offender with sex offenses in his background,” stated Sharon Jackson. Sharon has over 20 years of experience supervising juvenile and adult offenders. “His living arrangements would have put him in contact with children. There was no way I was going to approve him living in that house. He had to make other living arrangements,” she said.

There are 22 Community Supervision Officers (known as parole and probation agents elsewhere) and three supervisors dedicated to the TIPS function. Their job is to assess returning inmates for risk of re-offending and need for services. They work principally with offenders residing in six halfway houses operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (Since December 2001, D.C. offenders serve their time in federal prisons.)

Federal Bureau of Prison case managers submit a release plan to CSOSA; TIPS officers investigate these plans, which address a proposed place to live (or lack of one) and potential employment. Using the plan as a baseline, TIPS staff analyze the incoming offender’s needs and arrange for the offender to access services at the time of release. This can include medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment, as well as any requirements imposed by the US Parole Commission as conditions of release. Sometimes, TIPS officers have months to do their jobs-sometimes days.

“We had an offender who weighed 600 pounds coming out of prison in a couple days,” stated Sharon Jackson. “The federal halfway houses were not equipped to deal with him. He had a challenging medical need, and I was able to help him find housing with a private transitional center. That’s just one example of what we do and the unique challenges that confront us every day.”

To understand TIPS is to acknowledge that returning offenders bring with them very little luggage but a lot of baggage-the complex issues that need to be addressed to give them the highest likelihood of staying out of prison. TIPS officers prepare the way for the offender and those in CSOSA who will supervise him directly upon release from prison or the federal halfway houses.

Approximately 50 percent of all offenders returning to D.C. transition through a halfway houses. Another 30 percent enter post-release supervision without a halfway house stay. The remaining 20 percent are released with no supervision obligation. TIPS officers assist everyone having a term of community supervision.

Once the offender is released to the community, the offender’s supervision is transferred from TIPS staff to a general or special supervision team. Although TIPS work is short-term and intensive, it is critical to ensuring the smooth transition of the offender from incarceration to the community.

Every offender has issues; approximately 70 percent have substance abuse histories. Approximately 30 percent of DC offenders have temporary housing arrangements. Many have complex issues, like mental illness or medical problems. Most need services to find education or jobs.

“The issue is public safety, and will always be public safety,” states Edmond Pears, Branch Chief the Investigations, Diagnostics and Evaluations Branch that encompasses TIPS. “We fully understand, for example, that unmet mental health needs and homelessness greatly increase the possibility that the offender will commit another crime. We can intervene. We can stabilize. We can help this guy and lessen the chance of someone getting hurt.”

The Initial Process

TIPS receives information on most inmates from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) approximately six months before the scheduled release date. In addition, TIPS staff can access the BOP’s information system for the inmate’s criminal history, institutional behavior records, medical conditions, mental health and social needs, prior community supervision adjustment and programs and services received during incarceration. The TIPS staff create a plan of action that is ready when the offender enters the federal halfway houses and/or the community. (The offender is still in BOP custody while in the halfway house.)

The halfway houses provide an array of services, such as intake, orientation, screening, assessment, case staffing, referrals, crisis intervention, counseling, home and employment investigations and discharge planning. But the offender’s stay is limited and most cases does not exceed 30 days.

“Thirty days is not a lot of time to analyze a person and his risk and social history and to arrange for needed services,” said Trevola Singletary-Mohamed, a TIPS Community Supervision Officer (CSO). CSO Singletary-Mohamed started community supervision with the adult probation division of D.C. Superior Court before CSOSA assumed the function in 1997. “You may have the file months ahead, and that’s vital to the process, but nothing beats having the person sitting in front of you answering your questions. The file and evaluation may state that he has a history of cocaine use and received treatment while in prison, but you find out through an interview that a ‘history’ meant daily use for several years. Sometimes, it’s the quality of the information that you gain through personal interviews that tells you what you need to know.”

Housing

Finding housing for returning offenders is one of the most difficult parts of the job. The hyper-heated housing market in Washington, D.C. makes this especially difficult. If the average offender who comes back through a halfway house only stays there for a month, then that’s just a temporary solution.

Some do not come back through halfway houses because of limited bed space or previous medical or mental health issues that the halfway houses are not equipped to manage. Halfway house staffs also evaluate offenders based on criminal history and prior problems while in a previous halfway house.

