Offenders Participating in the Census-DC Public Safety-200,000 Requests a Month

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This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/04/offenders-participating-in-the-census-dc-public-safety-200000-requests-a-month/

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 D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. We have I believe to be a very interesting program today. We are talking about the census, and why people under community supervision should participate in the census, and quite frankly, it’s far more important than many of you realize. This is a program that is going to address the fact that the offender’s family, the offender’s children, could greatly benefit by his or her participation in the census. We have Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. The address for the Census Bureau is www.2010.census C-E-N-U-S.gov. Before we get into the show, I want to remind everybody that we are just completely happy, very happy, with all of the responses that you are giving to us. We appreciate all of your comments, whether they’re good or bad or negative or suggestive, to get in touch with me directly. It’s Leonard Sipes, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P-E-S@csosa.gov. You can follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/lensipes, and by the way, CSOSA does stand for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington, D.C., a federal parole and probation agency. Back to our guest, Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. Welcome to D. C. Public Safety.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Nunzio, it is really – to me, this is a tough topic, because what we’re going to do is to try to convince about seven million human beings, two million incarcerated, five million involved in community supervision programs, and I would imagine the prison part of it you’ve pretty much taken care of, but the five million human beings who are under community supervision, finding them and including them in the census process, I would imagine is a dire and daunting undertaking.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, it is. We want to reach everyone who lives in the United States and we want each person, each household that they live in, to fill out their form and mail it back.

Len Sipes:Yeah, but, you know, that’s a challenge, because we’re talking about people who quite frankly do not trust government. I mean, first of all, they don’t trust the criminal justice system, and we’re talking about sending people from the Census Bureau to knock on their door. We’re talking about trying to track the folks down to get them to fill out the census, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing the radio show. For those people who are caught up in the criminal justice system who are listening to this radio program, to encourage them directly, but you’re mostly talking to people who represent the criminal justice system, the mainstream criminal justice system, who deal with people on supervision, and I imagine what we’re trying to do is to convince those people, under their supervision, to participate, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct, and an important thing to get across to your population, to the people who are under your supervision, that we the Census Bureau employees take an oath of office. When we’re hired, we must take this oath of office to protect the confidentiality of census responses. This is an oath for life. Any employee who reveals any personal census information is subject to severe penalties. It includes a fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years. We take it seriously. In addition, why we can say that the information provided to the Census Bureau for this important undertaking is, by law, no other government agency, no law enforcement agency, no national security agency court, or anyone else can access responses from anybody who responds to the census by anyone for any reason.

Len Sipes:The bottom line is that not only are you duty bound, you could be thrown in prison and fined considerably if you release this information that you collect via the census to anybody.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, and no law overrides the confidentiality law that protects personal information collected by the Census Bureau or can force the Census Bureau to share the census responses with anyone. The Justice Department recently confirmed that no provision of the Patriot Act overrides the confidentiality law that protects census responses. So that’s why we say it’s safe.

Len Sipes:Well, it sounds safe, but you know that our people – interestingly enough, there are people who are under active supervision who do listen to this program, and they’re going to sit back and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Nunzio, that’s what you’re supposed to say. That’s – you’re in government and you want me to participate.” Number one, okay, so fine, I buy into the fact that you have an oath of office, but the key thing is that he or she is going to say to themselves – again, they distrust government; they don’t like government. As far as they are concerned, government does nothing else besides put them back in the criminal justice system. Their participation means what?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Two important things: what’s in it for them? Number one, our founding fathers made it part of the Constitution, Article 1, section 3 directs us to count every person, regardless of citizenship, whether to document it or not. What’s in it for them and their family members – and the purpose of this census – is for proper apportionment, which is the process of determining the number of representatives that will represent the family members, everyone, in Congress, that we have proper representation. The second thing, what’s in it for them, is every year, the federal government redistributes over $400,000,000,000 a year, annually, back to the fifty states. Now, this is based upon a formula, and a big part of that formula is the population count – that is, the census. So if you want to get your fair share of the money, this four hundred some odd billion dollars that’s going back to the fifty states, it’s going to be based on a population count. If you don’t respond on the census, you’re not going to get your fair share. The family members will not get their fair share – the mothers, the children, their spouses will not get their fair share. Now, this money is used for usually infrastructure needs. Now, we’re talking about road, hospitals, schools, daycare centers. Now, if a state or a county has this money to allocate for these important structures, that frees that state or county or municipality up to provide money back to services such as training, education, health services. It’s a balancing act, so what’s in it for them? Representation. What’s in it for their family members? Fair representation. What’s in it for them is their fair share of the money that’s allocated, based upon a population count.

