Faith-Based Efforts to Assist Criminal Offenders-DC Public Safety Radio

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/faith-based-efforts-to-assist-criminal-offenders-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on faith-based initiatives. You know, we have a very large faith-based initiative here in the District of Columbia under my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve had 2,000 offenders participate since the program began in 2002. We have 326 offenders participating now. We have 108 faith-based institutions. They are joined by 86 community organizations, and 500 mentors. So this is an extraordinarily large program. Christine Keels, who is the program manager of the faith-based initiative, she is the person who has put all this together, done an extraordinarily good job, an amazing job, of really making this program sing. One of the things that she’s done is to create special emphasis programs, special programs that go along with the faith-based environment. I’m gonna list just a few–women’s empowerment, a relapse prevention, grief counseling, job coaching, parenting skills, family reunification, relationship restoration, housing assistance and a reintegration support group. Joining Christine Keels today at our microphones is Marvin. We’re not gonna use Marvin’s last name. He’s currently under the supervision of my agency—again, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington, DC.  And Julia—we’re not gonna use Julia’s last name either—again, she’s currently under supervision of CSOSA, my agency. And to Christine, and to Marvin, and to Julia—welcome to DC Public Safety.

Marvin:  Thank you.

Julia:  Thank you.

Christine Keels:  Thank you for inviting us.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Christine. How in the name of heavens did you put all this together?  I mean, this isn’t a program, it’s a nation! I mean, you’ve got a lot of programs here that in the time that you’ve been in charge of the faith-based program, that you have pretty much instituted, and the amount of people, the amount of faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques—the amount of organizations, the amount of people, the amount of community organizations–that have been involved in this, have grown substantially. So how did you do all this?

Christine Keels:  Well, I have a very awesome team working with me of three cluster Lead Faith Institutions–Israel Baptist Church, Greater Mt Calvary Holy Church, and Covenant Baptist United Church—and they are very, very supportive, as well as all the staff here at CSOSA.  And so what we have done is looked at what are the needs, and we have developed programs to meet those needs, and classes and workshops. So we’re actively engaged in helping to make people’s lives whole.

Len Sipes:  Now, the whole idea behind the faith-based program—and we have to say this right from the very beginning—because you go and join a mentor from a faith-based institution, it doesn’t matter if that person is Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, a member of the Islamic faith, that person is not asked to buy into that faith. He or she are simply receiving services from a mentor from that organization. So there’s no pressure whatsoever to involve that person under our supervision in their religious life, correct?

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely right. There’s no proselytizing, but we are focusing on the fact that the faith institution is the number one institution in the community. So we want to reconnect people to those institutions that are in walking distance from where they live. But again, no proselytizing and no pressure.

Len Sipes:  But, you know, the interesting thing is what you just said, the faith-based organizations—the church, the mosque, the synagogue—they are the center points of any community in this country. They are the power sources. They pretty much have an amazing array – some of these churches, mosques and synagogues have an amazing array of services that they can provide. They’re out there as a mentor. We hook them up with somebody who’s currently under our supervision, and they can get an array of services. It’s just not a friendship, it’s just not mentoring, it’s just not helping that person. These organizations also provide a massive array of services!

Christine Keels:  That’s correct—from food to housing, clothing, mentoring, support, counseling. So it’s a natural connection.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a long tradition here in Washington DC, and I would imagine every city in the United States would make this claim, that again, the faith-based institutions are the rocks that their communities are built upon. And you know, offenders come out of the prison system, they generally tend to hang out on a corner, which gets them in trouble. They generally tend to hang out with other organizations or gangs, which gets them into trouble. The faith-based organizations strike me as being a gang for good. So instead of, you know, that person needs companionship, that person needs guidance, that person needs people to embrace him or her; wouldn’t you rather that person be involved in a faith-based organization than hanging out on the corner? Isn’t that the whole idea behind the program?

Christine Keels:  Well, Leonard, let me update you on your terms. We now call it “pro-social”, we don’t call it a “gang”. And so we’re looking for excellent pro-social community support, and the faith-based institutions provide that, from counseling groups as well as activity groups and events that our offenders can attend.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Alright, Marvin, it’s your turn. Now, you’re working. You’re no longer involved in the faith-based program. All of your goals have been pretty much accomplished. How did you do that? Can you tell me a little bit about your story? How did you get involved in the faith-based program, and how did you accomplish all your goals?

Marvin:  Oh, well, I met my mentor through SRTP, a program I was at, Ducie Soza and I come in contact with him for—excuse me—maybe a couple, maybe a month or two.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  After that I lost contact with him. I just decided to do, [PH] it was supposed to have been done anyway, to try to stay out from going back and forth to jail, and be a better individual and a father.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So I just stayed away from the past crowds and spent more time with my family.

Len Sipes:  Did you find the faith-based program to be helpful?

Marvin:  Yeah, I found my mentor, he was real helpful. He was like somebody – he called and tried to keep in contact with me, basically like somebody that really cared, even though I just met him.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And I’m really not too good with just associating with people like that, but the [PH] Lord time that I did know him though, he was okay.

Len Sipes:  Now, a lot of the people coming out of the prison system, they’re pretty suspicious of everybody and everything. How did you find – how comfortable were you with your mentor? You just said that you were a little uncomfortable with this. I mean, most people feel that – you know, coming out of the prison system – feel that everybody is out there, even if they’re trying to help them, they’re doing it for a reason, they’re not really doing it because they really want to help; they really don’t want to help the person under supervision, there’s gotta be another motive. So, did it take a long time for that person to break the ice, to get to know you, to get to talk to you, to build up your confidence?

Marvin:  No, it was just – I guess it was just conversation, the way he spoke, the way he – he didn’t seem like this was a job. This was like something he wanted to do, like he wanted to help me, he wanted to look out for me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So, I decided to start talking to him a little more, and the times that we did talk, it was more like a friendly conversation than this is something that I have to do, or somebody that I have to talk to. But it was more genuine. We was more basically like friends almost.

Len Sipes:  Got it. And how important was that to you in terms of making your transformation from prison to the community? How important was that relationship?

Marvin:  I mean, it was important, ‘cause he tried to make sure – he called and checked up, and made sure my kids and everything was okay. That type of motivation just help me motivate to do what I was supposed to, done what I did, come on the streets.

Len Sipes:  If you, if everybody who came out of the prison system had a mentor like you did, do you think that it’s gonna cut down on people going back to crime, going back to drugs, going back to the corner? Do you think it would be a big help? Do you think it would be of marginal help? How much of an impact, if everybody had a mentor, what do you think the impact would be?

Marvin:  I mean, it could help, but it’s all on what they do, what they mind frame is.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Marvin:  ‘Cause as much as a mentor try to help, if you don’t want no help –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  – you gonna still do what you do, to go right back the way you just came from, or whatever you wanna do.

Len Sipes:  Right. But a lot of people coming out of the prison system, their lives, 80 per cent have histories of substance abuse. A lot of folks coming out of the prison system have mental health issues. A lot of people coming out of the prison system don’t have a job history. I mean they do need help. They do need somebody to guide them, don’t you think?

Marvin:  Yeah, they probably – I think they do need help. A lot of people do need help, and a lot of people need to help theyself by they’s thinking. If they don’t come out wanting to do it, no matter how much help you give them, they not gonna do it.

Len Sipes:  And you know what, Marvin? In 20 years of doing programs—radio and television programs–interviewing folks caught up in the criminal justice system, everybody has pretty much said that, is that you’ve got to have it inside your heart that you really want to change, that you really are going to change. So you’re right. What you’re saying is –  I’ve heard from everybody else. It’s not necessarily the programs, but the programs do help. I mean, you’ve gotta have that intestinal fortitude, you’ve gotta have that determination that you’re gonna succeed, but some people, you know – how many people have I run into in  life who said, “I’m not going back to prison” but ended up back in prison? You know, sometimes a mentor can make all the difference, and I’m just wondering if that’s right or wrong?

Marvin:  No, they get – I mean, you right, you absolutely right because a lot of people need help regardless, and just with somebody they can sit down and talk to, that could be a start. There might be individuals that didn’t like to listen, and they pay [INDISCERNIBLE] or sitting down and listening could help them in their future now. So somebody wanna sit back and speak to you, it ain’t – they not telling you what to do, they talking to you.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:   They ask you and they trying to help you, so that mean a whole lot than somebody saying “go do this”.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And you like, “I really don’t want to, so I’m not” instead of “C’mon, let me go with you while we do this.”

Len Sipes:  Right. All right, Julia, I’m gonna go over to you. I’m not gonna use your last name. You’re currently under supervision. You’re a homemaker. You have three grandchildren at home, so thank you very much for having the fortitude to take your three grandchildren. You said that your goals were to get sober, to be a better parent, and you’re looking for work. How are you gonna find work and take care of three grandkids at the same time? That’s a huge job!

Julia:  Well I’m actually, at this present time, all my grandchildren do not reside in the same home as I do, but I do babysit them a lot, and I do spend time with them, a lot more now than I have in the past. As far as finding work, when I completed the Lifetime Makeover, which is a faith initiative based group, it gave me more confidence in myself, and then someone will probably say, “Well, why would you need to go to a group, you know, to believe in yourself again?” Because sometimes in life, when you’ve been in the criminal justice system, and you’re already labeled by society that, you know, this person got locked up, and you know, they’re just no good, and they can’t re-enter back into society and they can’t, you know, do anything but the same old things again, these groups help. Personally for myself, it helped me with my self-esteem. It made me believe that I always wanted to be a homeowner, that I know one day I could be a home owner. For all the goals and dreams that I ever had in life, I believe now more so than ever that I can do these things; and it was all from being a part of that group.

Len Sipes:  Now, if the group wasn’t there, if you came out of the prison system and the group did not exist and you were entirely on your own, you would have what most agencies call a parole and probation agent. We call them community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. But if you didn’t have the auspices of the faith-based group, if you didn’t have all of these various programs that we talked about at the beginning of the program, where would you be now?

Julia:  I think it goes back to the statement that Marvin made, it’s all up to the individual. But I found within inside myself, with the group, it helped. It’s like unity. It’s like a small family. It’s a lot of support. It just gives you that initiative that you want to do better, you know? And you’re not labeled. And it’s like a family, you know, and it’s just so many things that you know you always probably could do, but you know, you really know now that you can do it, because there’s so much support. You know? And it’s people that really care, it’s not just groups that they’ve thrown together and they say, “Well, you have to do it because you’re on probation, or your probation officer suggested this.” You’re selected, you know, for these groups, and it’s because you’re in compliance and you’re doing the right things. And also, even if you’re not in compliance, some of the groups are there to help you, because they want you to get in compliance and be able to get back out in the work world, in society, to be able to live your life, you know, as a normal person without drugs and alcohol –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  – and all of the things that we should do anyway.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So, I just think it’s awesome. I really do personally. A lot of people probably would say, “Well, you know, I don’t want to do this and that, I already have to report. You know, I have to do your analysis test. You know, they got me doing enough things, so why should I do this?” But that’s the whole secret to it, that one thing that they want you to do is the answer to everything.

Len Sipes:  First round and we’re already halfway through the program. Even before we get to go with the question number two, I want to re-introduce our guest today, Christine Keels, program manager of faith-based initiatives from my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. Marvin, who is currently under supervision, who is off the program, he’s just basically accomplished all of his goals, and the last person you heard from is Julia. She is currently under supervision and she is doing extraordinarily well. I do want to give out the web site for Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, and Christine has foolishly decided to give out her phone number, 202-515-0892; 202-515-0892. I do want everybody to fill up Christine’s phone mailbox, and I’ll be mentioning the web site and Christine’s contact point throughout the program. Christine, we do want more people from more faith-based institutions to mentor more people caught up in the criminal justice system. The clusters, although – we’re the federal government, so we can’t accept donations, but our three clusters—the Lead Faith organizations that much pretty much organize the city for us, they can take donations. So if anybody wants to talk about providing donations through this extraordinarily worthy cause, they can get back in touch with us.

Christine Keels:  Yes, and let me correct the phone number. It’s 202-510-0892. That’s 202-510-0892. That’s my government cell phone, and I’d love to talk to you.

Len Sipes:  You know, I’ve got a group of people up in New York, and I constantly make reference to them because whenever I screw up a name, I get e-mails saying, “Leonard, you can’t pronounce a name to save your life!” Now they’re gonna say, “Leonard, you can’t get a phone number correct to save your life.” So, in any event, Christine, you know, the faith-based concept, you know, government can only do so much. Government has always been somewhat limited in terms of what it is that we can do. We don’t have the legitimacy of the faith-based organizations. You go to any Baptist church, you go into any mosque, you go into any synagogue, they’re the power. There is the power.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  Here are the people who have access, the jobs. Here are the people who have access to resources. Here are the people who care.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  And that, to me, has always been the power of the faith-based initiative. I mean, people caught up in the criminal justice systems take a look at people like you and I saying, “Well, you’re paid to do this.” But they take a look at the volunteers and they’re saying, “Hey, they’re not paid to do this, so they’re doing this because they want to help me get over all the ills that I’ve had in my life, and they want to see me succeed.” Isn’t that the heart and soul of the faith-based initiative?

Christine Keels:  Yes, and for me, it fulfills my mission and helps me fulfill my faith journey as well. And to have people in the community who oftentimes our offenders already know, they already know these folks, they’ve gone to the faith institutions, they know them as Miss Suzy next door or Mr. Charles down the street. And to help them to reconnect with those persons is just so important. And our faith-based mentors are very committed. They are volunteers, which means they are not paid. They come to us with a lot of skills and talents from their professional and life skills, and they’re able to bring that back to us and to share, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  – and we’re just so appreciative of that. We do provide training on basic mentoring, communication, and a number of other special emphasis skills.  Marvin referred to our secured residential treatment facility, which is a place where he participated in a diagnosis of his addiction, and that particular program prepared him for a mentor.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  A mentor came in, and then began to help him remember “What are some of the triggers, what are some of the things that he needs to watch out for, how does he prevent relapse?” And so the mentors are just – they’re life coaches.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  You know, we think of the word “mentor” and we think of when we were teenagers, somebody who took us to the circus and took us to the zoo, and I tell our offenders that if you wanna go to the circus or the zoo, we’ll take you there; but the basic role of the mentors is to help them make decisions, find resources and to be able to communicate effectively with their community supervision officers.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  Those are skills that they take into their life, beyond CSOSA.