Approximately 25 percent go home or to another residence upon release. TIPS staff investigate all proposed living arrangements to ensure that they are viable and safe for all concerned. The home environment is reviewed and evaluated. Issues include the occupants’ legal right to the residence, adequate living space, and evidence of illegal substances or criminal activity. The bottom line is whether placement will lead to future crimes.

Many offenders have burned their bridges with the family. Community corrections professionals have heard many stories of mothers who state that they will allow a returning son to live with them in public housing, but she never places his name on the lease. Other family members promise the use of their homes but back out when the home plan is investigated.

Some families have moved outside of D.C. US Probation or state agencies will assist with placement in the family’s new state of residence if the US Parole Commission approves. If the offender has a detainer on other criminal charges, he must resolve those legal matters before pursuing supervision in another jurisdiction.

Offenders also cannot be a hardship to their family members (for example, a one bedroom apartment with one adult and three children). For the returnee to live in public housing, his name must be on the lease. TIPS staff do not take the family’s word for it; they must see a copy of the lease.

TIPS staff will not automatically approve a plan if another offender is living there; it’s up to the discretion of the CSO. Each case is individually assessed and investigated for suitability of the residence and peer support within the residence.

There are faith-based, charitable and private institutions that will provide services for returning offenders. Some deal with unique needs, like medical or mental health issues. Some are merely shelters offering a legal place to stay at night and something to eat. Staff would rather not use shelters. They also strive for housing that promotes the offender’s transitional process.

With only 25 percent living in private residences (and some of these placements are temporary) then it is easy to see why housing can take so much staff time.

“It takes a dedicated person to make these arrangements,” states CSO Daynelle Allison, a D.C. resident who has worked for CSOSA for three years. “I’ve had months, but sometimes just days to find a place to live for people with special medical or mental health needs. We do not compromise the quality of our supervision or housing investigation based on how much time we have. We do what we need to get the job done.”

“We need to be sure that arrangements are made to the point that an ambulance will meet the returning offender’s plane or bus and transport the offender to the residence, a hospital, or mental health clinic. Part of all this is a commitment to meeting simple human needs, and part of it is a commitment to protecting the public,” Sharon Jackson said.

Finally, when other options have been exhausted, the TIPS officer can recommend public law placement to avoid homelessness. Under this option, TIPS staff request that the U.S. Parole Commission add a special condition of release for the offender that will require the offender to reside up to 120 days in a halfway house until suitable housing is available. This type of placement is utilized only as a last resort.

Services

Beyond housing, the placement of returning offenders into the right services is a challenging task. CSOSA provides direct services to a variety of offenders on special supervision caseloads, which include sex offenders, mental health, domestic violence, anger management, drinking and driving, and high-risk drug cases. CSOSA also provides educational and employment assessment and placement.

The bulk of support services are provided by the D.C. government and non-profit agencies; in recent years, CSOSA has instituted a partnership with the city’s faith community to augment these services. CSOSA is leading a movement in the nation’s capital to galvanize churches, mosques, and synagogues to provide direct mentoring services. Hundreds of offenders have taken advantage of this initiative.

Service organizations throughout the country often express reluctance to work with offenders. With limited budgets, some organizations prefer “easier” clients. TIPS staff have expressed that providers in the District of Columbia are more likely to assist offenders because of close supervision imposed by Community Supervision Officers.

“CSOSA has worked extensively with service providers throughout the city to make sure they understand that helping a returning offender means fewer crimes and a safer community,” states Elizabeth Powell, Supervisory Community Supervision Officer (SCSO). “CSOSA has some of the toughest contact and drug testing standards in the country. Service providers know they have allies when it comes to addressing non-compliant offenders. The Community Supervision Officers are there to help if the offender creates a problem or does not take their interventions seriously. Close supervision works.”

“We also help offenders readjust to life in D.C.” states CSO Singletary-Mohamed. “Some of them have never ridden the Metro [D.C.’s subway system] before. Some of them just want to talk, to express their hopes and fears. And some offenders refuse services and require motivation from TIP to understand how they can benefit from participating in services. But we care, and they seem to understand that and comply.”

