Hiring Offenders – What Works-DC Public Safety TV

Hiring Offenders – What Works – “DC Public Safety”

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[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s program is about employing people as they’re released from the prison system.  And ladies and gentlemen, 700,000 people are released every year, each year, from state and federal prisons.  Now the interesting part of this is that 50 percent go back to the prison system after three years.  Those are national statistics.  Concurrently, 50 percent on any given day are unemployed again, according to national statistics.  Every Governor, every Mayor of the country is concerned about this issue, so we’re going to be talking about what it takes to employee people after they leave the prison system.  We have two national experts with us on the first half of the program, P. Elizabeth Taylor, Correctional Program Specialist with the National Institute of Corrections, and Constance Parker, Administrator of the Maryland Reentry Initiative, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and to Pat and to Constance, welcome to DC Public Safety.

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  Thank you.

Constance Parker:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, now this is an extraordinarily important topic.  As I said in the introduction, Mayors and Governors, all Mayors, all Governors are very concerned about this.  We have massive numbers of people returning to prison every year.  The big concern is finding them jobs.  And I want to get this clear from the very beginning, there are people who have left the prison system, who have left the correctional system; they’re employable; they’re a long time away since their last drug positive or infraction, and some cases they’re years away from their last criminal event.  They have skills; they have honest to God skills, but they’re not finding work because of their criminal history.  Pat, am I right or wrong?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  That is true.  But part of the problem is a lot of times these transitioning adults, these offenders, aren’t aware of what their skills are.  They don’t know what their skills are, and their job providers, their staffs are unaware as well.  So at the National Institute of Corrections, we’re advocating for training, training that will result in a collaborative relationship between the offender, the practitioner and the employer.

Len Sipes:  Well, that is the big thing in the National Institute of Corrections, part of the Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice, you guys, everybody in the correctional field, my field, everybody turns to you all for guidance and direction and thank God for the National Institute of Corrections, you do a great job.  You put out this long series of videos that really do try to get people in local and state systems trained in terms of what it is to find people employment, correct?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  Yes, we do.  And in our training series, we start at the beginning which is with collaboration.  And if you redefine collaboration, it no longer becomes what can I get from you as a practitioner, but what can we accomplish together.  So we have the beginning of the training which is the Offender Employment Specialist Training, which helps the practitioner identify their stakeholders, their partners in the field.  Then we go to the Offender Workforce Development Training, and it’s theory based, and it helps the practitioner respond to the basic questions that the offender will bring to the table.  Am I the type of person that an employer will want to hire?  What type of skills do I have?  And when I identify my skills, what type of position should I pursue and how do I go about securing that position?  And once I get that job how do I maintain employment?

Len Sipes:  So first all, the first lesson of today, because I’ve been asked throughout the course of this program to lay out lessons learned.  And ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to put lessons learned all throughout the programs.  All of our guests today have given us lessons learned and we’re going to put them up throughout the program.  So the first thing is train your staff and train your staff well.

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  But you mention collaboration, and Constance, I’m going to go over to you for that question, what do we mean by collaboration?

Constance Parker:  Well, what we mean by collaboration is pulling of the resources, the agencies, and the community organizations, the employers, as well as the offenders and ex-offenders, pulling together a team that works together bringing all of their expertise and resource to help increase the opportunity for improved employability of our offender population.  Now breaking that down further what that really means is that when individuals come back into the community, they have a series of barriers, and employment is one of the goals that they have.  However, there may be other barriers that may keep them from achieving that employment –

Len Sipes:  Mental health, substance abuse.  Yes.

Constance Parker:  Yes, housing and other issues.  So what we do is we pull together people with housing, people with child-support enforcement, people at one-stop  career centers, employers, we work together as a team to see how we can assist that individual in becoming more employable.  We utilize employers to let us know what it is they’re looking for.

Len Sipes:  Either one of you can answer this question.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years; it’s not as if they’re embracing our folks, the people that we’re responsible for, people coming out of the prison system, those collaborations are sometimes difficult.  I have been told, “Leonard, we have veterans to take care of, we have the elderly to take care of, we have school children to take care of, we have people who are out of work who haven’t committed a crime, why are we doing anything special for people coming out of the prison system?”

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  But it’s not doing anything special, it’s doing what is right.

Len Sipes:  What is right means what?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  What is right means that you’re looking at public safety, and you’re looking at, and you mentioned the 700,000 people that are coming out, coming back into our community, but there’s also 9 million cycling in and out of our jail systems.  You have 97, 98 percent of all the offender populations coming home.  It is a question of public safety.  It’s the right thing to do to embrace the transitioning person because they are part of the community.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s a very important point.  Because we’re not talking about charity, we’re not talking about asking people for favors, first of all, we’re talking about people with skills who are safe risks, right?  We’re not talking about people coming fresh from the prison system who has an anti-social personality, we’re talking about people who have skills, there’s time between themselves and their last crime and their last infraction and their last positive substance abuse test.  They are employable now.

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  And the point to be made – and this is what we advocate at the National Institute of Corrections – you must have an ongoing assessment process.  You must assess those risks, those criminogenic risks.  And what we’re finding, and research will prove this, will show this, the same risks that would have resulted in a person losing their job through being fired or just walking off the job are the same type of issues that may lead me back to reoffending or to some type of criminal offense.  So if you have that assessment on the front end, help me identify my barriers, my challenges to self-sufficiency.  And that’s part of the training process at our Institute, at NIC.

Len Sipes:  Now Constance, going back to Pat’s reference to public safety, it is all about public safety.  We’re talking about fewer people committing fewer crimes and fewer people going back to prison.  We’re talking about public safety, we’re talking about saving taxpayers literally hundreds of millions of dollars, not building new prisons, a lot is riding on what we do here today, correct?

Constance Parker:  Yes.  And you talked about public safety and reducing the taxpayers –

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  Burden.

Constance Parker:  – burden, however, we’re also increasing the tax level if we are employing people.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And we’re also reconnecting offenders with their kids, because most have kids, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.

Constance Parker:  It is.  And when Pat was talking about the assessment, one of the things that we do, we have the adult and correctional education as a part of the Department of Labor and Licensing Regulation.  And they have programs within our state prison systems that actually help prepare folks before they come out and there are assessments that are done inside through the transition programs that are there.