Len Sipes:  I want to get back to a question to any one of you, but particularly Marvin and Julia. We talked about this a little bit before the program, and that is that people have stereotypes of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Now, again, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, interviewing people caught up in the criminal justice system, both on radio and television, and I said before the program that, you know, people have this image in their mind of criminal, and they have a preconceived notion. They’ve watched the evening news, they’ve read the newspaper, they’ve looked at the cable stations, the programs about people in prison, and they say to themselves, “I don’t want to come into contact with anybody who has been caught up in the criminal justice system. All I hear about are the negatives. Parolee does this, parolee does that.” So how do you break through that in terms of when you go on the job, when you deal with your mentor? And does mentoring help you overcome that stereotype that society has of you? Julia, I’m gonna start with you. So Julia, you’re a criminal.

Julia:  Well, no, I’m not a criminal. I committed a criminal act. I would say to anyone in the criminal justice system, just know that, you know, you’re a human being and you made a mistake. I could use for an example, let’s say a doctor. You know, a doctor could not have done a surgery in over 20 years, and he performs a surgery on a patient and he makes an awful mistake, and it calls for a malpractice suit.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So does that make him a criminal? I mean, do you wanna just take his license from him because he did a poor operation he didn’t do? So, I mean, look at people that have committed crimes in the same manner. We deserve, you know, another chance. And some of us don’t get it right the first time.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Sometimes we get convicted two, three, four times. You know, some of us get it right, and then some of us may never get it right. But it’s up to that individual. You know, it’s up to what you want to do in life. But just society as a whole, I mean, I believe that overall, maybe every state in the United States, there’s one family or more where someone in their family has been in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So if you were to say, “Well, I’m not gonna hire her because, you know, she got caught for shoplifting”, and you know, you have a store. Why not give her that chance? You know, because she did it once, doesn’t mean she’ll do it again. It’s not that every offender is a repeat offender. And for those that are, they still deserve a chance.

Len Sipes:  Now did the faith-based environment give you the strength, give you the confidence, build you up to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t care what the stereotype is –

Julia:  Oh, very much so!

Len Sipes:  – I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of doing –

Julia:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  – I’m not gonna let that stereotype get in my way. I’m gonna succeed.” Now did the faith-based environment help you get there?

Julia:  It helped me in a way that only me and my Higher Power know. And I say that because, as I said before, a lot of people that are in the criminal justice system, they lose faith in their self. They lose that self-esteem. They lose the love that they have for their self as a human being.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  Because, like you said, you’re stereotyped. But I wake up every morning, I thank God for waking me up. I have wonderful children, I have beautiful grandchildren. I have a loving family overall, which was there anyway –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  – before I even got in trouble.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  I mean, I just believe everyone deserves a chance, and that’s just why I used the doctor, for example.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, I’m gonna go and basically ask the same question of you. I mean, people take a look, hear the word “criminal” and they have that vision in their mind, and as far as they’re concerned, that’s it. They say to themselves, “You know, we’ve got people without work, we’ve got elderly people who need to be taken care of, we’ve got schools that need to be taken care of, why am I gonna spend my time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”. So why would people spend their time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”?

Marvin:  Okay, I look at criminal, that’s just a – I guess that’s just a nametag or something you get when you make a mistake. I ain’t so sure, you know what I’m saying, but it’s all on – I mean, if you gotta go to these type of people and that’s the way they look at you, then there’s really not too much you can do about it. It’s something that they gotta work on and change, ‘cause there’s gonna be somebody that’s gonna have – wherever you got that name tag and that, eventually, and then you just gotta do the best at what you can get.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm. And again, I get back to the power of the faith-based program. I get back to that, because in my mind, I don’t care what situation you are  in life, if you surround yourself with positive influences, if you surround yourself with positive people, everybody – everybody listening to this program and everybody in this room, including me, has had tough times. And you need to surround yourself with positive people who are gonna embrace you and lift you up and say, “Uh-huh, what’s happening now is temporary. Here’s where you going.” To me, every time I’ve dealt with a faith-based program, that’s my takeaway, that there are people there who are willing to help people cross that bridge. Chris?

Christine Keels:  When we make mistakes, the most important formula is nurture and care. We restore ourselves from any mistake we make with nurture and care. And so when someone makes a mistake, the rest of the community around that person has to provide nurture and care. In order to be restored again, I say nurture and care. Even when a baby falls from his attempt to walk, we provide nurture and care. We say, “Get up, try it again.” And we tell them the new way to try it. We don’t say, you know, “Fall again”, we tell them a new way to be able to make that walk perfectly. And life is a walk. We all go through this journey from life to death, and so what we do is continue to nurture and care. And the faith-based institution, that’s their number two ingredient—number one and number two ingredient–nurture and care.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  And so we can’t afford to give up on anybody.

Len Sipes:  Well, but people do. We give up on people all the time. We give up and you know, we say, “They’re a drug addict. I don’t have time with deal with drug addicts. They’re an alcoholic. I don’t have time to deal with alcoholics.  They’re people who are just hanging out on the corner, why are they always hanging out on the corner? I don’t wanna deal with that person.” That’s the image that people have. Now admittedly when we first started the faith-based program, it’s not like everybody flocked to our side.

Christine Keels:  That’s true.

Len Sipes:  Okay? And they had to overcome. Even the faith-based community had to overcome that stereotype. But now you’ve built a small army.

Christine Keels:  Well, I did that by making sure people realized that they’re –

Len Sipes:  Even the cluster coordinators –

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry, not the –

Christine Keels:  Not just Miss Keels, not just Miss Keels –

Len Sipes:  – not just the cluster coordinator part of it.

Christine Keels:  – my entire team.

Len Sipes:  That’s right, the entire team.

Christine Keels:  Over 500 people or more –

Len Sipes:  That’s right.

Christine Keels:  – have put this together. What we do is put a face in front of that label. We get rid of the label by putting a face, a personality, and flesh around that, so that people can see it’s a human being–human beings make mistakes—and that we provide nurture and care. And CSISO is very, very strong on support, resources and building. And so putting CSISO with the faith-based community, what a wonderful match of being able to look at “How do you help someone restore themselves, revive themselves?”  You know, someone said to me one time, “How do you revive something that didn’t exist? If the person didn’t have it in them, how do you revive it?” Then you create it, you mold it, you shape it, you introduce it, so that you bring that person back to a level of competency, so that they can live successfully.

Len Sipes:  But the important thing that people need to hear is that these programs do help individuals caught up in the criminal justice system cross that bridge. Because when they cross that bridge, look at in Julia’s case, she’s taking care of three children.

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  There’s three human beings who are now taken care of because she was able to cross that bridge. People go from tax burdens to tax payers. People go from committing crimes to not committing crimes.

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  People go from not taking care of their kids to taking care of the kids. I mean, these are the successes that you pull off routinely. And I mean, Marvin and Julia, chime in here. Am I right or wrong?

Julia:  You’re right. You’re absolutely right—excuse me.

Len Sipes:  Now I know you have to have it inside you. I know it’s just not the availability of the program. You have to have the willingness to change, as Marvin said at the beginning of the program. But if you don’t have the opportunities, if you don’t have people surrounding you who are gonna lift you up, what happens to you?

Julia:  Then you’ll fall astray, and that’s just being honest and that’s facing reality. It feels good with the mentors when they give you their card or their phone number and they say, “You can call me any time—morning, noon and night.” I mean, how many people will do that? I mean, even your best friend. You know, you call the house at five in the morning, “What do you want?”   So for someone to care that much about you, then why should you not care about yourself? If they’re willing to believe in you and give you a chance, why can’t you believe in yourself? It’s so remarkable, and it’s so overwhelming. It was even moments during my sessions at group that, I mean I’m not embarrassed to say it, I even went home and cried.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Because it was just overwhelming that someone loved me that much and believed in me that much. And it just made me know that I can do anything now. I know it takes time. You know, I didn’t make a mistake overnight. My life is just not gonna snap in the instant of a finger and become better overnight. But I’m sitting here today doing an interview with you, so this is a –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, that’s, that’s –

Julia:  – a big plus, you know? I’ve never did a radio interview, you know, so it’s showing growth already with me.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, you’ve got just a couple of seconds, because we have to give 30 seconds to close. So you’ve heard everything that I’ve said in terms of this whole concept of the group coming to your assistance. Does it really make a difference? It made a difference in your life. Does it really make a difference in the lives of others?

Marvin:  Yeah, it can; as long as they let it.

Len Sipes:  As long as they let it.

Marvin:  As long as they let it. If they don’t – I mean, it’s basically on the individual. They gotta want it, and there’s help for them. It might take time for them to open up for the help, but as long as they let it happen then it’ll work for them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Marvin, you’ve got the final word. I really do appreciate everybody being here today. I love it whenever I do a program on faith-based initiative and hearing the success stories of the people involved. And so to Marvin and Julia, thank you very much. And to Christine Keels, and to all the faith-based people within the faith-based community in Washington DC and throughout the United States and throughout the world, we really appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. We appreciate your comments. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

GPS Monitoring of Criminal Offenders-Florida State University-DC Public Safety Radio

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/gps-monitoring-of-criminal-offenders-florida-state-university-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on GPS global positioning systems or electronic monitoring. We have Bill Bales on from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. They just recently completed a study of 5,000 offenders in terms of the impacts of electronic monitoring and global positioning systems, and some of those results were pretty good. We also have Carlton Butler, a program administrator for GPS for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve been doing GPS monitoring since 2003, so the whole idea, ladies and gentlemen, is to take a look at electronic monitoring, global positioning system monitoring, finding out whether or not it works to reduce recidivism. According to the Florida State University study, it does. And with that introduction, Bill Bales and Carlton Butler, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Butler:  Thank you, Len.

Bill Bales:  Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, the first question’s gonna go to you. Now this is an impressive study. We’re talking about 5,000 offenders were part of the study, and then you do represent one of the premier research organizations in the United States, the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. So the thing that I find amazing when I read your report, is that reduce risk of failure by 31 per cent. You’ve reduced – the program, GPS program, electronic monitoring reduces absconding, it reduces revocations, it reduces new crimes. One of the really interesting things that I found is that it’s used as an alternative to prison in about a third of all cases. And considering how states are really struggling with their correctional budgets, I think all of that is a pretty impressive set of findings. So Bill, can you give me a sense as to the larger study and what it really means?

Bill Bales:  Certainly. Yeah, the study involved—and I think this is very important—it involved medium and high-risk felony offenders in Florida. And Florida currently has almost 3,000 people on electronic monitoring. Almost all of those are Global Positioning System cases, and we did a very, what I believe is a sophisticated study of complicated matching of offenders who were placed on GPS versus similar offenders not placed on GPS, and then tracked them. So essentially, we have what we believe is a very equivalent control and experimental group, and the findings are very robust in the sense that just over 30 percent reduction in the likelihood of failure for the same type of offender on EM as non-EM. So that – it’s a finding that again, is very unequivocal from an empirical standpoint, and we believe is very sound from a research perspective. And like you said, Leonard, we also found that about a third of these offenders on electronic monitoring would have been in prison if not for electronic monitoring. And we also found somewhat surprising is that when you look at the effect of EM on outcomes, it’s fairly similar across different offender types in terms of younger versus older, male versus female. Across offense types, we found very similar results, except for among violent offenders the effect was not quite as great, but it was still a significant reduction in new crimes and absconding and violations. So it’s not as though Global Positioning Systems are only useful and effective for certain types of offenders, it’s pretty much across the board. So that was a very positive effect.

Len Sipes:  Now the findings of the research are significant, because all of us read criminological research as it pertains to reducing recidivism, reducing offending, reducing new crimes.

Bill Bales:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And ordinarily, those results, if they are positive, range in the 10 to 20 percent. The outer limits of a lot of the programs that are used around the country are about 20 percent. I mean, you’ve reduced the risk of failure by 31 percent. That makes your study one of the most significant research findings in criminology regarding managing people on community supervision, correct?

Bill Bales:  That is correct, yes. You’re exactly right. There’s a lot of the empirical research in criminology, if we find effects of various types of programs and interventions, they tend to be fairly marginal effects, if any. So yes, this is a very strong finding. And I will also mention that this project was funded by the National Institute of Justice, and the initial report went through a very rigorous peer review process. So these are findings that have been sanctioned and approved by, you know, other experts outside of certainly our college here.

Len Sipes:  Right, you’re a part of the Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice funds research on the basis of – under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice. So generally speaking, whatever research they fund is peer reviewed and methodologically correct.

Bill Bales:  Right. Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct. Yes.

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we’ve been doing – Carlton Butler, program administrator for our program here in Washington DC under the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency–we’ve been doing GPS since 2003, correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. We have been.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now when one of the things that I have found is that there’s just a wide array of evidence, there’s a wide array of stories in terms of the success of GPS. One that comes to mind simply in terms of apprehending an individual, we found that was a person that was involved in a series of sex crimes against young girls. And the picture was put out, and one of our community supervision officers, known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, recognized the face, looked at the GPS tracking system, was able to tie him in to exactly the locations and times that these crimes were committed, worked with the metropolitan police department, and arrested him. So GPS not only has a deterrent value, it has an apprehension value.

Carlton Butler:  Yes it does. Here in DC, Len, we have a partnership program with all our law enforcement partners. We call it the Crimes and Correlation Program, and in that program we offer limited access to our law enforcement partners, and they use crime data to help resolve crimes in the neighborhood. And under that particular case was one of those instances where the Crimes and Correlation Program worked very well.

