Archives for November 2012

Housing and Offender Reentry-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re talking today about housing and offender reentry. Back at our microphones, the Urban Institute, always, always, always happy to have them by our microphone. Jocelyn Fontaine is a Senior Research Associate. She has a piece of research, supportive housing for returning offenders, that is an evaluation from the State of Ohio state prison system. It was done in conjunction with The Corporation for Supportive Housing and the results are really gonna surprise you. I really am pleased to welcome to our microphones Jocelyn Fontaine, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute. Jocelyn, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: I really am happy to have you because this is a very important topic. We talk about offender reentry a lot and we talk about substance abuse and we talk about mental health and we talk about jobs, but rarely do we ever talk about housing and you have some really interesting findings. So give me a background, some background on the project and the research.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Absolutely. So a few years ago, around 2006 and 2007, the state prison system in Ohio partnered with the Corporation for Supportive Housing on a Supportive Housing pilot. They were looking for a way to get folks who are leaving their system into housing and wanted to partner with The Corporation for Supportive Housing who does this work, to help them to figure out how can we get folks into housing in the community, based on the assumption that if we get people into housing, they can get linked up to the services that they need –

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: They’re better able to find and maintain jobs and we can also reduce recidivism, which is costly for the state and of course, is a public safety concern. So they partnered on this Supportive Housing pilot which was focused on those who would benefit the most from supportive housing. So that is individuals with histories of residential instability, as well as behavioral health challenges, and they started out with wanting to house about 84 people coming out of the state prison system, this was state wide. It was first implemented in 10 correctional institutions and then they expanded it to three more, so it was 13 total. And they housed far more than the 84 that they initially intended to.

Len Sipes: Oh, how many did they house?

Jocelyn Fontaine: They housed, in our pilot, or the evaluation that we did, there were more than 118 or so folks.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Jocelyn Fontaine: But they housed far more than that, and it’s in fact still going on today, so they’re still housing folks.

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Jocelyn Fontaine: But they housed far more than 100 folks into supportive housing in five of the larger cities in the State of Ohio, so that was Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Dayton.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: And in fact like I said, people are still housed in the program and it’s got some pretty good findings.

Len Sipes: Well, the findings are astounding, I’ve spent a career looking at recidivism research and we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency like to think that we are a research based agency, we all read the research and discuss the research. These are some of the most significant findings I’ve ever heard in terms of recidivism. So you were able to find a certain percentage reduction in rearrest and a certain percentage reduction in reincarcerations. Tell me about them please.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Sure. So we’re pretty proud of the evaluation that we were able to do. It was a quasi-experimental design, which essentially meant that we expected the interest in the housing pilot to exceed their ability to house people, especially since it was implemented in 13 institutions, so what we wanted to do was a natural comparison group and that is get folks who looked similar but weren’t able to be housed by the pilot due to the limitations that they had in only having 84 housing beds. So that was our comparison group, so individuals who looked like those who got the housing, but weren’t able to because of the capacity of the program. We tracked those folks for a year following their release and we found that the RHO participants, and that stands for the Returning Home Ohio, that’s the pilot project, that the RHO participants were significantly less likely to be rearrested within one year. We found that the participants were 40% in fact, less likely to be rearrested than the comparison group subjects. And we also found that the participants in the RHO program were significantly less likely to be reincarcerated, which is one of the more interesting findings for the state prison system, since of course they want to reduce rearrest, but they’re mostly interested in people coming back into the prison system.

Len Sipes: Sure. Well, then that was a 60% reduction in reincarcerations right?

Jocelyn Fontaine: They were 60% less likely to be reincarcerated within one year, yeah.

Len Sipes: Right. Now that’s amazing, Jocelyn, because you take a look at offender reentry research across the board and just last week we had Nancy La Vigne, the Urban Institute, the famous Nancy La Vigne at these microphones and we were talking about the fact that most of the research projects that measure offender reentry probably go in the 10 to 20% range when they are successful, not all are successful. It’s, would be naïve to believe that every piece of research out there, every effort out there is going to reduce recidivism. Some research studies show that they don’t. The ones that do seem to run in that 10% to 20% range. Having a 40% reduction in rearrest and having a 60% reduction in reincarcerations is astounding.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah, well, we’re talking, just to make sure that we’re clear, so we’re talking about the likelihood that they’re going to be rearrested and reincarcerated –

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: But we are very proud of the outcomes, very proud of the findings, especially since we only had a one year window to look at outcomes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: And that is important to mention because not all of the folks who were in the treatment group or that got the housing, got the housing for a full year that we looked at their outcomes.

Len Sipes: Right, right?

Jocelyn Fontaine: So we’d expect actually the benefits of the program to be even greater, once we’re able to look at a longer outcome period and I’m currently working with the state prison system and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to continue to track folks, because we found, and something that I think is also interesting to talk about is, even though we had interested participants and interested providers and making the seamless link from release from prison to supportive housing in the community, we found that it wasn’t that seamless, that it took some time to get people into the housing upon release, so all that’s to say that once we feel that people are actually having the housing itself for one full year or longer, that we’d find even greater reductions in the recidivism rate and even greater benefits.

Len Sipes: There are endless questions that are running through my mind in terms of process and how it began and how you were able to convince landlords to bring people from the state prison system into homes that they rent. But this gets to the larger issue of recidivism across the board, we need to mention, I think we talked about before the show, the fact that they’ve received other services as well. So they were just not housing, there were a variety of stabilization services that I think dealt with substance abuse and mental health?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Tell me about those.

Jocelyn Fontaine: So this was a group that ranged from, I guess relatively low need to high need. So what this program was able to do, and I’m quite proud of them for doing that, was house a range of folks with different needs. Now, supportive housing is supposed to be target for those individuals at the higher need level, but there were some people in the housing who had lower needs and lower or less significant histories of substance abuse and mental illness so all that’s to say is that what the program did was working with providers so they would assess individual need once they came into the program and determine what services do they need as part of their supportive housing suite of services.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: So supportive housing can range from just having a case manager, to more wrap around services. Linkage to employment to the extent that that’s you know, feasible and appropriate, as well as, you know, recovery services, a whole range of things that go into supportive housing on top of the provision of affordable housing. And we also looked at, as you mentioned, whether people were getting linked up to services and we found that those individuals who were part of the program were significantly more likely to use state billable mental health and substance abuse services and more quickly, so that is a great finding of this project is that especially if we’re thinking about the folks who were in the program as being previously under, unserved, that they are getting linked up to the mental health and substance abuse services that they need, more likely to get linked up to those services and receiving more of those services.

Len Sipes: Was there a way of measuring the various services to see if housing was the key variable, or whether it was substance abuse or job assistance or mental health evaluation, was there a way of ferreting out discreet variables to the degree of saying, “Hey, it was 10% substance abuse and 10% housing and 5% mental health.” I would imagine that would take a tremendous piece of research to do that, but were you able to do that?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah, we weren’t’ and that’s actually an excellent question. So this story, it’s a great one, but it’s also a story I guess, like other research, a variation. So we had various types of offenders come through this program and then we also had various providers providing the service, so the providers were across the five cities, as I mentioned. They were a mix of both scatter site and single site housing agencies, so that is, they either managed or maintained a large building of affordable housing, of which the former offenders were part of that housing building, to agencies that worked with landlords and said, “Hey, we’re providing the housing, or we’ll pay for the housing, will you allow this person, Jocelyn Fontaine, to live in your housing building?”

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: The agencies also ranged in the type of services that they offered. Some, it was primarily just case management services and referrals to other agencies for things, all the way to one agency that really provided a range of services, it was a requirement of participation in their program that they participate in a lot of services. So putting all of that into one regression, one statistical model, we’re not able to tease out the relative benefits of the type of services that folks got, but that just calls for more research and we’re happy to do that and it’s a good thing too to see that even with all of this variation, that you know, the program still stuck. That meant that the providers got it right, that the program itself was able to match individuals to the housing services pretty well, or else we probably wouldn’t have had the findings that we had.

Len Sipes: Jocelyn, I’m going to, want you to take off your methodological hat and put on your opinion hat now.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Okay.

Len Sipes: What do you think is the impact of having stable housing? Parole and probation agencies throughout this country routinely report that a third of the people who they supervise are in unstable housing. It may be a shelter, it may be on the street, it may be you know, you’re at your Mom’s house, but your Mom said, “Hey, two months, and you’re out.” Then they shift over to their brother, he and the brother get into an argument, then they shift over to his sister, you know, brother in law’s not terribly happy about this, then he shifts over to a girlfriend, they break up. I mean, housing seems to be a key issue for an awful lot of offenders, and so what this research suggests is that it may be more important than we originally thought.

Jocelyn Fontaine: I think that’s right. As a housing person, I think it’s very important. You know, if you get an employment reentry person, they’re gonna say the jobs, but I like to think of housing as both the figurative and literal foundation that successful reentry can be launched. So it is my opinion that if someone doesn’t have stable housing, it’s difficult for them to find and maintain employment. If a person is worried about where they’re gonna sleep that night, it’s difficult for them to maintain their sobriety or continue on their regimen for mental health services for example. So I think it is extremely important and if you know, someone doesn’t have a place to sleep, if they’re worried about their housing, I think it’s difficult for them to think also about, you know, finding a job, being able to go to that job every single day, maintain good hours, having the clothing that they need in order to be successful in that job, having the rest that they need if they’re, you know, worrying about where they’re gonna lay their heads. So I think we need to think of housing as a platform for successful reentry, not only is it you know, a good thing to get people into housing, but thinking of housing, again, as that platform. So once people are into stable housing and it doesn’t necessarily have to be supportive housing, right? Its affordable housing, and appropriate housing placement, then folks can begin to be more successful on these other outcomes like job, reducing their substance use, getting medications for physical or mental health, reunifying with their family and friends.

Len Sipes: Several offenders have told me throughout my career that the housing component to them was one of the most important parts of coming out. That and supportive friends, supportive family and this is why I think the faith based program that we run and volunteer programs that try to mentor to people coming out of the prison system become so important, that it was quiet place to go and be by themselves and to provide a, it provides a certain sense of stabilization in the psychological well being of their lives. I mean, they just said, “My God, I mean, after being in prison and being around people all the time and then you go over to my brother’s house and I was over there with his family and you have no privacy and suddenly you have the ability to sleep when you want to think, when you want to contemplate life, that they found it to be psychologically comforting and a psychological comfort level that will allow them to do the certain things that they had to do. So am I in the ballpark or am I being Pollyannaish about this?

Jocelyn Fontaine: No, I think that sounds about right. That’s how we think of our own housing, right?

Len Sipes: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. That’s how we –

Jocelyn Fontaine: So we should expect that from other folks as well and it’s just you know, when we release folks without proper housing placements and it makes sense that people rely on their family mostly in the, you know, the initial days of their release, but we need to be honest that sometimes that’s not the best housing placement and we found in some of the work that Nancy La Vigne has done and we’ve continued to do in more recent reentry evaluations is that people would like to be able to have their own place and to not have to rely on their family so much and have acknowledged, you know, which I think is quite honestly, that it’s not the best place, it’s not you know, the best place to go is back with family and heavily relying on them and perhaps not being able to support your family in the way that you should, in order to be able to stay living in their housing. So it makes sense to me that there’s these psychological benefits of housing.