Len Sipes:  Another point in all of this that you ladies brought up was the fact that there has to be training.  There has to be programs within the prison system and there has to be programs outside of the prison system to deal with employment, to deal with GED programs, to deal with mental health issues, to deal with substance abuse issues, but we all know that states are cash strapped.  The federal government is cash strapped.  It’s not as if we have enough programs for everybody who needs them.  That’s the other part of the problem.

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  This goes back to collaboration.  The only way to do more with less is through collaboration.  So it’s one thing to identify the needs of the person, but what organization or agency out there can better meet that need.  Again, collaboration, what can we accomplish together?

Len Sipes:  Right.  The point we’re saying is that it’s not all government, it can’t be all government, it will never be all government.  The Salvation Army has programs, faith-based institutions have programs.  Literally, in a program that we employ here in Washington, D.C., through my Agency, the faith-based program, we’ve got hundreds of churches and hundreds of offenders involved, and they’re getting all sort of things every single day from child care to housing assistance to job training, through the faith-based community.  So that’s the collaboration we’re talking about, right?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  It is –

Constance Parker:  Yes, and that’s –

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  I’m sorry.

Constance Parker:  But that collaboration, what we are doing is that we’re building that collaboration from the inside out so that we’re bringing in many of those resources prior to a person being released.  In addition, in the Maryland prison system we also have 18 occupational skills trainings that provide individuals who go through those trainings with national and state certification so when they come out they have a marketable skill.  And very often, we work to connect them with employers prior to their release.

Len Sipes:  What’s our message to employers, ladies?  Training has to be there, collaboration has to be there, we need to have our folks trained in terms of, say, motivational techniques.  I mean some of the folks coming out of prison, they don’t trust us, they don’t trust anybody.  They’re very caustic.  They’ve been in the prison system.  We’ve got to motivate them to find the different things that are out there, we’ve got to encourage them, we have to supervise them.  So that’s part of it, that’s part of the training part of it right, Pat?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  And that brings me to the third tier of our training which is the Offender Retention Training, which blends together motivational interviewing techniques with a cognitive behavioral process.  And so quite simply what we’re saying is that if I change the way I communicate with you and develop a relationship with you, me as a practitioner, there’s a client centered, non-threatening relationship.  And because of our tone of our conversation, I’m able to look at the connection between my feelings and my connections in my behaviors.  And if done correctly, we’re talking about a hand off.  So my case management by combining motivational interviewing with cognitive behavioral therapy, or support, results in self-management.

Len Sipes:  Cognitive behavioral therapy.  Now all three of us know, because we read the literature, that it really does work.  Constance, you tell me what is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Constance Parker:  I knew you were going to ask me that!  It’s really helping an individual look at their behavior patterns and make choices as to what they want to change and how to change it.

Len Sipes:  Thinking through things differently, learning how to look at life’s issues differently, learning how to think through life’s problems differently, learning how to shape the background that brought them into the prison system to begin with –

Constance Parker:  And part of that training talks about change talk.  So when you get folks able to, in a situation, begin to hear themselves and change the way they would have approached that particular problem.  And as you begin to say things differently, and you begin to hear it, you begin to move in that direction.  The other thing is this training is important because we’re training the professionals who are working with the individuals.  Without that piece it would make no sense.  If we, as professionals, don’t know how to relate to an individual, don’t know how to help that individual find within themselves the ability to make that change, then we’re doing a disservice.  We can’t change anyone.

Len Sipes:  Okay, we have to wrap up soon.  What I’m hearing is train the staff, train the offender, go through that thinking process and join in a collaborative effort with everybody in the community to try to help that person as much as humanly possible and to find that person work, correct?

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  Right.  And understand from the employer’s perspective.  We’re living in an employer driven workforce right now.

Len Sipes:  Yes, we are.

P. Elizabeth Taylor:  And we need to understand what their needs are.  The old way of doing things, the face them and place them, did not work, it will never work.  That is how we operated.  As we develop these collaborative relationships with employers, they need to know that we are truly developing this partnership with them.  We will do our work on the front end, we will find out about your industry, we know about labor market information, we’re not attempting to dump people.

Len Sipes:  And we have to close on that, ladies.  Thank you very much for being with us.  And ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.  Watch for us in the second half when an individual from my Agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, who is in charge of the process of finding people employment when they leave the prison system and a person who hires offenders leaving the prison system.  They’ll be with us in the second half.  Please stay with us.

Len Sipes:  Hi, welcome back to DC Public Safety, I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes.  We continue to talk about this whole concept of employing people as they leave the prison system.  As I said at the beginning of the first part of the program, 700,000 people leave prison systems all throughout the United States and the federal system, half go back after three years and on any given day about half seem to be employed.  In the first half, we had two national experts talk about principal points that everybody needs to understand in terms of making sure that as many of these individuals as possible are employed upon release.  In the second half, we have people from Washington, D.C., my Agency, Tony Lewis, an Employment Specialist with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Furard Tate, Owner of Inspire Food Management, and Tony and Furard, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Furard Tate:  Thank you, very much.

Tony Lewis:  Thank you, very much.

Len Sipes:  Hi, Tony, the first question goes to you.  You’re part of a team that finds individuals work.  They’re under our supervision.  They can be on parole, they could be on mandatory, they could be on probation, you’re working with employers.  How difficult is that?

Tony Lewis:  Pretty difficult.  But at the same time, in the VOTEE unit, we do a lot of work on the front end in terms of assessments from a literacy standpoint, skillset standpoint, and also from a behavioral standpoint to make sure that when we do refer individuals for positions that they’re one, ready, that they’re capable and also that they’ve shown to us that they’re committed to changing their lives.  So I think when we do that we give ourselves a better shot but at the same time it’s a very difficult situation.

Len Sipes:  The message I gave in the first half, does it apply?  There are individuals who are years away from their last criminal activity, years away from their last positive drug test, they have no infractions, they have real skills, but they’re not finding work because of their criminal history.  They’re perfectly employable, they’re not a risk to public safety, but they’re not finding work.  Is that accurate?

