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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“The Violence Must Stop” Violence Reduction and Gang Call-Ins in Washington, D.C.

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.

We are on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. We are mid-way between the United States Capitol and the White House. Immediately adjacent to us is the Canadian Embassy. We are in the power center of the country, if not the world.

The wood-paneled federal courtroom is a stately site, designed to portray a sense of power and control in a city that exudes power and control. The front and rear of the courtroom are filled to capacity with the leadership of Washington’s law enforcement community. The United States Attorney is here. The Chief of Police for the Metropolitan Police Department is here. The Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is here. Amongst the crowd are senior representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Probation, the U.S. Parole Commission, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, plus other agencies. Since the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice published the “Challenge of Crime in a Free Society” in the mid-1960s, the criminal justice system has called for unity and interagency cooperation to combat crime successfully. Within this federal courtroom, that legacy is being honored to its fullest.

There are four rows of benches reserved in the front. The doors are flung open at 3:00 p.m. Approximately 40 criminal offenders on parole or probation supervision with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (Washington, D.C.’s federally funded parole and probation entity) file into the courtroom. Most are veterans of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where local charges are adjudicated. The vast majority have never been in federal court. They are escorted to the benches and told to sit quietly. They look confused and bewildered. Some look angry. Hard stares come from many.

No one speaks. There is nothing but silence for the first five minutes. They look at us. We look at them. They know they are not here to face a formal criminal charge. They simply know that they have been ordered to appear in a federal courtroom. They were told that all would be explained to them upon their arrival. But for the moment, there is nothing but silence that seems to last forever.

The Federal Judge

All rise! The bailiff calls out the traditional command for all within the courtroom to stand. All do, and all are told to take their seats. The proceedings commence.

United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton calls the roll. The offenders acknowledge their presence. Some of them call out in strong voices; others indicate confusion with their lackluster responses. Those who chose not to attend will be the subjects of warrants by their sentencing judges or the U.S. Parole Commission.

The federal judge begins the proceedings. “Freedom is a precious commodity,” he states. “You need to take what I’m about say very seriously. You know whose community you’re destroying. Your criminal activities have put you on the radar screen. Today we are giving you a taste of federal court. Here in federal court you get big time, and you serve the vast majority of your sentence. You are here today because you are involved in ongoing criminal violence within the District of Columbia.”
Judge Walton continues, “There are a variety of people who will discuss your activities with you, and my advice to you is that you had better listen. You’ll be offered an opportunity to improve your lives with the services they have to offer. But if you disregard this offer, and you continue your life of violence, and if you continue to harm the citizens of Washington, then you will receive the full attention of a unified criminal justice system. I urge you to listen very carefully to what will be said today. You are on the radar screen. You better expect the worst. You have an opportunity, and you better take advantage of it.”

Project Safe Neighborhoods

Gang call-ins such as this one stem in part from criminologist David Kennedy’s efforts to encourage criminal justice agencies to pursue the most active criminal offenders in a given community. Project Safe Neighborhoods was pilot tested in Boston and several other cities during the mid 1990s with considerable success. The strategy is not to target principal characters within gangs (often known as crews within Washington, D.C.) but to seek out all who are part of the criminal conspiracy to commit violence.

Too often in the past, principals within violent criminal organizations have been successfully identified and prosecuted and sent to prison for long periods of time. Unfortunately, however, the structure of the gang or crew is left intact, and the violence continues. What is different about this program, part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, is that it pursues an entire criminal conspiracy. For those who are currently under parole or probation supervision, all are told that if they do not stop their violent activities, the entire gang or crew will be the focus of police attention and will be brought into federal court for prosecution and long federal prison sentences. A comprehensive array of services (jobs, job training, drug counseling, etc.) is offered in the hope that active offenders will mend their ways. Some will. Some will not.

But the effort is not just to focus on those currently under community supervision. Within the District of Columbia, only a small percentage of arrests involve those currently under parole supervision. The new message is that everyone, regardless of their supervision status, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if violence continues.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is a national effort funded by the Department of Justice and is administered in D.C. by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The gang call-ins are just one part of an overall strategy that emphasizes interagency cooperation amongst all within the criminal justice system.

Parole and Probation

“All rise.”