Len Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program. Our guest today is Jocelyn Fontaine; she is the Senior Research Associate with the Urban Institute. Housing and offender reentry is the topic of today’s program. She did a piece of research with others called Supportive Housing for Returning Prisoners, a program in Ohio that has astoundingly wonderful results, reduced rearrest by 40%, reduced reincarcerations by 60%. Jocelyn, with 700,000 people coming out of the state and local prison systems, state and federal prison systems every single year. 700,000, that’s just an immense number of human beings that are transitioning from the prison system to the state levels and transitioning to federal parole and probation authorities like mine. You know, the states are screaming bloody murder about their budgets and they’re saying, they’re reducing incarcerations, they’re closing prisons, they’re trying to come to grips with trying different things to reduce the rate of reincarceration, reduce the rate of recidivism because A: it cuts back dramatically on criminal victimization, but B: to them I think more importantly, it cuts a back on how much money they have to spend.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And that’s a reality for governors throughout this country. I’ve maintained that governors have had this conversation with every state correctional administrator in the country, that you’ve gotta learn to live within your budgets and you’ve gotta learn to find a way to reduce the amount of people coming back. This seems to hold some promise; this seems to hold something that people should consider.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yep, and I want to give credit to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for you know, very much going out on a limb and funding this program, and funding the research. I don’ t know if we mentioned that, but that’s pretty progressive and innovative to, “Let’s see if this housing sticks” and then waiting it out to see. As I mentioned earlier on, this started in 2006, we just finished the research just a couple of months ago. So their willingness to participate in the research study, to put themselves under scrutiny, to allow us to come in to look at their data and see what happens, is, a credit to them, that they’re you know, a progressive state that’s willing to look at this in a different way.

Len Sipes: And Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been a progressive entity over the course of the last quarter century. They always seem to be taking a lead in terms of taking a look at how they operate and what the impact is. Jocelyn, what are the policy implications of all of this, the average person sitting here in Washington DC, the average person listening to this program in New York City and Honolulu and San Francisco, they’re gonna take a look at their housing situation in those particular cities, which are some of the most expensive cities in the world, and they’re gonna say, “Wait a minute.” Giving housing to people coming out of the prison system, I can’t even find housing for my kid.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah.

Len Sipes: I desperately want my own kid to get out of my own house, but he or she can’t afford it and here we are providing arrangements, making arrangements and in some cases, paying for them, to find supportive housing upon release from the prison system. So what are the policy implications, what are the practical lessons that governors and mayors and county executives and parole and probation administrators can pull from this?

Jocelyn Fontaine: I think one is that collaboration and partnerships are a good thing and that they work. The state prison system didn’t go it alone here, they worked with an agency that has a history of doing this, that has helped jurisdictions across the country and in fact they’re doing this work in other places beyond Ohio, so working with the Corporation for Supportive Housing to say, “Look, we’re releasing these guys. Some of them are appropriate for supportive housing. Help us figure out how to make it work.” The Corporation for Supportive Housing is you know, knows hey there’s these community based providers that are providing this service to people in the community, right?

Len Sipes: Right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: And that there’s a percentage of them that have these criminal justice histories. They’re there, right? 700,000 people you just mentioned the number –

Len Sipes: Yes, every year.

Jocelyn Fontaine: That means that’s a lot of people who are in the community that are receiving supportive housing with these criminal justice histories. So what they’ve tried to do is just say, “Let’s extend this.” So these agencies are already doing this work, the prison system is releasing people, so let’s just make that linkage a little bit more seamless so that they can extend or reach into the prisons to get these guys and then therefore we’d have better reentry outcomes. So I think that’s a lesson that you already have agencies in your communities doing this work, they’re already providing supportive housing.

Len Sipes: They’re already doing it.

Jocelyn Fontaine: They’re already doing it, so why don’t we just toward better outcomes, so that these guys aren’t hitting the community with no housing placements, nowhere to go, see if it works, you know? See if we can create this linkage and you know, if the Department of Corrections they’re willing to spend this money, Ohio was willing to do it knowing that if we spend it now, that’s savings that we’ll get later because they’re not coming back –

Len Sipes: Right!

Jocelyn Fontaine: Then it’s a worthwhile investment. And of course, that’s for jurisdictions to decide on their own, but it was beneficial in Ohio.

Len Sipes: And also the savings in terms of criminal victimizations.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly.

Len Sipes: I mean, you have a situation where if you could produce 40% fewer arrests, 60% fewer reincarcerations, I mean, that would save tens of billions of dollars over the long run in terms of every state in the country, but you can see how difficult it is because the average person is gonna say to themselves, “Wait a minute, I can’t afford housing, why are you giving it to people coming out of the prison system?” The flip side of that is that it saves people from being victimized and it saves taxpayers a tremendous amount of money.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly. And there are other small things that can be done, right? So here, in this program, the state prison system was actually funding the housing, but there are other things that can be done just by a prison system creating more information for returning prisoners, about available housing placement, right? And it doesn’t have to be a situation which the correctional department is paying for all of someone’s rent; it could be a percentage, right?

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Jocelyn Fontaine: That get’s phased out over time as person gets linked up to more gainful employment.

Len Sipes: And the percentage may be just enough to tip the scale.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly, exactly.

Len Sipes: It may be just enough to get that person in a supportive housing in to dramatically increase the chances of the person –

Jocelyn Fontaine: Getting a job. . .

Len Sipes: . . . Doing well, getting a job, becoming a taxpayer, not a tax burden, and especially if they’re linked to other supportive services like mental health and substance abuse treatment and job services, but the, you know, so the other part of it is that they come back into these same communities and people sit there and go, “Well, you know, I’m not close to those communities, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” But one of out of every 42 people in the United States are under the auspices of or actually being supervised by a parole and probation agency.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah.

Len Sipes: So my, what I say to people is that you come into contact every single day with people on supervision by a parole and probation agency, you just don’t know it. If you’ve, some criminologists, I’ve heard the figure, one in 20 and I have no documentation to one in 20, they just gave their opinion in terms of people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system in the past, but everybody, every single day, comes into contact with people who have been caught up, currently, or in the past, with the criminal justice system. So I guess my question is that do you want them coming out with support so they won’t reoffend and so you won’t have to pay for them again, or not? What’s your comfort level?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly.

Len Sipes: The person comes out of the prison system with mental health problems; don’t you want that person to receive mental health treatment?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And doesn’t that protect you and your family and your kids and your neighbors and your friends?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yep, and we’ve heard that from landlords, as part of this housing study, or even employers, as part of other reentry evaluations that we’ve done, who’ve said, you know, these guys or these gals in this program are better than the other folks that you know, that I’m employing because they have a case manager, because they’re part of a program, because someone’s watching, not over them, but helping them out, that they have somebody, some support system, someone that’s focused on their reentry goals. And so you know, just like you said, you know, without a doubt, these folks are coming back and so if, you know, we can provide them with some supports, you know, I think that that goes a long way towards better reentry outcomes so that people aren’t coming back into the system.

Len Sipes: It’s my guess that an employer is going to be far more prone to hire somebody if they have stable housing. It’s my guess that in a discretionary world, where people go in and get drug treatment, you know, it is discretionary. I mean, people do chose who gets drug treatment and who doesn’t and I would guess that people would be more prone, or more apt to say, “Yes, let’s provide this person with drug treatment. He has stable housing, we’re not gonna have to worry about him wandering the streets, we’re not gonna have to worry about him deteriorating because he has no place to go.” It just seems to be a platform for other good things to happen in that person’s life which is why I’m guessing, and I think you’re guessing the same thing, that we have a 40% reduction in rearrest and a 60% reduction in reincarcerations.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And that, you know, that platform, that just absolutely intrigues me. Final words, we’re in the final three minutes of the program, Jocelyn. So we talked about policy implications, we talked about landlords, we talked about mayors considering this sort of a program, they need to get beyond, do they not, the fear that they may be criticized, for providing housing for people coming out of the prison system? Again, considering that there’s a lot of people who can’t afford housing to begin with?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah, I think you know, here’s the public campaigning that mayors and other public officials need to do is what you said earlier, realizing that it may not be your brother or your sister or someone in your family member, but it is likely to be someone in your community, and so realizing that these folks are coming back, that we’re paying for them in one way or another, that we do well to be paying for them in a strategic and a smart way and known to be effective way, other than you know, thinking, “It’s not my problem and I don’t have to deal with this, I don’t have to pay for it.” And the fact is that you do, and so when people are rearrested and reincarcerated, we are certainly paying for it, so we do well to think more strategically about what’s more effective use of our taxpayer dollars.

Len Sipes: They’re a five to ten minute drive from 70%, 80% of any metropolitan, anybody living in any metropolitan area.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Definitely.

Len Sipes: When I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, I was well known because I did a lot of television work and you wouldn’t believe all the different people caught up under supervision, who would greet me and say, “Mr. Sipes, how are you doing? I saw you on television. Yeah, I’m in from this pre-release system and I’m working here.” And it’s like, “Wow.” You don’t know how many people who are delivering your pizza, filling your gas tank –

Jocelyn Fontaine: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Handling your order, helping you out, doing your lawn care, doing your maintenance work, who are caught up in the criminal justice system? You just don’t know.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah, and that’s the sad part, but. . .

Len Sipes: Yeah, and having them having supportive housing and having them have supportive services does seem to make a difference.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yep.

Len Sipes: Not necessarily as high as your difference, but it does, nevertheless, make a difference.

Jocelyn Fontaine: Yeah, absolutely.

Len Sipes: All right Jocelyn, you’ve got the final word. Our guest today ladies and gentlemen, Jocelyn Fontaine, Senior Research Associate with the Urban Institute, We’ll have a link to the document that she references: Supportive Housing for Returning Prisoners. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety, we really do appreciate all the comments, we appreciate your criticisms, we appreciate your suggestions for new shows, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


What Works in Offender Reentry-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones is Nancy la Vigne, she is the Director of the Justice Policy Center for the Urban Institute. We’re here today to talk about what works in reentry and the fact that there are now, for the first time, actual websites, databases, that really do summarize the state of the art in terms of research in a variety of areas, what we have is from the Office of Justice Programs, which gives research on a wide variety of criminal justice topics, including reentry but now we have another website that’s focusing specifically on reentry. It was launched by the Urban Institute and a Council of State Governments. The website is the “what works” clearinghouse for reentry. It’s at www. .Nancy La Vigne, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Thanks, it’s great to be here.

Len Sipes: Wonderful website. Is it in competition with

Nancy La Vigne: Not at all, in fact it’s very complimentary and bear in mind, both websites are funded by the Office of Justice Programs.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Nancy La Vigne: So we worked very closely with the developers of Crime Solutions to talk about methodology and the ways in which the sites will be different and not duplicative and in fact, they’re not, Crime Solutions, as you said, covers a wide array of crime and justice topics.

Len Sipes: Law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice courts –

Nancy La Vigne: Right, right, exactly.

Len Sipes: You focus on reentry.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, we take more of a deep dive approach and whereas Crime Solutions only looks at what they’re calling brand name programs, we’re looking at all evaluations across a wide array of programs related to reentry. And as you know, reentry is a very broad topic in and of itself, so we’re looking at a wide array of different types of reentry interventions and summarizing the research findings across those types. So: employment, mental health, housing, juvenile justice.

Len Sipes: Nancy, you’ve been around for quite some time. I mean, you are the Director of the one of the most prestigious research organizations in the country, if not the world. Why did it take us so long? I remember talking to the former Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson, who said that we are going to do this, we are going to start summarizing the research, we’re gonna start making it easy for practitioners. Why did it take us decades to do this?

Nancy La Vigne: Well, I think in the case of the reentry topic, it took a real awareness and sense of urgency by members of Congress to fully fund reentry in all its aspects and that came with the Second Chance Act. And the Second Chance Act funded the National Reentry Resource Center, which of course, is run by the Council of State Governments and when we partnered with the Council of State Governments, we knew that CSG, as they’re called, was very well equipped to provide technical assistance and that we could provide some research value and the way we saw the best way to add value was to cull all the research on reentry and make it accessible to practitioners. So that’s what we set out to do.

Len Sipes: I just want to state, for the record, that I think that it’s been very frustrating for those of us in the practitioner community because we’ve been waiting decades for this and it’s here. In terms of and in terms of your website, I mean, it’s taken a long time to make it easy for practitioners and policy makers to follow the research.

Nancy La Vigne: I think that’s right and you know, when you look back, even a decade ago, there were two statements that were made as fact. One is: we don’t know what works. And the other was: well, we might know what works but the “we that know it” are a bunch of academics that do nothing more than talk to each other and publish for each other.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: I was of that second school of thought, which is that, you know, being an academic myself, I was aware of what was out there, I knew that there were evaluation studies that showed that certain types of reentry programs worked, but they were largely inaccessible. Sometimes inaccessible to me. You know, the methodology’s extremely complicated, the way the studies are presented are really more to show off the methodology off and rather than to illustrate the findings and the implications of the findings for policy and practice.