Tony Lewis:  That is very accurate.  Very accurate.  We have individuals that are extremely employable, ready to work right now, can come in and help a business grow, increase the productivity of a company, but sometimes, or most times, their criminal history kind of gets in the way of that.  And we, myself, people like me, people in the VOTEE unit, we try to develop relationships with employers such as Mr. Tate and other employers so that they believe in us enough to give somebody a shot.

Len Sipes:  And a quick summation.  Everything that our national experts suggested on the first half, we do the assessments, we provide GED skills, we provide cognitive-behavioral therapy or thinking for change skills, we work with the individual to try to improve their skills as much as humanly possible before we send them out to the job interview, correct?

Tony Lewis:  That’s very correct.  And the experts before us were very on point about what’s necessary to make this work.  And we also try to do research in terms of market research and research what the employers need and present that to the employer.  I think when we do that we put the employer in a situation where they feel comfortable enough to say, “Hey, because this guy has the skillset from a business standpoint.”  I think that’s the most important thing, can this person come in and do the job.  And it’s not a sense of entitlement on behalf of the offender, it’s we have what you need.

Len Sipes:  Before going over to Mr. Tate, I did want to point out that on our website, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, on the front page of the website, we have been hiring people under supervision.  And we have radio shows, television shows, we have information about tax credits, because there are tax credits available –

Tony Lewis:  Federal bonding programs.

Len Sipes:  Federal bonding programs, so all of that information is available on our website.

Tony Lewis:  And our number.

Len Sipes:  And your number.  But it doesn’t matter whether the program is being seen in Honolulu, Kansas City, or in Washington D.C., I just want everybody to know that that information is available on the website about the tax program, the bonding program and the tax program, because these are federal programs.

Tony Lewis:  Right.  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Mr. Tate?

Furard Tate:  Hey, how are you?

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

Furard Tate:  Come on.

Len Sipes:  First of all, you’ve got a great website which we’re going to be throwing up on the screen.  I could not look at that site without feeling hungry.

Furard Tate:  All right.

Len Sipes:  That’s some of the most beautiful pictures of meat I’ve ever seen in my life!

Furard Tate:  Wait until you taste it!

Len Sipes:  I am.  I’m going to have to stop by.

Furard Tate:  Please do.

Len Sipes:  Now, from an employer’s perspective –

Furard Tate:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  We’re the government, we’ve got people out of the prison system, we have people involved in the Criminal Justice System, and we want you to consider hiring these individuals.  We don’t say it from a public safety point of view, we don’t say it from the standpoint that this is the right or the wrong thing to do, we’re just saying we are going to help you find the right person.  Do you buy that?

Furard Tate:  No.  I still say why.  But that’s why business owners have to look beyond all the great training that you all provide and still find what’s in it for the business owner and what’s in it for the person that you’re about the present to me.  We have to find that match.  We have to find that win-win.  So a lot of times, when you think about all the back end support that these individuals are getting, you still have to do the work as a business owner to make sure that it’s a perfect match.  You want to know that this individual has the skill and the desire to do the job that your company needs to take the company to the next level.  So it’s on you also now to begin to be a part of that whole connection to make a win-win for everybody.

Len Sipes:  But how do we establish that?  How do we, in government, how does Tony, the people that Tony works with, how do we in government convince you that we’ve got a person that you should be willing to take a look at?

Furard Tate:   He does it excellently.  We develop a relationship far before he brings the individual to me.  He finds what my needs are.  He understands what my business model, and what is my mission, and the culture of my company, be it a small company or a large company, there’s an environment.  So before you try to fit someone in, because he has a caseload with individuals ready to work, he understands what my needs are.  So he can articulate that to a group of individuals who are ready and eager to be employed.

Len Sipes:  All right.  So it’s our responsibility, in government, to bring you our best possible candidates and to work with you ahead of time and establish that relationship.

Furard Tate:  You have one chance.

Len Sipes:  One chance.

Furard Tate:  Because if not, you will actually destroy so much that I’ve built if you give me the wrong person.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Okay so really a heck of a lot rides on this.  What do you tell people caught up in the Criminal Justice System?  What do you tell the offenders?  What are the lessons that they need to know and what do they need to understand?

Furard Tate:  Get focused.  Identify what it is that you want to do, get educated on that.  There may not be a degree for it, but get focused on it, get educated and then get pumped up for you beginning to look at what are the available opportunities out there.  So you need to be even more aggressive in finding that employment than the people who are helping you.

Len Sipes:  So many of the employers that I’ve talked to in my career, they said bring me attitude.  I can teach a person bricklaying, I can’t teach a person attitude.  That person’s got to come, be on time every single day, he’s got to smile, she’s got to be cooperative, they got to be willing to work overtime, I don’t want to hear any drama, that’s what people need to understand, correct?

Furard Tate:  Well, it gets hot in the kitchen.  But if an individual is excited about becoming a chef, he loves the heat.  So he’s already excited about being in that kitchen, and he’s going to beat me to the kitchen.  So if we find that perfect individual, we got to go through a few individuals who just have the notion of being a chef, but the desire for being that chef isn’t there.  So whatever that business is, there’s someone out there who really wants that job.  Who’s going to show up on time, who’s going to perform and who’s going to do excellent work because it’s in them to be excellent.

Len Sipes:  Tony, now in terms of our conversations with employers, we have a problem getting people employed.  So obviously, when I talk to Mr. Tate and his enthusiasm, and Lord knows I love your enthusiasm as much as I love your website, as much as I love your product, we have a problem getting people employed.  They’re perfectly employable skilled people.  We’re not talking about the person fresh out of prison, we’re not talking about the antisocial personality, we’re talking about a person who’s ready for work.  So obviously, all the things that we’ve discussed today between the national experts and ourselves, there’s a bit of a disconnect, we’re not convincing enough people to give us a chance.

Tony Lewis:  I think the issue is, I think we need more involvement from the business community in some of these discussions.  Because a lot of the hiring policies are what the issues are.  It’s not always the individuals.  The individuals are ready to go.  Sometimes these companies, their hiring policies say you can’t have a felony.  And if that’s the case, no matter how qualified an individual is, that person can’t work there.  So right now, I feel that’s the biggest problem, we have to kind of work on the hiring policies of small and big business in the District of Columbia, and I guess nationwide.