The judge leaves the courtroom, and the silence continues. Then, Paul A. Quander Jr., the Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), gets up, walks over to the gathered offenders, and begins to speak.

” I am the reason you are here,” he begins. He paces the floor, looks down, and then greets the eyes of the assembled offenders. “Listen to what we have to say. Children are being killed in Washington, D.C. The violence must stop. If a body falls, and we can prove that you’re connected, we take the whole group. Everybody is going to go. I’m tired of people being shot and killed.”

“We know who you are. We know where you hang out. We know where you were last night. We know where you sleep, the crimes you’re committing, who’s carrying a gun and where you stash your drugs. We have good intelligence on each and every one of you.”

“Take the message back to your community. Make it clear to everyone you hang with. If the violence continues and we know that you’re part of the violence, we’re coming after you.”
“I’m asking each of you to take this seriously. Your children need you. We need all of you to be law-abiding citizens. You need to take advantage of the services we offer you today. But if you choose to continue a life of crime, we will be coming after you — all of you.”

Every offender’s eyes are now locked on the Director. He rattled off the names of all of the agencies that are present. “We are all focusing on you. The violence has to stop. The citizens of this city demand it.”

Interagency Cooperation

Violence has decreased in Washington, D.C. for several years. Homicides, violent and property crimes have seen substantial declines. Property values are improving in most communities, and citizens are reclaiming their communities through pride and home ownership. But like some other cities, too many children and young adults are caught in the web of violence. In too many instances, children have been the innocent victims of homicide.

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency has partnered with the Metropolitan Police Department and United States Attorney’s Office through joint ride-alongs, intelligence sharing and mass orientations where new offenders are briefed on levels of accountability and services to assist their transformation. The provision of city and CSOSA-supplied services such as drug treatment, job training and placement, mental health assistance and counseling are seen as integral to a law-abiding lifestyle. But offenders must make the decision to improve their lives. For the moment, the offenders assembled in this federal court have yet to make that decision.

The Detectives

Captain C.V. Morris heads the Violent Crimes Branch of the Metropolitan Police Department. He is the next speaker.

“We know who you are. We know your girlfriends. We know everything about you. You have the opportunity to walk as free people through the front door or as convicted felon through the back door. When we convict you, you’re going to go to federal prison. You’re not going to be held in local institutions — you’re going to be all over the country. Your boys aren’t going to be there, and no one is going to know you. You’re going to go to prison in Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, California, and anyplace else the Federal Bureau of Prisons decides to place you.”

“You have more attention than you need. If you become our focus, we are coming after you, all of you. You may think you’re too slick. You may think that you’ve been through all this before, but I’m here to tell you that you have just bought yourself a world of trouble. If you continue the violence, you’re going to do long, hard federal time.”

The detective then shows slides of offenders arrested in the Sursum Corda area of Washington, D.C., which is approximately a 10-minute walk from Union Station, not far from Capitol Hill.

He shows slide after slide of people arrested and convicted and sent to prison after a young girl was murdered in her home. He then shows slides of members of the Congress Park crew and additional photographs of offenders convicted and sentenced in federal court. “Your actions will dictate our response.”

James Boteler and Fred Johnson of the Metropolitan Police Department take their turns.
Sgt. Johnson: “You have been a cancer to society and we are going to remove that cancer. You have torn at the moral fiber of our community. If you continue this activity, we will remove you for the good of all.” They continue the theme of the day of knowledge of the assembled offenders and the willingness to remove them if they continue a life of crime and violence. Jim Boteler states, “What you do affects your parents, your children, and the entire community. It must stop, and we are here to make sure that it stops. Spread the word to your entire crew, we’re coming after everybody involved in violence.”

One offender starts hyperventilating and has to leave the courtroom temporarily. One young female offender begins to weep. Others are looking at the floor. The rest stare intently at the next speaker. We are approximately 40 minutes into the program. It is clear that we have the attention of everyone involved.

The next speaker is Gus Giannakoulinas, a detective for the Metropolitan Police Department serving on the FBI/MPD Safe Streets Task Force. He proclaims that he has obtained 88 guilty pleas through Project Safe Neighborhoods. Of the eighteen who chose jury trials, all were convicted to life sentences. All involved crews engaged in violent criminal conspiracies. He has not lost a case in federal court.