Len Sipes: My heavens, that’s a bias I’ve had for years. I’m glad you expressed it. Here’s the example that I give to everybody else. I remember being the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and the Secretary of Public Safety comes in with a sour look on his face and he’s got a document from the Department of Justice, and he plops it on my desk. And he goes, “Sipes, I want a one page summation.” And then he goes to the doorway and turns around and points his finger at me and goes, “Now did you hear me? A one page summation. I don’t care about the methodology, I don’t care about the literature review, I don’t have time to wade through this. I simply want to know, did this work, what are the policy implications and how we can implement it here. One page.” And he reminds me, again, “One page.” So simplicity is next to Godliness in terms of the transfer of information.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes, exactly. And you know, and one page is often, for a busy decision maker, too much. They want the bottom line, and that’s what we need to give them.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s what the both organizations, both websites do, is provide that summation. So, did we cover the website enough or are there more points that you want to make before getting into what the research says?

Nancy La Vigne: Well, sure, no, I would like to talk a little bit about the website and the methodology because I don’t want to overpromise on what this is.

Len Sipes: Please, okay.

Nancy La Vigne: And the reason I can’t overpromise is because I think that the research community has largely failed us and I say that because of the work that we had to do to winnow through all the evaluative research out there to get this much, much smaller subset of studies that we felt met methodological rigor enough that we could include them. And so, just to give you a few statistics, we identified roughly 2500 individual publications –

Len Sipes: Oh my heavens! 2500?

Nancy La Vigne: That called themselves evaluations and were on various topics of reentry which is to you know, prepare people for release from prison or jail, and tracks reentry outcomes. So it doesn’t just track infractions behind bars, for example. Of those, we screened out almost 1500 as irrelevant for a variety of purposes.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Nancy La Vigne: They weren’t really serving a reentry population; they weren’t really relevant outcomes for a reentry topic.

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Nancy La Vigne: Some other reasons, so we have around 1000 that were potentially relevant. Of those, only 276 met our standards for rigor.

Len Sipes: 15000 to 276?

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Nancy La Vigne: Now, there’s more that we’re still in the process of reviewing, but I would say that for every, easily every 10 we review, eight get winnowed out because they’re just not strong enough as studies.

Len Sipes: Okay, and without getting into a methodological review or discussion, it’s just that, that the findings and the way that they went about getting their findings just wasn’t strong enough to hold the confidence of their findings.

Nancy La Vigne: Right, but how do you know this if you’re a practitioner trying to figure out what works?

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: You just go to you know, you find a study online, you find a series of studies, they say that they have positive outcomes and then they take it at face value, and why wouldn’t they?

Len Sipes: Sure, of course.

Nancy La Vigne: So I feel like that’s one way we’re really adding tremendous value is to winnow through all of this supposed knowledge –

Len Sipes: Amazing.

Nancy La Vigne: Down to really what we can say with confidence, seems to be the findings. Now, not all of those studies, once you winnow them down, show that reentry interventions work.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Many are inconclusive and a lot of our findings suggest that more research is necessary.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: But, so I want to be clear. It’s a lot of work that boils down to you know really just, you know, tens of studies that end up on the website. The ones that you see will be relevant, will have met these methodological standards and you can have faith in that they’re saying something meaningful. So I think that that’s really important and I wanted to make sure that your audience understood both the value of the website but also the limitations because of the lack of good quality research that’s out there.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line in terms of what’s there, it can be trusted.

Nancy La Vigne: It can be trusted.

Len Sipes: Okay, the larger issue, I talked to a couple reporters a couple weeks ago, and we were talking about the state of research in terms of offender reentry and one of them said that, “You know Leonard; there are a lot of failed research programs out there.” And I said, “Well, you know, there’s a lot of hope and there’s enough evidence, there’s enough good evidence that we believe that we’re moving in the right direction, that we believe that if you take a look at drug courts in particular and you take a look at GPS in particular, you take a look at substance abuse, if you take a look at preparation in prison, that, that you’re getting fairly consistent, good findings that are methodologically correct, well done evaluations.” So I think there’s enough promise that leads us to believe that we can cut recidivism rates and I’m not saying 30% or 40% but at the moment, somewhere between 10 and 20%. But I point out that out of 700,000 people coming out of the prison system every year, if you cut that down from 15 to 20%, you’re saving billions of dollars and you’re saving victims from hundreds of thousands of victimizations.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, and I would agree with you. There’s certainly enough evidence out there to suggest that these programs are worth continuing to fund and support.

Len Sipes: But what do we say to practitioners when they go to your website, because they go to, they go to your website and what it does seem to say is that promising, promising, promising, promising and you’ve got three or four at the top with the green indicators saying that they did reduce recidivism and you have some down at the bottom with the red – you have a color coded system, which makes it real easy, and some fairly prestigious evaluations didn’t seem to have that much of an impact.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right.

Len Sipes: The Serious and Violent Offender research comes to mind. So the person takes a look at this and again, the word promising comes to mind.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, I mean I think that’s right. And I think that much depends on the population and the nature of the intervention and the fidelity with which it was implemented, which was something that we’re having a very difficult time assessing based on the studies. The studies rarely look at issues of the design and implementation of the program. So if you don’t do that, and you say a program doesn’t work, you don’t know if it doesn’t work because the concept was flawed, or because it wasn’t implemented properly.

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Nancy La Vigne: And so we’re saying it doesn’t work, which is really an unfair indictment on a concept that could be very theoretically sound and could work under better circumstances.

Len Sipes: So we’re going to repeat what Joan Petersilia of Stanford said that what we do too much of at a National Institute of Justice conference, was that we overpromise and deliver too little in community corrections. That seems to be true to some degree, but people need to understand that this Rome was not built in a day. I mean, these are thousands of pieces of research, cumulatively speaking, seem to be saying that we’re moving in the right direction. So for those out there who are saying, hey, we can dramatically cut recidivism, that doesn’t seem to be supported by the literature but I’m talking about 30% and above. That’s not supported by the literature.

Nancy La Vigne: No, it’s not.

Len Sipes: And we shouldn’t be, as advocates –

Nancy La Vigne: It’s an unrealistic goal, and if we have goals like that, we’re setting ourselves up for failure and that’s just no way to go.

Len Sipes: And that was her point. I think her point was was that don’t overpromise because there’s a certain point where the States are going to be well funded again and then they’re going to have to make a decision as to whether or not to continue to build more prisons and if we overpromise, we inevitably invite our own demise.

Nancy La Vigne: Well put.

Len Sipes: But I mean, that’s serious stuff, but at the same time, you know, I travel throughout the country, I work with principally public affairs people, they’re enthused about this. They’re enthused. Most of the people representing parole and probation agencies, most of the people representing correctional agencies, I was doing some training for the National Institute of Corrections and had a chance to talk to directors of public affairs for various states who not only do mainstream prisons, but they also do parole and probation. They’re very happy to be exploring opportunities of doing something else besides putting the person away for 20 years. They’re not saying, you know, “Let’s let’em out.” They’re not saying, “Let’s not incarcerate them.” But what they are saying is is that we certainly can really have an impact in terms of them coming back. So there’s an enthusiasm and and optimism out there nevertheless.

Nancy La Vigne: Oh, I would say so, and it’s interesting. You referenced how long I’ve been in the field. Thanks for showing off my age to your audience.

Len Sipes: I thought you were 25.

Nancy La Vigne: But you know, we’ve both been around for a while, and when you think about it, if you look back, even, you know, a decade or you know, 15 years ago, I would say the large majority of directors of departments of corrections across the country did not view it as their responsibility to do anything to prevent people from returning to their prisons.

Len Sipes: We were told, when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had three correctional systems, we were told our mission was to constitutionally incarcerate. The parole and probation side of it, we were told that our mission was to enforce the provisions set by the courts and to enforce the provisions set by the Parole Commission. That was it. There was no mention of recidivism, there was no mention of best practice and there was no mention of intervention. None.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, we’ve come a very long way.

Len Sipes: Where the average correctional administrator wants to do these things, for a variety of different reasons. So the whole idea is to supply programs that are meaningful and evidence based within the correctional setting and to continue that when they come out.

Nancy La Vigne: Yep.

Len Sipes: And there is evidence that shows in some cases, you get some fairly decent reductions and I’m saying again, to be on the safe side, somewhere between 10 and 20%.

Nancy La Vigne: I think that’s safe to say.

Len Sipes: I wanted to give the resource center, the address one more time. We’re halfway through the program. My guest today is Nancy la Vigne. She’s the Director of the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute,, and I do also want to talk at the same time about the Crime Solutions data base, funded by the Office of Justice Programs of the US Department of Justice. They are at, and again, Office of Justice programs supports this particular reentry resource center endeavor as well. Where do we go to from here in terms of the research? I mean, part of it is the frustration that the research hasn’t been good enough, hasn’t been rigorous enough and so the message needs to go out to the research community to do better?

Nancy La Vigne: Absolutely. And they need to be incentivized to do better and I’m not sure how to do that, because you know, as I said earlier, you know, researchers spend a lot of time publishing to communicate with each other and not with the world outside of academia. So I think that there is a share of academics out there that really care about making a difference and that we need to get to them and explain that you know, while you’re publishing and trying to get tenure, also think about ways that you can do good work that’s of a high quality, that also is accessible.

Len Sipes: That withstands scrutiny. That, that people can depend upon.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: But the practitioner community, unto themselves, I mean, the only thing that they want, is again, a la the Secretary of Public Safety who I used to work for, they just want it simple.

Nancy La Vigne: The bottom line, yeah.

Len Sipes: They just want the bottom line, they just want, you know, want to know the policy, they want to know the results and they wanna know what the policy states and they want to know if they can implement that policy within their jurisdictions, that’s pretty much it.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Yeah, now let me tell you a little bit more about how the website is set up. I mean, unfortunately, this is a radio show so we can’t do a webinar and have visuals, but it’s tiered in such a way that for those very busy decision makers, it is indeed just the bottom line. But then you can click down and get more and more information.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: And so what it starts out is a description of each category of type of intervention. So under employment it might be a literacy program. Or a vocational training behind bars. And then it has a summary of the finding across all studies that address that intervention. So that’s the bottom line, right?

Len Sipes: And it’s a fairly quick description.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. But, if you click, it unscrolls a long, detailed, not as detailed as anything you’ll see in a journal article, but detailed description of the population that participated in the program, the geographic location, the nature of the program, and all those other nuances that I think are really critical. Because you have the busy decision maker, right? And he or she just wants to know the bottom line, but ultimately, if they’re going to use that bottom line to develop or alter a program, there’s gonna be someone who is tasked with doing that, and that person is going to need to know these details so that they don’t take, God forbid, the cookie cutter approach of just saying, “Okay, so we’re gonna do vocational programming.” Without thinking through who it works best with, why it works with this population, some of the details behind the program that might have made it more likely to achieve it’s intended results –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Those types of details we felt, really had to be somewhere on the website and easily accessible, but the average viewer that goes there is not confronted with all that detail; they can chose to unveil it at their will.

Len Sipes: Do we have in this country any sense of training for the practitioner community that they understand everything that we, you and I just talked about? I mean, isn’t the natural inclination to say that if they did substance abuse treatment, if they did mental health treatment and if they did job placement, it worked in Milwaukee, it reduced recidivism by 17%, so it will work Baltimore, so we’re going to do the exact same thing. But it’s not the exact same thing. It all depends upon the population, it all depends upon high risk, low risk, it all depends upon what you mean by treatment.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: I mean, and I think a lot of people in the practitioner community don’t quite understand that it’s not a cookie cutter approach; it depends upon your particular set of circumstances.