Len Sipes:Okay, so the bottom line is that we may not be talking about them, because they can be pretty cynical and very mistrustful of government, but what we are talking about are their children. Seventy percent of offenders have children. We’re talking about their children. We’re talking about their mother. We’re talking about their sisters. We’re talking about their little brothers. We’re talking about their family and their friends directly participating and benefiting by getting more money for the programs that community needs by their participation in the United States Census.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Okay, and that’s a little profound because we’re not asking a lot from them. It’s my understanding, because – I’m sorry, I’m such a coward, here – my wife does the census form. I haven’t even seen it. The census form is ten questions, right?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, it’s ten topics. It’s the shortest census since 1790, which was the first time we did the census. And we asked for the name of the person, their gender – male, female – their age, race, origin, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a very short form. The information on here is mandated. The questions we asked are mandated by Congress. The questions are approved by Office of Management and Budget. I mean, we’re asking what we’ve been approved to ask and it all funnels back to those two items I mentioned before about fair representation –

Len Sipes:But the bottom line is that they’re really simple questions that anybody can answer. You’re not going to have to look up tax forms. You’re not going to have to look up your social security number.

Nunzio Cerniglia: No, that’s not even a topic. Social security number and anything related to an identifier like that – again, citizenship is not an issue here. Documented or not, not one of the questions. Not at all.

Len Sipes:Okay, so let’s go down the list very quickly. Number one, the information cannot, will not be used against you. Number two, your family and your friends are going to directly benefit from your participation in the census. Number three, it’s extremely easy to fill out, and there’s no question that you can do it and take care of it in what, ten minutes? I hear ten questions, ten minutes?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s it. Ten questions, ten minutes, and you’re benefitted by it for ten years.

Len Sipes:Okay, and we want the individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system who do listen to this program – we want you to directly participate in this. Now, what if the person sits back and says, “Okay, fine, I’ll participate. I trust Mr. Sipes. I believe whatever Mr. Sipes has to say,” and if that’s true, I wish we could transfer that magic over to my wife and daughters, but let’s just say the person listening to this show is caught up in the criminal justice system, and buys into what we just said, and wants to participate. How does he or she participate?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We will be mailing a form to over 130,000,000 addresses, and when that form arrives, we ask them to fill it out and mail it back. It’s a self-stamped envelope. It’s pre-addressed. There’s no cost to mail it back. If for some reason they don’t receive it, we have a toll-free number to call.

Len Sipes:Ahh, okay.

Nunzio Cerniglia: And I can give you that number.

Len Sipes:Yeah, what’s the number?

Nunzio Cerniglia: One way to do that – that’s a toll free number. It’s 866-872-6868. That’s in English. There are other – they can direct you to other numbers that would be in different languages.

Len Sipes:All right. That will give you the option in Spanish and other –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. 1-866 –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Also, we have what we call questionnaire assistance centers. That’s a place that anybody can go to and if they have the form and they have problems filling it out, we will have someone at these locations, local locations, that will assist in the filling out of the form, or they can bring it with them if they did get it. If they didn’t get it, they can go to this location and still receive a form for themselves. We have the forms in six languages at that site: it’s English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese. But we also have language guides in fifty-nine different languages, so if it’s not one of those six languages I mentioned, we have a language guide in fifty-nine languages that can help us help them fill out the form in one of those other languages. So there are two options. So you can go to a questionnaire assistance center locally – which, again, going to that website, www.2010.census.gov, you can find out where those locations are in your area – and we’ll help you fill out the form, or call the questionnaire assistance center with that other toll-free number: 866-872-6868, and we can help you fill out the form or mail you another one.