Len Sipes:  And again, I think the point needs to be made is that law enforcement has access to our GPS tracking data. So not only do we, within the agency, keep track of individuals under supervision, law enforcement has access to that tracking data directly. They can see on any given day, if they have a suspect, where he’s been and where he is.

Carlton Butler:  That is correct, but they also use it for some extended purposes as well. In the District of Columbia, unfortunately there is some issues with gang interaction.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And they use the program to set up what we call global zones throughout the city, to help track who’s actually entering those zones, to be able to match individuals up who might be involved in gang activity, and/or new criminal activities. So they kind of use it to the extent where they do use it for tracking new crimes. But they also use it for crime prevention as well.

Len Sipes:  Bill, I’m gonna go back to you. Now your research shows a reduction in absconding, a reduction in revocations, of reduction in new crimes. Once again, I mean these are just extraordinary findings. It is just – GPS seems to be certainly something that’s gonna be used in the future. You also estimate that five billion offenders are electronic monitoring or GPS somewhere in the United States, correct?

Bill Bales:  I believe that’s the figure. I don’t recall it right off the top of my head –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Bales:  – to be honest with you. Yes, I know that it’s – certainly it’s expanding as, you know, correctional and preventative type of tool that’s available to various states throughout the country. And my sense is that it will be a method used more and more in the future because of its effectiveness, and the fact that it’s anywhere from six to seven times cheaper than sending someone to state prison or federal prison.

Len Sipes:  And we all agree that states are suffering. I’m not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of incarceration, I’ll leave that to others to decide, but we do know that states throughout the United States, virtually all of them, they’ve got to reduce the budgets of state agencies across the board. What I’ve read in my reading of newspaper articles and media reports, the budget cuts have been the prominent point of concern in the media. The budget difficulties with state agencies and local agencies, we have laying off police officers, closing down prisons, reducing the amount of people in the state attorney’s office and public defenders offices, and the states are saying, “Hey, we have absolutely no choice but to do this, because we’ve got to operate within the confines of the budgets that are given us.” So what this seems to say to me is that GPS is a viable alternative to use as those states try to figure out how to protect public safety, and at the same time, how to manage their own budget. That seems to me that GPS is certainly going to be part of that mix.

Bill Bales:  Yes. I would certainly agree with you 100 percent. There’s no question. Every state in the country is under dire, you know, financial straits at the moment, and Corrections, at least in Florida, the current budget is about 2.5 billion a year.  And it’s almost 10 percent of the state budget, and most of that is in the area of prisons. So certainly to the extent that you can reduce the prison population by even a percent or two, you can make a huge dent in the state budget when we have big deficits.

Len Sipes:  And out of pure curiosity, Bill, one of the things, when I read this study and it came out through the Department of Justice mailing list, I guess I’m a bit surprised that mainstream media has not picked up on this, that other organizations have not picked up on this, that again, the significance of these findings are I guess somewhat short of astounding. Are you getting a lot of coverage for the research?

Bill Bales:  Well, yeah, we’ve gotten numerous enquiries from just really a host of entities. Several states have contacted us that are considering either starting or expanding their GPS programs. And so, legislative bodies have contacted us, governor’s offices. Yeah, we’ve received quite a bit of attention because of the policy implications and the possible cost savings of this technology, which in the scheme of things is relatively new as a correctional strategy. So obviously we’d want more attention, but hopefully others will build on this research to the extent that researchers continue to find positive outcomes of this technology. My sense is it will get more and more attention from policy makers.

Len Sipes:  I guess my observation is that I’m personally surprised it’s not on the front page of USA Today. To me, after all of my years in criminal justice and criminology, to me this is one of the prominent, most significant studies out there. But one of the questions I want to put to Carlton, and Bill, you can chime in if you like, but let’s give Carlton the first crack at this, is that we’re not saying that this is a panacea. I mean, offenders cut these devices off all the time. They have to be recharged. You lose the GPS signal if you go inside of a building. There are ways, and we’re not to discuss specifically what they are, but offenders do try to defeat GPS devices. So this is certainly not a panacea. It’s certainly not foolproof, and it takes a tremendous amount of administration. You suddenly have parole and probation agents—in our case, community supervision officers—with a ton of data that they have to sift through. So this is not as easy as simply slapping on a GPS anklet on that person. Carlton, you wanna take a shot at all that?

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree this program is not a panacea. It doesn’t replace the supervision officer with their supervision duties on a particular offender. I would say, however, I think the technology has improved a great deal over the last at least three years, and I think that within the next year or so, we will probably see some more advancement to the equipment. What I mean by that is that obviously there are offenders who will attempt to circumvent the system, and because we know this exists, the GPS practitioners are working very hard with vendors to make sure that their devices are updated to be able to kind of help with those kinds of situations. One of the things that I know is prevalent most now in this industry is efforts to shield the device in efforts to jam the device.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And I do know that that is on the forefront of the vendors, manufacturers, to make sure that their device has the ability to detect those type of things. And I would also like to say too, there’s a national committee that was conformed by the National Institution of Justice, and it’s made up of 35 members. Out of that group, it’s probably, I would say, about 25 or 27 practitioners on that. In fact, Mr. [PH] Sanifield, who is the administrator, and I’m sure Bill worked with in Florida, is a member of that committee. And in that committee, we’re doing something unlike what has been done in the past, and that is we’re writing national standards for GPS. And the reason why we’re doing that, because as Bill said earlier in one of his statements, we see the technology or need for the technology to be increasing. And because of that, most practitioners right now who are trying to start up programs, don’t have a whole lot of information unless they reach out to one of their – someone that already has done. So, we hope that these standards will help individuals who want to develop or enhance their GPS program, because there will be a lot of data shared in these standards.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me introduce our guests—Bill Bales from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site for the Florida State University Department of Criminology is www.fsu.edu/departments/#criminology. I’m gonna give that out several times throughout the course of the program. Carlton Butler is a program administrator for my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are the parole and probation agency here for Washington DC. We’re a federal agency, www.csosa.gov. www.csosa.gov. We just redid our fact sheet on GPS, which is gonna be on the main page of our web site, so if anybody’s interested in what it is that we do here.  Bill, okay; back to you. You’ve heard Carlton say that there’s a need for national standards, and the committee that he’s working with is there. There’s a need for national standards on GPS. Do you agree?

Bill Bales:  Yes, I think that makes total sense. It is like, as Leonard knows—I mean, as you know and as Carlton knows—it’s a fairly sophisticated technology. But based on our research–and part of that involved actually going out throughout the state of Florida and interviewing those probation officers and administrators, and also offenders—we found that they were well trained, and a lot of that had to do with the vendor themselves, that were very much involved with the community corrections folks that used this technology. And I think that was extremely advantageous, that they have a very close working relationship, and they have mutual goals in mind in terms of, you know, having this GPS system work properly. And the other thing that we witnessed, which was very positive, was there’s continuous efforts to improve not just the technology itself, but just the process of implementing and using this technology to keep offenders from violating. And so I think that’s a critical component of this, is the type of relationships and partnerships that the vendors and the correctional organization has. And one thing—and I’ll plug this just very quickly—the Department of Corrections did in Florida is they determined that so many of the quote “violations” that occurred while people were on GPS, were very very minor instances; like you mentioned, where the GPS device or signal was lost. So they worked with the vendor and implemented a monitoring center that the vendor maintains. And so all the alerts that occur go directly to the vendor, their monitoring center, and 99 percent of them, they can handle and clear without an incident. But the supervising officer is aware of those, but they don’t have to respond to them instantly. So, that’s been a tremendous assistance to the officers in terms of the time involved in working with their GPS case load. So, I think there are a lot of – there are numerous things, initiatives that can be used and expanded as this, you know, capability moves forward.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, that’s one of the things that you advocated and implemented here, is to have the vendor basically take care of all that minor stuff so the community supervision officers can focus on the big part of the violation.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, we did, Len. And also, one of the things that I read in Bill’s report, and that was one of the things that one of the probationary officer’s stated; they would have liked the opportunity to work with the EM program, actually in the unit prior to be given case loads of offenders on EM. I think that’s significant, because one, it gives them the training skill that they need; and two, it helps them to understand what some of the alerts that they actually receive, because oftentimes they get so many alerts and it’s so overwhelming to them, because there’s so much data for them to filter through. This is one of the reasons why we elected to go to the monitoring center, so that we would have someone that was a little more trained and a little more skilled to farm through that data first, before that data would be generated to the probationary officer, so they would know what to do with it beyond that point.

Len Sipes:  I remember talking to a reporter from Massachusetts who basically was a little upset with the system in Massachusetts–and that’s another story for another time–but basically talking about GPS as being over-sold and over-promised. And my sense was that well, how can you possibly over-sell or over-promise GPS? The offender can just snip it off and walk away from the unit. There are no guarantees on GPS, but this is why I was so excited about Bill Bales study, because it basically says, “Yeah, there are endless problems with GPS, there are endless complications, it’s hard to administer, it throws just an unbelievable amount of information.” Remember, the average parole and probation agent in this country sees that offender on a twice a month basis for two 15-minute interviews in an office. That’s what ordinarily happens throughout the United States. Now, you’re getting a ton of data, flow of data, every single day on every single offender who’s on GPS. That becomes difficult to deal with. But let me go back to what I originally said, and Bill, we’ll start with you. I mean, again, this is not a panacea, this is not – nobody should be selling this as something that’s going to quote/unquote “solve supervision problems”.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct, and officers told us that numerous times, that GPS is a tool. But you can never replace the responsibilities and efforts and the things that officers do to keep offenders from violating. And so while pretty much ever officer we talked to thought that GPS was a very effective tool at their disposal, you still have to have that one-on-one contact between the officer and the offender and the, you know, unannounced visits to their homes and their places of employment, and so forth and so on. So, yeah, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is just one tool that appears to be extremely effective. But we can’t lose sight of the incredible value that these officers bring to the table in terms of dealing with, you know, especially very serious offenders, many of whom, at least in Florida, 75 percent are sex offenders. And so, we can’t lose sight of the incredible work the officers do in this regard.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, you have essentially said the same thing, that in terms of the individual officers, it’s – you’ve gotta continue working hard supervising your offenders in person. You’ve gotta work with them, you’ve gotta get them involved in treatment programs, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re working, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re following the conditions of their supervision. The GPS system is simply nothing more than a tool.

Carlton Butler:  I agree, that it is simply a tool, and that is it’s data, as you said, it’s a lot of data that you have to absorb and try to dissect. But that’s all that it is, is data. That one-on-one contact with the offender tends to give the supervision officer a whole other realm of information that the GPS device will never be able to provide. What the GPS device pretty much provides is locations and maps of where the offender would actually frequent. But in terms of – and it might give them some information on new collateral contacts where they may have not known where the offender was going, of certain places he was going.

Len Sipes:  Or, if sex offenders are hanging out at playgrounds.

Carlton Butler:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And we also use this as a curfew. We can restrict them to their house, we can restrict them to their block, we can restrict them to a certain part of the city. And we can, as they comply with the methods of supervision, we can ease up on GPS supervision. We can give them more freedom and more flexibility to reward them for complying with the terms of their supervision.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, that’s true, and these are the types of things we’re able to do here in DC, that’s been very effective in my use of GPS.

Len Sipes:  Okay, gentlemen, we have four minutes left in the program, and I need 30 seconds to close, so that’s three-and-a-half minutes. Bill, where do we go with GPS? With your research, it seems to indicate that this has a major impact not only on state budgets, but it has a major impact or potential for reducing crime, for reducing problems under supervision. Where do we go to from here?

Bill Bales:  Well, I think certainly we need to continue to do the research. I mean, our research was but strictly in one state, and it was a population of medium and high risk felony offenders, so as you all know, GPS has been expanding to local jails and other types of correctional facilities. So I think that’s one area. I think the other area is in terms of the application of GPS to various types of offenders, and also the level of discretion that probation officers and administrators have in the use of GPS, because currently, at least in Florida, that’s all determined by the judge. And from what we observed in talking to people, was that something that the states and locals should consider is giving more discretion to the probation offices in terms of the application of GPS, in terms of when an offender needs to be on it, when they need to be off of it; and because they work with the offenders on a consistent basis, and they know when an offender may be going south, and when this tool could possibly be applied to prevent that from getting worse.

Len Sipes:  So more jurisdiction, more authority at the local level to make those decisions in the field based upon conditions and not necessarily what the judge has to say or what the parole commission has to say, to give that flexibility and freedom to the people in the field to make those decisions.

Bill Bales:  Right, yeah. There’s been laws, like the Jessica Lunsford law in Florida where it ties the judge’s hands as to who gets put on GPS. But as I know Carlton knows, every case is different, and what tool we need to bring to the table to, you know, reduce the likelihood of failure, is variable across different types of offenders, different situations. So I think the states, the policy makers, real need to look at this in a very objective way and say, “Okay, this tool seems to be incredibly effective. How can we apply it in a more reasonable, objective and effective manner to the right population at the right points in time of their supervision?”

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we only have about a minute left. That’s basically what you’ve said as well.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, it is.

Len Sipes:  That really, it really cannot be a hard and fast rule. It can’t be a hard and fast application that the community supervision officer/parole and probation agent needs to be involved in this, and really needs to make decisions in terms of when to apply it, when to take them off, how long to keep them on.

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree with everything that Bill has said. I do know that however with the Jessica law, there is a loophole in it that might present a problem. One is that from the time the individual comes off of probation and have life in GPS, there’s nobody to really supervise them after they come off probation or supervision.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  So hopefully they can fix that part of the law, because that’s been a challenge to the industry.