“If you hold a gun, provide a ride, hide a gun, know of a homicide, or any other violent crime, we are coming after you. We will convict you. You will go to federal prison for many years to come. Each of you. All of you.”

The Chief

Most criminal justice officials know that budget meetings are one of the most important events of the year. Charles Ramsey, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., decided to leave his budget hearing a bit early to attend this call-in. It was that important.

It’s not every day that criminal offenders get face time with the Chief of Police of any large metropolitan area, let alone the Nation’s Capital. It’s difficult to describe the demeanor of all the offenders in the courtroom that day. But there was not an inattentive individual. If the purpose of his appearance was to gain their attention, then he succeeded.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 37 years,” he states. As he speaks he walks deliberately across the courtroom, stopping just inches from the seated offenders. “I’m tired of the murders in the District of Columbia. We had a 9-year-old boy shot in the head because some idiot decided to fire a round down the street.”

“All the thug life is doing is hurting people. And people who hurt people need to be put behind bars for as long as possible. Pay attention or don’t pay attention, it doesn’t matter to me; we’re coming after you if you continue in acts of violence. Anybody who engages in these acts is a predator, and I dislike what they do.”

The Chief walks over to the table and slowly makes eye contact with everyone in the room. He pounds his fists against the table several times for emphasis. “A 9-year-old child was killed, and anything I can do to put the perpetrators behind bars for life, I will. I will relentlessly pursue anyone who commits acts of violence against citizens. You have an opportunity to change. Make the change, or I will personally come after each and every one of those involved.”

The United States Attorney

Kenneth Wainstein is the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In D.C., he is the local as well as the federal prosecutor. Like so many things in District government, the federal presence is everywhere. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (the local parole and probation and pretrial services agency), the public defender, and even the local courts are all federally funded (beginning in 1997) to relieve the District of the fiscal burden of services that a city usually depends on a state for. Some suggest that federal funding (and a criminal justice coordinating council) prompts the excellent cooperation among criminal justice agencies. Where other cities’ justice systems constantly agree to disagree, the level of cooperation in the District is good, and may be a reason for continuous decreases in violent crime and homicides.

The U.S. Attorney coordinates Project Safe Neighborhoods. He, along with other members of the criminal justice system, authored a plan – “The Homicide Reduction Strategy” — to decrease violence by emphasizing cooperation and targeted operations. He created a media campaign featuring bus and subway posters encouraging citizens to provide information on gun-related crime.

Like the other speakers, he approaches the offenders. He speaks with confidence and authority, as a father would speak to an errant son. “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s too much death and violence in this city. Today is a new day in law enforcement. We’ve got all the people in D.C. who can put you away for a long time – MPD, the FBI, ATF, the DEA and all our other law enforcement partners – and there are 350 attorneys in my office who are very anxious to do anything they can to lock up the crews that are ruining our neighborhoods.”

He then spells out exactly how his office will work to accomplish that task. “Ladies and gentlemen, there will be no pleas. No plea-bargains. We’re going to charge you, and we’re going to charge you to the max. We’re going to bring these cases here in the big court, in federal court, where you will serve every day of a very stiff sentence.”

To dispel thoughts by any of the offenders that their past violent behavior would go unpunished, the U.S. Attorney tells them: “We’ll also bring back old cases. If we can legally bring back cases that have been dropped in the past due to lack of evidence, we will investigate them fully to make sure you go away for as long as possible.” He ends by offering the offenders a choice and by giving them an invitation: “You can meet this fate or you can hear this message and take it back to the street and be part of the solution. I invite you to be part of the solution.”

Law Enforcement Wrap-Up

Paul Quander, Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, returns to the front of the courtroom. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a new day, and that’s why you are here. This city is tired of the pop-pop-pop of gunfire gunning down the mothers of our children. Grandmothers are afraid to go out on the streets in some of our communities. Some of our children are afraid to play on the streets. We have a reason to believe that you are involved in these acts.”