Conclusion

All of us in community corrections understand the challenges. President George W. Bush clearly laid out the issues for reentry in his State of the Union speech in 2004. He announced a new plan to bring local and faith-based groups together with federal agencies to help recently released prisoners make a successful transition back to society – reducing the chance that they will be arrested again. This 4-year, $300 million initiative seeks to provide transitional housing, basic job training, and mentoring services. Reentry is now a popular topic within criminological circles. More has been written about reentry in the last three or four years than the last ten.

Reentry may be the buzzword in the criminal justice system right now, but it is not just a buzzword at CSOSA. TIPS staff do the real work of reintegration. With one eye on public safety, and the other on the offender’s needs, TIPS staff guide returning offenders through their first steps beyond the prison gates and give them a real opportunity to successfully reintegrate into the community.

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Managing the Mentally Ill Offender in Washington, D.C.

“We Fix the Complexities of Life”

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. and Beverly Hill. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

Walk down the streets of any major American city and you will likely encounter more than a few mentally ill individuals. Sometimes friendly, sometimes demanding and often scary, mentally ill people pose both a serious public health problem and a moral dilemma for our society. Both victimizer and victim, the mentally ill present especially unique challenges for those of us within the criminal justice system.

According to a Washington Post story filed by Rick Weiss on June 7, 2005, a recent National Institute of Mental Health study found that “One quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a serious disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day.” Many criminologists suggest that rates of mental illness are even higher among the criminal offender population.

The vast majority of criminological concern for the mentally ill seems directed towards incarceration. Anyone working in our jails or prisons knows of the unique challenges mentally ill offenders offer to institutions attempting to balance security and treatment needs with the realities of budget. It’s difficult to operate within a purely medical model when a mentally ill offender becomes violent or disruptive and threatens the safety and security of the institution. Most correctional professionals have witnessed nurses and psychologists attempting to “talk down” an inmate after a verbal and near-physical encounter with staff or fellow inmates. Seething with emotion and ready to burst, the mentally ill inmate may sometimes stay in that agitated condition for hours at a time while the realities of prison continue to surround them.

Society justifiably calls for humane treatment. Correctional staff just try to keep the peace. But sooner or later, the mentally ill inmate is released back to the community, usually with the same mental health issues they went in with. What happens then?

In the Community

In the District of Columbia, they come to a unique federal, executive branch organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). CSOSA supervises 15,500 offenders on parole, supervised release or probation every day. CSOSA assigns almost 50 percent of its caseload to its highest levels of supervision or to specialized caseloads, where each Community Supervision Officer (CSO – known elsewhere as a parole or probation officer) is responsible for only 25 or 30 offenders. Backed up by extensive drug testing, cooperative endeavors with police and prosecutors, a state-of-the-art information technology system, satellite tracking and 50 to 1 general supervision caseload ratios, CSOSA is well positioned to implement its community-based model of offender supervision. This research-based model combines the traditional elements of supervision with an equal emphasis on treatment, social services, and community involvement.

CSOSA’s specialized units offers counseling and special supervision techniques to offenders who are hard core substance abusers, involved in acts of violence, domestic violence, sex offenses and traffic-alcohol issues. Offenders with mental health issues may interact with any of these categories and are assigned to the Metal Health Unit. CSOSA currently supervises almost 800 offenders with confirmed mental health diagnoses Eighty-five percent are male. Some are assigned to mental health institutions and are monitored through regular correspondence with the facility.

CSOSA’s mental health teams have among the lowest caseload ratios in the country. At 30 offenders to each Community Supervision Officers, CSOs and their supervisors have contact with the offender an average of three to four times per week. All CSOs come to the job with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and many hold master’s degrees as well. Most have a background in law or the criminological or social sciences. Most CSOs on the mental health teams volunteered for the assignment.

Thirty CSOs and supervisors staff the mental health teams. Mental health offenders are assigned to this specialized unit via a D.C. Superior Court or U.S. Parole Commission order; offenders assigned to another unit may also be referred by the CSO for evaluation. CSOSA contracts with psychologists who conduct an assessment of every referred offender. If the psychologist establishes a diagnosis of mental illness, retardation or a personality disorder, “gatekeepers” (licensed professional counselors with master’s degrees) then see the offender. It’s their job to represent the offender as he or she navigates through the District of Columbia’s mental health system to obtain counseling, therapy and medication services.