Len Sipes:All right. Basically, you guys have pretty much thought of everything, because a lot of people under supervision, they move from place to place to place, and they’re with their mom, and the mom gets tired of them coming in and bothering her sleep and simply says, “Okay, well, you’ve been here for three months. You need to move on.” Then over to his brother’s house, and then after a couple months there will move over to a girlfriend’s house.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, now –

Len Sipes:So the mail will never find them.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, right. The parent or brother may have filled out the form, and they may be at the house and they say, “Well, I wasn’t counted.” That’s why we say call that questionnaire assistance center or visit a local area for a questionnaire assistance center. You know, that’s where they can fill out their individual form.

Len Sipes:Okay, so 1-866-872-6868, and ladies and gentlemen, these numbers – the website and the number – will be in the show notes. 1-866-872-6868, www.2010.census.gov. Now, Nunzio, how do you count people in the prison systems?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We count them in their facility. We work with the administration at the facility and there are a couple of ways of counting everyone there. It would be either a census taker would go and interview each person in the facility, or we would swear in your members who work there, and they would do the enumeration. They would be under the same oath of office that I’m in, that I’m sworn under, and they would collect the data. Or we can provide that information through what we call administrative records. But we will get a complete count one way or the other. We like to promote, and we’ve had a good reception with, the facilities we’re working with nationwide to the point where we provide them literature for their inmate population so that they would be aware of it. Their family members when they visit would be aware of the importance of the census for the reasons we’re mentioning here. So there are several ways to conduct an enumeration at the facilities, and it’s been very receptive and responsive from the folks we’ve been talking with nationwide.

Len Sipes:Ladies and gentlemen, we’re halfway through the program. Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau, www.2010.census.gov. 1-866-872-6868 in terms of additional information. So Nunzio, we’ve talked about the prison situation, and they’re pretty much counted, and that part of it, the seven million under correctional supervision in the United States, the two million who are incarcerated are pretty much taken care of. There is an additional five million who are under community supervision. You’re basically asking parole and probation agencies, sheriff’s departments, those sort of agencies to help you help the individual caught up in the criminal justice system to participate in the census. What were telling them is that the information cannot, will not be used against them, that there are immense fines and jail time for any member who participates in the census to provide that information to anybody else outside of the Census Bureau. We’re saying that it’s easy. It’s a ten question questionnaire. It’s not difficult at all to fill out, and if you have questions or if you’re not at your old address, so those forms are missing you via the mail, 1-866-872-6868, and they’ll send you out a new form. Now, there’s a certain point, Nunzio, where you guys go and start knocking on doors so you can complete that ten question survey, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, that’s correct. And the first day we do go out and begin knocking on doors will be May 1st. We have a list of the housing units for which we did not receive the form, and we’ll be contacting those households over May, June, into early July.

Len Sipes:So basically, it’s a three-month effort.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Up to three months, correct.

Len Sipes:Okay. Oh, by the way, in terms of summarizing why do all of this – I’m sorry, I forgot the principal reason. Because I do believe a lot of folks caught up in the criminal justice system don’t see the value to themselves. They’re in many cases fatalists. They see the world moving in one direction or another beyond their capacity, but certainly they have sympathy and a desire to be sure that their kids are taken care of, their family members are taken care of, their little brother is taken care of. So an immense amount of money – all that money that flows from the federal government into individual communities is divided based upon how many people live in that area. The more people who are counted, the more money that jurisdiction gets, so it can have a direct affect, not only on the individual offender, but that person’s family.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. I just wanted to go over that one more time. Now, so your door knockers are out there beginning soon. It will go on for a three month process. Anywhere within that three month process, I’m assuming they could call 1-866-872-6868, have the form mailed to them, and participate. I mean, it doesn’t have to be now, it doesn’t have to be May, it doesn’t have to be June, it doesn’t have to be July, but sooner or later, we want that person to do that, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, the sooner the better. It would be more timely. Actually, as we get into May, we’ll probably take information over the phone. By the time that it gets mailed to them, it might be a little bit late, but we will take callers on through all that time period and we’ll address any question they have relative to the questions on the form and we’d be happy to take that information over the phone.

