Religion in Corrections-National Institute of Corrections

Religion in Corrections-National Institute of Corrections

DC Public Safety Radio

Radio Show available at

Len Sipes: On the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen today the topic is Religion in Corrections. We have Ronald G. Turner, JD and PhD with us today. Ron is a frequent speaker in inmate religious rights. He had led workshops on the topic at the 2011-2013 American Correctional Associations Annual Congress of Corrections. In May this year he was a panelist on the National Institute of Corrections two day training on Religion in Corrections. He led workshops sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections in Denver for the Chief and Legal Councils and Food Service Directors for Prison Systems across the Country. He has also presented on the topic for the American Correctional Chaplains Associations and Corrections Cooperation of America. Ron welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ronald G. Turner: Thanks Len I’m glad to be here.

Len Sipes: Ok, First of all before we get into the program the program is produced by the National Institution of Corrections specifically Donna Ledbetter we appreciate Donna producing of the show. Ron this, Religion Corrections has been called the hottest legal topic in Corrections today. Is that correct?

Ronald G. Turner: There is no question about it. Since January 1st of this year 238 law suits have been filled by inmates across the country in Federal Court asserting religions rights. That is almost one new law suit a day.

Len Sipes: Now that’s amazing, I mean when I was in mainstream corrections for the state of Maryland for 14 years it was, people were astounded because they said how do you spend your day and is it talking about rehabilitation, is it talking about security, is it talking about reentry and I said no, the bulk of our day is spent in talking about or dealing with inmate medical care because that was the hottest topic at the time 12 years ago and now the hottest legal topic in corrections today is religion that is astounding.

Ronald G. Turner: Well there have been some legal developments in the last 15 years that account for that. We have a long history of freedom of religion in this country and the population itself has exploded in the last 25 or 30 years. So there are a lot of reasons for it. Many people will hear that statistic and assume that 90% of those law suits are frivolous and ought to be thrown out, from my experience that is not the case. A number of them are not frivolous.

Len Sipes: In 2000 the US Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Industrialized Persons Act and in an article you wrote recently you summarize it three ways, that Government must have a very good reason to limit inmates sincere religious practice, limits on religion must be imposed as gently as possible and inmates may exercise their religion in ways not necessarily required by their faith. That is putting a big burden on Correctional Systems to interperate all this and to put it into play, correct?

Ronald G. Turner: Well it is and it is really tough to jump right into that because when you start digging into that language particularly to your prison or jail administrator. You would throw your hands up and say why won’t congress do this to us and we can get into those three aspects of the law and I need to say it is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, it is people who live in institutions primary prisons, jails and some hospitals.

Len Sipes: How important is religion in all of this. I interviewed an awful lot of chaplains either from the Islamic faith, from the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish faith throughout my career. I found my discussions with chaplains to be some of the most interesting in all the broadcasts that I have done on the American Criminal Justice System. They all seem to assert that religion is extraordinarily important for reentry for coming out, to maintain themselves while in Correctional Institutions. So religion is an integral part of the Correctional System and always has been from its very roots. Is that correct?

Ronald G. Turner: Absolutely, and we have a number of studies that have been done. My own PhD dissertation dealt with the impact of religious faith and spirituality on inmates particularly while they are incarcerated and you’re exactly right. It makes a difference while they are inside and once they get out and here again there is a stereotype from the movies that you know inmate find religion in prison and then they lose it the day they walk out the gates. That happens to some folks but it very often is a very real and sincere aspect of the lives both in and out.

Len Sipes: You have received your Law Degree and Masters in Theology studies as well as a PhD in Public Administration from Tennessee State University. You have quite a background in terms of looking at it from a theological point of view as well as the legal point of view so it seems as if you are the top person to talk to in terms of what happens in correctional systems and the topic of religion.

Ronald G. Turner: Well I appreciate it and let me just say that my Law Degree and my Masters of Theological studies were from Vanderbilt International and then I got the PhD at a later stage in life in Tennessee State but I think one thing that I bring to this, first of all I have a deep interest in it and an abiding interest in it but I have been a college Professor. I taught college for seven years. I practiced law for over 20 years and I do have the theological training as well as the PhD so I can talk to votes recruiters, like everybody who is sitting around the table when this issue comes up. From Correctional Officers and wardens to chaplains, their academics to commissioners and it is a fascinating topic. I think, frankly I am not surprised that it is as hot as it is because the law that we are talking about we will get into in a minute has been on the book since 2000. A US Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2005 and inmates from my experience all over the country are familiar with the law and they are becoming more and more willing to assert their rights under the law. I think a number of prison systems have been a little bit slow to catch up to it but now they are being overrun by it. Particularly if you talk to any of the attorneys who have worked in the prison systems all over the country, they are spending lots of time on these law suits.