Nancy La Vigne: Right, I think that’s right. And we try to communicate that in the website, but that’s not our primary goal. However, bear in mind, this is just one part of the larger, National Reentry Resource Center website, which does I think, a very good job at that, where they talk about best practice and you know, how to tailor a program to your local jurisdictions and needs and population so there’s a lot of complimentary guidance and information that should be used in concert with the stuff that’s on the reentry website.

Len Sipes: And, people should go to there and explore the entire website –

Nancy La Vigne: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: As well as But the, in terms of reentry specifically, pretty much everything you need to know is at the National Reentry Resource Center.

Nancy La Vigne: I would say so.

Len Sipes: I mean in terms of guidance, in terms of what to do –

Nancy La Vigne: its one stop shopping.

Len Sipes: Right, right, right, because different people come to me and they say, “Oh, my Congressman–he’s now interested in this reentry issue. Where do I go? What do I do?” And they search the internet and they come to one of my television shows or one of my radio shows and they think I know the answers and I don’t. I say, go to the National Reentry Resource Center, go to OJP, go to NIJ.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. So the Resource Center has been up and running for what – five years, four years? Something like that.

Len Sipes: About.

Nancy La Vigne: So we, you and I, used to field those inquiries all the time. I still am to some extent, but I can’t tell you how much more time I have in my life, now that people are referred to this website. It’s got an added bonus of freeing me up to do more research.

Len Sipes: You don’t have to go through the endless explanations. Before ending the show, I do want to talk about what, in your opinion, seems to be the principle findings and we haven’t really talked about that. So we know about the website, we know about the National Reentry Resource Center, we know about the Office of Justice programs, we know about how you got to where you are in terms of going from 15000 studies to 276 studies, so people are sitting back and going, “Well, shut up Leonard, and tell ‘em what works.”

Nancy La Vigne: Well, you know, we did not set out to synthesize across all of the research that we presented. We present it by topical areas so that people can look and make their own decisions about what seems to work, based on different intervention categories. But I can say that just based on the content we have up right now, which is not fully up there, we have covered just a handful of the topics, housing and employment –

Len Sipes: A work in progress.

Nancy La Vigne: And so forth. . . There are some findings that perhaps won’t surprise you at all. Chief among them is the importance of aftercare, or what’s called the continuum of care. So across all the topics that we’ve explored all ready, the ones, the programs that seem to have an impact are surprise, surprise, the ones that start in an institutional setting –

Len Sipes: Right, within prison.

Nancy La Vigne: And continue out into the community and this I’m sure is a no-brainer for many in your audience but it’s nice that sometimes research can confirm what we know to be true, so. . . that’s a big one.

Len Sipes: Well, we have a captive audience, no pun intended, so there is an opportunity for them to get their GED, there is an opportunity for them to get their welding certificate, there is an opportunity to go to, I don’t think there’s a lot of drug treatment or mental health treatment within prison systems, so the research that I’ve looked at somewhere in the ballpark of 10 to 15% but there are groups in there. So they come out, whatever they get, they come out and it’s supposed to continue seamlessly in the community.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right. We’ve also found rather mixed results on the topic of employment, even though I know in my heart that employment can work, we found it in our own research at the Urban Institute, but if you look across the studies that we felt met the threshold of rigor, we found very mixed results. Some, some work programs or employment readiness programs worked and others did not. Again, this gets back to the missing piece of data for us, which is how well were those programs implemented?

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: And we largely don’t know that. So if I were to conjecture, I’d say that the ones that worked were implemented well, and those that didn’t weren’t, or were not focused on the right population who could best benefit from. . .

Len Sipes: A good history of research in terms of substance abuse, SAMHSA, has had decades to look at what works and how it should be implemented so what do we have in terms of the correctional literature?

Nancy La Vigne: We are still in the process of coding and assessing all the substance abuse studies so. . .

Len Sipes: Ah, okay.

Nancy La Vigne: Which is actually the largest body of research of any category that we have.

Len Sipes: Right, and it’s been around for decades, but I mean, what we have now is again, promising. I mean, there does seem to be some fairly decent findings, because substance abuse research or programs do seem to be coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy and for the average person listening to this program, getting a person to rethink how they live their lives and how they make decisions, so those seem to be coupled, but most of the drug treatment that I’ve been exposed to was cookie cutter. It’s not designed for that individual; it’s designed for anybody with any drug history, with any drug of choice.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, there’s often a mismatch on who gets access to the substance abuse treatment behind bars and in some of our own research we found that often it’s just based on your crime of conviction. So if you’re convicted of a drug related crime, you automatically go into some kind of substance abuse treatment program you know, regardless if you’re a trafficker and you might be very successful as a trafficker because you don’t engage in any substance use at all. So, I know that departments of corrections are a lot more savvy about that now but you know, even a decade ago we saw a lot of examples of that. So. . .

Len Sipes: Mental health is an issue that’s just emerging. I saw a piece from the Bureau of Justice Statistics about five or six years ago talking about self reports and the self reports were somewhere in the 55% range of people who self reported a problem with substance, I mean, a mental health problem. I’ve seen more and more literature in terms of self reports and assessments that indicate that very large numbers of offenders have histories of substance, I’m sorry, mental health problems but treatment is far and few and in-between and it’s really tough to deal with schizophrenia within a correctional setting. It’s really tough to deal with depression within a correctional setting.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, and disentangling studies that look at certain types of mental health treatment programs that are more about counseling and you know, clinical counseling, separate and apart from medication, is very difficult. It makes it very challenging for research studies, because you can’t withhold that type of treatment so finding a good comparison group is very. . .

Len Sipes: No, you cannot do random assignment when it comes to health related issues.

Nancy La Vigne: Right, right, right.

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Nancy La Vigne: Which is why we found so many or so few examples of rigorous studies in health – just physical health. We had none to include at all which is kind of disappointing, but in part, some of those end up in a larger category of what we’re calling holistic reentry programs.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: So it’s very rare to only address physical issues in a study on reentry.

Len Sipes: And we’re talking about holistic, it seems to be for, it seems to be substance abuse, it seems to be mental health, it seems to be job related, and it seems to be cognitive behavioral therapy, which is again, how to think your way through situations. Those seem to be the four key, core areas of the research that I read.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And those, then the comprehensive programs are designed to deal with all four of those issues.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, and if they’re good, they’ll bring in the family component you know, that’s a favorite topic of mine.

Len Sipes: Yes it is a favorite topic and a very important topic at the same time. So in the final analysis, what we have is an understanding as to the key components. I mean, I think housing is certainly an extraordinarily important component and I read about different, you know, projects around the country that are providing housing, but in Washington DC, which is one of the United States and world’s most expensive housing markets, we’re not gonna be able to provide a lot of housing regardless to how much money we get. I mean, I would imagine a housing program in the middle of the country in a rural area, they can probably stretch their dollars, so that’s, that’s really problematic.

Nancy La Vigne: And that’s right, and really there were very few studies on housing that met our criteria and they were entirely about halfway houses, so. . .

Len Sipes: Yes, right. So in the final analysis it seems those are the four key areas and that people can now have places, a place to go to that will be populated to a much larger degree than it is now, a place to go to in terms of offender reentry and to get all those research summations in one place.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And for the future, you’re going to be putting more and more and more in?

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, right now we have housing and employment and a few other topics and then we’ll be adding substance abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy, sex offender treatment, some special populations topics, like juveniles and so forth.

Len Sipes: Nancy, I really appreciate you being here. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center for the Urban Institute – The National Reentry Resource Center, boy that’s a mouthful. The National Reentry Resource Center, their website, in terms of what works, is exactly that – and don’t forget for all the criminal justice topics. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We really appreciate all the interaction, all the emails, all the comments, all the criticism and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


National Recovery Month and Parole and Probation-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Beings]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the program today is on National Recovery Month and we have three individuals who really know their stuff in terms of National Recovery Month. We have Kevin Moore, a Supervisory Treatment Specialist for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Renee Singleton who’s also a Treatment Specialist here at CSOSA, and we have Ronald Smith, he is a graduate of the Secure Residential Treatment Program. He’s been out of that program and for about one year and he’s doing wonderfully. We’re here to discuss National Recovery Month and I do want to remind everybody that there are 700,000 people who leave the prison systems all throughout the United States and the federal system every year. Eighty to 90% of them have substance abuse histories. The question is, if they got the treatment, if they got, whether it’s mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment while in prison, and if they got the mental health and substance abuse treatment out in the community, how much crime could we reduce, how much money can we save tax payers and how many victimizations could we prevent? So the all those questions for Kevin Moore, again, Supervisory Treatment Specialist, Renee Singleton and Ronald Smith. To all three, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Renee Singleton: Thank you.

Kevin Moore: Good afternoon. Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, Kevin, you’re going to start off first. National recovery month is put on by SAMHSA, correct?

Kevin Moore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: And explain to me what SAMHSA is?

Kevin Moore: SAMHSA is a Federal Agency responsible for various treatment initiatives, establishing national protocols and standards for treatment providers and to ensure that there are services in the community to assist with eradicating the use of illicit substances.

Len Sipes: They’re the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I could never get that right. I’ve been, I’ve been receiving SAMHSA materials for the last 25 years and I always screw up the acronym. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, US Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. So every month they, every year they do Recovery Month. It’s now into its 23rd year, and it highlights individuals who have reclaimed their lives and are now living happy and healthy lives in terms of long term recovery. But this issue of substance abuse, this issue of mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, it’s not the easiest sell, considering the fact that there are budget reductions all over the country. I mean, convincing individuals that treatment is in their best interest, in society’s best interest, in the best interest of the person caught up in the criminal justice system; sometimes that can be a tough sell.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, absolutely. And just as you said in your opening, you know, we have 700,000 individuals returning to the communities each year and you know, one of the things that we feel here at CSOSA is that if we give folks an opportunity at treatment services, then we are providing opportunities to these folks to reclaim their lives, but more importantly, to reduce the possibility of continued criminal lifestyles.

Len Sipes: Right, but this is a national effort, that’s one of the things that I want to make clear, the first issue I want to make in the program. We celebrate recovery, not just here at CSOSA, but all throughout the United States, all throughout the Territories, the whole idea is to get people to understand that recovery is possible and recovery is in society’s best interest.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. And with this year’s campaign, you know, we just want to reemphasize that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover, providing they are giving opportunity to the services that are out there.

Len Sipes: Now you’re a Supervisory Treatment Specialist, which means that you head up a team of people providing treatment services. This is probably the most difficult job on the face of the earth. I’ve done this, by the way, I ran group in a prison system, I did Jail or Job Core where the judge said, “Go to jail or go to Job Corps.” And I was also a gang counselor in the streets of the city of Baltimore. I know how tough this is to get people off of substances. And so you head up a team of people who face this issue every single day.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely, absolutely. We, I have a team, a staff who are dedicated to working with individuals who, some are motivated, some aren’t motivated, but they, meaning the Treatment Specialists, do what they can, using their clinical skills to guide our clients to entering into treatment and to give them that opportunity to reclaim their lives, deal with their addiction, deal with their mental health issues.

Len Sipes: And you know, interestingly enough, ladies and gentlemen, we have Renee Singleton who is a Treatment Specialist from my agency, the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency. Renee, we supervise 16,000 offenders on any given day, 24,000 offenders in any given year. Eighty to 90% have histories of substance abuse, so this is a tough task.

Renee Singleton: It is an extremely tough task. That’s why I think it’s one of the great things is that CSOSA offers so many different treatment options for our offenders. Not only do they have the opportunity to participate in treatment services, in outpatient treatment centers, they can also go to our Reentry and Sanction Center and be assessed and be introduced to some evidence based treatment practices and be placed within a residential treatment placement. And we also have our secure residential treatment program which is inside the institution as well as our new After Care and Relapse Prevention Groups.

Len Sipes: One of the things that I want to crow about, because it’s my agency and I guess I’m paid to promote my agency, but whether I’m paid or not, I say this to everybody, we’re an evidence based agency. We’re a best practices agency, so we look at the guidance given to us by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. We look for them to tell us what the state of the art is and we apply that state of the art here at CSOSA. What we do is we really figure out who that person is through a batteries or a series of tests and we match that person to the right treatment – correct?