Len Sipes:Ahh, I didn’t realize that. So your fall-back measure is don’t worry about it, I know the form has missed you and the census taker has missed you. Just call 1-866-872-6868 and we’ll take the information over the phone.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Right. Up to a point, we can send a form back. After that point, April 21st, actually, then we’ll be working with our callers and taking information over the phone and process it that way. So we just want to make it as easy as possible, and it’s more timely to at some point just take the information over the phone and go from there.

Len Sipes:Okay, but I would imagine, once again, and I think you just mentioned this, that you would prefer to be in writing. The government works on written documents. I mean, the government exists for written documents, so we are written documents.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, I mean, like I said, we have these questionnaire assistance centers locally, to provide the census form to anyone who feels that they’ve not had an opportunity to fill out the form and be counted, and we have that toll-free number to call to have it mailed up through April 21st, and then at all times, we can take it over the phone.

Len Sipes:Okay, but you would prefer it to be in writing, but we will take it over the phone if at all necessary.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. And I guess we’re into the final parts of the program, because I guess we’ve covered just about everything we need to cover. But we go back to the very beginning of the program, their reluctance to participate in anything government. I think we’ve covered every possible base, that it benefits their children, it benefits their family members, it benefits their communities. It’s not going to be held against you. The information cannot be released to anybody else, under penalty of law. But again, I’ve spent forty years in the criminal justice system, and a lot of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are just suspicious of anything that I say, of anything that you say. I guess there is no magic bullet to overcome that suspicion, beyond what we’ve already said.

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct. I mean, it’s understandable why there’s apprehension, why your people on supervision would be reluctant to participate. We try to, through channels like yourself and other media, try to promote, again, what’s in it for the individual and their family. And it’s those two important criteria – one, proper representation and money that can be allocated, over $400,000,000,000 a year that could be put back to the communities, and there would be an opportunity for them to give back to the community, to give back to their families, like you mentioned, their spouses, mothers, brothers, children. Give them an opportunity to see some benefit from this funding which is being given back to the communities. It’s going to happen whether they participate or not. It’d just be less given back to the communities. It’s hard to believe that taking ten minutes for ten items – it’s the best investment I can think of for ten minutes over ten years. It’s the best investment I can think of in spending time. I don’t think there’s a better way of spending time to get something back, that goes back to the community for the reasons I mentioned: those infrastructure, supporting for schools, hospitals, daycare centers, which allows that state to have more funding for other things that would benefit their family members. And themselves.

Len Sipes:All right, extremely well-put, and the final part of it is that the bulk of the people who listen to this program manage criminal justice systems. They are either sheriffs that have correctional facilities under them, they are community corrections administrators, prison administrators. We do have a lot of people from the law enforcement community, the social work community, who do listen to this program. When you’re talking to them, all the things that we just mentioned apply to them as well. As administrators, why should they participate in encouraging the individuals under their supervision, why they should participate in the census, encouraging the people under them to participate. The same thing applies to them; it’s still their family as well. It’s their kids as well. It’s their community as well. It is a vote of confidence for your community for the criminal justice administrators to participate.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly. The population we’re talking about here are your people under supervision, but everybody in the United States, be they law enforcement officers and every profession in that community or profession, to benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Len Sipes:It’s a win – that’s exactly what I was going to say, Nunzio. It’s a win-win situation for anybody. All right, we’re going to close. Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau. The web address is www.2010.census.gov. 1-866-872-6868, 1-866-872-6868. All of these numbers will be in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Again, we are extremely appreciative for all of your calls and emails and letters and everything else that you do in terms of communicating with us. It’s what makes the show. We continue to ask for your participation in terms of suggestions and/or criticisms. You can reach me directly, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov. You can follow me via Twitter, which is Twitter.com/lensipes, or you can do what an awful lot of you do is simply go to media.csosa.gov and write in your comments in terms of the comments section for both the television shows, radio shows, the blog, and transcripts. And to Nunzio Cerniglia, thank you for participating and ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends -

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