Len Sipes: I just want to remind all of our listeners that the Program Religion and Corrections is available at the National Institute of Corrections website. It is if you simply search for religion you will find the seminar on Religion and Corrections on the National Institute of Corrections website. Ron before we go onto the specifics of the program I do want to return to the importance of religion. I mean we run, we at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency run a fairly substantial faith based initiative and we pretty much recognize that the faith community really is an integral, very important component in terms of people leaving the prison system, coming out in terms of being gathered and mentored to and helped by the faith based community they provide. In some cases clothing, shelter, substance abuse, alcohol, remediation. There are a lot of services the faith community offers both inside and outside the prison system so again the role of faith was an integral part of the American prison experience from the very beginning as it is now. So let’s talk a little bit more about that importance.

Ronald G. Turner: Well there is no question that what you are saying is exactly right. I do want to specify or mention the fact that one of the purposes of this law we call it RALUPA, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. One of the purposes of it being passed was to protect the religious right of all institutionalized persons and I probably will refer to them for the rest of the program as inmates because we are talking primarily of prisons and jails.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Ronald G. Turner: So its inmates of minority religious faiths that are protected as well as Christian and other inmates of larger faith groups and the congress was very specific about that when they passed the law.

Len Sipes: But it is interesting in terms of the role of chaplain’s, I was reading in an article that you created that the role of chaplains also has to be their insistence that everybody is taken care of. The role of prison chaplains is to see that religious rights of inmate of all faiths are protected. So in essence that means that regardless to your religious orientation the chaplain is responsible for everybody within that institution to be sure that their religious faith is protected.

Ronald G. Turner: Well unless that responsibility has been assigned by the warden to someone else and usually it is not, it is usually the chaplains responsibility and from my experience as Director of Religious Services here in Tennessee for five years that is probably the most challenging aspect of being a prison chaplain because certainly, you know Tennessee is a conservative state. We have 16 state paid chaplains in 14 institutions and they are all Christians. Some would call themselves evangelical Christians and they make no bones about the fact that they were called to the ministry to save, you know to bring people to Jesus which is fine outside the prison setting or even inside the prison setting if the inmate comes to the chaplain and says tell me, you know tell me about your faith. Then the doors open but if a chaplain of any faith Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, you name it starts imposing their faith on inmates, if they are getting their pay check from the state that is where you have some constitutional problems.

Len Sipes: You know back in Maryland, this would be fairly stereotypical. I remember these conversations, do we allow certain people who use marijuana within religious ceremonies, do you allow marijuana to be used as part of this religious ceremony. There are some American Indians who fervently believe that smoke lodges or sweat lodges are an integral part of their religion so the question was do you allow sweat lodges, do you allow the use of marijuana. It is far more complex than that correct?

Ronald G. Turner: Well it is but with regard to that example there is a pretty simple answer. The Government has a compelling Governmental interest in plain English and a really good reason to maintain safety and security in the prisons. That compelling governmental interest is a reason to impair an individual’s religious practice. So even if a Native American has a sincere belief that they need marijuana or that they want marijuana in their religious practice, it won’t be allowed because it is a risk to institution safety and security. Safety and Security will always trump religious faith.

Len Sipes: Prisons are the very epitome of the word institution so they run in a very bureaucrat round peg in round hole sort of approach. They are cities to themselves; I have been in and out of prisons that have held over 2000 inmates. These are very large structures. When you start talking about individualized diets, a vegetarian diet or a non pork diet or the allowance of a particular religious ceremony or the length of an inmate’s hair, these are all things that the prison system has a hard time dealing with because they are used to walking in lock step. Again if it is not round peg in round hole they really don’t know what to do. When I was reading your article you were advising chaplains who work closely with attorneys for the state prison systems and again that the law says that institutions need to tread as lightly as possible on the religious right of individualized inmates. So prison systems are now required, as long as they do not have an impact on the security of the institutions to provide individuals with services that formerly were not provided.

Ronald G. Turner: Let me comment. I generally agree with what you just said. Safety and security is a compelling governmental interest and across the board it is. But we at the institution have to be sincere when we say there is a safety and security issue. Let’s use sweat lodges as an example and I suppose everyone listening knows what a sweat lodge is. It is essentially a structure that is constructed and used by Native Americans but there is some other groups that use them and they will have a fire outside and they will heat lots of rocks and bring the rocks inside and create, essentially it’s like a sauna and they will stay in there, the inmates will stay in there and its dark, for maybe four hours and it is a spiritual experience for them. It is a genuine and sincere spiritual experience but there are obviously some security aspects to it. It is dark, there are many time they want to go in without any clothes on and so forth. As a result some states allow sweat lodges and some states don’t allow sweat lodges even though RALUPA is a Federal Law that was passed by congress. It is enforced in all 50 states. It applies to all prisons and jails and other institutions that receive federal funds so that will be 99% of them. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the question of sweat lodges so what we have is Appellate Courts what we call the Circuit Courts of Appeals ruling in different ways on sweat lodges. Some are saying it is a security risk, we can’t allow it and others are saying well they are ways we can modify to protect the security risk and so we are going to allow and so it a pretty important rules on that question, that we are going to have a split circuit on that question. We have splits on a number of questions prayer oil, length of hair and beards, diet and that is one reason the job is so difficult right now of chaplains and prison officials enforcing the law because the provisions, there are provisions in the law that just have not been clarified by the Supreme Court but there is a case coming up later this year and we can talk about that later that might answer some questions.