Len Sipes:  But I mean how do you work on these hiring policies?  A lot of people are saying, “I just watched “Lock Up’ Up” on the cable channel last night, and I’m not hiring anybody from prison.  I’m sorry, I don’t care if they can spin gold.”

Tony Lewis:  Which I understand.  But I think we have to do a better job of highlighting so many success stories.  We have numerous success stories.  People that have come home from prison, from incarceration, done amazing things on all levels from a lot of different industries and also in the community.  We have to show that the person that you see on ‘America’s Most Wanted’ or ‘Lock Up’, that’s not the only perception of this population.

Len Sipes:  We’ve both talked to, throughout our careers at this point thousands of people who have successfully made the transformation from tax burden to taxpayer.  They’re working, they’re taking care of their kids –

Tony Lewis:  A whole lot.  They labor.  But what happens is, I think, when we talk about that, that success story can never have as much impact as the person that chooses to reoffend.  And that’s what we have to, we have to continue to hold those people up so that we get to a point where they begin to influence the perception as much as the negative images that we see.

Len Sipes:  Well, Mr. Tate says that one, just one screws up the whole process.

Furard Tate:  But see, I have more than one who has been with me for over ten years that started just out of an introduction.  So it’s hard to not let that one stop you.  But the fact of the matter is if I understand that this individual is on purpose, and it’s going to help me meet my bottom line, I’d be foolish not to give him or her an opportunity to be a part of this company to grow it.

Len Sipes:  But that’s what we have to do, we have to appeal to the bottom line.  I’m not quite sure we have to appeal to messages of public safety – and this is what this is all about, the conversation is about public safety, the conversation is not them going back to the prison system, the conversation is not about saving taxpayers literally hundreds of millions of dollars, for us that’s very important, for you it’s the bottom line.  You’re a business person.

Furard Tate:  Well, that person is working eight hours plus he doesn’t have the time to reoffend, he’s working.  And then –

Len Sipes:  And he sees a future.

Furard Tate:  And he sees a future.  Because we make sure that each person is connected to not only our company, but to their own personal success.  So we’re asking individuals, because we, as a business owner, I have to be really aware of where he or her future lies and how I’m part of that.

Len Sipes:  What’s the biggest detriment?  Because I’ve talked to guys who’ve come out, they’re 35 years old, and says, “Man, I’m not going to be taking an entry-level position at 35, I’ve got a family to take care of, I’ve got myself to take care, I’m not,” that’s the wrong way of looking at it, correct?

Tony Lewis:  I think a great deal of that falls, we’re talking about their cognitive behavior, therapy, things of that nature, motivation, interviewing, therefore a lot of that falls on an individual like myself in the VOTEE unit because what we have to be clear on is that we have to explain to our clients that, hey, listen, you have to be willing to crawl before you walk.  That attitude is the wrong one to have.  And at the end of the day some of our guys, whether you have the skillset or not, you have to be accountable for what you’ve done and be willing to show and prove that you want to take whatever steps that are necessary to reenter society in a positive way, and that family needs to be the motivation that will make you take whatever job that is available.

Len Sipes:  We talked with the national experts about the fact that there has to be training programs in the prison system, there has to be training programs on the outside.  We talked about the fact that there’s got to be staff training.  We’ve talked about the fact that there’s got to be collaboration, and the two of you talked about that collaboration.  Before you hired anybody, Mr. Tate, you were in collaboration with Tony, and that’s the way that it works.  And then the final message in all of this is to the offender himself or herself.  You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to be willing to work and if that means starting off at the very bottom all over again to build those skills, those people skills, those service skills, the ability to get along with your supervisor, work well with a team, those are the skills that you’re trying to reestablish, right?

Tony Lewis:  Absolutely.

Furard Tate:  And don’t look at it as the bottom.  Because if you’re doing what you want to do, if you’re doing whatever that industry is, this is where you’re starting, where you end up, it all relies on your ability to be excellent and do more than is expected.  So I tell people be motivated, be pumped up, be your best.  And I purposely guarantee you’ll see me, before I suit on, grilling in the morning, so don’t let where you are be such a downer because where you’re going to go, it all is up to you.

Len Sipes:  And it’s all part of being in a positive environment too.  Because what you’re talking about, Mr. Tate, is a very positive environment.

Furard Tate:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  All right, gentlemen, thank you for being with us, really appreciate it.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us, watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in today’s Criminal Justice System.  Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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Interview with Former Offender-Advocate Lamont Carey-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/2011/12/interview-with-former-offender-advocate-lamont-carey-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 airtime.

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 pockets 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]

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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]

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DC Safe Surrender-An Interview With Willie Jones-First Participant of 2007’s Fugitive Safe Surrender

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/07/dc-safe-surrender-an-interview-with-willie-jones-first-participant-of-2007s-fugitive-safe-surrender/

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

[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: This is Cedric Hendricks for DC Public Safety.  With us today is Mr. Willie Jones, and were talking with Mr. Jones about DC Safe Surrender.  Mr. Jones, you were a participant in Safe Surrender when it was first done in 2007.  How did that come to take place?

Willie Jones:  I had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear and I heard about the program and I thought I would check it out and get involved.

Cedric Hendricks:  And what happened after you came down.  What was the experience?

Willie Jones:  Well, it was a very good experience.  I came in, they got rid of the warrant and got me out right away.

Cedric Hendricks: And how has your life changed since that day?

Willie Jones:  My life has elevated so much.  I got a District Government job.  I got my family back; a lot of things; just, my life has progressed so much.

Cedric Hendricks: Well, now DC Safe Surrender is taking place again and what words would you share with others who are out in the community now with outstanding warrants?

Willie Jones:  I would encourage them to do the right thing.  Turn yourself in.  The decision you make today affects your tomorrow.  If you make a good decision today, you’ll have a good tomorrow.  If you make a bad decision today, you’ll have a bad tomorrow.  I would say to the people out there now, do the right thing, do it now.  I did it.

Cedric Hendricks:  And to family members out there who have a loved one who they know has an outstanding warrant, is there a message that you would offer them?