Renee Singleton: Correct. We used the Addiction Severity Index to conduct assessments. We also use a risk assessment on the supervision side which looks at violence, weapons and sex, there’s substance use history, revocation history, so it takes into consideration all of those factors and within some of the treatment programs there are different assessments that are also used to gauge a person’s response to treatment.

Len Sipes: Because I think that that’s unusual. In my experience, and my 42 years within the Criminal Justice System I’ve seen the vast majority of treatment programs out there and other Criminal Justice Agencies and they’re cookie cutter. They just pile a bunch of people under supervision into a program. We create specialized programs for that individual offender, that person under supervision. I think that’s what makes us unique. Correct?

Renee Singleton: Absolutely. You want to have treatment services that are going to address the client’s needs and to apply a cookie cutter approach is not going to, actually address that individual client. So if you take a program that’s going to meet the client where he’s at, it’s evidence based, and help him to look at his thinking errors, cognitive distortions, substance use history and factors along with that, then that will help the client be successful, not only in treatment recovery, but also on supervision.

Len Sipes: The other unique thing is that we have money for about 25% of our population. Most parole and probation agencies in this country, they don’t have a dime. They don’t have a dime towards treatment. They just basically refer to the local treatment services provider. Now what we do is focus on what, the high risk offenders? That 25% for the people who pose an obvious risk to public safety or have histories of substance abuse, severe histories?

Renee Singleton: Yes, the auto screener takes the risk assessment. So you want to take that risk assessment because we want to look at the overall public safety.

Len Sipes: Right.

Renee Singleton: So in terms of substance use, you want to look at the risk, potential risk for public safety, as well as provide substance abuse treatment for an offender who’s in need.

Len Sipes: Okay. And we have an array of programs, anywhere from detox to residential to, to 28 day stay in terms of an assessment center that we built and then they go into designed, treatment designed specifically for them, correct?

Renee Singleton: That is right. I believe its 45 days for the women and 28 days for the men.

Len Sipes: Okay. And we have an array of other programs here at CSOSA in terms of anger management, educational assistance, vocational assistance, so we try to target the high risk offender, the offender who poses an obvious risk to public safety and we try to target our services, a wide array of services to that person.

Renee Singleton: That’s correct. There are, there is anger management program, which is also offered through CIT, and there’s DVIP, there are Reentry and Sanction Center, which is the 28 day assessment center, or 45 days for men. VOTEE, which offers educational services and vocational placement services. You have the faith based initiative, which also provides services.

Len Sipes: Oh, thanks for bringing that up.

Renee Singleton: And offers training sessions for our offenders.

Len Sipes: Because that’s a key issue. I mean, we have 100 faith institutions in Washington DC and I think the total number the last time I looked was 500 people under supervision have gone through the faith based program. I mean, that’s wonderful, the idea. Kevin, did you want to take this?

Kevin Moore: Yeah.

Len Sipes: That’s wonderful, the idea that you come out of treatment and you’re matched with a mentor.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, absolutely and I just wanted to add that you know, because we only have probations for 25% it’s very important that we use our faith based partners to help us deal with the issues that our clients face, whether it’s addiction or mental health and that mentoring component is very significant in helping the client sustain his productive path as he or she tackles their recovery.

Len Sipes: And we also, the ones that fall outside of the high risk, we refer over to [PH 00:10:41] APPRA, which is the Washington DC’s organization to provide substance abuse treatment and we also rely upon the faith based community. Sometimes they provide treatment and there is Salvation Army, there is the Veteran’s Administration, there’s all sorts of places that we can refer other people to that don’t fall under the category of high risk offender. Wait a minute, just let me get an answer to that question and we’re going to get right over to you in a second, Ronald. So, is that correct?

Kevin Moore: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Ronald.

Ronald Smith: Hello.

Len Sipes: I’ve been looking forward to talking to you.

Ronald Smith: How you doin’?

Len Sipes: You know, get closer to that microphone, get right on top of that mike. You know, you and I were talking before the program; you’ve had quite a drug problem from a fairly early age, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ronald Smith: You know, I was, I was 14 years old and I was boxin’ and then I got on marijuana, started with marijuana and then I graduated from PCP to heroin.

Len Sipes: Right. Were you involved in criminal activity all throughout that time?

Ronald Smith: Yes, to support my habit.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: What y’all were saying about the programs that Washington DC have – CSOSA, when I was in the Federal System, them guys are like, they goin’ home to Philadelphia and New York and Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, they don’t have the programs that the residents of Washington DC have.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And it’s a blessing.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Ronald Smith: You know, and I’m . . .

Len Sipes: I do want to explain in terms of the Federal Prison concept that since we had a change in Washington DC in August of 2000, all people, DC offenders, not just necessarily Federal Offenders, but all DC code offenders now go to Federal Prison, so for somebody listening in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I want to be sure that they understand your reference to Federal Prison.

Ronald Smith: Yeah, because they closed Norton down –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And now they sent us to Federal Institutions.

Len Sipes: Well you know, Ronald, look. You’re a success, and thank God you’re a success. It makes the rest of us in the Criminal Justice System celebrate the fact that you’re a success. But today you’re representing all the different people caught up in the Criminal Justice System who have been able to get by drugs. Now you spent how long in the, the, you’re a graduate of the Secure Residential Treatment Program. That was a jail based program, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes, that’s a six month program.

Len Sipes: Okay, so you graduated from that and why did you go into drug treatment?

Ronald Smith: Why?

Len Sipes: Why.

Ronald Smith: Because I got tired of being homeless. Homelessness – and my treatment specialist, she helped me point out my weaknesses as far as being homeless.

Len Sipes: Right?

Ronald Smith: So with that I learned, it’s, I already had knew what she was teaching me, but I just wasn’t using it and when I was out there, on drugs and drinking alcohol.

Len Sipes: Before the program you said you weren’t ready before and you have to be ready. Anybody entering these sort of programs needs to be ready to make a change, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Tell me about that.

Ronald Smith: That’s automatic, because if you don’t want it, then you going to have reservations. You going to be, like you be in jail, they going to [INDISCERNIBLE 00:14:36]. So if you have reservations, then it’s not going to work.

Len Sipes: If we had sufficient money, if we had now, like in CSOSA we have, we can treat 25%, we refer people to other organizations in terms of drug treatment and mental health treatment and other services and its employment services as well, we have partners. Without partners we can’t exist. But if we had not 25% but 35%, 45%, if every person who had a drug history or mental health history, who are caught up in the Criminal Justice System, if they had services for that in prison and when they got out in the community, would it substantially reduce crime?

Ronald Smith: Yes it would. Because you building your foundation while you’re incarcerated. So when you come home, you still got that motivation.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And when you have that motivation, you can’t be stopped. So every day that I wake up, I thank God for waking me up, and then I go on with my day. Every Monday I call my treatment specialist to check in. You know, I’m not in the program no more –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: But I still check in and she part of my support system.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And I build a, I mean, my support system is awesome right now and I stay in contact with these people every day, every week.

Len Sipes: That’s cool, that’s cool. Relapse prevention is part, a big part of the SAMHSA program, part of the CSOSA program, but ladies and gentlemen; I wanted to reintroduce everybody one more time. We’re halfway through the program. Kevin Moore, Supervisory Treatment Specialist, for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we’re a Federal Parole and Probation agency providing services here in the nation’s capital. Renee Singleton, she’s a Treatment Specialist, and Ronald Smith is a proud graduate of one of our programs, still under supervision. He’s been out for one year and he’s working and doing fine. Okay, let me go back to you, Ronald.

Ronald Smith: And 22 months clean.

Len Sipes: And 22 months clean. That is so important.

Ronald Smith: It is very important.

Len Sipes: How difficult was it to kick drugs? I mean, you know, people tell me it is one of the most difficult things in the world to kick both drugs and to kick the corner.

Ronald Smith: Yeah, like, it’s, it was a mental, it was mental.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: It’s mental. But I know that I’m addicted to the lifestyle –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: So. . .

Len Sipes: You’re not just addicted to drugs, you’re addicted to the lifestyle.

Ronald Smith: Lifestyle too.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ronald Smith: So I stay away from the lifestyle.

Len Sipes: That’s it.

Ronald Smith: You know what I’m saying? I spend time with family and I have a son and I have a little bouncing little grandson that’s a month.

Len Sipes: Congratulations.

Ronald Smith: So you know, I’m busy.

Len Sipes: And it’s, and now you’re a meaningful part of the lives of your children and your grandchildren instead of being this person who floats in and out of their lives because they’re using drugs.

Ronald Smith: Yes. When my son told me, when I came home, he said, he said, “Dad, when you going to stop goin’ to jail?”

Len Sipes: Yep.

Ronald Smith: I had to, you know, think about that.

Len Sipes: If treatment wasn’t available to you where would you be today?

Ronald Smith: If I didn’t take my treatment seriously?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Ronald Smith: I’d be back in jail or dead.

Len Sipes: In jail or dead or still committing crime?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Still using drugs?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: And you know, Kevin, I’m going to go with you for a second in terms of this larger issue. Again, it is the SAMHSA which is the, under Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They’re setting up National Recovery Month; we’re participating in it as we always do. We feel very strongly about this issue because you know, talking to Ronald, if these programs weren’t available, people would still be committing crime, people would still be victimizing people and it would still be costing taxpayers literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. You, Mr. Sipes said, it costs more to incarcerate an individual than to treat the person for their addiction and you know, I’m thankful that this initiative has been in existence for 23 years, but I’m more thankful that CSOSA has embraced recovery month and that we are providing various activities to acknowledge individuals who are in recovery. And you know, SAMHSA, about two years ago, redefined what recovery means and simply put, they states that recovery is a process through which individuals improve their health and well being, that they live a self directed life, and that they attempt to maximize, or they strive to maximize their full potential. And just listen to what Ronald is saying –

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: It sounds like he has taken advantage of that and I’m glad that CSOSA was a part of providing that opportunity for him.

Len Sipes: And you know, all of us in this room, we’ve talked to literally, throughout our careers, thousands of people who have crossed the line, who have crossed the bridge. They’re now tax payers, they’re not tax burdens, they’re now supporting their kids, they’re now you know, doing the right thing, they’re full members of their community but they were none of this until they got mental health treatment, until they got substance abuse treatment. Renee, you want to take a shot at that?

Renee Singleton: Yes, I think Mr. Smith is a prime example of how treatment works in regards to just maintaining his recovery and being in compliance with supervision. It’s definitely been a change in how he responded to supervision prior to treatment and now, and he can best attest to that, in regards to being on intensive, maximum, and now minimum supervision.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s come down, he’s worked his way down the chain in terms of how intensely we supervise him.

Renee Singleton: That’s correct, and that’s not also, not just in regards to supervision, but in regards to drug testing as well. So you may start off at a higher level of drug testing, because of your substance use history, and then work down to spot testing and not being required to drug test as frequently. Also, Mr. Smith has been quite modest. He’s taken advantage of a lot of services that CSOSA offers and all of those services have helped him be successful on supervision and in the community. He’s now a taxpayer, he maintains his own house or he’s maintaining housing, stable housing, he’s not in violation in supervision, so he is a prime example of how treatment works.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s everything we want him to be, he’s everything society wants him to be.

Renee Singleton: Now that he’s successful [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes: And then congratulations go out to all of you. Okay, so why is it so dag gone difficult to find money for substance abuse treatment programs? You know, the last survey that I saw, that in prison now, not under community supervision, but in prison, that 80 to 90% of people in prison have histories of substance abuse. 10% are getting treatment. Now, I’ve seen others surveys that said 13%, I’ve seen other surveys that said 16%, it’s a small number that get treatment. Okay, why do we have this dichotomy? If we have individuals who have histories of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, then why aren’t we treating them in the prison system? What’s going on? Why is it a matter of convincing society that this is something that we need to do? We need to give up the money? Any one of you can answer that question.