Len Sipes: Our topic today ladies and gentleman is Religion in Corrections our guest is Ronald G. Turner extraordinarily qualified he has his Law Degree and his Masters Degree in Theological studies as well as a PhD from Tennessee State University. The program has been arranged and produced by the National Institute of Corrections and there is a seminar Religion in Corrections on the National Institute of Corrections website The email address for Ron is Ron okay so religion in corrections, you are dealing with prison populations, you’re dealing with the United States history but you are dealing with the first amendment that says the freedom of religion shall not be interfered with, shall not be infringed I think.

Ronald G. Turner: Yeah, the exact language is Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof what we call the establishment clause and free exercise clause that basically says we will not have an official state sponsored religion in this country. Likewise the government is not going to come in and tell you how to worship. Now that is a broad brush explanation of it but if I could I would like to take just a second and get into the reasons that congress passed this law in 2000 in the first place because it has created a lot of activity. In the 90s in the early 1990s congress held some hearings to find out whether religious, whether inmates in prisons and jails and folks who lived in other institutions were suffering religious abuse. Either they were not allowed to practice their own religion or another religion was being imposed on them. They found wind spread abuse. They found what they call arbitrary and capricious abuse. In other words there were time that things were denied to the people and there was no reason for it as a result. Congress passed a law in 1993 called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, actually it was much broader then just applying to prisons and hospitals but the purpose of it was to expand the religious protection of virtually all citizens under the first amendment. Four years later 1997, the Supreme Court struck down that law and said it only applied to Federal Institutions, it did not apply to the states. Okay. So you essentially have a see saw battle going back and forth here between congress and the Supreme Court. Congress did not like that, they are big supporters of freedom of religion and so a new law was prepared called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and Congress passed it in 2000 and I want to read a quote the co-sponsors of that law in 2000 were Ted Kennedy and Oran Hatch they were the co-sponsors in the Senate. Ted Kennedy said this about that law. The pioneers who founded America came here to practice their faith free from government interference convinced of the need to assure that all Americans at all times, the right to practice their religion unencumbered of course Senator Kennedy was a Catholic Democrat, Liberal. Senator Hatch conservative Republic Mormon from Utah had this to say. This law is important for the preservation of religious freedom of all American people especially those who’s religious beliefs and practices differ from the majority. It is pretty clear from their statements they were wanting to protect their religious freedom of everybody specifically the minority religious groups. So they passed RALUPA. Many people say why in the world does it have such a crazy name. well in addition to dealing with institutionalized persons the same law deals with religious discrimination in zoning matters and in a nut shell that comes up where a group of people buy a piece of property. They want to put up a church but it is not zoned for a church or a temple or a synagogue. They go to the local zoning authority or city council and they submit their application that covered everything in the application that anybody else would cover, it is in good form and so forth and the application is denied. It is pretty obvious that it has been denied because of religious discrimination. Well congress did not like that either so in the same law they dealt with that type of thing and it is way beyond the scope of our program but that is why it has such a fun name.

Len Sipes: It says in plain English the law says before we substantially limit inmate religious exercise we need a really good reason. The inmate must be sincere but the request need not be required by the inmate’s faith. So it is almost a self imposed by the inmate you know you could be a Roman Catholic but not follow the tenants of Catholicism and you could come up with your own interpretation of what they believe Catholicism is. Is that correct?

Ronald G. Turner: You are putting your finger on what I think is probably the toughest part RALUPA. Let me go back, this is what RALUPA requires and I want to talk about each component for just a second and of course this is not the legalese you can pull up the statue itself if you want to but in plain English congress is telling us that before we, and that is prisons and jails, sustainably limit an inmate’s religious exercise we need a really good reason. So the first things we might say is well we did not substantially limit the inmates exercises, the problem with that or in using that is that courts had not interpreted the word substantial in a very different way than we might off the top of our heads and many times they will find a burden on an inmate’s religious exercise to be substantial when we would say “What? Are you kidding?” So be careful if you are going to use lack of substantiality as a basis for denying a request. Secondly, it only applies to religious exercise so we can so well, this does not deal with religion. A Native American wants a feather, what does that have to do with religion. It has a lot to do with that Native Americans religion so here again before you deny a request saying a) this is not religious you better get your lawyers involved and let them do some research and find out what the cases have said about, you know what is religious. Another aspect of the law as it says before we burden religious exercise we need a compelling governmental entrance or in plain English a really good reason. Safety and security is a classic example of a really good reason because obviously the government has a compelling interest in maintaining safe and secure prisons but just as the inmate must be sincere when they submit a request to us and they do have to be sincere, we have to be sincere when we say no you can’t have it and the cases in the last few years have taken an interesting turn up until a few years ago when a prison official, a warden or a commissioner got up on the witness stand the Judge would usually defer to their professional opinion and say you are the expert, you know how to run prisons we don’t. We will defer to your judgment. Now under RALUPA if the prison system denies a request based on Safety and Security they courts are now saying, tell me why Warden or Commissioner why is it a Safety and Security issue and what alternatives did you look at because not only did congress tell us that we can’t substantially limit an inmate’s religious exercise it says if we do limit a religious exercise it has to be in the least restrictive way or the gentlest way and I can give an example of that. Let’s say you have this Native American inmate who wants a feather, I mentioned that before, and so we say you can’t have any feathers, no feather whatsoever they are a safety and security risk and a feather can be because you can stab somebody with one right. What is the most restrictive response we can give is you can’t have any feathers, no feathers and absolute no is the most restrictive response. What would be less restricted from that, what we might say, what might we say.