Len Sipes:  Alright, Carlton, I’m gonna give you the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We’ve been talking to Bill Bales, Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site is www.fsu.edu/departments/#criminology. Also being with us today, or also on our air is Carlton Butler, program administrator for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. The program administrator for the GPS program, www.csosa.gov. The research that I’ve been talking about today it’s called “A Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Electronic Monitoring”. Ladies and gentlemen, we do want to thank you for your letters, for your phone calls, for your e-mails, for suggestions in terms of what we can do to improve the show. Comments and criticisms are always welcome, and I do want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Application of Crime Research to Cities and States-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/application-of-crime-research-to-cities-and-states-the-urban-institute-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes.  A real treat for us, ladies and gentlemen, today, John Roman, he’s the Senior Fellow of the Urban Institute.  The Urban Institute has been around since 1968.  They offer an endless array of good quality research.  It’s one of the most respected organizations in the United States in terms of dealing with research and urban problems, specifically crime problems.  John is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  He is also a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.  One of the things we’re going to discuss today is the application of crime research to cities and states; what does it mean?

In fact most cities and most states throughout the United States pretty much fly by the seat of their pants in terms of the decisions they make regarding crime policy.  In the District of Columbia, what the city and what the Urban Institute is trying to do is to take a look at a wide array of research, existing research, new research, to guide city government in the District of Columbia.  But it’s not about DC.  The larger issue is, like I said, the title: application of crime research to cities and states, and with that long introduction, John Roman, senior fellow Urban Institute.  Welcome to DC Public Safety.

John Roman:  Thanks for having me on.

Len Sipes:  John, it’s been a real pleasure.  You know, I’ve been reading your research over the course of years, and in essence what I’m getting from all of this is that what the District of Columbia, and this lesson again applies to every other city in the country, every other state in the country, what the District of Columbia is trying to do is to take your research from the Urban Institute, one of the most respected research organizations in the country, and say to themselves:  Is there any way that we can use research to better do what we do to increase public safety?  To reduce our costs?  To make us more efficient?  Do I have it?

John Roman:  That’s it in a nutshell.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do?  What does that mean?  Can you give me a sense as to what it is you do on a day-to-day basis?  You look at existing research?  You’re doing original research?

John Roman:  We’re doing both.  So the idea is that we want to work as a partner to the local and federal agencies who operate in DC, and that’s all the criminal justice agencies and youth agencies and family serving agencies, and think about crime as a problem that exists in a city that’s about the city and about the people there, and it’s not specific to specific actors or specific places or specific kinds of people.  It’s just a phenomenon that exists, and you need to think about it holistically if you’re going to do anything about it.

So if you’re thinking about juvenile justice, you have to think about the schools.  You have to think about families, peers – It’s not just about, you know, the facility that you take the worst kid to and lock them up for a period of time.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So what we try and do is we try and do a couple of different things, so we think about what is going on in the research community at large.  We think about what other people have learned, other places and other times, about what’s been effective for solving particular problems, and we try to figure out what it would cost to do those things in the District of Columbia, and what the expected benefits would be to the citizens of DC if we did those things here and try and make recommendation to the mayor’s office and to all the partner agencies about what we think we could do here to actually have less crime for less money, more public safety for less of an investment.

Len Sipes:  When I was starting off the program, I said most states fly by the seat of their pants.  When I was the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, I was in with the Secretary of Public Safety when the Governor of the State of Maryland called and said, “You know what?  I saw this ABC Special on boot camps.  I really like this thing.  We should do this.”

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And the decision to do boot camps in the state of Maryland was made instantaneously in terms of a 30 second phone call between the Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety.  That’s how most criminal justice, criminological decisions, criminal justice decisions are made in most states and most cities throughout this country.  That’s a guess on my part.  Is there, is it a very large guess?

John Roman:  Um, that’s absolutely right.  I mean, I don’t think there’s much of a research base in most public agencies, whether they’re state level or municipal.  They don’t have the capacity to do their own research, and in many instances, they’re really not interested in doing their own research, but the problem that you just highlighted about boot camps is sort of just the classic example that for every difficult problem there’s a solution that is simple, intuitive, and wrong.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The thing that is apparently easiest to sell to your constituents are – There are two kind of things, and neither of them work.  One, are these very simple solutions.  Things like Scared Straight; let’s bring some kids into prison and try to show them how bad prison life is.  Let’s do D.A.R.E.  Let’s bring a police officer into the schools and show them how dangerous drugs are.  Boot camps, let’s get kids up at dawn and make them do pushups.

None of that stuff works, because none of it addresses the underlying reasons why kids become involved in crime.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And then you have, on the other hand, you have deep deep-end solutions like mandatory minimums, three strikes, truth in sentencing.  Long prison sentences that lead to mass incarceration that lead to tremendous drains on state and local governments budgets, that miss the entire point of incarceration which is, there’s a huge body of research that says people make decisions about whether they’re going to commit crime or not depending on whether or not they think they will get caught.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The size of the penalty doesn’t matter.  Am I going to get six months, a year, two years, ten years?  That doesn’t make any difference in my decision making.  I just want to know if I’m going to get caught.

John Roman:  Uh-huh.

Len Sipes:  So huge investments in mass incarceration, long prison sentences.  That doesn’t work either, and there’s lots of stuff in the middle that does work.  People have to be open to the research to hear it.

John Roman:  You’re funded by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice.  It’s where the city gets the money to contract with the Urban Institute to do these things.  You know, there’s an awful lot of things that are intuitive.  There’s an awful lot of things that people, from a very gut level, feel that could work, should work. D.A.R.E is one example.  I mean, D.A.R.E is where you have the police officers in the schools.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  You’re teaching them drug education, and we’ve said over and over again that the research indicates that these programs do not work, and yet they’re very popular. D.A.R.E programs, there’s a lot of people who say, “I don’t care what the research has to say, I like it.”  There’s a lot of people out there who say “I don’t care what the research has to say, I believe a person should serve 20, 30, years in prison for a very serious crime.”  How do you overcome that?

John Roman:  Well, let me talk about D.A.R.E because it’s such a classic example of what goes wrong in the system, and let me talk about what we should do to overcome that.

So with respect to D.A.R.E, so what D.A.R.E does is, it depends on where you are, whether it’s fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth graders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And a police officer comes in.  He’s got his suitcase full of drugs.  He opens up the drugs, and he says, “This is cocaine.  This is heroine.  This is crack.  This is marijuana.  These are the instruments you use to smoke these, to ingest this, to inhale them, to do whatever with them.”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And what you are in fact doing is demystifying drugs for young people who have probably never been exposed to them before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it takes some of the fear out of it and makes it just a little less costly for them to start using because they have got some information.  They’re not as afraid.  Now places that like this model will say, “Well, okay, so it doesn’t reduce drug use, but it does have a couple of benefits.  One of the benefits is it reduces, it improves the legitimacy, it improves how students, school kids, see police officers because they see a police officer in a non-confrontational setting.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

John Roman:  And that makes them just a little more open to what the police officers say to them on the streets.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And the opposite happens where the police officers get to talk to somebody who isn’t in trouble with the law.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  Who’s normal, and that makes them a little better at their job.  But it’s solving a problem that it doesn’t intend to solve, and there might be better ways to do that.

Len Sipes:  We have a question for today’s show, very interesting, coming from Robert Pierre, an editor at the Washington Post.  He asked me the other day, via email, the percentage of the DC population behind bars, and throughout my seventeen-and-a-half years in the District of Columbia, first ten years with the two national organizations and 14 years in Maryland, back for seven-and-a-half years, I’ve constantly seen this reference to 60 percent of the population has spent time behind bars, or certainly over 50 percent of the population has spent time in prison.

Is there a valid basis for that observation?  I’ve never seen the methodology behind those observations, and I’ve never seen something come along and say, this is what we base that estimate on.  So how can you prove it or disprove it?

John Roman:  Right, I mean the way you’d have to answer that question is you’d have to get data from the Department of Corrections in DC, which is the DC Jail, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons – if you are sentenced on a felony in the District of Columbia, you go into the federal system.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  If you have a misdemeanor, you go into the local system, so you need to go to a federal database and a local database.  You need to pull decades worth of data, and you need to figure out how many people went in once, and how many people went over and over and over again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The way people do this, to try and answer this question, is they say, well, there were 50,000 arrests in DC, and over a 10 year period, that means half of all DC citizens must have been arrested, and it’s just not correct.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  That’s just wrong.  People get arrested over and over again.  I did a study of the Philadelphia prison system a few years back and found that 80 percent of the people who spent time in the Philadelphia Jail were there more than once.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And so that means a very small percentage of the population gets into jails.

Len Sipes:  There’s a lot of turnover.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And my response to Robert Pierre, that I mentioned, is: There’s a lot of turnover within the system.

John Roman:  Yes, so, let’s say you have these people – they’re referred to as frequent flyers –

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  cyclers, whatever you want to call them.  Now there is a real issue in the District of Columbia, the Pew Charitable Foundation released a report last year that said that 1 in 31 Americans was somehow, on any given day – which is a kind of different question –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  on any given day, was somehow involved in the criminal justice system via they were incarcerated or they were under some kind of supervision, either post release from prison or awaiting a trial.

Len Sipes:  Right, and BJS has put out the same figures, the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

John Roman:  Right, and in some places, they find that the number – that for Africa American men between 20 and 34, those numbers are as small as 1 in 6, or 1 in 7, or 1 in 8.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So clearly in a city like DC, you have lot of young men who are going to be involved in the criminal justice system on any given day, and that’s an important story.  Sort of making up a number to try and, you know, make it seem like a bigger problem than it is – I don’t think this is the way to get this into the debate, into the public discourse, about trying to do something about this issue.

Len Sipes:  The whole idea is to bust myths in terms of using criminology, using criminological data, using hard data, to come up with good clear solutions instead of, again, flying by the seat of your pants.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  In terms of dealing with something that gets you some coverage, it certainly gets you some attention if you come out and say, quote a statistic that grabs people by the intellectual throat, but there are better ways of doing it, and that’s hard, cold, clear, research, and that’s what you’re advocating.

John Roman:  Right, and I think I can give you a bunch of different examples of this, and why this is important.  I heard an add on the radio last night, and I can’t remember the name of the – it’s an alarm company that responds to burglaries, and I can’t remember their name which is good.  I don’t want to give them any publicity, but the add starts with this sort of ominous message from the announcer saying, “The economy is terrible, and crime continues to increase, and thus you should get our product.”

Well, the reality is that crime has been going down since 1991.  It’s been going down for two decades, and the crime decline has actually accelerated the last couple of years.

Len Sipes:  Almost continuously, and that’s a –

John Roman:  Almost continuously, and we are at crime levels now that we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon was President.

Len Sipes:  Since the 1970’s.

John Roman:  Right, or mid-to-late 60’s.  So if you were 40 years old today, you are probably safer today than you have ever been in your life, and I don’t think that message is getting out, and I think it has one particular consequence which is really too bad.  So the if it bleeds it leads on the news –

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And every time there’s a – crime is very volatile.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So you’ll see a rash of burglaries in one place and then nothing.  You’ll see a deadly weekend where there’s three, four, homicides, and then nothing.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And people only hear about these, these little mini crime waves in their neighborhood or their part of the city, or in the city as a whole, and they use it to conclude that everything is spiraling out of control.

Len Sipes:  Spiraling out of control.  Let’s put up the bars.  Let’s put up alarms, and let’s run for the suburbs.

John Roman:  And let’s pay to have people incarcerated for 30 years.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

John Roman:  When we don’t need to.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Well the whole idea is to get over those myths.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean in the District of Columbia, it is like the national crime scene.  Crime has gone down, certainly not by the national levels or the same amount as the national levels, but crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia.  Violent crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia, but if you watch the evening news, if you read the paper, it doesn’t apply to DC; it applies to any city in the United States; you’re going to get the impression that crime is going up.

When I tell my wife that crime is continuously, almost continuously, gone down for the last 20 years, she looks at me as if I had three heads.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  If you go and do a public forum, if you say that crime has almost continuously down for the last 20 years, again, you have gasps.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s just inconceivable to imagine.  If you watch the network, and it’s amazing, and E has it, The History Channel has it.  Lots of these big cable channels have these shows.  Hard Time, or other sort of – Gangland or other sort of shows, if you – your exposure to the media tells you that you are in danger, and you want these people put in prison for the longest possible period of time, and then you can’t blame people for feeling that way.

John Roman:  So I did an interview last month for The Guardian, which is a distinguished paper in England, and going through all the reasons, explanations for why crime has declined, and there’s actually 15 or 20 different things that we could talk about to explain some of the crime decline, and we sort of walked through all of these things, and this article got a ton of response, hundreds if not thousands of comments, and the overall majority of them were “Well, I don’t believe this.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Crime is going up.”  So if you can’t – if you can’t understand the nature of a problem, you cannot solve it.

Len Sipes:  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute.  They have been around, ladies and gentlemen, since 1960.  It is one of the most respected institutions to look at urban problems, study urban problems, study crime problems.  They have been around since 1960.  John is also the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.

What we’re trying to do is look at the application of crime research to cities and states, not just in the District of Columbia, but throughout the United States, and then try to find the lessons learned.  All right John so –

John Roman:  If I might, I just want to correct one thing you said.

Len Sipes:  Please, please.

John Roman:  So at the peak of the crack epidemic in the late 80’s and early 90’s when crime, violent crime in particular, peaked in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  There were little more than 24,000 homicides.  Last year there were less than 15,000.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So that’s a pretty substantial drop.  Not quite 50 percent.  In the District of Columbia, at the height of the crack epidemic, there were more than 500 homicides, almost 500 homicides.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  This year, DC is on track to about quarter, about 108.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

John Roman:  So that’s a decline of 75 percent or more.

Len Sipes:  That’s unbelievable.

John Roman:  Twice as much as the decline nationally, so a lot of good things have happened in this city.

Len Sipes:  You know, I remember this city being, back early when I was working for the National Crime Prevention Council, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and I remember – we’re going back 30 years now, and you were afraid.  I mean, I’m a former state trooper in Maryland, newly minted with a master’s degree, and coming down and working for these organizations, and being afraid to walk the streets.  DC has changed.  A lot of cities have changed.  You have cities like New York.

Len Sipes:  Right, where you can touch and feel it and smell it, but if you go into Baltimore, Cleveland, lots of cities throughout the United States, and again, if you say that crime has gone down nationally, and crime, in fact, has gone down in your particular city which it has in Baltimore, that people are just going to look at you as if you have 25 heads.