“If you continue to come to our attention, we will raise the level of your supervision. We will make you very uncomfortable. If need be, we will bring you into the field office to spend the entire day, everyday. We will put you on satellite monitoring and track every step you make. We will compare your movements to a map of all criminal activity. If you are anywhere near an act of violence, the entire criminal justice system will be coming after you. Do not give us a dirty urine, do not miss an appointment.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, the violence must stop.”
“The next people who will speak to you will offer you an array of programs that you can get involved in to change your life. I hope and pray that you will take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. I hope and pray that you turn your life around. But if you do not, we will be coming after you.”

With that, most representing the criminal justice system exit the courtroom. Some offenders begin to walk out and are quickly ordered back to their seats by parole agents (known in D.C. as Community Supervision Officers). The offenders look as if they’ve been through a difficult afternoon. It is approximately 4:15 p.m. We have been assembled for approximately an hour and 15 minutes.

Defense Attorney

Defense attorney James Rudasill is next up through the invitation of Director Quander. He is well known in the D.C. metropolitan area for his aggressive and successful defense of those charged with crimes. He was often on opposite sides of the aisle when Quander was a prosecuting attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He tells of violent criminal conspiracy cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney.

“These people are not playing,” he warns. “They’re serious about putting you away. “They know who you are; they know where you live. The game is over in Washington, D.C.” To further emphasize their inability to escape their fate if the pattern of violence isn’t stopped, he states: “When you come to me, it’s too late. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of conversations between young men who had no clue the feds were on to them. You can be home asleep in bed at the time one of your boys does the shooting, and you still can be convicted of murder.” To further emphasize the hopelessness, he tells the offenders, “All the rules are on their side. The judge is going to grant the government’s request for pretrial detention, and you’re going to be detained because you are on supervision. Then you sit in jail until your trial. That could take months.” “Gentlemen,” he says, “it’s time for a career change.”

Roving Leaders and Others Who Are There to Help

There are individuals known in the District of Columbia as Roving Leaders. Roving Leaders are stationed throughout the city to assist young people and all citizens with efforts to obtain their GED, to find housing, to obtain jobs or job training, counseling or other social services. They provide brochures and an opportunity for those assembled to take advantage of a wide array of services. They remind all that the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the City have a multitude of services at their disposal. They remind them that Director Quander promised that they will be given priority if they make the decision to change their lives.

Les Butler wears a button with a picture of his brother, Charles Edward Butler, who was an innocent bystander murdered in the District of Columbia. He tells the story of having a multimillion-dollar technology opportunity to start a business in the District of Columbia. But the death of his brother affected him so deeply that he spent the summer working with kids and introducing them to the world of computers and technology. He describes his deceased brother’s bullet wound — how it entered before it exited in the back of his head.

“Who is the enemy?” he asks. Is it those who oppressed people of color for so long, or it is the people in this room and all those who take the breath of those who are so dear to us. Who is the enemy?”

A young woman in jeans and a jean jacket slides into the wooden bench in front of me. She is having trouble breathing. She is softly crying. She is clearly troubled by the afternoon’s proceedings. She could easily be my daughter, or yours. “Can I go now?” she asks. “I’m sorry, but you have to stay to the end,” I tell her. She continues to softly weep.

The day ends with a minister who is an ex-offender with prison time served. “It’s time to make a change,” he implores. “There is something on the inside that needs to come out. It’s time to stop allowing people to run your lives. Please, for the love of God, change now.”

It’s over. Most file out. Some stay to speak to the Roving Leaders or the Reverend or the defense attorney or to Mr. Butler, but most leave with the urgency of people needing oxygen. It’s close to 5:00 p.m. Some will heed the call, some will not. Some will kill or be killed. The impact on their lives and the well being of the citizens of the District of Columbia remains to be seen.

But all those who spoke felt they represented the voices of citizens who are fed up with violence and anxiety. They, and the speakers, simply want a life where children play peacefully without fear in the capital of the free world.

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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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Mass Orientations–Orienting Criminal Offenders in Washington, D.C.

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 church basement in southwest Washington, D.C. overflows with criminal offenders. Approximately 200 people relatively new to a sentence of probation from the courts or released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons fill the room. Others are here as a sanction for violating the rules of their release. It is a cold and dreary night in one of the highest crime and drug areas in the nation’s capital.

