Community Corrections Collaborative Network-National Institute of Corrections
DC Public Safety Radio
LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman the Community Correction Collaborative Network, they are back at our microphones to talk about all the issues that we can do, should do if all the organization that are involved in the correctional system come together and agree to debate and agree to disagree on certain issues. The Community Correction Collaborative Network’s mission is to serve as a forum to develop and work with the emerging issues, activities and goals in the community corrections fields. Back at our microphone is Greg Crawford; Greg is a Correctional Program Specialist at the Community Service Division at the National Institute of Corrections. He has experience in the Criminal Justice and mental health field that includes over 14 years working in a misdemeanant Probation Department and at a Community based Mental Health Center. Also by our microphones is Phil Nunes, Phil brings extensive experience totaling 25 years in management nonprofit operations. Phil joined Avis House in July of 2014 as a Chief Programs Officer. And we have Spurgeon Kennedy, our Spurgeon Kennedy at Pretrial here in the District of Columbia. He is Director of Strategic Development for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia and Vice President for the National association of Pretrial Services and to Phil and Spurgeon and Greg welcome to DC Public Safety.
GREG CRAWFORD: Thanks a lot.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: How are you?
LEONARD SIPES: You know this is an interesting concept we talked about it last time and I think it really is an extraordinarily interesting because what we are talking about doing is bringing a wide variety of organizations together at the same table to debate and agree and disagree on the topics that are so important to us. I am going to read a couple of the organizations involved American Probation and Parole Association, Association of Paroling Authorities, International Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association, International Community Correction Association, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, National Association of Probation Executives and Greg you are going to tell me that we have a new one.
GREG CRAWFORD: We do Leonard.
LEONARD SIPES: And what is that new one.
GREG CRAWFORD: It is the National Association of Drug Core Professionals.
LEONARD SIPES: And that is extraordinarily important. Greg what is new in terms of the Community Corrections Collaborative Network.
GREG CRAWFORD: Well we are actually in town. We meet twice a year. We are in town tomorrow and Thursday. We have all of our Associations coming to Washington DC. We have a robust agenda and we are looking forward to continuing the discussion about the emerging issues of the field.
LEONARD SIPES: Now the emerging issues of the field are what? I mean the public is being inundated in terms of correctional news. I mean it is very hard to read the newspaper or watch evening television without corrections being part of the news either from a good point or a bad point of view but we have the Affordable Care Act in terms of how that is going to impact Community Corrections Populations. We have the Second Chance Act, we have Justice Reinvestment. There are a lot of different things that are happening throughout the country that these organizations find to be very important. So let’s start off with the Affordable Care Act.
GREG CRAWFORD: Well let me just, if I could, just back up for half a second. I think it is important that we just sort of lay out the state of the Criminal Justice System. If you look at our local jails we average about 11.7 million cycling through our local jails each year. Since the early 80s we have approximately a 375% increase in the US prison population. We have nearly 5 million people on probation or parole. So the system really is sort of bursting at the schemes and so now with the introduction of health care reform and reauthorization of the Second Chance Act and Justice Reinvestment Initiatives, to me this is a real opportunity to make an impact and reduce recidivism and help these people that are in the system address these underlying issues of substance abuse and mental health issues and the discussion I hope we get into today is about building capacity in the Community and meeting the needs of these new opportunities for these folks in the system.
LEONARD SIPES: And having the major Community Corrections Organization in the country all come together and all agreeing in terms of a platform would be a huge plus if we were all marching in lockstep together but these are organization that are ordinarily overwhelmed by the amount of people coming into them. There are 7 million people under Correctional Supervision. 1.5 million are in prisons and in federal prison systems and another what 500 thousand, 600 thousand are in jails then we having another 5 million people onto some sort of community Correction setting. I mean that is 7 million human beings on any given day. That is an enormous amount of people. Do we have the capacity to individually look at these people, provide treatment services, and provide remediation so they would do better upon release? 95% of them are going to come out; they are going to be released. Do we have the capacity to actually deal with these numbers. Phil do you want to go with that?