Len Sipes: Well I don’t know because either you provide feathers or you don’t provide feathers it seems to me to be fairly straight forward.

Ronald G. Turner: Okay well we could say small feathers. The reason a feather is a risk is because it is big enough and sturdy enough to stab somebody. Let’s say you can have feathers six inches or smaller. That is allowing some feathers, so in other words you are not saying absolutely no feathers which was the most restrictive response you are giving a less restrictive response by saying you can have small feathers.

Len Sipes: I do find this fascinating this law makes the world of difference from past years because the burden was on the inmate and now it’s on us so as you said.

Ronald G. Turner: That is exactly right.

Len Sipes: So as you just said. The warden goes in the court and in the past the court would defer to the warden, you are the expert we are not, you tell us. Now the burden is on us to prove that we are providing for the constitutionality of that religious service.

Ronald G. Turner: As long as the inmate is sincere and it deals with religion then the inmates gets it unless we can show compelling ways in why they shouldn’t and most of the time that is going to be safety and security that is 180 degrees different than the law before RALUPA.

Len Sipes: Yes it is.

Ronald G. Turner: It has turned being a chaplain in prison on its head. A number of chaplains are retiring now because this is not what the bargained for. It is not what they came in to do. Even those who want to minister to inmates of all faiths find it much more difficult now than before. In the good old days of pre RALUPA if an inmate came into your office and said, if a Buddhist came into your office before 2000 and asked for something you would pull your book off the shelf, a handbook of religious practices and you turn to the chapter on Buddhism and you might, let’s say he wants a meditation mat, you find in their meditation mat is approved so you can say yeah you can have it. If it wasn’t on the list he would not get it.

Len Sipes: It’s relying, I go back to a point that I made before and this is something from the 14 years when I was with the State of Maryland these monolithic institutions, it is almost impossible to make these individualized decisions to protect the rights of individuals. it is a burden beyond all comprehension because to run that institution and to run it on a budget at a fairly low budget, you have got to run things a certain way and now it is saying no, the burden is upon us, the burden is upon the state to protect the constitutional religious rights of the inmates and that may mean a whole host of individualized decisions to allow that inmate to practice his faith in a way that he thinks is valid, as long as he is “sincere”. That is a huge burden on correctional facilities and I understand why chaplains are having a hard time with it.

Ronald G. Turner: There is no question about it and it is one reason there are so many law suits pending right now. You mentioned meals. Religion in correction is the hottest topic, meals under religion in prisons is the hottest part of the topic right now particularly kosher meals and halal for muslim inmates and so forth and the courts are going all over the place with regard to whether we are required to provide kosher meals. The big question is which inmates are entitled to have kosher meals. Most courts are saying under RALUPA, you don’t have to have been Jewish on the outside to go through a conversion process and this applies not only to Jewish inmates but inmates of any faith. If you can sincerely show a religious basis for requesting the meal, let’s say kosher, you get it.

Len Sipes: We only have a minute left and I don’t want to leave this out. Hope versus Hobbes is an upcoming Supreme Court process.

Ronald G. Turner: O yes.

Len Sipes: Give me a 45 second submission of Hope versus Hobbes.

Ronald G. Turner: Hope versus Hobbes is going to be insured by the Supreme Court later this year so the first Supreme Court case under RALUPA since 2005 it is a beard case out of the eight circuits where the prison said you can’t have any beards for religious reasons. Well the court of appeals agreed with the Trial Court based on the fact that 39 other States now allow beards under RALUPA. My best prediction is the Supreme Court will allow beards. The question is whether the court will use this case as an opportunity to interpret some of these other ambiguous areas of RALUPA. It bears watching because the Supreme Court can answer a whole lot of these questions later this year if they want to.

Len Sipes: And the complexity that is going to go along with it for correctional administrators it is an amazing topic Ron.

Ronald G. Turner: Well it is fascinating.

Len Sipes: Quickly.