Willie Jones:  I would tell them to encourage them, come with them, support them, give them the strength and let them know that’s the right thing to do.  That’s the same way my family did with me.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now when Safe Surrender took place back in 2007, it was at Bible Way Church and this time it’s taking place at the DC Superior Court House.  Does that matter in how this should be considered by an individual with an outstanding warrant?

Willie Jones:  Well let me give you a different outlook now because the last time it was at the church.  This time it’s at the courthouse.  And a lot of people think because there’s cells there, it’s the courthouse, just the courthouse itself makes them think.  But I would encourage anyone that I know, I’m involved with this Safe Surrender program, I wouldn’t mislead anyone to do anything that I didn’t think would benefit them.

Cedric Hendricks:  And I think you are right.  I think it’s important to point out that in 2007, there were 530 individuals that came in and surrendered and 98% of them walked out the same day.

Willie Jones:  Yes they did and I was one of the first one.  And I was processed in and out in 15 minutes. So like I said at first, I encourage anyone if you’ve got an outstanding warrant, on the 13th of August, on the 20th of August and the 27th, come on down and make the right decision.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now let’s just say a bit about what happened.  When you saw a Judge there, that matter you had pending wasn’t squashed all together, but you got another date to come back.  What went on after that?

Willie Jones:  When I came in, I saw the Judge; he said “you’ve got a failure to appear warrant; I’m going to get rid of the warrant and give you another court date and I’m quite sure you’ll be there.”  I said, “Yes Sir” because it’s like a second chance.  They just give you a chance to do the right thing.

Cedric Hendricks: Now you talked about how your failure to appear was inspired to some degree by you sitting in that Judge’s courtroom and seeing folks getting sent away.  And that’s what gave you some concern about your fate might be and led you to fail to appear.

Willie Jones:  Yes. I saw a guy that I grew up with that was in the courtroom in front of me.  And the Judge said, “Yes”.  He told the Judge, “I’ve done everything you’ve told me to do”. And she said, “Yes you did, but your past; your history; made me the decision to give you 60 months”. And I got up and left.

Cedric Hendricks:  And then after having left, and then coming and surrendering in the Safe Surrender event, you were back in front of a Judge with your history, some would say, having been made worse by the failure to appear.  But you didn’t get the outcome that that other individual got.  What happened with you when you finally were sentenced?

Willie Jones: I got 18 months probation and she said that since I did turn myself in, it made a difference.

Cedric Hendricks: Well, all right.  That’s really what it’s all about. You know, giving people I guess the benefit of them having come in and surrendered and coming away with it all with a positive opportunity to do the right thing.

Willie Jones: That’s right.  Definitively.  Yes.

Cedric Hendricks: We’ll we’ve been talking with Mr. Willie Jones, who was the first person to surrender back in 2007 when Safe Surrender took place and we appreciate you coming out and speaking in support of this DC Safe Surrender.  Thank you Mr. Jones.

Willie Jones: Thank you Mr. Cedric.

[Audio Ends]

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Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders – UDC Sound Advice

Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders – “UDC Sound Advice”

“Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders” features a discussion with a policy maker within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a Cluster Coordinator with CSOSA’s Mentoring Faith Based Program and an individual currently under CSOSA supervision.

Guests for this program:

  • Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs – Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA)
  • Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator for CSOSA’s Faith Based Mentoring Program
  • Tonya Mackey, an offender on CSOSA Supervision.

The show is hosted by Shelly Broderick, Dean of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law.

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

Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2011/05/faith-based-partnerships-and-offenders-udc-sound-advice/

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

[Video Begins]

Shelly Broderick:  Hello, I’m Shelley Broderick, Dean of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and your host for Sound Advice.  In the District of Columbia, approximately 70% of convicted offenders serve some portion of their sentence in the community.  As such, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (or CSOSA)’s effective supervision of convicted offenders provides a crucial service to the courts and paroling authority and is critical to public safety.  Establishing partnerships with other criminal justice agencies, faith institutions, and community organizations is very important in order to facilitate close supervision of the offenders in the community, and to leverage the diverse resources of local law enforcement, human service agencies, and other local community groups.  Approximately 2,500 men and women return home to the District of Columbia from prison every year.  Among the challenges they face are the need for housing, health care, education, and employment.  With me today to discuss how CSOSA meets these challenges are Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator, and Tonya Mackey, successful returned citizen and day care assistant.  Welcome.

Cedric Hendricks:  Thank you.

Shelly Broderick:  Let me start with you, Cedric.  We go back many years.  It’s so nice to have you on the show.

Cedric Hendricks:  Thank you.

Shelly Broderick:  And I don’t get complacent, we’ll get you back, too!  Because you have a lot to talk about.  Tell us what CSOSA’s mission is and what its reach is, because it’s hugely important in the District of Columbia.

Cedric Hendricks:  CSOSA is a public safety agency responsible for supervising men and women on probation, parole, and supervised release.  So we have about 16,000 individuals under supervision on any given day, and about 60% of them are on probation, meaning that they went to court, were sentenced, and went home, and then about 40% are on parole or supervised release, meaning that they experienced a period of incarceration and have come back home.

Shelly Broderick:  Okay.  And what are, and you know, it’s such a crime what we do, because when we send people to prison, we don’t provide education, we don’t help people get the housing they need, and we don’t, you know, we just don’t take care of business, and so often, people come back and don’t make it.  And so that safety net that CSOSA is helping to provide is just critical to people being able to succeed.  So how many folks work at CSOSA?

Cedric Hendricks:  We have about 900 employees that work at the agency, and we’re a fairly unique federal agency because our mission is focused solely on the District of Columbia, and so the men and women that we supervise, for the most part, are residents here, and what we are trying to help them do is successfully complete their periods of supervision which can involve a few months to several years, and so what we see across the board, and this is what those who are on probation as well as those who have returned home is that, as you’ve indicated, housing, health care, education, and employment are the major challenges that they face, and so we’re very active in trying to partner with the District government, the faith community, and nonprofit resource and service providers to try and help those we supervise meet the needs that they have.

Shelly Broderick:  Okay.  Tonya, let me turn to you.  You’re a returned citizen.

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  You were locked up for how long?

Tonya Mackey:  For about five years.