PHIL NUNES: Sure, I mean I think first of all I mean Community Corrections is an extremely important; I always use the analogy that it is the Penicillin pill for the Corrections Department. Without Community Corrections prisons over the last two decades would have just continued to grow and spiral out of control. Community Corrections has always served as an out lay and a relief valve for people coming home but in years past science is catching up and you know back in the 1940s and the 1950s there is actually a research article that says nothing works. Well today, fast forward to 2014 we know what works. We know that risk based approaches, tailoring individual and addressing needs of those in the Criminal Justice System based upon a risk and their needs has great impact on reducing recidivism. So Community Corrections is a very big and very vital important part to the Correctional World but that world is about to change and it is changing in many states in the country because we are hitting way over capacity on funding issues. But it is also changing because we just cannot lock everybody up and throw away the key. Community Corrections really serves and the seven of us organizations coming together and really speaking with one voice it is rather historic actually.
LEONARD SIPES: I do what to get back to the affordable care act that Greg brought up because of extraordinary importance to those of us in Community Corrections. Spurgeon did you want to opine about where we are in terms of resources?
SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think Phil makes an excellent point. In years past the Community Corrections field was almost a stop gap and if your jail or prison got to crowded you use probationary sources, you used parole, you use pretrial resources. That is not happening any more. Right now Community Corrections is not a stop gap we are the first option. And for most defendants and Offenders we are the best option in the Criminal Justice System. We are the thing that makes the most sense if reducing recidivism is the thing that you are trying to accomplish. Because of that we are going to be used a lot more. Jurisdictions across the country are beginning to buy-in to the idea of evidence based practices. They are beginning to buy into the idea that Community Supervision is the best way to address recidivism and with that new way of thinking does have to come new strategies and new ways of getting resources to what’s going to become a fast growing population of defendants and offenders.
LEONARD SIPES: Throughout the program I do want to remind the listeners that we are talking about a collaboration that is headed up by the National Institute of Corrections that deals with, and marches in lockstep hopefully, or in agreement certainly with most of the major Community Corrections Organizations in the Country so it is something exciting not just having the National Institute of Corrections come along and suggest something but to have all the National Associations that support Community Corrections also agree to it. But getting back to the substance of the field. Lots of people have been before these microphones claiming that we are dumping literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of people into the Community Correction systems who have mental health problems. People who would have been served under, you know 20-30 years ago by facilities at the state level to deal with mental health. We suddenly become the repository for people who have mental health problems. So first of all is that correct and secondly what is the state of the art from the National Institute of Corrections point of view and the Community Collaborations point of view?
GREG CRAWFORD: Well I would say that up until health care reform the jails and prisons had become the defectum mental health institutions in this country and now with health care reform individuals have an opportunity to receive health care to treat theses underlying issues that help lead them into the system of substance abuse and mental health issues.
LEONARD SIPES: And do we have the capacity to deal with it. If we are the defectum, repository for people with mental health problems, do we have that capacity and it leads us back hopefully to the discussion about the affordable care act?
GREG CRAWFORD: I think resources are definitely going to be an issue. There is going to be a period of time where ewe are going to have to figure out ways to build capacity in the Community in order to really take advantage and leverage the opportunities of health care reform. Phil?
PHIL NUNES: I would just add I think that the Affordable Care Act is a terrific starting point but health care is a really big ship that is taking a long time to turn as well. So we are just now on the eve of rewriting rules and regulations and I think states and the federal government actually are now starting to see exactly how do they get through some of the red tape that use to exist but also how do you leverage resources and get a provider because it is a potential issue that the infrastructure does not exist to support this new wave of new services that overnight people became eligible for.
LEONARD SIPES: But I mean people are describing this as the most, one of the, describing it optimistically in a way that I haven’t heard in the last four or five years. Now the Affordable Care Act with all its difficulties and infrastructure issues does provide us somewhere down the road with the best chance of providing individuals caught up in the Criminal Justice System with a medical and mental health and possibly substance abuse issues that they so desperately need. Spurgeon am I right or wrong?