Kevin Moore: Well, I’ll take a shot at it Mr. Sipes, and you know, within the Criminal Justice Systems, you know, we go through various shifts. You know, every decade or so the philosophy changes. One, we go from rehabilitative concept to the punitive, punishment concept. I think now we are moving back towards the rehabilitation, we’re looking at evidence based practices.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: And so we are educating folks more, but you know, substance abuse and mental health, you know, still poses a stigma to folks and the community has a difficult time of embracing that. I think that you know, though we celebrate National Recovery Month every September for the past 23 years, we need to have a better or more established campaign throughout the year to promote the successes of folks who have recovered from substances and mental health disorders.

Len Sipes: Is it because people just hear bad news about people under supervision and just don’t hear the good news? I mean, what Ronald has done is phenomenal. I mean, I’m looking at an article right now that was written up by somebody in terms of his transitional housing, a Reverend Deborah Thomas Campbell and who just absolutely, absolutely is glowing in terms of Ronald’s recovery, but as he says, if he didn’t have the treatment programs there, the other programs there, he may be dead, he may be in prison, he may be back doing drugs, he may be back doing crime and additional victims are going to have to suffer through those consequences. They don’t have to suffer through it now because he’s sitting by our microphones clean and sober for how many years?

Ronald Smith: A year and 8 months.

Len Sipes: That’s a long time Ronald. Congratulations.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Len Sipes: So what are you, so what do you say to the larger society? What message do you give to people who are saying, “Look Leonard, you know, we can’t fund our schools, we can’t fund programs for our elderly, we’ve got 10 tons of people out of work, you know, and you’re now telling me to give more money to substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.” What do you say to that person? Closer to the mike. . .

Ronald Smith: I would tell’em, okay, I’m part of the community.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Ronald Smith: And I helped mess it up, so you can help straighten it up and then be a mentor to the kids because the generation coming up now, they need some mentoring.

Len Sipes: Yeah, they do.

Ronald Smith: And that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to do, because I used to box. And drugs, alcohol destroyed my career. That’s ‘cause I wanted to go into the Marines.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And box in Olympics. But that dream was shattered and I just want to, I want to give back.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: Because same thing with the NANAA, you learn it and then you give it back. So that’s, that’s my philosophy.

Len Sipes: But what people are listening, more from you than from the three of us sitting in this studio right now, they’re saying, “Okay, this is possible. If I give more money, if I support more treatment: either mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, vocational treatment, if I support this, I’m creating a safer society.” Is that right or wrong?

Ronald Smith: That’s right. Because the kids can go out and play. People can go to the store without being robbed.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: I mean, you know, back in the day, DC used to be a nice town but now you can’t, you got to lock your door. Back in the day you used to have your door unlocked. But now you gotta lock it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: So, times have changed you know.

Len Sipes: And we’ve got to change with those times.

Ronald Smith: Right.

Len Sipes: And provide the substance abuse and treatment services necessary. Kevin, go ahead.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, I was going to say, Mr. Sipes, you know, it’s a windfall if we invest more in treatment. You know, some of the society benefits would include you know, increased productivity of these individuals. As we know, Ronald now is working, he’s a taxpayer.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: You know.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s paying our salaries. Thank you Ronald.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, yeah.

Len Sipes: Thank you Ronald.


Kevin Moore: You know, with treatment you know, we minimize premature deaths. As Ronald said, if he were to continue on this path to destruction, he would either be incarcerated or dead and also the criminal activity. You know, we reduce the crimes committed in our communities and also we reduce the substance abuse related illness. You know, as we prepare for the Recovery Month, you know, we uncovered some staggering stats and one of the things that stood out to me is that 40% of all the emergency room visits are substance abuse related here in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes: Right, so we’re talking about reducing the cost of medical care. That would be an obvious benefit.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. Absolutely. In addition to that, what was even more staggering is that 50% of all the vehicular incidents here in the District of Colombia are related to substance use.

Len Sipes: Abuse, yes.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, so again, you know, by investing in treatment and helping folks recover, we minimize these instances of increased healthcare, premature death, yeah. . .

Len Sipes: Renee, I mean, you’re going to have the final word in this program. What does the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, their guidance, their research, their promotion of the state of the art, what does that mean to us as treatment providers?

Renee Singleton: Definitely provides us with evidence based treatment approaches so we can best assist our clients with being successful in recovery. It also offers us a lot of research and information to train ourselves so we can become more efficient Treatment Specialists and counselors for our clients.

Len Sipes: And the bottom line is, they give us the guidance we need and we implement that guidance.

Renee Singleton: Correct, we do implement the guidance, we use them as a great resource. They provide trainings, information, and so we use them to assist us with our work.

Len Sipes: Renee, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, I really do appreciate you listening to our program on National Recovery Month and how it applies to my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Our guests today have been Kevin Moore, Supervisory Treatment Specialist with CSOSA, Renee Singleton, a Treatment Specialist again, with CSOSA, and Ronald Smith, who I now like an awful lot, who is a very successful person who is now working, a taxpayer, proud grandfather and father and Ronald again, congratulations on your recovery.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety; we appreciate your criticism and comments. We really do thank you for listening. Our website is Please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


The Success of Drug Courts-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is on drug courts and we have Urban Institute research addressing multiple outcomes from multiple places throughout the country, but it’s just not recidivism or return to crime, but it also measures drug use, socio-economics, status and outcomes, family functioning and mental health. It’s one of the most complete evaluations I’ve ever seen in terms of drug courts. Our guest today is Shelli B. Rossman, Senior Fellow, the Urban Institute, Shelli, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Shelli Rossman: Thank you Len.

Len Sipes: Shelli, before describing the research I want to state that it addresses 23 drug courts in 8 states. That’s a big evaluation.

Shelli Rossman: Yes, this is the largest drug court study every undertaken and it’s interesting because within those 23 drug courts, in very different demographic areas, we have both large and small courts represented. Rural, suburban and urban courts from major cities, and we selected them so that they represented different parts of the country, where different drug use patterns were represented.

Len Sipes: Now one of the things I did want to get straight from the very beginning is the fact that we’ve had lots of evaluations of drug courts, but this is sort of what we call a meta examination. This is something large, this is something comprehensive, because you know, and you’re talking about different drug courts. So this particular evaluation, I think, is almost the final word on drug courts, or the best assessment that we have in terms of drug courts considering its complexity and the fact that it’s from around the country?

Shelli Rossman: Well, it’s a very comprehensive study. It’s not truly a meta analysis, because it doesn’t do a secondary analysis of data collected by other organizations or researchers. This was really original research in which we selected 23 drug courts based upon a nationwide survey we had done earlier, so that we could find out what the patterns among different drug courts were, and make sure that they were in this study. And then we selected six comparison jurisdictions. So this impact evaluation looks at outcomes for individuals who participate in drug courts compared to similar substance abusers who are participating in whatever is business as usual within their local jurisdiction. So it’s not a comparison of drug court treatment to no treatment, it’s a comparison of drug court treatment to whatever is standard throughout the United States.

Len Sipes: Right, I mean it’s, its pretty close to being an apples and apples comparison.

Shelli Rossman: Yes, it is.

Len Sipes: The title, by the way, is the Multi Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation Executive Summary, again, by the Urban Institute, funded by the Office of Justice Programs of the US Department of Justice, I take it?

Shelli Rossman: That’s correct, and it’s actually the Executive Summary has behind it four very detailed volumes that look at the results of our process, impact, and cost/benefit analysis and all of those are available both on the National Institute of Justice’s Drug Court website, and Urban Institutes website.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that I do want to say, as, as I mentioned before we hit the record button, the fact that, you know, the Urban Institute writes good reports.

Shelli Rossman: Thank you.

Len Sipes: There aren’t too many criminological organizations out there that know how to write and provide clear cut findings and clear cut policy implications for those of us on the practitioner side. So, I wanted to thank the Urban Institute for knowing what very few people seem to know in this country: how to write. I mean, the findings are clear and the findings are pretty interesting. So give me a description of the outcomes.

Shelli Rossman: Okay. Well, first of all I’d like to tell you a little bit about the scope of the study itself –

Len Sipes: Please.

Shelli Rossman: Beyond the jurisdictions. In terms of individual outcomes, we had a sample that was almost 1,800 persons strong.

Len Sipes: That’s a lot of people.

Shelli Rossman: It is, it’s large. It was 1,156 drug court participants and 625 substance abusers who were not offered drug courts, but would have been eligible –

Len Sipes: A large sample size.

Shelli Rossman: So they were a match sample. And the sources, we used several different sources of information to generate our findings. One was a series, three waves of very detailed, one and a half to two hour interviews at baseline, when people were either enrolled in drug court or the alternative comparison condition, and then at six months and 18 months later. At the 18 month administration, for those who were eligible and consented, we did a field test, an oral swap, to actually confirm independently whether or not individuals were using.

Len Sipes: Didn’t take their word for it, you proved it.

Shelli Rossman: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Shelli Rossman: And then we also collected administrative, official Criminal Justice Records from the state systems of the eight states and from the FBI and CIC database.

Len Sipes: As to whether or not they’d been arrested?

Shelli Rossman: Correct, correct and their lifetime criminal history –

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: So that we could compare over time. We also did a process evaluation that had us surveying the drug courts nationwide and using those, that information for the eight, for the specific 23 courts that participated, and we went and spoke with all the stakeholders, the drug court team, the judges. We also used a systematic rating protocol to observe each of the drug courts and to rate them and rank them on various characteristics of the court operations. So that’s the source of our information. What did we find?

Len Sipes: Yeah, what did you find? I mean everybody’s there going, okay, it’s Urban, it’s Department of Justice, we understand that you do good research, what did you find, Shelli?

Shelli Rossman: So the study, there are a number of drug court studies out there but most have focused on whether or not drug courts have an impact on reducing crime for their participants.

Len Sipes: Right, recidivism.

Shelli Rossman: And we certainly looked at that.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: But as you mentioned earlier, we were also interested in knowing, do they reduce drug use and do they contribute to other positive psycho-social changes?

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: So in terms of drug use, we measured self reported, whether individuals reported the use of marijuana, alcohol, and heavy alcohol, which we defined as more than four drinks per day for women and more than five per day for men, whether they reported use of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and hallucinogens and then whether they misused, that is, illegally used prescription drugs, or illegally used methadone.

Len Sipes: All right, so you did the whole gambit, what did you find?

Shelli Rossman: Yes, we did. We found that at the 18 month follow up; looking at their use in the period from six months to 18 months, there was a statistically significant difference between the drug court participants and the comparison group on all drugs.

Len Sipes: All right, statistically significant means it wasn’t by chance, it was the result of the program?

Shelli Rossman: Correct. 56% of drug court participants reported using any of those substances within months six to 18, as compared to 76% of the comparison group.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s a 20% difference?

Shelli Rossman: Yes, it is, and that’s quite large.

Len Sipes: That’s a very large difference.

Shelli Rossman: Right, and when you, when you remove the two least harmful substances, that is, light alcohol use and marijuana, that difference still stands. 41% of drug court participants report use of the more serious drugs, as compared to 58% of the comparison group. Now –

Len Sipes: So a significant decrease in drug use?

Shelli Rossman: Very.

Len Sipes: And, and we know that drug use is heavily, heavily correlated with criminal activity.

Shelli Rossman: We do, and but we also measured crime independently. But I do want to point out something that’s very important about this. When I’m talking about measuring it through the 18 months, that captures a period of at least several months, post enrollment in the drug courts. So that means that these people have already finished their drug court participation by and large.

Len Sipes: And nobody was watching them.

Shelli Rossman: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And there were no consequences, there were no legal consequences for imbibing?

Shelli Rossman: Correct. Now most drug courts nationwide, and this holds true for most of the drug courts in our sample as well, offer the program for a one year period.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: But people typically have a number of relapses that extends their stay in drug court.

Len Sipes: And that’s, and that’s a natural part of the whole drug treatment process, something that most people don’t realize.

Shelli Rossman: It’s one of the reasons why the courts use graduated sanctions rather than simply failing people out at the first time that they do not remain sober.

Len Sipes: Right, right. It’s not unusual for a person who even if he or she is committed to drug treatment, committed to kicking drugs, to pull a variety of positives.