CSOSA’s gatekeepers have expert knowledge of the public and private resources available. In addition to the standard D.C. agencies, CSOSA explores alternative strategies, such as accessing services through Medicaid or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The focus is on developing a precise diagnosis and an appropriate intervention plan, so that psychologists and social workers can act as advocates to get each offender the best possible treatment.

Once the offender’s mental health condition is controlled, he or she can benefit from other CSOSA services, such as job training, drug treatment, anger management or a faith-based mentor.

Community Supervision Officers

But CSOSA contends that a vital ingredient in the success of the program is the dedication of the Community Supervision Officers who see the offenders on a regular basis. “We care about the public’s safety and the offender’s progress,” states 30-year veteran and supervisor Verna Young. “We are determined to achieve both.”

Ms. Young suggests that the CSOs who volunteer for the mental health team are some of the best in CSOSA, if not some of the best in the nation. “Think about it for a moment,” she urges. “These are highly educated individuals who deal with the toughest clients possible. These offenders bring an immense array of problems that would challenge the most dedicated professional. We are the lifeline between the mental health profession, their families and friends, their employers and everyone who interacts with them. We talk them down from negative encounters. We act as intermediaries with frustrated family members. They grow to depend on us for structure and guidance in a world that offers fear and resistance. We help them survive on their own without returning to the criminal justice or social services system. More importantly, we help them exist without doing harm to anyone else.”

DeAndro Baker, Verna’s supervisor and another seasoned veteran of the criminal justice system, explains that offenders with mental health, retardation issues and personality disorders offer an amazing array of problems.

Research for all criminal offenders (examples: Bureau of Justice Statistics-Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers and the National Institute of Justice-Early Childhood Victimization Among Incarcerated Adult Male Felons) indicates that substantial social problems result from child abuse and neglect, sexual and physical violence, early age onset of alcohol and drug use and criminal activity. Couple all of this with poor school performance and limited employment histories and involvement in the criminal justice system, and the challenges seem insurmountable. To state that the average offender is a trial is an understatement. Add mental health or retardation or personality disorders, and the challenges are immense.

“But we do not shy from the task at hand,” states Mr. Baker. “The bottom line is protecting the public. We will not hesitate to go back to the courts or the U.S. Parole Commission and state that the individual cannot be safely supervised in the community. We will reincarcerate. But we do everything in our power, including day reporting, to make sure that offenders live a productive life without harm to themselves or others. We are the front line in the effort to serve the offender’s needs and protect society, and we do it every day.”

“The New Asylums”

All of this takes on greater importance as society grapples with the need for safety, balanced with a desire for humane treatment. This dilemma was explored in a “Frontline” episode entitled “The New Asylums” (www.pbs.org/wbgh/frontline) produced by WGBH in Boston and co-produced by Mead Street Films. The episode aired on PBS stations on May 10, 2005. The implications of the program are profound. There are no easy answers.

The New York Times reported on the episode: “An enormously disturbing Frontline report profiles the enormously disturbed.” Times reporter Ned Martin wrote that the documentary …. “explains that the mentally ill, in the decade after a mass release from mental hospitals, have often wound up in less forgiving confines.”

“The New Asylums asserts that 500,000 mentally ill patients, who in earlier decades would’ve been treated in hospitals, are now mistreated in prisons. The mental hospitals now house only a tenth of that number, the narrator says.”

Ultimately, after they leave the hospitals, or the prisons, the mentally ill return to the community.

According to the “Frontline” web site, “In 2004, some 630,000 prisoners were released back into their communities, many with mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse. Studies have shown that 60 percent of released offenders are likely to be rearrested within 18 months, and that mentally ill offenders are likely to be rearrested at an even higher rate. Experts claim that a major cause for recidivism among the mentally ill is the “epidemic” shortfall in community-based mental health services (emphasis added). While offenders have a constitutional right to receive mental health treatment when they are incarcerated, they do not enjoy a similar right to treatment in the community…”

I do not understand how everything began to unravel,” said a 52-year-old woman from northwest DC. She is on probation for drug distribution. Her years of cocaine abuse produced severe depression and an array of medical problems. She just got out of drug treatment, but recently tested positive for marijuana. She understands that CSOSA will mandate twice a week drug testing as a sanction for drug use. She believes that this level of scrutiny (and the possibility of returning to jail) will keep her from doing drugs.

“I need structure in my life, and my CSO provides that structure. My CSO comes to my home to check on me. It’s nice that I can talk to people who insist that I take care of myself.”