Ronald G. Turner: as I tell folks, federal judges are interested in protecting constructional rights and running the prison many times they will say that is the legislature’s problem or the executor’s problem.

Len Sipes: Alright Ron I’m going to stop you there. Ladies and Gentleman our guest today, it has been a fascinating conversation with Ronald G. Turner, PhD and JD we were talking about Religion within Correctional Institutions Ladies and Gentleman this is DC Public Safety we appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms so we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

The Truth About Reentry from a Former Offender

The Truth About Reentry from a Former Offender

DC Public Safety Radio

Radio show available at

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones, Lamont Carey, he is President of LaCarey Enterprises, The show today is the truth about reentry from a former offender’s perspective. Lamont has been around. He’s been in front of Congressional Committees, the Associated Press, he’s had plays at the Kennedy Center, he’s been on HBO, BET, author of four books, and he has been a public motivational speaker. And to hear Lamont speak is really, really, really a treat. And he talks about reentry, talks about life on the street passionately, talks about reentry passionately. He did serve 11 years and 4 months in prison and since coming out he has really turned heads. And what I wanted to do was to invite Lamont to talk about reentry policy from a former offender’s perspective. Lamont, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Lamont Carey: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: Okay. You’ve been on our radio shows, you’ve been on our television shows, I’ve seen you perform; a lot of people listen to what you have to say. When you do your bit, when you do your public performance it’s The Streets Call Out My Name. It’s like –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: It’s really amazing from a criminological point of view, because I’ve had guys tell me that kicking crime and kicking drugs is one thing, but kicking the street –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Kicking the corner is one of the hardest things they’ve ever had to do. Talk to me about that.

Lamont Carey: Well, I mean because I was raised, well, I like to say I was raised in the street, because I had been involved in criminal activity since like the late age of 11, so that was all that I knew. So when I went to prison as a juvenile and I come home, prison and the streets is all that I knew. And so with my efforts of trying to live a positive and legit lifestyle, those thoughts of my memories from that time in my life is always was present. Like if I try to get a job and I don’t get hired, I immediately think about how can I get some money, and the only other options that I know existed at the time was returning back to the streets. So that’s what I mean by the streets keep calling my name.

Len Sipes: And if you heard Lamont, it’s absolutely powerful if you go to his website, it’s there. It is just an extraordinary performance as to how the streets keep sucking you in, how the streets keep calling you back. So what do you mean by the streets? Are you talking about the people, are you talking about the friends, are you talking about the lifestyle?

Lamont Carey: The lifestyle. The criminal lifestyle is bigger than the friends. I mean because it is where we felt most powerful, it was where we had resources, and so to change my life and try to start this new life without no resources – and so any time I’m rejected from any resources I remember how easy it is to obtain money through the streets. I remember how I used to be praised like I was celebrity because of that lifestyle –

Len Sipes: Right.

Lamont Carey: The drug dealer lifestyle. And so when you come in, when you’re running into mistake after mistake, not being able to overcome obstacles, you, we resort back to what we know –

Len Sipes: Sure.

Lamont Carey: Where we’re comfortable. I mean some of my best years when I came home was from when I was doing really good as a drug dealer. And so naturally if I can’t find a job I’m remembering those times where I was able to go to the store and spend 1,000 dollars or take a trip whenever I wanted to take a trip. Now I can’t do none of these things and I can’t even get a job because of my felony convictions. So naturally, it’s like the streets keep saying, “We won’t judge you. We won’t stop you. We support you in whatever it is that you want to do.” And so criminal lifestyle is one of the, where it’s perceived as one of the easiest things to go back to, especially if you’ve already been there. And so –

Len Sipes: Guys have told me it’s the heroin of all heroin, it’s the drug of all drugs.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: The street, it’s the reinforcement, it’s what you’re familiar with, it’s what you’re comfortable with –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: It’s where you get your platitudes, where you get your pats on the back. It’s where you are embraced.

Lamont Carey: Identity.

Len Sipes: How can you give that up?

Lamont Carey: Identity. Well, the thing, you can give it up, because I was able to give it up. I had to recognize that it was false. All of those praises didn’t continue when I went to prison.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Lamont Carey: So it was a false existence. And so as long as an individual remains mindful of that, that will equip them, empower them to continue on trying to go down this righteous path. But, even with that being said, it takes some effort from society to be completely in support of me changing my life, or any individual changing their life, for them to successfully do that, because if you’re not allowing me to feed myself, then you are giving me no options but to go back to the ways I know how to feed myself.

Len Sipes: And that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss on this program. I’ve had Assistant Attorney Generals, members of the White House; I’ve had some of the best known researchers in the United States at these microphones talking about exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

Lamont Carey: Okay.

