This Television Program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/?p=19
Announcer: Bringing you the news and information you need from the people making a difference. This is Comcast Newsmakers.
Tony Hill: Hi everybody, welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I’m Tony Hill. Once people are incarcerated for committing a crime, I think they become a bit of the forgotten population. And the question for us is, when then re-enter into society do we want them to re-offend or do we want to give them the tools that they need to reintegrate into society. Here to talk about some of the things that they are doing to try and make that happen is Paul Quander, Jr. who is the Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. How are you?
Paul Quander: Very well, thank you.
Tony Hill: Glad to have you here. That is a serious problem, recidivism. Folks are convicted of a crime. They do their time. They come back into the community and they haven’t learned to do things differently.
Paul Quander: Absolutely. Every year in the District of Columbia approximately 2100 men and women return to the District of Columbia from prisons across the country and these individuals are coming home. And essentially they are our fathers, our brothers, nieces, nephews; they are our family members and they are coming home. And what’s the best way to get them reinvigorated, reunited, a part of our community fabric so that we can get them up and going in a positive, pro-social manor.
Tony Hill: You’ve come up with a way to do that. You’ve been doing that for a number of years. Explain your program. It’s a faith-based re-entry.
Paul Quander: Actually, we refer to it as our FBI program, a faith-based initiative. We were smart enough to realize that the government standing on it’s own just couldn’t do the job. We needed to reach out to the community, and what better place in the community than the churches. Any and all denominations, and we sent out a call saying, “Look, come, let’s talk, let’s work. We need partners to help men and women to re-enter our communities.” And that call was answered by a number of churches. We started in 2002 and we’ve been going strong ever since.
Tony Hill: And this is something where you have mentors. You actually want some volunteers to come and mentor these young men and women to make sure that they have somebody who’s teaching them. Here’s what you can do differently. Teaching them, quite differently, the lessons that they may not have learned initially that could have been what ended up with them having to be in prison in the first place?
Paul Quander: Absolutely. For a lot of men and women who find themselves in the criminal justice system, there haven’t been many pro-social positive role models in their lives. And what we’ve tried to do is match individuals who are connected with churches who are serving in that surrogate role as that mentor; that other voice; that voice of reason; that voice of counsel; that voice that says “I did it, so can you.” And what we’ve found is that when you provide that sort of bridge, that linkage, it makes it easier for men and women to make that transition. They know how to do prison, but all too often they don’t know how to do the community and we need mentors to help them.
Tony Hill: Let me ask you. The parole officers, who talk to these youngsters, and not necessarily youngsters because everyone’s not young, but talk to the people who are being re-entered into society; the ones who go through this mentoring program. Are they seeing a difference, a change in their lives?
Paul Quander: They are because on the parole side, when you have a parole officer, and we call them Community Supervision Officers, we’re stressing certain things. We’re stressing accountability. We’re stressing employment. We want them to improve. And it’s good to have that counter balance on the other side saying, “you know what the parole officer is saying is a good thing.” Saying “Let me help you. Let me show you. You can do this.” So it’s that encouragement. So working together with institutions and members of the community, it helps that individual offender see that there is a path that he or she can travel and he can get there.
Tony Hill: All right, what if somebody wants to volunteer, to be a mentor, a church wants to get involved. What do they need to do to get into the process?
Paul Quander: Just contact our office. The website is www.csosa.gov, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia. The phone number is 202-220-5300 and we are looking for good people who want to make a difference; who actually want to see their work come into fruition and be a part of something that is growing and something that is doing good for the citizens of the District of Columbia.
Tony Hill: And when you have these people come forward and volunteer, they are not just helping society, but helping themselves because the community becomes a better and safer place.
Paul Quander; Absolutely. And we have a training program and we have a set of practices so we are not just sending people out on their own. There is a methodology in place that we are working.
Tony Hill: Thank you very much for coming in and talking with us. That’s Paul Quander, Jr. who is Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and for more in how Comcast is involved in your community, please check out “On Demand” and click “Get Local”. Thanks for watching Comcast Newsmakers. Until next time, I’m Tony Hill.
Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.
Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.