A 48-year-old parolee from southeast DC presents similar problems. He was incarcerated for assault and gun charges. He is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. His drug use (cocaine) was a social event with friends until it became a demon that made his illness much worse. Structure is an essential element in his rehabilitation, and the requirements of supervision help him cope with life’s problems. “As long as I keep my job, I can stay away from drugs and take care of my family. CSOSA helps me cope with problems and keeps me on track.” He admits that drug testing is an essential element. “It’s nice that they care,” he states, “but I know that they will put me back in prison if I do not improve, so I know that I must stay on my medication and do what they want me to do.”

“Public safety is combined with a sincere desire to assist…”

It was because of concern for the community that CSOSA started its innovative mental health caseload. “Public safety is combined with a sincere desire to assist these offenders in meaningful ways,” states CSOSA’s director, Paul A Quander, Jr. “We can manage this caseload in a way that services both goals.”

Thomas H. Williams, CSOSA’s Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, states, “The Frontline report only confirms our experience with mentally ill offenders. Many of the recommendations of the report are already in place within the District of Columbia. The challenges are immense, but we are attempting to meet them with vigor and dedication.”

Tiffany Robinson is ready. “We fix the complexities of life,” she states. A CSO on the Mental Health Unit, she is ready to bring her education and enthusiasm to the challenges offered by this population. Ms. Robinson understands her caseload. “They often say, “˜Please help me,” she reflects. “They do not understand the world they inhabit. It’s my job to help them cope, to reassure, to make the world a less frightening place. That requires structure, and that’s what we and the mental health professionals offer. If that need for structure leads to incarceration or commitment to a mental health facility, then so be it. We will protect society.”

Ms. Robinson understands that CSOSA embraces both sides of the challenges posed by the mentally ill offender. “But we will also offer a humane and compassionate hand to those who need it,” she says. “Thousands have become productive citizens because of it.”

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Supervising and Treating Violent Drug Offenders in the Nation’s Capital

By: Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

Since the increase in crime during the mid 1960’s, the primary challenge within the criminal justice system has been the substance-abusing offender. Society in general, and the justice system in particular, has revised their thoughts on crime and what we should do about criminals. However, the concern regarding the drug addicted offender remains constant.

We have learned a lot in the last four decades. For instance, we have experienced epidemics of heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and endless other illicit substances along the way. Proposed remedies have ranged from therapeutic communities (sometimes involving whole prison wings devoted to drug treatment) to “tough-love” environments to today’s focus on assessment (placing the offender in the most effective modality) and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Both state and federal governments have tried mandatory incarceration and alternative community-based approaches.

Although the rate of crime in the U.S. has been at record lows for the last ten years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that populations within the prison and community corrections systems have increased. Most of the increase is driven by substance abusing offenders and changes in sentencing.

In the 1994 report “Controlling Cocaine: Supply vs. Demand Programs,” the Rand Corporation projected that for every dollar spent on drug treatment society reaps seven dollars in benefit (http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Cocaine-Supply-Demand1994.htm). There are many studies (The Washington State Institute for Public Policy provides a summation) that supply the good news that drug and alcohol treatment works to reduce criminal activity, as well as a range of other positive results (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/06-06-3901.pdf).

But the bottom line of 40 years of effort is that 80 percent of offenders coming into this country’s correctional institutions have histories of substance abuse, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the vast majority do not receive treatment in prison. These same individuals will enter community supervision, where the lack of treatment will influence whether, and how quickly, they relapse into using drugs and committing crimes.

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) attempts to deal not just with criminal offenders with histories of drug use, but with individuals that some describe as the most difficult people in the criminal justice system.

CSOSA (http://www.csosa.gov/ and http://media.csosa.gov/ ) is the federal agency that provides parole and probation supervision for D.C. Code offenders in Washington, D.C. CSOSA is responsible for approximately 15,000 offenders each day. Approximately 2,000 offenders return from prison to the nation’s capital each year.

CSOSA has adopted notably stringent contact and drug testing standards. The agency is equally committed to providing the services necessary to assist offenders on supervision. Special supervision units involve high-risk drug offenders, sex and mental health offenders, and those with drinking and driving, or domestic violence issues. The agency also provides educational and vocational assistance. CSOSA has developed an innovative network of partnerships to bring as many resources as possible to the task of community supervision.