Len Sipes: You’re the first – now, you’ve been on this show before, but I’m going back to my roots. I’m going to bring you and two other people on who are former offenders, who have done well for themselves. But I need to hear and everybody needs I think to hear and they’re impressed by, probably more impressed by you and people who have served time in the prison system, their perspectives on what’s going on with reentry –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: What’s happening after a person gets out of prison. They’re more impressed by what you had to say than what they have to say –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Or what I have to say. So that’s the whole idea behind this show. Because I talked to, and somebody who’s going to come to these microphones in just a couple weeks, a parole and probation expert who says, “You know, Len, I’m really concerned that we’re just not getting the money, we’re not getting the support for reentry, it’s just not there. We’re talking about it, talking about it, talking about it. There are very positive things. People on both sides of the political aisle, they’re now supportive. We have a President who is supportive. We have the Second Chance Act. We’ve got a lot of things that are rolling in our direction.” But his concern is the money’s just not there. So I want to ask you, Lamont Carey, why isn’t the money there?

Lamont Carey: It’s a whole, I think it’s a whole lot of reasons why the money isn’t there. They’re expecting – if you look at the people that have the most interactions with ex-offenders it will be the grassroots organizations, because those are the people that’s in our community, those are the ones that’s trying to welcome us into their doors. But with them we run into waiting lists, long waiting lists, because they’re not allowed to grow their staff or they’re not allowed to like effectively carry out their task on trying to help us transition from prison to society, because they don’t have funding. And then I think another issue that I have with governments is the relationship that they have with private prisons. And that relationship to me it seems like it works against the reentrance, because if the prison systems and the community are supposed to be responsible for us transitioning, then how can you legally agree to keep anybody’s prison filled to any kind of capacity without, in my opinion, some form of corruption has to spring from that?

That means if I’m a mayor of a city and I agree with a private prison to keep 50% of their facilities full, then that means that I have to tell my captains at the precinct and whoever’s in charge, the chiefs and all that, that they have to increase their arrest records, then I have to tell the prosecutors that they have to expand the charges, then I have to tell the judges that they have to increase their conviction numbers in order to stay within this agreement. So for me knowing this, it’s like how can they really be working to help me transition successfully in my community when they’re working with, when they have agreements with people that are saying they’re going to keep people in prison? So that may be one of the reasons that the funding, some funding is not going to where it’s needed, because what I need and what – I’ve been in probably 11 prisons throughout my incarceration, and majority of the individuals in there, I probably know two individuals that said they was coming home to break the law. Most of us were in there working on reentry, even though they didn’t have really reentry programs. We had a plan on what we wanted to do when we come home. But it seems like when we get out that gate, when we go out for parole, my biggest road block was when I went up for parole that I couldn’t use my home address, because I can no longer live there. My mother was on Section 8, and it’s supposed to be that I am, because of my convictions, that I am not allowed to live –

Len Sipes: Live with your mother.

Lamont Carey: On those premises.

Len Sipes: Right.

Lamont Carey: So let’s say I’m starting off my reentry as a homeless person, and then I’m hearing that they’re paroling some people straight to homeless shelters. Now, the problem that I have with that is that every time I went to a new prison my aggressive mentality resurfaced, because I’m thinking I may have to prove myself again.

Len Sipes: Right.

Lamont Carey: So I’m on guard. For anything that happened, I’m going to deal with it as harshly as I possibly can. So when you transition a person from prison to a shelter, that’s the kind of environment that you are putting us into.

Len Sipes: All right, you’re going to talk to right now a governor.

Lamont Carey: Okay.

Len Sipes: A mayor, a county commissioner.

Lamont Carey: Okay.

Len Sipes: You’re going to talk to them. They’re listening right now. And we get a lot of aides to – we get congressional aides, aides to mayors, aides to governors, where you’re talking to the governor himself or herself. What do you say to that person about supporting programs for individuals coming out of the prison system?

Lamont Carey: Well, what I would say to them is this. This, in my opinion, this is one of your biggest public safety issues, because a reentrant that can’t find a job, that can’t find housing is more likely to return to criminal activity, which endangers the citizens of your state, your county, and your country. So as a governor, what I would like to see is our rights restored. Ban the box if you haven’t already banned the box. Give us a –

Len Sipes: In terms of employment.

Lamont Carey: In terms of employment. Give me the opportunity to make it past the application phase so that I can plead my own case on why I’m qualified for a job that will help me take care of myself, take care of my family, and add to the taxes that the state collects. And in terms of the programming – I mean all of us have different kinds of needs. I mean when I first came home, my first probably two years most of my stuff was congested in my bedroom, then I got an apartment with a living room, a dining room, and all that, but all of that was in my bedroom, because that’s what I was used to, living in that small space. And so the kind of programs that I think would be beneficial is job training. Some job training in fields that the city, the county, or the state is really looking to fulfill, not no job training that’s just going to last for three months or four months, because then I’m starting right back over. And then for programs that you have where it’s supposed to provide me job training, extend that, give them more funding, because right now in DC people are running into waiting lists, a six month waiting list. And so if I just come home and I need services, I don’t have six months to wait.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s just not DC; it’s all throughout the country.