John Roman:  Right, and so it’s really interesting.  If you look at the top – there’s something coming out next week.  I’ll give myself a commercial. WWW.URBAN.ORG, where we look at the top –

Len Sipes:  Oh, I have not mentioned the website, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  It’s one of the reasons I write these things down, so I will repeat that.  I’ll have it in the show notes, and I’ll repeat it a couple of times throughout the course of the program.  Go ahead John.

John Roman:  So Urban Institute has a blog.  I have a post coming out next week where we look at the top 25 cities in the United States, and compare their peak homicide rates to the homicide rate in 2000, to the homicide rate in 2010, and it declines in all 25 cities, and it declines pretty uniformly.  There are some exceptional success stories, Washington DC, New York City as you mentioned, Dallas – are exceptional success stories, but otherwise, you see this incredibly consistent trend across cities in the United States.  You see a couple of cities, like Milwaukee for one, where crime has gone back up since 2000, but overwhelmingly, the crime decline is a national story.

Some cities have been even more successful than the average city in the United States, but crime is down everywhere, and it’s down substantially.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting that there are many in the criminological community who will suggest that crime is an international story.  The decline – that it’s also going down in Great Britain.  It’s also going down in New Zealand.

John Roman:  Yep.

Len Sipes:  It’s also going down in Australia, it’s also going down in Germany, that we have not just a phenomenon for the United States.  We have a phenomenon for the western industrialized world.

John Roman: And it’s a wonderful insight, and it calls into question a lot of explanations that we have in the United States because we only look at the United States for why crime declined, and we miss these stories, and so, for instance, the mass incarceration phenomenon is a US phenomenon.  These other nations you mentioned haven’t experienced it, and yet they see similar kinds of crime decline that we have seen here.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  There’s been a lot of changes in how police – police that occur internationally, and that makes you say, well, the policing story has more credibility to me than the prison story.  Maybe all of this incarceration hasn’t bought us that much because in other industrialized nations, they have gotten the same crime decline without this incredible – I mean we have four times as many as people in prison today as we did 30 years ago.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And the effect on state budgets are just astronomical, and here we are in the midst of this great recession, the financial collapse, state budgets are under tremendous pressure.  The federal government budget is under tremendous pressure, likely to make the state situation even worse, and yet we aren’t talking very much at all about, about state spending on corrections, which makes up an enormous percentage of state budgets in most places.

Len Sipes:  Well the states – virtually every state in the United States is complaining bitterly about the amount of money that it puts into corrections, and states throughout the United States are struggling.  I mean it’s the dominant topic within the media and crime and justice for the last two years, the fact that the states are saying, we can no longer afford the level of incarceration.  Now we’re not going to get into a debate as to – is that good or bad from a criminological point of view.  It simply is saying that the states are saying that they can no longer afford it.  So we within the criminal justice system have to come up with something to kind of guide them, and I think Urban and Pew and the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Corrections are doing just that.

Len Sipes:  And I think, we have learned a lot in the last three decades from a research perspective about what works.  Let’s talk about some of that, because we have been talking – we’re two-thirds of the way through the program, and we haven’t talked about what does work yet.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We’ve talked about what the problems –

John Roman:  Right, and I think, you know, there’s a lot of good things happening in the District of Columbia.  It’s a great example of things that work.  You have a police chief here, Cathy Lanier, who is very open to research.  She reads the research.  She can talk knowledgeably about some pretty obscure pieces that are very important about how you figure out who’s most risky, and who the police need to target their scarce resources to.

I think policing, changes in policing have been effective: more professional policing, more problem oriented policing, more proactive policing.  Hopefully in the next generation, we’ll get into a more forensically oriented police force.

Len Sipes:  You mean, somehow, some way, we live up to all the nonsense that people see on television?

John Roman:  Let me take a 60 second digression.  We could go on for the next five years about that.

Len Sipes:  That’s my pet peeve, but go ahead, please.

John Roman:  And nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  Really.

John Roman:  Nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  It’s shocking.

John Roman:  Yeah, I know it’s shocking.

Len Sipes:  That’s shocking.

John Roman:  So it tends to take months for a piece of evidence to get through from beginning to end, but the most important takeaway is:  In this country, almost no suspects are identified by forensic evidence.  We use forensic evidence in this country –

Len Sipes:  to back up the arrest we’ve already made.

John Roman:  to back up the arrest we’ve currently made.  So coming back, so what else works?  Well, we know a lot about alternatives to incarceration programs.  It’s taken us decades to learn something that should be patently obvious which is that if you are somebody who has a substantial problem that causes you not to be able to contribute to society: You have a mental health problem; you have a substance abuse problem; you have family problems.  Whatever these things are that cause you to commit crimes in support of these problems that if you address the underlying problem, in many cases, you can keep people from committing crime.

Len Sipes:  You are four times more likely to be caught up in the criminal justice system if you have a mental health issue.  I’m not saying that everybody with a mental health issue has contact with the criminal justice system, but the odds, the pure stats, is that they’re four times more likely to become involved.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So why is it, when I take a look at the stats, the overwhelming majority of the stats say that the overwhelming majority of the people caught up in the criminal justice system do not get mental health treatment? do not get the substance abuse treatment?  There’s a dichotomy.

John Roman:  Right.  So the problem is – the story is a little better on the mental health side because correctional systems have a responsibility by law to provide medication to people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Now, there’s a lot more that needs to be done for those folks other than just to medicate them.

The drug story is far worse.  We provide almost no treatment to people while they’re incarcerated, which is a real missed opportunity.  If I get you for two years –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  and can give you residential treatment, your chances of getting out and doing better are just vastly improved.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The problem is that it would take a big upfront investment.  We did a study a couple of years ago, and we looked at what the upfront investment would be to treat everybody going into the correctional system for their drug abuse problem rather than incarcerate them, and the estimated cost – US 10 or 15 billion dollars to create the infrastructure to do that.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The returns though would be 50 billion dollars in terms of crime rates going down even further from where they are, from not needing to use criminal justice resources to investigate, arrest, and incarcerate folks because they don’t need it, because they’re not committing crimes, because they’re not using, and then you have all these other benefits like our correctional systems are places where HIV, aids, tuberculosis, hep-C, all these really chronic horribly expensive conditions, where the rates of – are just, 3, 5, 10 times the rates that you see in the population.

The correctional systems have to spend money to care for those folks, and then they come out, and they have to use public health resources.  And keeping people out of prison, stopping them from using, from sharing needles, and getting hep-C and HIV, all of these things are far more cost effective than just mass incarceration and just housing people.

Len Sipes:  WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWWW.URBAN.ORG.  So it’s basically, we know what to do in law enforcement.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We know what we should be doing in terms of treatment of people caught up in the criminal justice system.  We know that we can probably provide alternatives that are maybe more cost effective and that may protect public safety better in the long run in terms of – depending upon the risk of the offender.  So those
are three things that you’ve mentioned right there, that are lessons learned, that are, kind of can be applied to DC, can be applied to Milwaukee, can be applied to anyplace.  What else?

John Roman:  I mean there’s a laundry list of things we can do.  We have people who leave prison, and they have been inside prison, for a year, two years or more, and they’re completely unprepared.  They come out.  They don’t have any identification.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it’s impossible for them, you know – How do you even get into a government building to meet your probation officer, right?  Much less go and get a job.  They come out without any medication.  So they were being treated for their mental health problem, and they come out, and 48 hours later, they’re in crisis because they didn’t have – they didn’t have a prescription with them the day they left.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but let me take –

John Roman:  They didn’t have a place to stay.

Len Sipes:  you in a different direction in terms of the limited time that we have left.  So we have to have programs for offenders, and they have been proven to be cost effective through a variety of things.  We know that we have to be more aggressive in terms of law enforcement and working with the community, and the way that you apply law enforcement to places and people, specifically targeting –

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  rather than mass efforts are more effective.  Drug courts.  Let’s go over to the judiciary.

John Roman:  Okay, so, drug courts, again, this is a place where I think this is part of the explanation for why DC has been more successful than average, and you see this in New York as well, where they have really – Here they had the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, which is a program that I evaluated back in 1999.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And found that it was effective in preventing recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And it’s been going on here for 12 years, and the basic idea is that if you take drug involved arrestees and instead of incarcerating them for their crimes, you put them through this 12 to 18 month program where they get intensive judicial supervision, intensive treatment supervised by a judge and a case manager, where they work through their – they work through relapses such that if they actually relapse, they don’t just go back to prison like you would under most parole arrangements or probation arrangements.

Len Sipes:  They are supervised by us.  That’s my commercial.  Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Pretrial Services.  Yes, go ahead.

John Roman:  And the idea is, people who are in recovery relapse, and you need to get people through relapse to get long-term recovery, and the data suggests that not just in DC, but around the country, we just finished the National Drug Court Evaluation at the Urban Institute.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  Last month.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  And you know, the story is that it’s pretty effective.  It reduces recidivism 10 or 15 percent.  It’s not a magic bullet.  It’s not going to reduce it by half or something, nothing will.  But if you do all of these things together, you can really reduce crime in a major way.

Len Sipes:  I’m going to stop you right there and ask you the final question before we close the show.  The average person out there says to themselves:  I can’t keep up with all this.  I get stuff from Urban; I get stuff from the different criminological institutes; I get stuff from BJS; I get stuff from the FBI; I get stuff from the National Institute of Corrections; I get stuff from the National Institute of Justice; I get stuff from the Office of Justice Programs.  I can’t deal with all of this.  How can I simplify it?  and how can I find out these lessons learned?

John Roman:  I actually think there are actually some public media outlook, Gangland and Lock-Up, and all those shows infuriate me as much as they do anybody else because if you watch Gangland, you’re looking at 1990 footage, so that’s annoying, but there are actually shows like PBS FRONTLINE that do a terrific job, and they have covered many of those issues over the years, and they do podcasts, and NPR does wonderful podcasts.

Len Sipes:  But the average police chief is not going to be listening to –

John Roman:  Well, but the average police – so –

Len Sipes:  Watching FRONTLINE, the average mark out there in the criminal justice system, how do they keep abreast of all this research?

John Roman:  Well, I would say though, that you could go to NPR or FRONTLINE.  I did a study that found that if you collected forensic evidence, and you use it to aid a burglary investigation, you could ten-fold increase the likelihood that you get an arrest.  I went to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting, 17,000 police chiefs, and we had maybe a hundred in the room.  You have to start by being open to what the research says, and then it’s pretty easy to go out and find places that can tell you what’s important.

Len Sipes:  Are we doing the best job that we can do within the criminological community to distill it down to the barest bones?

John Roman:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  And apply lessons learned?

John Roman:  No, I mean, I think there’s a lot of work that can be done, but there are a lot more groups like Pew and Urban that are trying to be more translators than evidence creators.

Len Sipes:  And I think it’s obvious in terms of the publications you put out and the publications Pew puts out and the Office of Justice Programs is making that transition as we speak trying to make it simpler because the big complaint is that:  I’m overwhelmed by the data.

John Roman:  Right, I mean National Institutes of Justice has National Institute Journal.  Nancy Ritter is the writer there.  She does a terrific job, and it’s a wonderful resource, probably a great place to start.

Len Sipes:  John, you’ve been a blast to have on the program.  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  He is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We do appreciate your calls; we do appreciate your emails; we appreciate your criticisms; we appreciate your compliments, and we appreciate your suggestions in terms of future show topics, and please, please, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Interview with Ex-Offender Eddie Ellis-DC Public Safety Radio

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/interview-with-ex-offender-eddie-ellis-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure today to have Lamont Carey. Lamont’s been around for a long time.  He’s a fixture, not only in Washington DC, but throughout the country.  Lamont spent 11 years in the federal prison system for committing a crime in Washington DC, and he’s been an outspoken individual regarding the condition of people coming outside of the prison system and in the world where the overwhelming majority of people who come out of the prison system are basically ignored.  He’s gotten an awful lot of press.  Let me tell you a lit bit about what Lamont Carey has done within the course of the last 10 years, 11 years:  HBO, for the Def Poetry Jam, on Home Box Office, he’s done The Wire, again, with HBO, probably the best crime and justice program ever on television.  Black Entertainment Tonight, Lyric Cafe, he worked, he’s spoken at the National Cathedral multiple times talking about the plight of ex-offenders.  He’s done a ton of media both in the United States and Canada.  He’s been with Al Sharpton, with the National Action Network, and he has written a book called The Hill, just out, about his journey through prison, and he’s also, in progress, his film, a video called Outside the Gate.  Lamont Carey, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lamont Carey:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  All right, man.  Again, what I said at the beginning, what I said in terms of the introduction is that the overwhelming majority of people coming out of the prison system, they don’t talk to anybody.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean, they don’t even talk to their own sister.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And here it is that you’re talking on – you know, you’ve been with a couple HBO productions.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been at media throughout the United States and Canada.  You’ve been with Al Sharpton.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been with BET.  Why is all this going on when everybody else is ignored, you’re getting all this air time.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think the difference between me and everybody else is that I’m not afraid of where I come from.  Most people don’t talk about the things that they think will hurt them, so I was once labeled a product of my environment.  Now I use those experiences as my product, and that is how I make my living.

Len Sipes:  But everybody goes through the same thing you went through.  What is it that – I need to know this.  What is it that distinguishes you from everybody else?  Everybody is talking about this, but they’re just talking to each other.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Everybody is going into group.  Everybody is talking to their friends.  Everybody is standing on the corner.  You’re standing on the corner at HBO with The Wire.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so, there’s got to be something unique and something different in your experience versus everybody else.