Shelly Broderick:  And you came back to the District of Columbia?

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  All set, you were ready to go, everything was perfect?

Tonya Mackey:  Not –

Shelly Broderick:  No, okay.  It’s not surprising.  How did you, you went to CSOSA, because you were required to –

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly, for reentry.

Shelly Broderick:  And tell me what advice they gave you.

Tonya Mackey:  The advice they gave me was just some little simple things that, at first, didn’t sound so simple, but I knew I wanted my freedom and I wanted to be on the street, and so I did what was necessary.  It took, it wasn’t all good, but at the end, I’m on top because I’m successfully completed, and through CSOSA, what they told me was, is that I needed to, I needed to get some help from some other women, and a lot of times, women like me never really wanted to communicate with other women because we didn’t, I didn’t think that we had anything in common but being a woman, but thank god that CSOSA sent me to a faith based program where I met Reverend Kelley, who is now my spiritual guidance, and I have a mentor from a program which is from women based empowerment, it’s a program called Empowerment for Women.  Ms. Mignonne who teaches it, I got a whole lot out of it, and what they help me to do was deal with my mom, coming home in society, dealing with other women, dealing with getting an education, dealing with how to ask someone how you get housing, where to go and ask, believing in myself again and believing in God, and –

Shelly Broderick:  Talk about your mom.  Talk about your mom.

Tonya Mackey:  My mom, who has been there with me for my whole entire life, she, I have always done, I felt like I have always done wrong to her, and now I’m trying to make a difference in her life and my life, actually my life first, and then her life, because that’s the only way I can do it.  My mom is a cancer survivor, she’s been diagnosed, she just –

Shelly Broderick:  She just found out.

Tonya Mackey:  – just found out she was diagnosed with cancer, and I went on actually my first cancer walk with her last year, so –

Shelly Broderick:  Wow.

Tonya Mackey:  – to be, the grace of God, and I always say, to be, to God, because without him, I know that I wouldn’t be on this journey, and other people that help me along the way so far, CSOSA, and faith based led program.

Shelly Broderick:  So you came out of all this in West Virginia –

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  – and you came back, and one of the first things that happened is you found out your mom had cancer.

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  Now is that the kind of stress that can really –
Tonya Mackey:  – take me back out, or would have.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s right.

Tonya Mackey:  Would have.

Shelly Broderick:  I mean, that’s the kind of thing that makes people go back on drugs.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  As one of my friends, a drinker, says, what’s so great about reality?  You know, right?  So it’s one of those things that can just turn you upside down.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  Reverend Wilkins.  You met Tonya around that time.

Kelly Wilkins:  Yes, actually, I did, and Tonya, when I first met her, she came to the group.  It was Purpose Empowerment, women’s empowerment group.  She came to the group, and she really was not participating that much.  You know, she really didn’t want to be there.  She didn’t really see the reason why she needed to be around a bunch of women because she had never really had any bonding relationships with women before, and so I would say about, let’s say two months into the program, they started in December, somewhere about February, we had that, we had awful snow in the District of Columbia, and I remember people in the group calling me saying, is there a way we can still meet at the church?  And I’m thinking, like, no, there’s no way!

Tonya Mackey:  We can’t get there!

Kelly Wilkins:  So the facilitator who was just, she created the program, and she’s completely committed to it, figured out a way for them to talk on the phone, to really deal with whatever stresses they were dealing with, being locked in the house because of the snow, so I mean, awesome support for Tonya, and I saw her grow.  I mean, she just grew so phenomenally from December, and she graduated in May, the first week of May.  So yeah, it was a 17-week program at that time.

Shelly Broderick:  What does that feel like?  Was it hard at first?

Tonya Mackey:  At first, yes.  I was like, didn’t want to be there, I wasn’t going to participate, I was going to go pass and go through –

Shelly Broderick:  Check it off your list.

Tonya Mackey:  Right, right.

Shelly Broderick:  Check it off.

Tonya Mackey:  But after a while, you know, even after I finished the program, now I’m returning back.  So it was real, it was a real blessing to me because now I have, like Ms. Kelly says, I have women that I can call, we can talk, we can bond.  We can talk about anything that’s going on.

Shelly Broderick:  What kinds of things?

Tonya Mackey:  We talk about how we hurt our families, we talk about how we can make a difference in other people’s lives, how I can come back, and this right here is even a blessing to me, because I was like, oh wow, somebody’s calling me and asking me to be a power attraction to someone else, whereas I had low self esteem, low self worth, didn’t think that I could become better than what I am today, and I feel real good about where I am today, and where I’m at today is that I’m helping my mom, even with her cancer, the part of surviving, you still have to go back and get treatments, but I’ve been able to be accountable today.  You know, I’m not stealing her money today.  I’m not lying today.  You know, it feels real good.  You know, a lot of times, she still may have doubt, but that’s not up to me.  As long as I stay on this path, I know that everything’s going to be all right, because she’s along with me to take care of her children today, that she had just started her business, her own day care business, so now I am an assistant to her, and it feels real good, and like I said, I graduated from the empowerment, women’s empowerment program, and I still go back, and I still constantly go down to the courts every now and again, and just to hear cases, and to find out how I used to be and how I can go back, and I don’t want to go back.  I want to stay where I’m at today, and being here with you guys makes me feel so good, lets me know that I’m accomplishing something.

Shelly Broderick:  It lifted me up, I’ll tell you that!  I was a defense attorney for a long time, and I watched some of my clients go away for a good long period of time, and it’s heartbreaking, and sometimes you can feel like it can be a good thing, just put a stop in the action, get away, it’s not a good place you ever want to send anybody, but get to a place where you’re out of this environment and get it together and come back and make it work, and you know, for so many people, it doesn’t work because they come back and they don’t have the safety net and the support system and the help.  You come back, you can’t get into housing.  You can’t get public housing.  Okay, where are you supposed to, oh, back in the old neighborhood!

Kelly Wilkins:  Yeah, and let me just say, support is very critical to recovery and reentry.  Without support, we can’t do it by ourselves.  Even the faith, the faith based community can’t assist returning citizens by themselves.  That’s why we need Court Services to be a partner with us.