Shelli Rossman: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Shelli Rossman: And the practical ramification for operating a drug court is it means that a 12 month program typically takes people maybe around 15 months to complete. And so when we’re doing a measure at 18 months, for most of these people, they’ve been out of drug court for several months and they are still sustaining the gains.

Len Sipes: Before getting into the other variables, I do want to talk about criminal activity, because you know, there is one particular finding that I find astounding. Of those reporting criminal activity at the 18 month follow up, drug court participants reported about half as many criminal acts – 43, versus 88 on average in the prior year. Half as many criminal acts. Now I don’t know of many studies, I’m used to seeing 15%. I’m used to seeing good studies being, I mean, very successful studies being 20%. You’ve cut it by half.

Shelli Rossman: Well we cut it, well, that’s not percentage though, that’s the number of criminal acts they reported.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: So there are, there’s a difference. There are two different kinds of measurements. So we measured whether or not they reported engaging in crime.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: And if we, if we used the same measure as we used, the same temporal measurement that we use for drug use, so at 18 months we looked at whether they self reported crime from months six to month 18, and there was a significant difference: 40% of the drug court group reported having engaged in crime as compared to 53% of the comparison group.

Len Sipes: Now that’s not based upon criminal record – that’s based upon surveys?

Shelli Rossman: Self reports.

Len Sipes: Self reports. But you know the interesting part is that there are increasing numbers of research reports based upon self report, and in a lot of cases, self report is not used. When self report is used, a lot of these programs show their full impact or their full potential to have an impact based upon self report. So sometimes I’m wondering why we’re not doing more self reporting and that’s one of the reasons I brought this up.

Shelli Rossman: We did both. And I want to make a couple points –

Len Sipes: Okay, go ahead.

Shelli Rossman: If you’ll let me?

Len Sipes: Oh, of course.

Shelli Rossman: So that, that looked at a one year period prior to the 18 month mark. We shaved that period and said, “Well, what about the last six months?” Because it might be that they were committing their crimes earlier in their program affiliation.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: And so if we look at only the last six months, 31% of the drug court group, as compared to 43% of the other substance abusing offenders engaged in any kind of crime.

Len Sipes: Okay, that’s 31 to what?

Shelli Rossman: 31 to 43%.

Len Sipes: And that’s based upon official records or interviews?

Shelli Rossman: That’s also self report.

Len Sipes: Self reports, okay.

Shelli Rossman: But, but when we look at the official records, we get similar findings.

Len Sipes: Right.

Shelli Rossman: So we find for instance, that the rearrests, based upon administrative records and that’s at 24 months, 52% of the drug court participants had a rearrest at any point during the 24 months, as compared to 62% of the comparison group.

Len Sipes: Yeah, a significant, a significant difference.

Shelli Rossman: Ten percentage points, right?

Len Sipes: Okay.

[Audio Ends]


Interview With Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary-Office of Justice Programs-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s interview is with acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary of the Office of Justice Program’s U.S. Department of Justice.  Miss Leary has 30 years of criminal justice experience at the federal, state and local levels, with an extensive background in criminal prosecution, government leadership and victim advocacy.  Before joining the Office of Justice Programs in 2009, she was Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.  She also served in leadership roles at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.  From 1999 to 2001, she held several executive positions at the Department of Justice including the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Deputy Associate Attorney General, and Acting Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Programs. For the sake of brevity, the Office of Justice Programs oversees the work of the federal effort to evaluate fund and provide technical assistance to the country’s criminal justice system.  Before getting into the bulk of the interview, I want to provide just some of the examples of the Office of Justice Programs in terms of what they do.  Just some of the topics, bullying, DNA backlogs, domestic violence, elder abuse and mistreatment, faith-based programs, hate crimes, human trafficking, identity theft, indigent defense, mentoring of offenders, juvenile justice law enforcement tactics, prisoner reentry, victim assistance, and a database as to what works.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well thank you, Len.  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  I’m really happy for you to be here.  Then we had Laurie Robinson on before she left.

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.

Len Sipes:  And we had a real exciting interview, I think, and a very popular interview.  How does it feel going … and Mary Lou has left, she was the Assistant Attorney General, and now you’re in the Acting position.  That’s a lot of responsibility thrust on your shoulders.  But you’ve been in this position before.

Mary Lou Leary:  I have, Len.  It actually is quite a natural transition for me.  I was serving as the Principle Deputy Assistant General to Laurie Robinson at OJP for the three years of this administration.  And then when Laurie moved on, I stepped into the role of the Acting Assistant Attorney General.  And for me it feels just right.  I did this before during the Clinton Administration.  And it’s kind of funny, we’re into repeat performances.

Len Sipes:  Yes, we are.

Mary Lou Leary:  Because Laurie was the Assistant Attorney General during that administration.  And I came in when she left and served as the acting for the rest of the term.

Len Sipes:  But it’s such a broad, big organization.  Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Institute of Justice, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service that I worked for for five years early on in my career.  I mean, it just goes on and on and on in terms of the agencies.  Office for Victims of Crime, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Community-Oriented Policing, you have such an amazing amount of organizations under you.

Mary Lou Leary: Yeah.  Well that’s what makes this job so exciting, and really, so much fun.  There is this incredibly broad spectrum of issues.  We are the only federal agency that is dedicated to serving state, local and tribal public safety entities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And so public safety includes every piece that you could possibly find in the criminal justice puzzle.  All the systems, all the programs, it’s quite an extraordinary range.

Len Sipes:  Well one of the things that I brought up in Laurie’s interview was the fact that you get all these technical reports on CSI, Crime Scene Investigation.  All the fallacies and the fact that you watch these programs on television and most of what you see is not how it’s ordinarily done. But all these technical documents that develop all that expertise come from your shop.  You are Madam CSI.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Well, in a way.

Len Sipes:  You are.  You’re Madam everything.  You’re Madam offenders leaving the prison system, you’re Madam corrections, you’re Madam law enforcement, you are the very epitome of the criminal justice system at the federal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well that’s exactly what OJP does.  We cover every single issue in the criminal justice system.  And it’s wonderful that we do that and that we have that broad scope.  Because we know that the best approach to take, and the one that really works, is a comprehensive approach.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  You can’t deal with one aspect of the criminal justice system without paying attention to the whole of it.  So for instance, if you increase the number of arrests that you’re making, that’s going to have an impact.  It’s like a domino effect all the way through the system.  The pre-trial, the prosecutor’s office, the court system, the prison system, probation, parole, reentry, it all is impacted, each piece by what happens in the other.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Nobody’s in isolation.  Everybody’s dependent on everybody else.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  So what one part of the criminal justice system does affects the other parts of the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is, in fact, one of the primary messages that OJP delivers to the criminal justice field.  We are all in this together and the only way we can attack these problems and have success is by working together and by being conscious of the impact that one individual agency’s actions have on the rest of the system.

Len Sipes:  There are three things I want to get to pretty quickly in the interview.  Number one, a practitioner focus.  I’ve spoken to you in the past and one of the things that you’ve been adamant about is this idea of serving the practitioner, serving the people who actually run the criminal justice system, being sure that they have the research and the facts and the technical assistance to make sense of their day-to-day lives.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  That is one of my primary goals at OJP.  I, myself, as a practitioner for 30 years, I was a local prosecutor, I was a federal prosecutor, I ran a national victim’s advocacy organization.  So I know how difficult it is for practitioners who are incredibly busy, to learn about what’s actually being researched in their field, and what works, what doesn’t work, what are the latest trends.  You are putting out fires all day, every day and you don’t really have the time to dig up the evidence and maybe base what you do on what is known to be effective.  And so that’s our job. We’ve got to figure that out.  We have to do the research.  We have to do the statistical analysis.  We have to read all the literature and understand the evidence about what does work in the criminal justice.  And then one of our most important jobs is translating that.  You have to make that understandable and accessible to practitioners in the field.  A mayor should be able to just go to a website or make a phone call and communicate that, “Hey, you know what we’re having a big problem with youth gangs in our city.  Do you know if anybody out there is doing something that’s been effective?  Do you know if there are any researchers who are really looking at this problem?  Help me out here.”  That’s our job.

Len Sipes:  Right.  You have said that they need to get answers.  They don’t need to get a telephone-sized book of research.  They don’t need to be given an esoteric overview, they need answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  But those answers better be good ones and they better be based on real evidence.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And I wanted to start the interview off with that background.  Because you are Madam criminal justice, you have served in the criminal justice system, you’ve been a practitioner.  So you’re just not a policy wonk that hangs out in DC.  You have actually served in the bowels of the criminal justice system and you know what it’s like, how difficult it is to get ahold of research and make sense of research.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Exactly.  And I think that that is one of the things that I bring to the job that, frankly, makes me effective in that position.  Because I really understand, I get it.  I know what’s happening on the streets.  I learned everything … I know about that from working with local police departments.  I ran the cops office for a while which provides police to communities across this country.  And I think it’s important to have real respect for research and science, but also to have that practical, pragmatic approach to problems.

Len Sipes:  Absolutely.  You’ve been there.  So that’s the message I wanted to get out.  But having said that, research is an extraordinarily important part of what it is that you do.  Which we say we can substitute best practices for that word research.  Research, that word is a little scary to a lot of the people in the field. What you’re trying to do is establish best practices.  Because states and localities, they’re running out of money.  The budget issue is such a huge issue throughout the country for criminal justice organizations.  They’re basically saying, “Fine, if we’ve got to deal with a 15% reduction in our budget, we’ll do what we have to do.”  But what’s the way … what does the research say … or what are the best practices to maximize what it is we do?  Is there technology; is there new ways of doing things?  What can we do to maximize what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis?  And that’s what you’re emphasizing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.  Well you hit the nail right on the head, Len.  It’s true that resources are really tight.  And looking ahead, we can only presume that they will be getting tighter.  And so in that climate, it’s more important than ever that you base your strategy on what is the best practice, what we know works.  And it’s just as important not to waste any time, not to waste any resources human or financial, on things that don’t work.  Because we do know a lot about what doesn’t work as well and we want to discourage the use of those approaches that don’t work.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  We’re trying to make that approach easy and accessible, understandable.  In fact, just last year, we launched something called

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Good.  Thank you.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s a website.  Yeah.  It’s a great tool.

Len Sipes:

Mary Lou Leary:  It is a wonderful tool.  We’ve gotten great feedback from people.  And here’s how it works.  We have a group of researchers who scour the literature and look at all the practices, and rate programs that have been used across this country to address different crime problems.  So they rate them and we put it up on the website.  So you can see what’s effective, what’s working, and what’s not.  And you can search it every which way with all kinds of different search terms.  So say you’re the chief of police, or you’re running the youth program in your community, and you want to know is there anything out there that is evidence based that has worked on this issue.  You can go to and search.  And you will see what programs have been used in that context, and which ones have been proven effective, and which ones have not really had an effect, and which ones are still kind of in the proving stage.  And this website now has over 200 programs on it.  And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, go back for sure, because we are adding new programs every single week.

Len Sipes:  And the thing I want to emphasize about the website is that again, it’s not this esoteric, oh my God I’ve to spend five years reading this stuff.  It gives you a very quick chart in terms of what works and what doesn’t.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And then once you’ve figured out what works, what doesn’t, then you can research it from there.  So people should not be afraid, “Oh my God, not another esoteric website or piece of research.”  It’s easy to read.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  It’s not wonky in any respect.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Mary Lou Leary:  And if you are more interested in reading the study itself, the methodology, and so on, you can do that.  You can just go deeper into the website and really get that kind of a nuanced understanding of it. But if you want something that’s quick and dirty and practical, that is your tool.