Lamont Carey:  Well, when I came home from prison, before I came home, I decided I was going to be successful.  I decided I was going to give back to my community, and with both of those goals in mind and the developing in it a grasp of entertainment, I figured that I would combine all of those and that would be how – One, I remember where I come from but also use it as a stepping stone to get where I’m going, so I’m fearless.  I turn all of that into a business, and so that, I think, what makes me a little different than most.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I’m going to try this one more time.  Okay, I’ve been interviewing people out of the prison system for 20 years.  Everybody wants to give back.  Nobody wants to go back to prison.  Everybody wants their voice heard.  Nobody’s voice is heard.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There is something unique about you, I mean – that I’m still trying to get at.  Everybody’s said what you’ve just said.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, but I’m driven.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Lamont Carey:  I’m driven to succeed underneath it all.  That’s what it is.  I’m driven to succeed.

Len Sipes:  All right, all right. WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM is Lamont’s website for all the different projects that Lamont is working on.  All right, let’s get around to the former offender coming out of the prison system.  All right, so the guy comes out.  The woman comes out.  He hits the street, and what happens?

Lamont Carey:  Well, a lot of – what I think throws a lot of people off when they hit the street is that they deviate from their plan that they created in prison.  Everybody has a plan.  I have a – I’ve been incarcerated in 11 institutions, and every individual that I came into contact with had a plan on what they was going to do when they come home.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But when they get home, they – I guess because they try to live up to the expectations of their family members, they think they have to rescue their family, change their whole standard of living, and so they get thrown off, and they go after jobs, or get on another route that they didn’t plan for, and I think that’s another difference between me and a lot of people is that I didn’t deviate from my plan, so they come home.  They get everything isn’t like they thought it was going to be, I mean, even me, when I was coming home, I thought that all the doors was going to open for me, I was going to be celebrated as a hero or what have you, and then when you get home and you face reality – that I have to go live back at my mother’s house, and she’s doing as bad as I thought she was doing, and I felt those urges, or those desires to want to save her, but I can’t save nobody unless I get myself right, so I had to stick with my plan and follow it to the letter.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so 50 percent, according to national stats, 50 percent of people go back to the prison system within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  That’s just within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean beyond three years, more go back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  A ton of people go back to the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There can’t be mass hysteria in prison.  Everybody’s got to know how difficult it is when they’re going to get back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That they’re going to be labeled an ex-con.  They’re going to go and try to find jobs, and people are going to go “Hmm.  How many years you spent in prison?”

Lamont Carey:  Right, well I think.

Len Sipes:  Well, you know, everybody’s got to come out of there with a sense of man, it’s going to be hard when I get back to the street, I mean, how could it be any other way?

Lamont Carey:  But they don’t, I mean – a lot.

Len Sipes:  Are you serious?

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, a lot of people don’t because you got to – something that – what took place with me in prison – prison – it’s like you’re living inside of three different worlds.  You’re living off your past, you’re living off of – you got to follow the rules and regulations of the institution.  You’ve got to follow the rules and regulations of the convict, and then you got this future that you’re dreaming of happening, so a lot of individuals assume that when they come home that this woman is going to help them find a job, or the man that they used to hang out with, he’s working at a company, and he said that he can get them a job there, so a lot of times, we believe in there what somebody else is telling us so we don’t see that we’re going to have to, like face applying for a job and not getting it.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to hook you up.  Somebody’s going to take care of you.  Somebody’s three hearts and a card.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, it’s the hook up.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to give you a place to stay.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  And nobody in prison is sitting there going, Dude, we got a lot of guys keep coming back.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I did that.  I figured that – the one thing that I knew:  One, that I’m not a construction worker.  I’m not doing no labor.  Two, I knew that I never had a job before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I knew that the chances of me getting a job that is going to pay me 20 dollars an hour like I deserve with no work experience, I knew it was impossible.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I decided that I wanted to work for myself.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I think that is what made me different.  I didn’t expect – what I did expect – I didn’t expect that they were going to give me stuff.  I looked at it as they owed me because they wasn’t there for me while I was in prison, so when I come home, that they was going to give me this, and they were going to give me that, but I also had to face the reality.  What it was, was that they weren’t doing as good as I thought they were doing, but I didn’t get to see that until I came home because most of the time, people don’t reveal that they’re doing as bad as they’re doing.  They might say they can’t send me no money.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Lamont Carey:  But, we live – and prisoners live in a fantasy, like I havn’t met too many prisoners that said they’re the corner boy.  Most prisoners say they were the kingpin or close to the kingpin, so a lot of times.

Len Sipes:  Everybody’s on the corner.

Lamont Carey:  Right, so yeah – but that’s not what they say in prison.

Len Sipes:  But do they really believe that?  Does everybody else really believe that?

Lamont Carey:  Well, not really, but what else do we have to go off of?

Len Sipes:  All right, so it’s the convict world.  There’s two things come to mind.  The convict world is what rules in the prison system, not the correctional personnel.  I mean that world –

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  is what rules, and so what you’re saying is that people invent a sort of fantasy world that allows them to exist with some sort of dignity while in the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And when they come back out, sometimes that status gets in the way of clear thinking.

Lamont Carey:  Right.  Because it’s distorted, because you have been incarcerated for two years or ten years, and you’ve been – you get to believe in this lie that you told yourself, and so when you’re telling people what you going to do when you come home, it’s exaggerated, you know what I’m saying?

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  My guy, when I come home, my man, they been doing this.  They been doing that.  They going to give me –

Len Sipes:  They’re going to take care of me, yeah.

Lamont Carey:  Probably a few thousand, so we come out, and that bubble is burst.

Len Sipes:  Now, I have talked to, in a career of 20 years of interviewing people coming out of the prison system, I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who have made it.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.

Len Sipes:  And they’re all encouraging, and it really is really neat to hear about the woman who suffered through a life of sexual abuse and child abuse, and she comes out and she gets discouraged, and she gets determined, and she goes out and buys, eventually, three ice cream trucks, and now she’s her own woman.  I mean she’s made her own way.  She said, I’m not going to let anybody step in front of me and tell me no.  I’m going to make my own way.  I’ve told those stories hundreds of times, but at the same time, 50 percent go back to the prison system.  Now 730 thousand people get out of the prison in this country every year.  That’s – conservatively, 350 thousand of those people are going back to the prison system within three years, more than that afterwards, so there’s two ways.  One part of it are all the success stories like yourselves, people who have risen above their own circumstances, people who have that magic moment in their lives, either through God or their families or their own sense of self determination that they’re going to make it, and 50 percent just like, you know, you ask them, “Why did you come back?” and it’s like, they can’t give you an answer.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s like, dude, I was on the corner, and somebody said, “Man, we’re going to do a hit,” and, you know, people smoking reefer, and it just got out of hand – didn’t mean to get involved in it.  I mean, we’re not talking about necessarily stalking people, you know, just crap happens –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  is the way a lot of people get caught back up in the criminal justice system.  How do you make sense of all of this?

Lamont Carey:  Well, again, the guys – with the individuals that I think become successful and not going back to prison, they become good at problem solving.  A lot of other people let stress get the better of them.  I can’t find a job.  I need a place to stay, and so when things are not happening according to the way that we want them to happen, we resort back to what we know.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

Lamont Carey:  Because one of the other things I think that ex-offenders or prisoners face is that they believe that they have to forget their whole past, that none of those skills are transferable to a positive and productive life, so a lot of them come home thinking that now they have to erase everything, so now they’re an infant again.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so they need guidance on what to do – I mean, what route they should take to be successful because they have never lived, really, a productive life, and so when things don’t go according to plan, they return back to what they know, and the police are more aware.  Surveillance is greater.  More people are telling, and so that’s how I think they end up – a lot of people end up back in the prison system, or those that used to use drugs fall back under the spell of substance abuse, which leads back to prison.

Len Sipes:  People have told me giving up drugs is somewhat easy.  Giving up the corner is impossible.  Giving up their friends.  Giving up their contacts, and a lot of times, they just get involved in crap that they have no business being involved in.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And again, it’s not – you know, there’s a huge difference in terms of people who are involved in criminal activity, between that person who says, “I’m leaving this house tonight, and I’m committing a crime, and I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that.” versus the person leaving the house that night, and saying, “I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do.  I’m going to check out my boys on the corner and figure out what’s going down.”

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s a huge difference, and so many of these people who don’t set out that night to commit a crime end back up in the criminal justice system.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  Cause one of the things is that if me and you hung out before I went to prison, the way you remember me is the way I was before I went in.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  You’re not fully aware of the guy that I’ve turned into.  Most of the time you probably think it’s just jail talk, or jail letters, when I’m telling you that I changed, and so I’ve had this experience.  When I came home, a guy came to see me from my past, and he tried to – he said I got a gun for you.  That’s how he remembered me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So, the real test comes with whether I take this gun or not.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And when I refused the gun, then he knows that I’m serious –

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  about my change, and so I think when I come out of the house to come and hang out with you, that’s because I’m bored.  I don’t have no plan.  When I have all these – I don’t have a job.  I don’t have all these things to – instead of me focusing on them, I just get tired.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  And I just say, “I just want to breathe for a minute.  Let me go see what Sipes’s doing.” and I go hang out with you, and – but at the same time I’m hanging out with you, you I’m observing the drug game again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Or whatever it is that – you know what I’m saying, it’s –

Len Sipes:  Yeah it’s all caught up.  It all falls together.

Lamont Carey:  Right, because if you’re still in the criminal life-style, and when I come around to you, you’re always thinking as a criminal.  And so, it just so happened.  When I come around, this is the same time that you about to make a move.  You about to go sell some drugs, and you about to rob a store, and I’m there, and you’re telling me, “Man, it’s sweet.  We going to be in there three minutes.  We’re going to be in and out.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, piece of cake.

Lamont Carey:  And my pocket’s are broke.  Yeah, that 50 thousand or what you say we’re going to get out of this stuff sounds really good to me right now, and I can do it in three minutes.  What’s the chances of me getting caught in three minutes?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And then the next thing you know, the police outside.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, ladies and gentlemen, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  That’s LAMONTCAREN.COM.  Again, to go through Lamont’s list of media involvement would take, for the rest of the day, The Wire, which is, again, the best TV program ever filmed in Baltimore about the criminal justice system, BET Washington, a book called The Hill, a book about his journey through prison, and currently a video project called outside the gate which is in progress.  Okay, you’ve given me some really interesting pieces of insight, Lamont, now, let me hear what you had to say to those movers and shakers, the mayor of Milwaukee, folks here in the District of Columbia, somebody in Germany which is now our second most popular outside the country in terms of people who pay attention to what it is we do here at DC Public Safety.  What do they need to know about people coming outside of the prison system, because I’ll tell you, it’s not a terribly pretty picture.  Most people needing drug treatment don’t get it.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  The stats are very clear.  Most people needing mental health treatment don’t get it.  Most people who need job training don’t get it.  So somehow, some way, there’s a disconnect.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Because we’re saying these – if we have these things, if we have these programs, we can drive down the recidivism rate, but yet society is basically going: nah, I don’t want to fund programs for people coming outside of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So talk to me about all that.

Lamont Carey:  Well, what I think is, it should start – transitioning should start inside the institution.  I guess when the individual gets within, maybe 18 months of coming home.  If you can get programs inside there that can get them thinking on survival of – a person has to – a person has to be willing to be homeless to be free, so they have to – if you can’t think – if you can’t forsee in stack how to get around obstacles, they’re going to always fall, but the one thing that I want policy makers and program providers to understand is that, each prisoner has created a plan, whether they wrote it down or it’s mental.  If you can get them to open up and try to help them stick to their plan, I think it would better their chances of success.  Like I wanted to go into the arts.  There are no arts programs right now for ex-offenders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So that means, my task, my journey probably was a little bit harder because I had to do it on my own, but I was willing to be homeless to be free.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So, again, I would say, for programs that could help a individual think.  Another thing is the college system back into the prison system.  That was a kind of an eye opener to me to let me know that I had transferrable skills because when I was in the college program, I was taking up business management, and they were talking about distribution, and I was like, I know distribution.  Supply and demand, you know, from the street life.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  But what school allowed to happen was, it showed me that I wasn’t as inexperienced as I thought I was.  So – and I thought – it’s been said that, a person that gets a degree in prison is less likely to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  It’s probably, out of all the research, the best strategy that we have.  That people who come out of prison with an associates of arts degree or a bachelors degree have the lowest rate of recidivism, bar none.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And when I say the lowest rate of recidivism, I’m talking about saving tax payers literally millions upon millions of dollars, and saving victims of crime from being re-victimized, so when I use those words recidivism, that’s what I’m talking about.  Go ahead.

Lamont Carey:  So, those are two things, and since the parole officer is really our first interaction after the immediate family.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  It’s being taught in prison by guys and females that have been sent back to prison for parole violations, so they say, “The parole officer is out to get them, right?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So even for me, when I came home, I was on edge with the parole officer, because I’ve been told, that’s all they’re trying to do is send me back to prison, and so, that misinformation has to be broken.  It has to be explained to the individual, chances are, the most you going to see your parole officer in your first 16 weeks, well at least in DC, is like three times a week.

Len Sipes:  Right.  There’s a lot of contact in DC.

Lamont Carey:  But that is only for like, I think the longest I think I’ve been inside with my parole officer, unless I was running my mouth, was 10 minutes.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So we’re talking about 30 minutes out of a week –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  One hour out of one day, so, you giving up one hour out of 23 hours.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Most of the time, all the parole officer said is, have you had any re-arrests?  Have you been getting high?  Do you have a job?  You answer those questions, and move on.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I think parole officers have to first understand that that’s how the individual is looking at them, as an enemy, because that’s what we’re taught.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I think the best way to break through that is parole officers saying, “What is it that you really want to do?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  My job is to make sure the public stays safe.  That you transition, that you get a job and all that, but what kind of job do you really want?

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  Because when I first met my parole officer, I’m sure when he asked me what kind of job that I really want, I said, it doesn’t matter, and I said that so that the parole officer won’t see me as a troubled person.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But that ain’t my truth.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  My truth is that I ain’t going to work construction, but I’m not trying to start off this relationship on bad terms.