Shelly Broderick:  Tell me what the partnership looks like.  How do you enter in?

Cedric Hendricks:  We came to recognize at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency that we couldn’t do it by ourselves, and that we really needed to have solid partnerships with the natural resources, the natural systems in the community.  There are many neighborhoods in the District of Columbia where you can find a church on every block, and all of these faith institutions have ministries. They’re about the business of serving their congregations and their communities in a wide variety of ways, and so what we saw to do was tap into that network.  So back in 2002, we put out a call to the faith community through using a strategy called re-entry Sunday, and through having collaboration, communication with faith institutions, we were able to build a network that was willing to work with us, and from the congregations of those faith institutions, many men and women came forward to serve as mentors for those men and women who had come home from prison.  So that work continues to this day, and we continue to match men and women who are coming home with mentors so that they can have someone to talk to, as Tonya indicated, many of our mentors are returned citizens as well, and we’re allied with faith institutions across the city who are opening their doors to be helpful in so many wonderful ways.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s fantastic.  So my first job at a college was at Lorton Prison doing group therapy with inmates.  Now why did they hire a 21-year-old white girl?  I don’t know!  What were they thinking?  But anyway, you know, I learned way more than I taught, and I had an opportunity to meet a lot of guys who it was clear to me didn’t need to be there.  Guys who got in trouble when they were real young, just 20 to life, right?  20 to life is what everybody got.  And they just did maybe 15 years of that, no education, no job training, just, and they were poets: smart, interesting, thoughtful people being wasted, and I think it had a huge amount to do.  Actually in college, I worked at a halfway house on Euclid Street for inmates within six months of release.  I was at AU, I didn’t know anything.  But I was interested.  I don’t know why.  And then I ultimately went to law school and became a defense attorney.  So this is a world that I care very deeply about, and I’m so glad to hear, because it really, it’s so important to put these families back together, because what happens is the kids don’t know Dad or Mom, and there, it’s just, it’s destructive forever if we can’t make this kind of connection and help you make it work.

Tonya Mackey:  That’s what, actually, I was getting ready to say something on that part right there about you saying that a lot of times, the parents, you know, don’t really have the time to be there, and then they get subjected to some things you might have just one father, one mother trying to do the best that they can, and a lot of times, we make our own decisions too, you know, but when we get the help that we need.  I know it’ll be a lot more than me that would do better than they’re doing.  It’s just that we have to want to do the best that we can, and today, I’m just choosing, saying, I wasn’t great, I wasn’t good all my life, and that’s why I’m here saying that if we put forth the effort, we can be the best people that, we can be whatever we want to be.

Shelly Broderick:  It’s a wonderful think.  So Reverend Wilkins, talk about your church and how this came about for you and –

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay.  Well –

Shelly Broderick:  We love your church, and we want to give them full credit.

Kelly Wilkins:  I attend Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, which is on South Capitol Street SW.  My pastors are Drs. Christine and Dennis Wiley, and at our church, I serve as the associate minister of social justice and reentry, and we also have a nonprofit, which is called Covenant Full Potential Development Center, and that’s really how we are able to work with Court Services is through our nonprofit organization, and our church, we have a, we’re a very progressive church.  We have a very strong social justice stance in our community, so we, this is our area.  We believe that helping the least of these is our calling and our job.  We’re located in Ward 8, and Ward 8, which most of the returning citizens return home to Ward 8, a large portion of them, and it’s a lot of poverty in Ward 8, and –

Shelly Broderick:  And not very many jobs.

Kelly Wilkins:  Not many jobs –

Shelly Broderick:  Not housing that –

Kelly Wilkins:  That’s right.

Shelly Broderick:  – folks have access to.

Kelly Wilkins:  But they’re good people in Ward 8, and they just need the support, and they need the support of our faith community as well as our federal agencies, and I think advocacy is really at the top, and when we look at returning citizens, I think the environment, the whole attitude towards returning citizens has begun to change because of advocacy in the community.  There are plenty of advocacy groups, and our church tries to partner with as many as possible so people know that, you know, just because you were incarcerated doesn’t mean that you’re not a person, that you’re not human, that you don’t deserve a second chance, that you did pay your dues, so it’s time to allow people to have a second chance, and so our church takes that stand as the lead institution for 7 and 8.  When you say Cluster A coordinator, that means I actually recruit mentors and services for 7 and 8, but we do a lot of citywide events and services as well, and so part of our church’s stance on returning citizens is, not to be silent about it.  Let’s not be silent about incarceration anymore.  I think the, particularly, African American community has felt ashamed about incarceration, where you talk about the number of years that people went away, and we didn’t know the impact of that in our own families.  It has exacerbated our families in our communities.

Shelly Broderick:  It’s so true.

Kelly Wilkins:  And so we didn’t know what the impact of that was going to be, but what has happened is, particularly the black church, but our faith institutions, have always had a strong social justice stance, and so incarceration wasn’t a part of that.  So it is the tendency for churches and faith institutions to be silent about it.  So we want our partners to talk about incarceration: the pain, the struggle of the family, the needs, all of that.  We want to educate pastors and tell them, look, don’t be quiet about incarceration in your family.  You have people in your pews who are returning home or families who are struggling because of a family member missing, and so that’s the kind of things that we want to educate our community and our faith partners on as well.

Shelly Broderick:  It really, you know, when I was a little girl in Maine, there was a prison called Thomason Prison, and they had a store.  They had people doing crafts.  And so every time we went past there, we used to go into the store, they had prison inmates working in the store, you know, getting close to getting out, so I grew up thinking prisoners were all white, because in Maine, they’re all white, and they’re really good at crafts!  I still have this set of three paintings that we got.  I still have the stool in my kitchen made at the prison.  My sister gave us each Christmas stocking gifts last summer, all from the prison, because that was my conception as a kid.  You know, and because the prisoners I knew were getting close to coming out, it was just all very natural and, you know, we don’t do that.  We send our prisoners a million miles away.  They are completely hidden from society, and we don’t have that kind of easy give and take back and forth that I experienced.