Lamont Carey: Right. But I’m using DC as an example –

Len Sipes: Right.

Lamont Carey: Because that’s my direct experiences.

Len Sipes: Okay. And that governor is going to look at you and say, “Mr. Carey, I’ve got schools to build, I’ve got roads to build, I’ve got all these people constantly coming to me looking for money for this program and that program, I’ve got older people that need to be taken care of, I don’t have a lot of money.”

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: “Why should I take what limited amount of money that I have and throw it towards programs for people coming out of the prison system?”

Lamont Carey: The reason that you should do that is because you’re giving the individual a real chance of succeeding, a real chance of changing, because it’s twofold. The things that they are asking you money for, if I turn, if individuals start to commit crimes it’s a hassle to the school. It’s a danger to the school children in terms of recruitment for, to enter the criminal enterprise. It’s a danger to the teachers, the principals, and what have you. Then they become targets because they are known to have I mean have a paycheck. So every citizen in your state, your county that has a paycheck becomes a potential victim for robbery if I can’t find a job. If you need, if they’re asking you to, you’re trying to repair your roads then this may be one of my dream jobs of doing labor. Me personally I’m not one of those guys, but we have hundreds and thousands of individuals that are good with their hands that’s looking for their outlet to be able to build. How it affects seniors, because the seniors becomes a target of crime.

Len Sipes: So what you’re saying is the 700,000 people that come out of the state and federal prison system all throughout the United States every year, 700,000 come back to the communities, what you’re basically saying is that the crime issue affects everything, the crime issue affects –

Lamont Carey: Everything.

Len Sipes: Everybody. If you can help these folks and it reduces recidivism, they’re coming back into the criminal justice system by 20%, 30%, 40%, it’s going to have a huge payoff –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: On every aspect of society.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Schools, employment, churches, communities, factories, it affects everything.

Lamont Carey: Right. Now, and I’m not saying, I’m not telling the governors and these representatives that as a fear factor. What I’m saying is that we are untapped resources. Like me coming home – right now I can do marketing, right?

Len Sipes: Uh huh.

Lamont Carey: I do event planning, I publish, I do videos, I have all of these skills that if I went and applied for a job for a lot of them that I wouldn’t be hired for because of my past conviction. And so by you removing that barrier for me on the application it gets me in front of the employer and I can stress these skills that I have that can be an asset to those companies.

Len Sipes: We’re going to go for a break very shortly, but I do want to ask you when you come back from that break as to whether or not there is a general prejudice. Regardless of race, there’s a very general prejudice towards people coming out of the prison system. But, ladies and gentlemen, were talking to Lamont Carey, President of LaCarey Enterprises,, Lamont has been a passionate speaker, a passionate advocate for people coming out of the prison system in terms of fair treatment. Is there fair treatment, Lamont, of people coming out of the prison system? Is the prejudice towards these individuals so strong as to the point where they’re not getting the programs that they need to successfully reintegrate? When I talk to people who’ve been in the prison system, when I take a look at research, I see 10% of people inside of prison systems getting mental health treatment, I see 10% of people inside of prison systems getting drug treatment, I see obstacles after obstacles when people are coming back into the community. So people are frustrated over the crime problem, and, quite frankly, people are frustrated with people coming out of the prison system for not doing the right thing.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: But those barriers seem to be there nevertheless.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Why are those barriers there? Is there an overarching prejudice towards people coming out of the prison system?

Lamont Carey: There certainly is.

Len Sipes: And why?

Lamont Carey: People claim that they are, that they forgive, they forgive mistakes, but when it connects to prisoners and ex-offenders that’s not the case. Fear comes in or some need to further punish us. If the judge sentenced me to 13 years in prison, that is my punishment. My punishment shouldn’t remain after I complete that 13 years. And so but society seems to don’t see it that way. There is a fear. Now, Leonard, I’m going to be honest with you.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Lamont Carey: As an employer, right, when I have a project and I’m looking to hire somebody, even I want to know if, one, can you do the job, two, if you have a background. And that is because I want to make sure that, one, that you’re capable of doing the job and, one, that people are, the people that I bring you around are going to be safe, right?

Len Sipes: “Can I trust you?” That’s what –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: What you’re saying to them.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: “Can I trust you?”

Lamont Carey: Right. And so by having those policies set in line or just on the application, “Have you been convicted of a crime?” and you write yes you don’t even get to make it to the interview process. So I’m denied on something that is supposed to be I have done my time for. And so in prison, when I was in prison the programs generally sucked, for the most part.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Lamont Carey: One, I got my GED, and so I was, I began, I became excited about education, because I dropped out of school when I was on the street, and so now I’m being reintroduced to education, so when I get excited and then I’m about to enter the college program they remove the funding from the college program. And so how – I understand. They said it was people that was in society saying that they have to bust their tail to send their kids to school, so why should I get a free education?

Len Sipes: That’s what they ask.