Len Sipes:  You want to game the parole officer.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  When I game them, I just don’t want to be beefing with them.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.  Sure, sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I’m going to say –

Len Sipes:  And the way to do that is to say as little as humanly possible, nod your head up and down, you go yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t worry man, I’ll do it.

Lamont Carey:  But if the parole officer say, “Okay, Mr. Carey, I understand that you have to get a job.  It’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m encouraging you to get a job, but what kind of job is it that you really want so that when you go out and apply for jobs, you not only just applying for jobs at retail stores or low end stores, but you also are applying for jobs that you really want to work at.”

Len Sipes:  Right.  Now what happens – so there’s a plan – I’m writing all of this stuff down, the plan in prison, and that it would be nice if there were programs in prison for mental health, substance abuse, and a person without job training actually got job training.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And a person who wanted a college program could go to a college program although that carries tremendous controversy.  In Maryland, whenever we talked about college programs, we’d get a hundred angry letters and phone calls, basically saying, I can’t forward to send my kid to college.

Lamont Carey:  And that’s understandable.  That’s truly understandable.

Len Sipes:  Why am I giving this guy who stuck a gun in somebody’s head and threatened to pull the trigger and took money from them?  Why am I giving him a college education out of my pocket, but I can’t – so there are controversies involved –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  But we know that the better.  The more training, collegiate programs, therapy programs, that you have in the prison system, the better prepared you’re coming out, and to have a realistic plan is to deal realistically with the probation officer, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia.  What else do people need to know?

Lamont Carey:  Another thing is, is who they – who they come home to.  I know, for me, when it was time for me to go up for parole, I had to give a address to where I was going to be staying, and for me, that wasn’t the actual address where I was going to be staying, but, I’m going to give you what I’m going to give you so I can come home.

Len Sipes:  Right, you got to live somewhere.

Lamont Carey:  And so the problem, the problem that I see with a lot of individuals is that they meet something in prison.  They meet a girl, or dude in prison, and they be paroled to those people, and they have never lived with those people.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so they find out they can’t live together.  They not getting along, so that creates a problem, and now I’m rushing because I need to find additional housing, so if you can set up something where the person to return to society has housing, maybe a transitional home.  A transitional home, I think, would actually be better than a lot of places that people are staying.

Len Sipes:  You need a legal place to live because if the guy comes out and the sister takes him in and suddenly he’s a beef with the sister, or the sister’s husband, and he needs to go some place legal for three weeks, there’s some plays legal for three weeks.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, what else.

Lamont Carey:  Um, now, for the sub-abuse people, it’s kind of hard for me, because I’ve never dealt with that, but I do know individuals who have, was addicted to drugs before prison, but didn’t use drugs the whole time in prison.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so when they come home, they again to use drugs again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So they got to find out, like what are those triggers?  What are those triggers? and the only way you going to find that out – again the parole officer, the parole officer is the person that can get the information to actually do something with it.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  But there has to be a relationship established, an open relationship where I can trust my parole officer.

Len Sipes:  Isn’t that hard?  I mean the parole officer has got this large case load, I mean not in DC.  We’ve got some of the best case loads in the country, but throughout the country, you’ve got huge case loads.  How are you going to establish that relationship with that person?  He doesn’t trust you.  You don’t trust him.  How do you get to that point where you help out each other?

Lamont Carey:  Well, another good thing about DC is the faith based community.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Lamont Carey:  So when I came to my parole officer, the next thing I know, they were sending me over to a church.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Meeting with a guy, Jean Groves, and Miss Keels.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, they had, they took the time to say, “Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And I was looking – I, I must want to work, so they said, “Okay, I’m going to call.”  They called the restaurant and got a job at the restaurant.  That last 24 hours because I didn’t really want to work for nobody, I wanted to work on my own, so after that experience, they were like “Okay Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And so I told them, this is what I really want to do.  I want to work for myself and so when I convey that to my parole officer, and my parole officer said, well Mr. Carey, you have to be working to be in the street, and so you need to start a company where you going to be able to pay yourself, or you need to get a job, and so I went, and I started a LLC, LaCarey Entertainment, and I started off with something simple, selling socks on the corner, and I just kept taking that money, turning that money over, using the profit to reinvest, and then eventually I went into the studio and recorded a CD.

Len Sipes:  The faith based program we have here in the District of Columbia is also one of the largest in the country and having people who truly, who volunteer to come to your aid to be a mentor.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That has helped a lot of guys, and a lot of people cross that bridge.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s an amazing program.  All right.  What else?  We’re in the final minutes of the program.  We got about three minutes left.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.  The next thing, for parole officers, when you got a guy or female that you have you gone problems with, I think if we open up and create a situation where they can go talk to the young people because all of us want to give back.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  Like you said, all the guys and the females you talk to want to give back, so if you give us an opportunity.  Instead of sending us back to prison, make us do some community service at a youth facility or somewhere where we’re telling them about – if you keep going down that road, this is where you’ll end up, because nobody is going to say, “Go out and get high.”  Most of the time, they’re going to try to show themselves in a good light, and it’s going to be connected back to what they said they wanted to do in prison.

Len Sipes:  All right.  What about all of the issues that I started off with this second half of the program.  I mean, most people aren’t getting drug treatment.  Most people aren’t getting mental health.  I mean you’re letting us off the hook here.  I mean, there’s got to be programs.  You know, if a guy comes out and he’s schizophrenic, and he comes out of the prison system, that medication is going to keep him, in many ways, out of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Keep him out of trouble, keep him from hurting something.  I mean there’s got to be some sort of program set up where that person’s getting their medication.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s got to be some sort of setup where somebody is knocking on his door, saying, “Are you taking your medication?”

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think even people that suffer from severe mental illness, that have never been in prison, they’re pushing them out on the street.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So there’s going to have to be another look taken at that because I haven’t really experienced that.  It’s hard for me to say, but even I had issues.  I became an introvert.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  You know what I’m saying?  In my apartment, everything that I need was in one room, and I got a whole empty house, so again, the parole officer is probably the person.

Len Sipes:  Final minute of the program.  How people – what is fair in terms of how people look at you?  They look at you as a criminal coming out of the prison system.  You look at yourself as something else.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  What’s fair?  What should the rest of us know about people coming out of the prison system?  How should we view them because if you watch television, and if you watch Hard Time and if you watch Lock-Up, I mean, you don’t want to touch anybody who is coming out of the prison system with a 10-foot pole.  How should people – what’s fair in terms of how people should see you?

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think they should look at themselves.  We’ve all made mistakes, and now I came home.  You can’t judge me by my past, but you can, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I’m going to do regardless if you look at me like a criminal.  I’m still going to be and do what it is that Lamont Carey is going to be, and that’s successful.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, it’s a blast having you.  I want to have you back in six months and find out where you’re going with all these programs.  Lamont Carey.  WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  Currently, with all the other things that he’s done, he has a book, The Hill, his journey through prison and Outside the Gate, which is a work in progress, a video in progress.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Thanks again for all of your cards, letters, emails, telephone calls, and suggestions.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Intelligence and Information Sharing in the Criminal Justice System-UMUC-DC Public Safety

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/09/intelligence-and-information-sharing-in-the-criminal-justice-system-umuc-dc-public-safety/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting program for you today, ladies and gentlemen—intelligence, intelligence sharing, what’s happened within the criminal justice system, the larger arena of national and local and state intelligence sharing, the lessons we’ve learned since 911, the lessons we’ve learned in terms of an exchange of information between law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, and the national intelligence apparatus. We have at our microphones, back again, Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan, or Bill Sondervan, is the executive director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. They have an astounding 94,000 students there at the University of Maryland University College. And also joining him at our microphones today is his colleague Peter Oleson. Peter is an associate professor of intelligence studies. Let me give you a little bit of background about Peter. Senior intelligence policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Assistant Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was a CEO for his own consulting firm for quite some time. So we have a true expert to talk to us about this whole issue of intelligence and intelligence sharing within the criminal justice system, in the larger society. And with that introduction, Bill and Peter, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Thanks, Len.

Peter Oleson:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  Alright Bill, let me give you the first go round. Just set up University of Maryland University College. You have students throughout the world. 94,000, that’s quite a few people.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Yes, actually we do. UMUC is one of the 11 universities in the University of Maryland system, and we have classes all through Maryland. We do most of the on-line learning for the university system, and we also have an agent in a European division. We have people on the ground teaching in about 26 different countries, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. Peter, you’re an associate professor there at UMUC, so you have this mix of people that you and your other professors teach in terms of intelligence studies. Give me this larger sense. We were discussing before the show that the listeners to this program may be a bit confused in terms of intelligence studies. What we have is the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency. We have the FBI, we have lots of organizations throughout the country at the federal level who gather intelligence information. But we’re principally, today, talking about criminal justice system, how agencies share information with each other. My agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, we share information all the time regarding high risk offenders, regarding those offenders who pose an obvious risk to public safety. We share that information with the metropolitan police department, we share that information with the FBI, we share that information with the Secret Service, we share that information with the U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies. So the bottom line in all of this, I’m presuming, is the public safety; despaired agencies getting together and sharing information to protect public safety. That, to me, is the bottom line. Am I correct?

Peter Oleson:  Oh, I think very much so. I mean, the whole investment in intelligence in the United States really was an outgrowth of the surprise at Pearl Harbor, and you know, the conviction that we should never let that happen again. And yet, of course, in 911, it did. There are really many communities when you think about intelligence. You mentioned CIA and the FBI, both of which are probably the best known for the simple reason that that’s what you see on TV and in the popular novels. But I like to think about their being indeed four different communities that deal with intelligence, and certainly the national intelligence community is one of them that comprises those that you mentioned, as well as the intelligence activities within the Department of Defense and the military services, and several other department levels of the federal government. The second community I’d really think about is the Homeland Security Community, which of course is headed by the Department of Homeland Security, and which uses intelligence, of course, for very specific reasons of keeping not only the United States safe, but our citizens overseas and our allies. The third is really the law enforcement community, which has traditionally used intelligence in limited senses to drive intelligence-led policing, but which of course has expanded greatly since 911, when we have learned that we really need to deal international terrorists, and also with international criminal organizations that will deal in drug trafficking and money laundering and many other illicit activities. But what a lot of people, I think, don’t recognize is that intelligence also is used very extensively in the private sector in large corporations, in international corporations to understand their environment, to understand their market, to understand their competitors; and in a defensive sense, to protect their own intellectual property and products from espionage by others. The Chinese seem to be particularly adept at this at present.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And also against counterfeiters.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  Yeah, I’ve worked with a large international pharmaceutical firm that uses intelligence to identify who is counterfeiting their products so that they can go after them with law enforcement; so that when you open a bottle of whatever is their medicine, you can be guaranteed that it’s not gonna poison you.

Len Sipes:  And we go on for the next half hour in terms of the IT community and Apple computer and all the rest –

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  – that are very jealously guarding their secrets and making sure that their products that are released without their competitors knowing about them.  Bill, let me go back to you for a second. One of the things that you mentioned in prior conversations with this sense of sharing intelligence within the correctional community, you were the Commissioner of Corrections for the – the Division of Correction – for the Maryland Division of Correction, part of the Maryland Department of Public Safety. Both of us worked there in terms of full disclosure, and Bill, you, in terms of running the prison system, you discovered a lack of intelligence sharing and sought to rectify that with both federal and local law enforcement agencies for a wide variety of reasons.—Number one, to keep your prisons as safe as humanly possible; number two, to share that information with law enforcement and community corrections, to be sure that those people coming out of prison, who again posed a clear and present risk to public safety, that that information was shared and that the law enforcement and parole and probation community knew how to keep an eye on that person.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly right, Len. You know, I retired from the military police in the Army, and the last job I was on the joint staff when General Powell was the chairman. And you know, we share a lot of information, a lot of intelligence all the time. And then there was a point that initially, as Assistant Commissioner for Corrections, in charge of security operations, and I came to Maryland, and it just really dawned me, it just hit me right between the eyes, that we had so much going on in these prisons. We had 27 prisons with 24,000 convicted felons, and they were doing all sorts of things, but we all worked in stovepipes.  The prisons didn’t talk to each other. The prisons didn’t talk to parole and probation. We didn’t talk to the jails, we didn’t talk to the local police, we didn’t talk to the federal authorities, and it was all in stovepipe. All the information that we gathered was very informal and it was through informants and snitches and things that the warden would pick up. And there were several big incidents that happened that just really embarrassed me as being responsible for security, and I go into a lot of them. But one of them specifically, I had one of the federal agencies came to see me, and they closed the door, and they said, “Did you realize that one of your contract chaplains happened to be an imam who was also a co-conspirator in blowing up the World Trade Center the first time around, is working in your prison as a chaplain, and he’s recruiting disaffected inmates to be terrorists.” I just about fell out of my chair! We confirmed that, and that was going on along with several other things; and we got to the point where we decided we had to do something about it. So we partnered up with the high intensity drug trafficking area, the Washington-Baltimore area, and they helped us with funding. The whole idea was to collect the intelligence, to analyze it, and disseminate it the best we could. So they gave us money, we hired two former NSA intelligence analysts to help us get going. I started a security threat group office, I appointed a captain, hired a civilian. We hired two retired civilians from the National Security Agency to help us, and we appointed a lieutenant in every prison. We started this whole process of finding out what was going on in prisons, finding ways to deal with it, taking a look at it and disseminating to others. So we were able to do a lot of really important things. Just a couple of examples, but one of the things we did was we were able to take back the inmate phone system, which goes out on a bid to the Department of Budget and Management.  We were able then to record inmate phone calls, and once you record inmate phone calls, the software exists to be able to go in and use it for intelligence purposes, to capture whatever you wanted to do. So we started doing those things, and from there, it all kind of grew, and we all started working together. We went out and we talked to police departments, we talked to the other prisons, we talked to the jail administrators, and we started partnering with everybody. We started getting onto intelligence committees. We started finding ways to work with each other, and it was really a start, and it’s really grown since then. One of the things we also did is we were able to validate gangs in the Maryland prison system. Just as an example, what we would do is every month we would put together a list of validated gang members who were going home to particular communities, and we would share that with parole and probation, and with the local police.