Cedric Hendricks:  Well, you know, one of the challenging things about the District of Columbia is that the District’s prison, Lorton, that you mentioned you worked at closed back in 2001, and all of our inmates were dispersed across the United States.  And that has made it, I think, extremely difficult to maintain contact with your loved ones.  So if you were locked up in Louisiana, Idaho, you’re not going to get visits from your family.  It’s even going to be challenging to get phone calls from your family, and if you’re away for five years, as you’ve mentioned, and you don’t have regular contact with your support system, it does create, I think, challenges to come back, and so it is essential that we have mentors from faith institutions to kind of step in while folks are coming back trying to reestablish connections with the community, because sometimes families are slow to embrace their loved ones when they come home.

Kelly Wilkins:  They’re mad.  Sometimes they’re mad because you left them.

Tonya Mackey:  – you took my stuff and, hey, I just don’t want to be bothered with you, I felt you have to prove a point to me, and I’ve been there, because that in and out of, coming out of jail and nobody believing in you because you said it over and over again, so when do you change?  When do we stop?  It has to.
Shelly Broderick:  Well, you make a good point –

Tonya Mackey:  But you have to make a community.

Shelly Broderick:  First of all, Alderson is, what, six hours away?  You were just right around the corner in West Virginia, but six hours, that’s crazy!  You can’t, like, there’s no plane there.  It is a trek!  It is so hard.

Kelly Wilkins:  And if you have children, how do they eat in the ride going down there, when they get down there, do you drive six hours, and then you visit an hour, and then you drive six hours back?

Shelly Broderick:  And can you afford to stay in a hotel?  Is there a hotel anywhere nearby?  A motel or anything?  No, it’s crazy.  And then, they don’t lock women up very often unless they’ve got a history, so you –

Tonya Mackey:  Yeah, I had a history.

Shelly Broderick:  You did, in and out –

Tonya Mackey:  In and out of jail.

Shelly Broderick:  – locally and all that.  So you had a mountain to climb.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  You had a mountain to climb.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  So talk to me about your mentor.

Tonya Mackey:  Well, what happens is, a lot of times, when I go to my other program, Empowered by Women, we stay in touch, me and Ms. Mignonne, and me and Ms., my mentor, we stay in touch, Ms. Kelly, and what happens is, just like she called me today, and she was like, well, I need to kind of like, help me out.  I’m in a spot.  Not a problem, and that’s what it’s about, me being accountable today.  Even though I was at work –

Shelly Broderick:  I see that.  I’m guessing you don’t wear that on Saturday.

Tonya Mackey:  But thank god that I’m able to do that today!  You know, thank god I was able, like I said, not just come home and get a job, because I still have some things that I have to do, but I’m just helping my mom, because like, she’s going through her cancer situation, which I know God already having, and I’m her only child to speak about it, so I took my mom, when I got locked up, she was locked up, and a lot of us don’t realize that until after we get a certain amount of clean time, people in our life who we can share the real gut level things about how you treated your moms when you was on the street, and then a lot of people don’t have their mom, so I’m real grateful today that I have my mom to talk to, and like I said, I talked to Ms. Willis and them, and Ms. Kelly, like, on a regular, because it’s like, I need people in my life to keep me on the right track when I need to stay outside of myself, when I get angry, and it feels like there’s nobody in my corner, you know, I’ve learned how to pray.  I mean, it’s like, I talk to God, at first I was like, I don’t know how, I don’t know where, but I’m like, God, can you just help me.  Next thing I know, there’ll be a phone call.  I’m here.  And that’s only through the grace of God, because, hey, I always wanted to become a positive role model.  I just didn’t know how.  So today, I’ve learned how to become a better person and a better human being.

Shelly Broderick:  We’ve got about four more minutes.  You’ve got two, and you’ve got two.

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay, great!

Shelly Broderick:  What else do we need to know?

Kelly Wilkins:  Through the faith-based initiative, we look for faith partners.  I’m always…

Shelly Broderick:  You’re recruiting right now.

Kelly Wilkins: I guess, I’m always recruiting mentors, and I’m always trying to recruit services that will help our returning citizens –

Shelly Broderick:  How do you become a mentor?  Somebody who actually wants to, hey, you know what, I’d like to work with somebody like Tonya!  I think I could do that!  I like her, and I could do that.

Kelly Wilkins:  Be a concerned citizen.  We are looking for concerned citizens.  We have a mentor training that, a mandatory mentor training that we ask that you go through.  There’s the application and interview process, and then once you complete that process, then what happens on a regular basis is CSOSA refers clients to me.  Their parole officers, or what they call Community Supervision Officers, refer clients to us, and we will match those clients with a concerned citizen in the community, and that person, just an hour or two a week, just to make sure they’re talking to their mentees and making sure, maybe they may have certain needs.  We create a mentor plan for them, each individual in the mentor plan.  So making sure their needs are getting met –

Shelly Broderick:  I lied.  We only have one more minute.

Kelly Wilkins:  You only have one more minute?  Okay.

Shelly Broderick:  I’m going to give it to you –

Kelly Wilkins:  No problem.

Shelly Broderick:  And then you’re going to have to come back.

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay, no problem.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s what it’s going to have to take.

Cedric Hendricks:  Well, let me just say, at CSOSA, what we’re after are people successfully completing their community supervision, and that’s why Tonya’s here with us as an example of what is possible.  And so we want to let the community know that, in order to realize the success, we need help.  We partnered with the faith community, we actively partnered with the District of Columbia government, so anybody listening who wants to join this effort, they should contact me at 220-5300, and we’ll pull them into the network of help and support.

Shelly Broderick:  Absolutely fantastic.  I am so glad, especially you, Tonya, but for both of you, just to have you on and let people know there are so many positive things going on, and there is a place to get help and to get support.

Tonya Mackey:  There’s hope.  There’s hope.

Shelly Broderick:  If you are interested in learning about CSOSA and reentry programs regarding men and women returning home from prison, please visit CSOSA’s website at www.csosa.gov and click on the offender reentry link or call Cedric Hendrick’s at 202-220-5300.  CSOSA and their faith partners, partnerships, are committed to assisting our returning citizens come home and stay home.  They invite the public to assist them with achieving that goal.  I’m Shelley Broderick.  Thanks for watching, and please join me next time for more Sound Advice.

[Video Ends]

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