Staff members from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), the federal, executive branch entity responsible for providing parole and probation services in the District of Columbia preside over this assembly. Also present are a prosecutor from the United States Attorney’s Office and contingents from the Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Housing Authority Police. All of these agencies deliver a unified message to the offenders: There are consequences for failure. There are also programs and services to increase the chances for success.

Much of the audience, however, does not seem pleased with the prospect of spending the next hour and a half with us. Some are curious, some look like their attention is focused many miles away, and some seem downright hostile. This should be an interesting evening.

Chain of Events

Mass Orientations of criminal offenders new to supervision are not isolated events; they are not programs unto themselves. They are part of the continuous and ongoing chain of events that define the essence of CSOSA’s partnership with the rest of the criminal justice system in Washington, D.C.

Mass Orientations began in 1999 when CSOSA was emerging as a new federal agency, created out of existing parole and court related probation agencies in D.C. CSOSA started as an effort to relieve D.C. government of the fiscal burdens of services ordinarily provided by state agencies. Pretrial, parole and probation, the public defender, the courts, and incarceration of long-term prisoners were all “federalized” or provided with federal funding. CSOSA became an independent federal agency in August of 2000.

The opportunity to create a new agency devoted to state-of-the-art parole and probation services was exciting. Liaisons with law enforcement were thought crucial. Assistant Chief Winston Robinson of the Metropolitan Police Department was a District Commander at the time. Robinson worked with Jay Carver, the leader of CSOSA under the initial three-year trusteeship, and Jasper Ormond, now CSOSA’s Associate Director for Community Justice Programs, to create a community supervision system founded on three essential principals: frequent information and intelligence sharing, thousands of joint patrols (Accountability Tours) to offenders’ homes, and Mass Orientations.

These core activities are the individual plays in CSOSA’s overall strategy to win the high-stakes game of community supervision. They are part of an integrated package deemed necessary for success. Each effort supports the others: Without the cooperation and involvement of police and prosecutors, CSOSA’s activities resemble a defense with no offense. . Both are necessary.

Research from the National Institute of Justice on Boot Camps and intensive supervision programs suggests that both supervision and social services are necessary for success. CSOSA offers an array of employment, education, substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, anger management and other services. CSOSA partners with D.C. city government (which provides the bulk of services), private non-profit organizations and places of worship throughout the city.

The combined energies and capabilities of law enforcement and social service organizations are brought to bear on the issue of criminal offenders and their obligations to themselves, their children and families. Mass Orientations are simply part of the overall strategy. Mass Orientations are but one product in an array of services and partnerships designed to reduce recidivism and crime.

Back to the Meeting

Greg Thomas is a Community Relations Specialist with CSOSA’s Office of Community Justice Programs. His job is to attend police and community meetings in his district dealing with crime. He also organizes crime related meetings with leaders within the communities he serves. He is a former member of the Metropolitan Police Department. His office brims with the awards of a lifetime in law enforcement. Tonight, however, he stands among 200 criminal offenders mandated to attend the Mass Orientation. He and five other Community Relations Specialists organize these events on a quarterly basis throughout the city.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to tonight’s orientation.” Greg cheerfully begins. “We are here to make sure you know the rules of supervision and understand the many programs that exist to help you become productive and law abiding citizens of the District of Columbia.”

The faces of the offenders in the crowd seem to predict who will succeed and who will struggle. The ones paying attention are the safer bets. The ones lost to the world will struggle.

Greg reaches out to the ones on the fence. You can tell that he has years of experience talking to offenders.

“Supervision is just not about drug tests and us showing up at your door with the police,” he says. “A lot of you in this room are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You know you want a better life. You know your kids are depending on you. You know that drugs will eventually kill you. You know that dealers live terrible lives. You know you want something different. You know that!”

More faces look up. Heads nod in agreement. To some in this room, drugs and hustling and beefing are all they know. Escape seems distant or impossible. Yet they know they want something better. They are not quite sure, however, what “better” means.

The evening starts off with the rules of supervision. Community Supervision Officers clearly state what is expected. CSOSA has some of the most stringent contact standards in the nation. Twice a week drug testing is mandatory for the first eight weeks, twice a month testing follows for the next 12 weeks, and monthly drug tests occur throughout supervision. Fail one and you go back to the beginning of the cycle.