The Drug Unit Teams

Two special supervision teams provide interventions for approximately 500 high-risk offenders with extensive criminal and substance abuse histories. They are:

  • Substance Abuse and Intervention Team (SAINT) provides supervision for high-risk parole offenders;
  • Sanctions Team for Addition and Recovery (STAR) supervises probationers using the drug court model.

“The drug units deal with the toughest substance abuse offenders within the CSOSA system,” states DeAndro Baker, Branch Chief for substance abuse, mental health and traffic-alcohol teams for CSOSA. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Master Addiction Counselor, and certified train the trainer in “What Works” by the National Institute of Corrections.

“We go where few dare to tread,” Baker states. “We know that offenders in the specialized drug units have co-occurring disorders [concurrent mental health and substance abuse diagnoses], are more likely to re-offend, and are at a higher risk to commit anti-social acts. We utilize a range of graduated sanctions to reinforce positive behavior and to swiftly address antisocial attitudes and belief systems. Appropriate sanctions are then followed by proper interventions, including a variety of community-based treatment and programming options. We take public safety and the conditions of release very seriously. The overall effort is to change criminal thinking and behaviors.”

Fifteen Community Supervision Officers (CSO’s–known as parole and probation agents elsewhere) in SAINT and STAR, along with three supervisors, provide a combination of supervision and services. The caseload ratio of 35 offenders per CSO enables close supervision of these high-risk offenders. The normal ratio of supervision in CSOSA is 50 to 1. Lowering caseloads to a level that permits substantial, meaningful contact between the offender and the CSO has been a priority within CSOSA since the agency was established in 1997.

A combination of veteran officers and new CSO’s fresh from the agency’s training academy staff the unit. Mr. Baker indicates that officers “are grounded in clinical evaluation, treatment planning, and establishing and maintaining a continuum of care.” CSO’s provide individual and group counseling. They use a combination of strict accountability and motivational counseling to try to reorient offenders into a new way of thinking and gaining control over their lives. Working with this tough offender population is not only challenging but also critical to public safety. Mr. Baker indicates, “The key to effective supervision is the Community Supervision Officers.”

The Offenders

With the right mix of treatment services and accountability, many offenders go on to lead productive and crime free lives. CSOSA is dedicated to offering the right combination of case management and treatment. The Washington State Public Policy Institute’s 2006 study of adult corrections programs concluded that the combination of supervision and treatment holds one of the more promising approaches to community supervision and reducing recidivism (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/pub.asp?docid=06-01-1201).

CSOSA has been successful in using special units and partnerships (especially with the faith-based community) to achieve promising results. Close to half our daily population is in a specialized treatment unit or is undergoing intensive supervision, vocational assessments, coordinated treatment activities, and drug testing. The drug units, however, deal with offenders who pose challenges beyond those presented by other offenders.

“In supervision, we provide in-depth case management that includes: screening; assessments; treatment planning; referrals; staffing; counseling and documenting the offenders’ efforts. A performance plan is constructed that provides instructions to assist the offender in making lifestyle changes towards desired pro-social activities,” states Mr. Baker.

To understand the kind of offender and modalities we are talking about, you need to get to the root of the problem-the underlying psychological problems and issues that drive substance abuse and criminality.

According to staff, it’s that “root understanding” that causes some observers to have difficulty in understanding what the units do. “We’re not about business as usual,” Baker states. “We are about restructuring a person who desperately needs help with problem solving, self efficacy, internal accountability, employment readiness, and simple life skills.”

“Working with substance abusers is challenging,” states Cassandra N. Brown, a 15-year veteran in community supervision who has been with CSOSA since its inception. “There are always other issues in the background.”

Brown works with probationers in the drug court. She finds the drug court effective and supportive because of the swift impositions of sanctions and the attention of caring judges. An increasing body of national research on drug courts, such as that cited in the National Institute of Justice report Drug Courts: the Second Decade, points to their efficacy and impact on recidivism (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/211081.pdf).

The Program

“We tell them that it’s going to be different,” states Ms. Brown. “They don’t believe us, but that’s how the process begins.”

Every offender brings an array of issues. Housing, health care, jobs and substance abuse are just the tip of the iceberg. Significant numbers of offenders, according to Department of Justice research, claim histories of child abuse and neglect  or mental health problems.