SPURGEON KENNEDY: This is potentially one of the biggest game changes that we have had in the Criminal Justice in a very long time. It is also and again Phil makes an excellent point if we don’t use it well and if we don’t know the population to apply to the best it could be a waste as well. We need to be able to know that these are the defendants and the offenders who are in the most need of mental health services and substance abuse services. We have to get better at assessing. We have to get better at identifying and we have to get better at matching the need to the resources and this is a great and wonderful thing. We have to get better at knowing how to use it and use it well.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay but are the different organizations, Greg how many are we talking about now at National Organizations?
GREG CRAWFORD: Seven.
LEONARD SIPES: Seven, okay do those seven organizations plus your individual organizations, do you all agree that this is, this has huge potential but at the same time has huge pitfalls, all of you marching in lockstep in terms of what we can get out of this, what we should be getting out of affordable health care?
GREG CRAWFORD: Well I think as Kennedy said this is the potential to be a huge game changer for the Criminal Justice System and for the folks in the system. I mean really this is the first time that a lot of these folks has had the opportunity to receive health care and be covered to receive the treatment for these issues. And so take a look at this, if you look in Cook County, in Chicago Illinois prior to the health care reform one out of ten individuals who came into the Court room had health care coverage. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act they now have 9/10 so that is a big difference. If you look at you know local and state jurisdictions across the county they have to be proactive in this thing. They can’t just sit there and let it unfold and expect miracles to happen. They have to be proactive in helping build that capacity in the Community in order to meet these needs.
PHIL NUNES: You know Len I would just add one other thing and for years I have been hearing this as a practitioner in the Community for Community Corrections is that sometimes you have to commit a crime to even be eligible to get in and get drug treatment, rehab. This is to me, that is the game changer part and I think the system is just going through some growth right now but when it does catch up these folks hopefully can be caught early on to get to the point where we prevent them from committing crimes and they get their drug treatment or their mental health issues back in check so that they are not going to the Criminal Justice System.
LEONARD SIPES: Does the Affordable Care Act focus on drug treatment.
PHIL NUNES: Yes.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: Substance abuse treatment, mental health services, also physical issues as well. So these are all risk factors when you are looking at recidivism reduction.
LEONARD SIPES: Is it agreed between the four of us in this room that resources certainly haven’t been there. We have all wondered why resources certainly haven’t been there when the great bulk of the people caught up in the Criminal Justice System belong to us in Community Corrections. I mean is that a true statement and we are wondering why the resources haven’t been there and now there is the possibility, if everything works well that four or five years down the road we could have an infrastructure that actually provides treatment services to people on Community Supervision.
PHIL NUNES: Len if I could add too, I think there is an important caveat that we need to make sure we outline too because this is going to work in states that actually took the Affordable Care Act and raised the poverty level to the 133% level because that is the game changes. I think it is 25 out of the 50.
GREG CRAWFORD: 27 Actually now.
PHIL NUNES: 27 so they have adopted that. Those states that have adopted that overnight people who, single men for example, single men in general but of course even women with children who were making a different amount of money overnight became eligible for medical services which again include mental health and substance abuse.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay the radio program today ladies and gentlemen is on the Community Collections Collaborative Network produced by the National Institution of Corrections and we really do appreciate the work at the National Institution of Corrections in terms of setting up this program. Greg Crawford is by our microphones today. Phil Nunes is also by our microphones for the first time, he is, I want to mention him because he has not been here before. He has joined Avis House as a Chiefs Programs Officer in July of 2014. Spurgeon Kennedy is back at our microphones as the Strategic Director of Development Services for Pretrial and is also the Vice President at the National Association of Pretrial Services. I do want to refer everybody to the website for the National Institute of Corrections www.nicic.gov. There is a report that deals with the collaborative network, Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America’s Correctional challenges. Greg we are going to go back to you. Correctional challenges, you know when I read something in the newspaper, when I hear something on the radio, watch something on television about corrections it is uniformly negative. I don’t think the average person out there and I have seen surveys that back this up, sees us in the same light as our law enforcement partners. They see us not in the best of all possible lights. Is that part of the reason as to why corrections, especially Community Corrections has been so resource poor over time. Do people have confidence in us and is that one of the goals of the Collaborative Network?