Close to half the population is either under high levels of supervision (four to eight office and community contacts each month) or they are part of a special supervision caseload (i.e., sex offenders, satellite tracking, mental health, domestic violence, day reporting, etc.).

It’s important to note that there are others in the room beyond rank and file Community Supervision Officers. Management at various levels within CSOSA attends these events and meets the audience.

All of this reinforces one message: You will be held accountable for your behaviors. While all of us are aware that there are no guarantees regarding community supervision, there is some optimism that we are bringing accountability to the table.

The police are next. Various officers go to the front of the packed room and tell those assembled that they will be looking for them as they patrol. If they are on the corner causing the community grief, their Community Supervision Officers will be informed, and action will be taken.

The stories of police officers recognizing offenders during Mass Orientations as troublemakers and instantly holding decision meetings with Community Supervision Officers are many. But treatment needs are also discussed, and the officers often encourage offenders to attend. Everybody understands that both approaches are necessary.

The Assistant United States Attorney makes the next appearance. She has the demeanor of a docent at one of Washington’s many historical monuments: Just the facts, delivered politely. She is direct, polite, and matter-of-fact. Her voice is not raised. She simply tells those assembled that those holding a gun or ammunition will go away to a federal prison in another state for a minimum of five years. If they engage in acts of violence or criminal conspiracies, they will be aggressively prosecuted.

During her presentation, no offenders stare at the floor or nod off to sleep.

For the moment, everybody’s listening.

Services

CSOSA’s partnership philosophy also applies to services. For example, the agency works with faith institutions to provide mentors to offenders returning from prison and link offenders with faith-based support services. CSOSA has put significant effort into cataloging the programs offered by Washington’s churches and mosques. Some provide clothing. Others offer job placement and training. Housing, childcare, drug treatment, food and fellowship are additional services.

But identifying services can be an academic exercise. Getting offenders to use them and embrace their benefit is another issue.

Offenders, for a wide variety of reasons, have difficulty dealing with the vast and impersonal bureaucracies that often administer social services. If the services are constructed with offenders in mind, then participation rates increase.

Back at the Mass Orientation, Greg Thomas introduces members of CSOSA’s VOTEE Unit (Vocational Opportunities, Training, Education and Employment) who stand up to address the crowd.

“We have services designed just for you,” they state. We can provide you with a job or provide job training through the city.”

They point out that many former offenders have trained as commercial truck drivers who go on to make very good money. If fact, they say, some former offenders have hired people released from prison who completed the training. “There are many other opportunities,” they state. The unit will do a comprehensive vocational and educational assessment of any offender and provide direct services.

They continue with an overview of additional services offered directly by CSOSA or other agencies: drug and alcohol treatment, anger management, mental health counseling, and others.

Offer of Services is Always There

It’s important to note that there is no “expiration date” on CSOSA’s offer to match offenders with helpful services. There is a formal intake process, during which the Community Supervision Officer does a complete assessment of the new offender’s risk and social needs, and a contract is signed. Beginning in 2006, CSOSA implemented an enhanced, expanded, and fully automated assessment instrument, the Auto Screener.

CSOSA’s Transitional Interventions for Parole Supervision (TIPS) Unit have staff placed in every Bureau of Prisons halfway house in the city. These officers provide the same assessment for the 50 percent of prison returnees who come back to the District through halfway house placement.

At every contact with their Community Supervision Officers, offenders can say that they are ready to accept the help that is offered. CSOs will then initiate referrals to the various service units. They do not have to rely on the courts or Parole Commission to get someone into drug treatment, mental health programming or job training.

An End, or a Beginning

Ninety minutes can seem like a lifetime. After the program, many audience members rush out into the cold night air. Many others, however, stay and learn more about programs they know they need.

“It’s a system philosophy,” states Paul Quander, the Director of CSOSA. “We apply pressure, especially to high-risk offenders. We show them a unified system, but we also show them that we care about their well being, their future and their child’s future.”

Bryan Young, a CSOSA Senior Management Analyst and organization historian offers, “We learn stuff through Mass Orientations and other partnership activities that you will not learn through day-to-day office and community contacts. We find key data to protect society and help offenders and their families. That’s what makes our partnership work. That’s what makes the District of Columbia safer.”

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