While most of us can be compared to a glass that is 70 or 80 percent full, many criminal offenders are people whose glass is perpetually 30 percent full. Addressing the needs of housing and providing job opportunities or drug counseling increases the fullness of the glass. The question that continues to confound criminologists is defining the point at which a combination of supervision and services tips the scales and the offender begins to overcome his or her difficulties. “To overcome those problems, you have to screen, assess, and plan to restructure the person,” states Mr. Baker.

The process begins with comprehensive evaluation of the offender’s background. Within CSOSA, there are teams of specialists who perform evaluations of substance abuse, mental, educational or criminal histories. Offenders in need are placed in specialized programs as appropriate.

According to Mr. Baker, the foundation for effective supervision of these offenders is identifying the crisis points in their lives. The unit does not simply focus on substance abuse but also on the many issues that offenders face. Relapse and problems are expected. A variety of sanctions and interventions are in place to deal with anticipated problems.

“We teach them how to deal with the endless triggers of negative behavior in their lives,” Ms. Brown says. “Through individual and group counseling, we role play these triggers for violence and drugs and teach them that there are better ways to conduct their lives. They need to understand the triggers and how to govern themselves.”

A psychologist, a licensed counselor, supervisors and Mr. Baker run the group counseling sessions and provide individual assistance. They assist with the “heavy duty co-occurring” cases. Community Supervision Officers can also run groups to constantly reinforce the lessons of role-play and “trigger” management.

Modalities used in groups can include cognitive therapy under a variety of guises, including psycho educational classes with names like “Thinking for a Change” or “Reality Therapy.” Strategies are chosen that fit the lifestyle and background of the offender. Baker insists that there is nothing “cookie-cutter” in their approach. “The assessments tell us what the person needs, and we build a case management strategy that evokes change,” he states. “Basically, it all comes down to understanding stages of change, criminological identifiers, anti-social thinking, environmental triggers, pro-social modeling, interventions, structure, and what the offender can do about them.”

Strict supervision is crucial. The units constantly interact with the offender within the office and out in the community. The drug units, drug testing professionals and sanctions teams within CSOSA can come into contact with the offender as many as six times each week. The Drug Court side of the program (for probationers) insures that offenders are before the judge as needed.

It’s the combination of strict supervision and treatment that works to reduce recidivism, according to staff members. “They need the structure. They require the contacts and drug testing. Anything less is setting them up for failure,” according to staff.

Staff insists that they will not hesitate to start the process that may return or place a person in prison. But they are equally adamant that offenders can be taught to successfully deal with the addictions and other challenges their lives.

The Reentry and Sanctions Center–Reductions in Re-arrests are Possible

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 67 percent of all those released from prison commit felonies and serious misdemeanors within three years of release. Many commit multiple serious crimes. The lesson of this and other research is that future criminality is probable (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf).

CSOSA has a new and important tool to help interrupt the cycle of substance abuse and crime. The agency’s Reentry and Sanctions Center (RSC), which opened in the spring of 2006, is a 100-bed residential facility that provides 28 days of intensive assessment, pre-treatment programming, and case planning for offenders with long histories of drug abuse and crime. The RSC expands the strategies available to CSOSA-and increases the probability that at least some of these offenders will escape the revolving door for good. More information on the RSC is available at (http://www.csosa.gov/) or (http://www.csosa.gov/reentry/rsc_leadership.pdf). The latter provides specifics as to components for the SAINT program.

The SAINT parole team supervises offenders who graduate from the Reentry and Sanctions Center. Prior to the RSC’s opening, CSOSA operated a smaller program, the Assessment and Orientation Center, which was partially funded by the Washington-Baltimore HIDTA. Studies by the University of Maryland’s Institute for Behavior and Health found that offenders who completed the program at the Assessment and Orientation Center were significantly less likely to be arrested after the program.

A 2001 study indicated that all HIDTA program participants (from programs in other locations) experienced a 47 percent decrease in arrest rate. The Reentry and Sanction Center graduates supervised by the drug units experienced a 35 percent decrease. Considering their drug, criminal and social histories, this type of success seems nothing short of remarkable.

“If we can achieve these results with a very difficult population, it’s clear that, given the resources, parole and probation agencies throughout the country can do a better job of supervision,” states Thomas Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. “We can protect the public and reduce future criminality. Our experience can help.”

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