Len Sipes:  There you go.  Now you’re also talking about opening some sort of technical assistance outreach program, right.  So once they say, “Oh, geezies, peezy” this particular thing works in terms of what you said, in terms of gangs.  Here are the research in terms of where it works.  I wonder what funding technical assistance other research is available.  And so you’re now instituting a help desk, if you will.  Once they’re moving in that right direction they can talk to somebody who knows the subject well.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well, in fact, we have several ways of getting at that.  You can go on the website, and you can look under funding opportunities.  And then you also look at our science agency’s National Institute of Justice, and Bureau of Justice statistics to see what research reports are coming out, what statistical reports are coming out.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  But if you have a problem that you don’t really quite understand in your community and you need some expert help in assessing the problem, trying to figure out what is really going on here.  We are working on the development right now of something called the Diagnostic Center which would be kind of a companion piece to will tell you about the programs that already exist and whether they work or don’t.  The Diagnostic Center will bring in some expert technical assistance to help you get a handle on what is my problem in my community.  And then we’ll match you will technical assistance and experts who can help you marshal the evidence-based practices to address that.

Len Sipes:  So we’re talking about a one-stop shop.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  It’s very exciting.

Len Sipes:  I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  Why did it take us so long to do that?

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.  It is quite remarkable.

Len Sipes:  It is quite remarkable.  What you have done is significant.  It is one of the very few times in my 42 years in the criminal justice system that I’ve said that I can go to one spot, get a quick summation of the research, talk to somebody, get quick answers, that is just incredible.

Mary Lou Leary:  It’s very exciting.  And it really is the embodiment of what we have been encouraging for years.  Which is you know what criminal justice practitioners, there’s some sound research out there that could actually help you get your job done every day.  These researchers, they’re not a bunch of egg heads who don’t know how to talk to cops and other folks.  They do know and they want to talk, because they figured out all this cool stuff that you could be using to do a better job every day.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And again, with the budget situation people are looking for answers. I want to re-introduce Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.  Giving out the website, it is,   You did a heck of a YouTube video a couple years ago when you were Director of the Office a Center for Victims of Crime.  So obviously, you’re interested in new ways of bringing material, fresh ways of bringing material to the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Very interested in making all of our information easily available, quickly available.  You got to meet people where they are.  And we know from research that actually in a … not very long, most people will be accessing internet, for instance, from their mobile devices as opposed to a desktop. So if you can’t get to where the people are, your message will not be heard.  So we’re very interested in exploring the full gambit of social media, Twitter, You Tube and all kinds of things that my teenage daughter could probably tell you more about than I could. But we know that that’s the way that you got to go if you want to be helpful to people.

Len Sipes:  Your background, former prosecutor, former Executive Director for the National Center for Victims of Crime.  A lot of people are going to take — they’re going to like that.  I’ve heard people throughout the decades saying, “Too many policy wonks at OJP, not enough real people who have been in the criminal justice system.”  You’re a former prosecutor; you’re a staunch advocate of victims of crime. That brings … I’m not going to say a new perspective to the Office of Justice Programs, but it brings … in the minds of a lot of people … a refreshing perspective.  You understand how this system works, you understand criminal victimization.

Mary Lou Leary: Well I certainly do.  And I’ll tell you, having been a prosecutor for so many years, this is my dream job.  Because all those years I saw these problems that were seemingly intractable in the criminal justice system.  And you would see the same defendants.  You’d prosecute them this month and then you’d prosecute them next month for a very similar offense.  And sometimes you just kind of felt like you were just doing a clean-up operation and not really solving the problem.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And you could see that the problems that played out in the courtroom were so related to many, many other public safety issues that never came into the courthouse. So now this … OJP puts me in a position where I can actually address those issues.  And I can reach out and develop partnerships with all kinds of public safety agencies, tribal leaders, philanthropic organizations, foundations, private sector, all kinds of partners all of whom really see that this issue matters, it’s so fundamental to the way we live in this country.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that you said to me is the idea of bringing everybody to this table to maximize our impact on the criminal justice system, so whether it’s foundations, whether it’s private organizations, to take all these dollars, all that expertise, and marshal it to have the greatest impact.  And I find that interesting.

Mary Lou Leary:  Oh, it is fascinating.  And we’re really just scratching the surface.  We had a meeting at OJP with foundations, a number of foundations about 60 of them, all of whom have interest in various aspects of criminal justice.  A number of them, for instance, are really interested in kids who get involved in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  Many of them are interested in preventing kids from getting involved in that system.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Mary Lou Leary:  There’s a whole domestic violence community out there with interest in the philanthropic sector.  And we have been partnering with a number of those kinds of philanthropic groups projects that we are doing at the Office of Justice Programs.

Len Sipes:  So nobody’s out there in isolation.  It is not [PH] PIU versus the Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice.  It’s PIU in concert with the Office of Justice Programs.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And that applies to the Urban Institute, that applies to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Correctional Association.  It doesn’t matter, the whole idea is let’s all work in lockstep because state and locales are hurting from a budget point of view.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s right.  And if you … what we try to do is we try to seed innovative projects around the country, new approaches to problems.  But after a certain period of time, the program has to move forward on its own and we try to seed other places.  So in order to plan for sustainability of those innovative approaches, you have to look to other places in the community, other places in the philanthropic world, and so on.  So we work with our grantees to try to educate them about that.  And we are able to facilitate communication between the philanthropic sector and grantees.

Len Sipes:  But I don’t want to get too far away from that answer, the question I had a couple minutes ago.  Your role as a prosecutor has been firmly established.  And a lot of people feel very comfortable about that.  But you’ve seen victims, talked to victims of crime, you’ve represented the National Center for Victims of Crime.  You understand the nature of criminal victimization on a very personal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  I certainly do.  This actually is a real passion of mine.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it has been ever since I started as a baby prosecutor decades ago.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  I worked in the Middlesex County DA’s Office.  We had one of the very first victim/witness assistance units in the country.  And in fact, it was established by Senator John Kerry when he was the DA in Middlesex County.  And I learned from those advocates, how critically important the way you treat victims can be to their ability to recover. They need to be treated with respect and dignity.  And you need to make a victim feel safe.  And you need to make sure that a victim is heard.  That’s the most important thing.  So much more important than winning your case.  And I really feel that.  And I have really supported victims throughout my career.  And at OJP is a great opportunity to continue that. I am really excited because part of what we do, a big part of what we do at OJP, is working on victim issues through our office on victims of crime.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And we have spent the last two years talking to folks who work with victims of crime all over this country.  We’re talking to practitioners, we’re talking to researchers, we’re talking to advocates, we’re talking to cops, you name it.  Anybody who has an interest in victim issues. What’s happening in this field, what are the unmet needs?  Crime has changed so much over the years.  Now we have all these financial frauds –

Len Sipes:  Yes, we do.

Mary Lou Leary:  – and internet perpetrated crime, and stalking through the internet, through devices you place on people’s cars, and so on.  There’s just a whole new world out there.  And it will continue to evolve. So the Office of Victims of Crime is looking at that and talking with people in the field saying, “Okay, we have a lot of these needs that have been with us forever that we haven’t met yet.  How do we meet those needs better, and at the same time, deal with these emerging crime issues and these emerging needs of victims?”

Len Sipes:  And I just wanted to point out there’s a lot of people out there who will be applauding as they listen to this.  Because, again, they have this image of people at the top of the Office of Justice Programs as being stoic policy wonks.  You’re not.  You’re a real live human being who’s suffered through this issue personally, directly, and you know, you’ve tasted it, smelled it, felt it, you know what’s going on out there.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  And that’s why it’s so important to get out in the field and talk to people.  You have to see it, you have to talk, you have to hear it, you have to walk the walk. What we will see coming out of this big effort with Victims of Crime this summer, I believe, at the end of the summer is a report called Vision 21.  And that is to shape the path forward for the victim services field, into the 21st century and beyond.

Len Sipes:  That’s great.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  The Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984.

Len Sipes:  Yes.  A long time ago.

Mary Lou Leary:  Things have changed a lot since then.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  They have.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it’s time to revision the way we serve victims.  So I am just so excited.  I can’t wait to see that report and to most importantly, act on the recommendations.

Len Sipes:  In the final minutes of the program, one of the things I suppose that we want to do, is to assure that regardless of whether it’s law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, the judicial system, the juvenile justice system which Attorney General Eric Holder is certainly a huge proponent in terms of this issue of tremendous violence being directed towards children.  It doesn’t matter what the issue is, your job is to be sure that the best research is being done, answering questions on the part of people at the county and state and local level, giving them access, quick access to this information via the new databases that you’re putting out.  So that’s the bottom line.  If there are questions, or if there are issues, they can come to the Office of Justice Programs for answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.  And they’ll find real people, and people who care very, very much about their work and about public safety in this country.

Len Sipes:  In the sense of being evidence based, we … I don’t want to get into a methodological discussion but it’s a matter of taking a look at the better research.  The research that’s fairly well done.  And trying to draw conclusions from that research.  And that’s essentially what you guys have done, in terms of and in terms of the Diagnostic Center. Take a look at Project Hope, which is a wonderful program in Hawaii which has dramatically reduced recidivism as a parole and probation program, a substance abuse treatment program.  And what you’re doing is funding its replication in other areas throughout the country to see if the success that they had in Hawaii, which was considerable, can be replicated in Baltimore and in Des Moines, and in San Antonio.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  In fact, we do that a lot with different kinds of projects.  Project Hope, this probation program was developed by Steve Alm, who was a former U.S. Attorney in Hawaii.  And right away we could see that his approach was different and that it was really interesting and promising. So we worked to support that program from the get go and then we sent in a team to research and evaluate it.  Those evaluations would knock your socks off, it just made such a big and positive difference.

Len Sipes:  It does.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  So now that’s just kind of like the business of OJP.  You get good programs started, you evaluate them, if the evidence shows, ‘whoa, this really works’, then you want to get it out to as many communities as possible and tweak it to apply to the needs of that particular individual community.

Len Sipes:  And getting that information out to those communities in the right way.  That you don’t have to struggle.  It’s like, oh my God, I remember when I worked for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, this is decades ago.  The Public Safety Secretary would bring this document from NIJ, telephone-size book, plop it on my desk and go, “Sipes, I don’t have time to read this.  Give me a one-page summation.”

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.

Len Sipes:  “Just tell me if it works, doesn’t work, and why it works and doesn’t work.” Because he knew that I used to work for the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.  So he sort of figured I would know how to read this big, long, esoteric document. What you’re trying to do is to take this research and make it come alive.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  Make it real.  And you demonstrate that through actual programs in the communities.  Reentry is a great example of that.  We are helping communities across this country to deal with the massive return of incarcerated offenders.

Len Sipes:  Seven hundred thousand a year.

Mary Lou Leary:  Seven hundred thousand a year.  And where do they go?  They go right back to the neighborhoods that they came from.  The same environments, the same folks, the same buddies in the neighborhood. And you can’t just release people from incarceration, send them right back to that environment and expect that they are going to do just fine.  They’ve learned their lesson and now they’ll behave.

Len Sipes:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.

Mary Lou Leary:  No.  You have to provide support, and it has to start right from the moment of incarceration.

Len Sipes:  And if we did that, we could reduce the budgets of states and locals by huge amounts.  If you get just a 15% reduction in recidivism in the rate of return back to the prison system by providing programs, you’ve just saved that county, that state, tens of millions of dollars.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is one of our major goals.  Not only to help them save that money, but at the same time, to improve public safety.  Because if your reentry programs really work, you will not only save money, but people in that community will be safer and you will reduce re-victimization.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the common theme throughout this entire program, reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  That is what … you’re the office of reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes, we are.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  And for me, that’s a wonderful orientation because I am so passionate about crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Final seconds of the program.  The law enforcement side of things, it’s people, places, little focusing on high-risk offenders, high-risk places.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  We know a lot about hot spot policing, for instance, where you look at the hot spots through your crime mapping and so on.  And that’s where you want to target your resources.  We know that works.  We know that there are innovative approaches to dealing, for instance, with youth violence.  We know that there are ways of saving money on incarceration and then reinvesting it in things that do work.

Len Sipes:  And a beauty about all this is that if you go to and if you go to the Crime Solution’s database you can get a tremendous amount of information on all of this.  Really want to express my appreciation to Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary for being with us today.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We really appreciate all of the cards, letters, comments and criticisms at times, in terms of what it is we do.  We really appreciate your participation.  And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]