Len Sipes:  You know, the bottom line in all of this is because an individual hearing this program, who is not part of the criminal justice community, may say to themselves, “Oh, wait a minute, this sounds very oppressive. This sounds almost scary.” We are talking about, and I think we need to constantly bring the program back to this focus, we are talking solely about individuals who are engaging in acts while in prison – still engaging in acts, organized crime, still ordering homicides, still ordering murders, still ordering people to be victims of violent crime while in prison. And at the same time, through that intelligence apparatus, we knew that once they were released, we could no longer legally hold them when they went back into the community. We know through intelligence that they were gonna go straight back to being involved in very violent crimes, to the point where we had people followed through the law  enforcement community. So I think the focus on the whole program has to be in terms of the criminal justice or the corrections community, to remind everybody, again, we’re talking about some bad actors. We’re not talking about everybody within the prison system. We’re talking about people who pose a clear and present danger to our either national security or to our local security, correct?

Dr. William Sondervan:  Absolutely, Len. And –

Peter Oleson:  And I would add a point, Len, if I could [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  Yeah, Peter, please.

Peter Oleson:  – Bill, is that, you know, for those who might think along the lines of civil libertarians, that you know, once a person has been convicted and put in prison, he does not have the same rights as you and I would, as law abiding citizens in our homes. Being monitored by the appropriate authorities is both legal and most appropriate, as I think you’ve pointed out.

Len Sipes:  And something we’re obligated to do.

Peter Oleson:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To, once again, protect public safety.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Some of the issues that also came out of that, is, you know, once I retired after serving 10 years in corrections and being a Commissioner of Correction, I came to University of Maryland University College, and was asked to put together a state of the art criminal justice program for practitioners. So the way we did that is we established an advisory board with very, very senior people in the community. And we took a hard look at our curriculum, and one of the things that everybody said unanimously is that we don’t have an intelligence component for criminal justice. We really need to have that. We need to get out of stovepipes. We need to trust each other, we need to work with each other, and we have to start collecting, analyzing and sharing intelligence if we’re gonna win and the bad guys are gonna lose. So that’s kind of – that’s what we did. And as a result of that, we put together a certificate program in our undergraduate criminal justice program that focuses on the art and science of doing intelligence. And by going through that process, that’s where I met Peter Oleson. My background is police and corrections, and I’m not really an intelligence person, except for being a consumer of intelligence while I was in the military. I had the good fortune of meeting Peter Oleson through mutual friends, and Peter then came on board, and he became the advisor of UMUC in terms of intelligence, and he’s been a great help to us in not only perfecting that undergraduate certificate in intelligence, but also a master’s program in intelligence management.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m sitting here in what is affectionately known by those of us who work here, ground zero. I’m sitting one block away from Pennsylvania Avenue, I can see the Washington monument, I can see the Supreme Court, can’t see the Whitehouse. The Congress is hidden by a building in front of me, but this is – you know, we within the Washington community, are extraordinarily grateful of everything the intelligence community does, because we know that every day, every single day when we come into downtown Washington DC—and I would imagine New Yorkers feel that way, I would imagine people through the country feel this way—is that we are extraordinarily grateful to the intelligence community in terms of protecting us. And that larger intelligence community extends to parole and probation agents, extends to police officers, extends to middle management. It extends to the national agencies, and there are many. I mean, if it wasn’t for the intelligence community, our lives would be at risk.

Peter Oleson:  Oh, absolutely, and I think what he public doesn’t know, of course, is the number of times when intelligence has in fact frustrated a plot that could have resulted in significant casualties or damage to Americans. You know, the challenge of course is that you have to be on top of it all the top, and you know, a terrorist only has to be successful once. You know, that is a very high standard. It’s one of the issues we always have in intelligence, you know, when you’re accused of an intelligence failure, that sometimes people apply an impossible standard to what’s success and what’s failure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the – oh, I’m sorry, Peter, let me just cut you off for a second.

Peter Oleson:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me re-introduce the both of you, and hold that thought for a second. Doctor William Sondervan, Executive Direction of Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. Peter Oleson, associate professor of intelligence studies, a man with an extraordinary, extraordinary background, probably the most senior intelligence person I’ll get to talk to in my career. I want to thank you both for being on the program. Both can be reached at www.umuc.edu; www.umuc.edu.  I’m sorry, Peter, I interrupted you. Go ahead with your thought please.

Peter Oleson:  Well, I was talking about how do you judge success.  I think one of the important things for anybody thinking about intelligence, is to realize that intelligence is prospective. It’s looking at what might happen in the future, and trying to give decision makers the information they need to take the appropriate action. You know, it’s not an investigative ex post facto activity.  And so you’re never always fully knowledgeable of what might happen. As a matter of fact, in intelligence analysis, I always like to use the analogy with students that it’s like putting together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – only somebody tore the picture off the cover of the box, so you don’t really   know what the picture’s supposed to look like. And when you open up the box, you find that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the pieces are missing; and yet your job is to describe in detail what is that picture.  That’s the challenge that intelligence faces.

Len Sipes:  And Bill, that same intelligence package comes down all the way to the local level in terms of people in prison who we know. I mean, we had, when I was working for the Maryland Department of Public Safety while you were there, there was all sorts of instants, all sorts of times where we had individuals followed as soon as the person was released from the gate because we knew, we had hard, strong intelligence that person was headed straight towards a series of violent crimes in terms of an associate or in compliance or – he had accomplices; that as a group, they were gonna go out and commit violent crime. So it’s just not keeping a dirty bomb from going off on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s keeping individuals who are avowed violent criminals from going out and hurting other human beings.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Well, it’s even deeper than that, Len. It’s not only when they leave, when they go on the outside, it’s also like you alluded to earlier, what they’re doing while they’re still in prison. They can commit crimes from behind bars, and I think a lot of people in the police field think that when an inmate gets locked and he goes behind the walls of the prison, he automatically puts on a halo and he becomes a good doobie. But that’s not the case at all. What we uncovered is that people were running drug empires, they were putting hits on people, they were intimidating people, they were defrauding people, and it goes on and on. So a big piece of that as a corrections professional–and that’s really my expertise–is to prevent that from happening while they’re in there; and in being able to share the intelligence we have with the parole and probation people, with the police people in the community, so that they can prevent the violent acts when they go out.

Len Sipes:  And I just want to be, again, re-emphasizing certain points, that what we’re talking about is not all prisoners. We’re not talking about 50 percent of prisoners. We’re talking about a sub-set that we know are engaged in acts that are obviously dangerous to public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  That’s true. A lot of the inmates don’t do that, but it’s a small percentage of them. But that small percentage can cause a lot of damage.

Len Sipes:  Well, one of the interesting things about the custodial setting, the prison setting is that the best sources of information we have are fellow inmates, because they don’t want the problems. They don’t want any trouble. They don’t want violence erupting, nor do they want violence erupting in their own home communities. The best source of information we have are the inmates themselves, because they see the intelligence sharing process as something that keeps them safe, and something that keeps their community safe.

Dr. William Sondervan:  You’re absolutely right. The majority of inmates just want to do their time. They want to be safe themselves. They want their families to be safe, and they just want to do their time, be productive. A lot of them want to work, they want to go to school. So quite frankly, a lot of the inmates want to be informants, and a lot of inmates tell prison officials what’s going on, and it’s really a good source of intelligence to put together that piece of the puzzle that Peter was talking about. You know, you have to gather intelligence from a variety of different sources, and try to make it all fit, and try to get a good picture of what’s really happening.

Len Sipes:  Peter, now, you know, there are so many intelligence related agencies that we have in this country –

Peter Oleson:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  – ranging anywhere from probably a dozen federal agencies—I think I read at one –

Peter Oleson:  17 actually.

Len Sipes:  17 federal agencies, all the way to the New York City police department that’s sending their own people overseas to gather intelligence. And they’ve been able to stop crimes, acts of terrorism from happening in New York because of that. So it’s a huge –

Peter Oleson: Indeed.

Len Sipes:  – apparatus, and the criticism before 911 is that we weren’t sharing information. Are we now sharing information?

Peter Oleson:  Well, I mean before 911, there were actually legal restrictions in sharing information–that you weren’t allowed to do it. And part of that grew out of the investigations of the intelligence community in the 1970s with the Church and Pike Committees, the subsequent executive orders and laws. And nobody in the intelligence business wanted to be criticized for doing things wrong, so, you know, they were overly conservative, in my view. Much of that has changed. The prohibitions and sharing certain kinds of information, such as grand jury information with intelligence people, has been swept away with subsequent laws. The imperative to share is being emphasized very much by senior managers. The current Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, his major theme for managing the federal intelligence community is related to integration, which really means sharing and getting the information that somebody needs to them, either for analytical purposes or for making some kind of executive decision. And I think he has pushed that ahead rather well and rather dramatically. Jim’s a strong manager. I’ve known him many, many years. The importance about sharing really has two things, and in my view, if you spent a lot of time and effort collecting intelligence and you don’t use it, you frankly wasted that time and energy.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And worse yet, you may be sitting on something that somebody else really needs. The ex post facto investigations that we have had, of 911, even back of Pearl Harbor, we had the information oftentimes that we needed, but we just didn’t put it together properly; and it didn’t get into the right hands.  That was truly the case at Pearl Harbor because neither General Short nor Admiral Kimmel, who were the commanders out there at the time, were privy to the fact that we were reading Japanese diplomatic communications, and that clearly indicated that hostilities were…

Len Sipes:  About to break out. Yes, yes, yes.

Peter Oleson:  And so they were caught unprepared, and pilloried for it, and I think somewhat unjustifiably.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, they turned out to be scapegoats, yes.

Peter Oleson:  But, you know, this is not a unique problem. It’s happened many times. In the intelligence business, you also – you always have a conundrum between the secrecy of your source and your desire to protect that source –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – whether that be an individual or a technical means that can easily be thwarted, and sharing the information. And frankly, the risk of revelation or leak goes up with the amount of sharing you do. You know, that’s the inevitable problem you have, and how you balance those takes decisions every day by a lot of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, the same thing, we have the same problem here, that a community supervision officer—what is commonly known as a parole and probation agent in the rest of the country—will gain information and it’ll be that a person is about to engage in a series of violent crimes, part of a gang retribution, share that information with MPD, at the same time having to protect their source. So, all of us at all levels of the criminal justice system suffer through that sort of ethical decision in terms of protecting the source while sharing the information.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely. There’s an interesting observation I would make also, and that is sort of how intelligence and law enforcement activities are merging since 911. I mean, it used to be in the Cold War that intelligence focused on foreign armies and foreign countries, but since the terrorist attacks, and with the growth of international criminal organizations, intelligence is increasingly focused on what the intelligence community calls sub-national groups. You know, you can say it’s individuals or small groups of individuals, which has always been the focus of law enforcement. And what you’re seeing in the case of New York City, as you pointed out, is an organization that is a police organization using intelligence, I think, quite effectively. And I might comment that Ray Kelly’s positioning of New York City police officers overseas, brings the expertise of a cop to the scene of foreign terrorist incidents, which really gives us insight and better analysis than you’re gonna get say from a CIA officer who’s stationed in the embassy, who is not a trained investigator. I mean, his purpose is entirely different. And so I think that that has benefitted not only New York, but because New York does share information, it’s benefitted all of us.

Len Sipes:  We have three minutes left in the program. Either one of you can address this question. To me, the intelligence sharing apparatus is absolutely necessary to protect me, to protect our communities, to protect our children, to protect our welfare, to protect our jobs. It’s absolutely critical, absolutely necessary. The information has to be shared, but yet many within the larger American community are a little frightened and a bit overwhelmed by the intelligence gathering and sharing process. They see it as a bit Orwellian. They see it as overbearing, that there’s a fine line to be walked in terms of protecting the public and being overly zealous in terms of the collection of information. There are endless examples of criminal justice organizations and intelligence communities who did go overboard, who did collect the wrong intelligence from the wrong people at the wrong time. So how do you address that?

Peter Oleson:  Well, Len, that’s why oversight by independent groups is absolutely essential, whether it be from the intelligence committees in Congress or whether it be things like the Intelligence Oversight Board in the Whitehouse, or shall I say, an independent group at a local community level that has all the appropriate access and who can always be a check and balance. I mean, that’s the basic nature of our government is checks and balances, and when you deal with civil liberties, checks and balances are critically important.

Len Sipes:  But I do want to emphasize in the final minutes, is that the individual intelligence officers, the individual police officers, the individual parole and probation agents also understand their constitutional duties in terms of the privacy of individuals and when it’s necessary to gather information to protect public safety. They understand that as well, correct?

Peter Oleson:  They are basically well trained but, you know, you can face ethical questions every day. This is not a simple world. It’s a very complex one, and the fact that we’ve done so well at the individual level, I think, is a remarkable testament to the American law enforcement community and the intelligence officers who support them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, we got about 30 seconds left. Go ahead and wrap up.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Len, I just wanted to add that UMUC, we’ve taken on the mission to prepare people to go into a multitude of agencies, all the criminal justice agencies, and be intelligence specialists and analysts. And part of the program, we’ve incorporated the legal and ethical issues involved in intelligence, besides the theory into practice. So our whole goal is to produce graduates that can go out in the field and be advisors to leaders of agencies and help them do these things, and do them properly.

Len Sipes:  Everybody pretty much understand the limitations and understand the roles. I think that’s what you’re trying to say. I mean –

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what everybody who’s listening to this radio show needs to understand, that it’s just not Congressional oversight. The individual officers pretty much know where they can go and where they can’t, but they gotta go where they gotta go to protect public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right, ladies and gentlemen, I really want to thank you for listening today. Our guests have been Doctor William Sondervan, the Executive Director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu.  94,000 students, that’s a huge university. Joining him today is Peter Oleson, associate professor for intelligence studies; again, a person with an extraordinary background, and to Peter, you can look at the web site. Once again, it’s the same for the University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We thank you for your interest and calls and letters, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share