GREG CRAWFORD: Yeah I think so, I think you know as we have kind of shifted away from this heavy incarceration push and folks are starting to realize the effectiveness of Community Corrections. I think often at times the only thing that people see is the negative stuff in the medial but the reality is that there is probation officers largely do a great job, you know addressing these issues, holding people accountable. But the reality is there has been some frustrations on both the part of the folk and the system and the probation officers with these resources. I am going to get back to that for a second. A lot of these folks have not had the funding or they don’t have jobs with the economy crashing in 08 and so forth, and now with health care reform they have an opportunity to get coverage, they have an opportunity to engage in treatment and deal with the underlying issues and that was a lot of the frustrations and the cause of these technical violations that these probations have had to deal with; was the fact that these folks could not afford treatment and now that has been removed. But what is really important is that these Criminal Justice Agencies across the country look at setting up enrolment systems and determining eligibility for these folks and assisting these folks in getting the health care coverage and probation, parole and pretrial officers can play a major role in this and education folks what’s available to them. If you look at the decision points within the Criminal Justice System between law enforcement, court, jails, prisons and community corrections, there is no wrong door for enrolment in determining eligibility and so that to me, people need to be aware that they can all play a critical role as a Criminal Justice Professional in assisting these folks to access health coverage and deal with the underlying issues that help lead them into the system in the first place.
LEONARD SIPES: There is optimism because we do have the Second Chance Act which we do what to talk about a little bit. We do have something known as Justice Reinvestment to those of us in the Criminal Justice System. We understand that maybe the average person listening to this program does not. We do have a research base that is being more and more positive about what it is that we can do to help individuals not recidivate and lowers crime, lowers the burden on the tax payer. We do have all points of the political spectrum now suddenly agreeing within the last five years as to this is the way to go. We do have organizations such as Pew, Urban again National Institute of Corrections who are basically saying there is a better way, a smarter way, a more productive way of managing the correctional system so the stars are starting to align for us in Community Corrections am I right or wrong?
GREG CRAWFORD: Absolutely Len. I would say first of all the Second Chance Act when we talked about resources a minute ago provides those resources. I mean one thing about, we can do all the great evidence based research in the world but if we don’t get to the point of funding those best practices all that research is for nothing. I think the Second Chance Act really provides a pool of funding you know and I will give a shout out to my Senator Portman from Ohio who is a big sponsor of this, to give programs and services and start to fund these programs using this evidence. So the problems we have in this field right now is you have case loads for probation officers are way unyielding. Research shows that higher risk and not meaning dangerous risk but those with higher needs or moderate needs would need more dosage treatment hours of services if it is going to go to reduce the likelihood of them recidivating and coming back into the system. The Second Chance Act actually provides a venue or a stream of funding potential for programs to continue to move forward with those best practices.
LEONARD SIPES: But the point that I am trying to make is that we are talking about funding and here we have the President and Congress supporting the Second Chance Act which is putting more money into research program, putting more money into programs in the community and researching them to see if they are affective so we do have funding from a variety of sources and that is way Spurgeon I am beginning to believe, I am beginning to be a bit more optimistic about our place in the sun. Our place in terms of how people perceive us as having the potential for improving dramatically because we are getting more money from a variety of sources.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think that all of the groups that you mention are now on the same page and that is the goal of any good Criminal Justice System is to protect the public. It is to reduce recidivism. It is to look for ways of keeping people who are in the system out of the system in the future. We are on the same page with that. We are on the same page with the things that are most effective, those evidence based practices that make the most sense and that yield us the best successes. The real issue now and this is we are having partners such as Pew and others in the discussion is how best to do those things.
LEONARD SIPES: And this is why the Community Corrections Collaborative Network now comes together at a very opportune time because now there is money, now there is agreement, now there is consensus.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: You have 90 thousand people who every single day do the job. They manage defendants and offenders. They work with those evidence based practices. They have to live with those shortages of resources. What they have lacked over the years and hopefully what the collaborative gives them is a voice to the people making those decisions about this is what we belief works best.
LEONARD SIPES: But national organizations are coming together and are saying hey this, we believe is the path, very powerful National Organizations, the President, Congress. It is not politically popular regardless of what side of the political spectrum you’re on. We now have again this is collaborative network of national organizations coming together yet I’m still wondering if we are convincing the average person sitting out there about our worthiness if all they are hearing is principally negative news coming out of the newspapers, television stations and radio stations. Are we doing enough to see this new collaboration, not just in terms of your network but everything that I have just mentioned all these new funding sources? Are we doing enough talking to the American people to convince them that we are players and we know what we are doing and we know which way to go?
SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think the group that we have convinced the most is those who make the decisions about where resources are going to go. If you are looking at law makers, local decision makers, even as you said before those at a national level even with the dearth of public opinion, whether you’re Liberal, whether you are Conservative you now know what the issues are regarding crime and justice.
LEONARD SIPES: The governors are certainly on board.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: True, I think we have the people on board who will listen and who can make the decisions about resources and about best practices that need to be made for us to move forward.
LEONARD SIPES: The question I have for everybody is that if we really put all these things in place. If we had the drug treatment, if we had the mental health treatment, if we had the vocational treatment, if we had reasonable case loads for people who are doing community corrections where they can actually implement best practice, where they had a shot at implementing best practices. What would change for the average American? What would change in terms of the tax payer contribution Greg?
GREG CRAWFORD: Well I think first of all we are going to get safer communities and I think one this that
LEONARD SIPES: Marginally safer communities, much safer communities?
GREG CRAWFORD: Much safer communities and here is the thing. Our country incarcerates more people than any country in the world. One out of every three Americans has some sort of criminal record or charge or has been arrested and so we need to go about things a little differently and I think what folks are going to see with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act with the Second Chance Act with Justice reinvestment with people paying attention to the fact that we have gone about things a little differently. There is a tremendous collateral consequence from having an arrest or criminal conviction. If you look at what happens a collateral consequence of incarceration, harder to get a job, you know renting an apartment or getting a load or getting a school load these are all negative things that occur and I think people are recognizing that if we want to stop this cycle we need to really take a look at changing that trend by promoting what is working and Community Corrections to me instead of long term incarceration, diversion type program where you know if you comply with a court order treatment program the charge drops off your record. We need to take a look at shifting to those type of things if we really want to make a difference in terms of you know, keeping people connected to the community rather than as Kennedy mentioned in the last broadcast, shipping people off to prison for long stretches.
LEONARD SIPES: We are getting into the final minute of the program so I am going to ask for your answers to be fairly short. Phil again if we really did have all of these resources together, Greg said there would be a significant contribution to public safety. We would definitely lower the burden of tax payers. We would throw fewer dollars into the criminal Justice System. If this is such a win-win situation why is it taking so long to come to this point of national consensus in terms of what to do?
PHIL NUNES: Len I think you can’t get past the 1 in 31 number of the Pew research in 2007. 1 in 31 adult men and women were under some kind of correctional supervision. I think that is what has awakened our country to think about this issue. I think that has opened the door to have now realistic conversation around the issues and impacting, but we have to go even further than what we are looking at and talking about today. We have to look at the 1.5 million kids of incarcerated parents and that 600 thousand are destined to come in our systems. Our system is somewhat broken and now is the time for us I think to come together and that is what our collaborative is about. We are about coming together to talk about what are the most appropriate and of course we haven’t got much into it in this show but maybe for a future show but the justice reinvestment movement that is going on nationwide, you are going to have to get to that point but any time you can keep someone a tax payer and not a tax taker it’s a win-win for I think all of us.
LEONARD SIPES: Spurgeon you have got the final point. How do you summarize all of this to the governor’s aide who are sitting there listening to this program wanting to do something better in Community Corrections what is our message to that individual.
SPURGEON KENNEDY: The use of Community Corrections not only is the smarter way of doing business now but also the cheaper and as a tax payer, as all tax payers I think we all appreciate that. I will give you an example in DC where we try to implement evidence based practices both pretrial and also probation and our jail is 51% capacity and crime has gone down in our city. Most people are supervised in the community, they are supervised well and we are safe.
LEONARD SIPES: Phil and Spurgeon and to Greg I do want to express my appreciation for doing this show today talking about an extraordinarily important topic. I do want to remind everybody that there is a document called Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America’s Correctional Challenges it is at the website of the national Institute of Corrections www.nicic.gov. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public Safety we really do appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourself a very pleasant day.