Lamont Carey: And the reason why I should be able to get an education is because the individuals in prison that I knew that got a college degree they act different, they talk different, they think different, they had bigger plans. And so when you remove, when you deny me from continuing my education, that told me that I can no longer grow, that denied me the ability to learn more on how to be productive, how to think past go, how to actually implement my good plans when I come home. And so rehabilitation really supposed to start inside of prison. Teach me entrepreneurship, right, teach me how to – Leonard, this is how I was able to stay home. I was in a prison and ASPIRE taught me nonprofit. ASPIRE was giving a nonprofit class, right, in a federal prison. And so that taught me how to operate as a business, right? And the marketing classes that I took it taught me that I was running a business, I knew supply and demand, I just knew in an illegal way, so these things changed my way of thinking.

Len Sipes: I want to know how many people in the prison system, in terms of your own opinion –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Are you and how many are just lost. You seem to be different. I mean, look, the average person who comes out of the prison system is not speaking to congressional committees, they’re not talking to the Associated Press, they’re not, they don’t have plays at the Kennedy Center, they’re not involved with HBO or BET, yada, yada, yada. I mean that’s – are you really substantively different from the average person coming out of prison or are they all like you?

Lamont Carey: I think there are levels. I’m not unique. I know hundreds if not thousands of ex-offenders who are doing superb as productive members of society. But a lot of them don’t even admit that they even been to prison, because they’re afraid that there are going to be repercussions.

Len Sipes: That people are going to judge them based on [OVERLAY].

Lamont Carey: Right, judge them based on that, and they’re going to lose what they have already been able to establish. We’ve seen that in some of the companies that have been hiring ex-offenders for years and then they change their policy –

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Lamont Carey: And those individuals lose their jobs. So I’m not unique in any way, but I’m just determined. My focus shifted to be on me. Before, the thing I realized, before I can take care of anybody else I have to take care of me.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Lamont Carey: An so that means I have to, if I get a job once I’m able to take care of me then I can contribute to my family, I can contribute to my community. But the thing I think trip up so many individuals who come home from prison is that they put family, taking care of family before they’re taking of self, or they make promises that they can’t really keep once they come home. Leonard, I’d be the first one to tell you, the hardest thing for me was to somebody accept my phone call when I call home from prison. So you know what happened when they did accept my call?

Len Sipes: Yeah, go.

Lamont Carey: I agreed to anything they said. If they said, “Lamont, man, you’re going to get any kind of job, you’ll work at McDonald’s and all that?” Leonard, I said yeah, Leonard. But I knew that that wasn’t what I was going to do, but, Leonard, I needed that connection to the outside support, I needed to feel needed, I needed to feel like somebody loved me in order for me not to give up. And so when individuals come home from prison now their family members are looking at them like, “Look, I thought you said you was going to get a job at McDonald’s, I thought you said you was going to do this, I thought you was going to, said you was going to do that. Momma is sick. We need more – you need to be contributing. You need to be paying child support.” All of these needs of the community [INDISCERNIBLE 00:23:20] in the family start hitting us in our face and we’re like, “What in the world. How in the world do I supposed to do this? I’m trying to find a job.” So a lot of them panic, Leonard, a lot of them start selling drugs again or getting their criminal lifestyle again just to get away from the pressures that they’re enduring wherever they’re laying their head at.

Len Sipes: So it’s got to be family. Family’s got to be supportive.

Lamont Carey: Yes

Len Sipes: Family’s got to be understanding in terms of what it is that you need to go through. You need to take care of yourself. Society needs to step up in terms of programs to help people transition out of the prison system. And if everybody did this –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: If everybody gave everybody coming out of the prison system a decent second chance –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: We could reduce a lot of crime in this country.

Lamont Carey: Right. Yeah. I think we can. And it’s not, and don’t, and, please, ladies and gentlemen, don’t take give the wrong way. I’m not looking for a handout. And if you check a lot of these organizations waiting lists, these individuals are not looking for a handout, because if they were looking for a handout they wouldn’t be on the waiting list trying to get in to something that’s going to help them better their lives. That’s not what – we’re looking for opportunity. So get giving us something us something confused with opportunity. That’s what we’re looking for, that’s what I needed, was an opportunity. But I was determined. Regardless of what it is that I am going through, what I’m facing, if I had to live, be homeless under a bridge, I was not going to commit another crime, because I knew as long as I’m free something’s going to happen, some good opportunity, some good fortune, somebody out of their good graces is going to give me an opportunity to prove myself, and that’s what happened. And look at me. I’m excelling. I’m excelling in so many different areas, from publishing to motivational speaking to writing plays, directing plays, to going into schools, speaking at, giving a commencement speech, or speaking to honor roll students. I’m literally affecting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people’s lives directly and indirectly, and if you look at the social media it’s millions. And so I have been a contribution to society than I have ever been as a criminal.

Len Sipes: And you know what? I’ve interviewed hundreds of people caught up in the criminal justice system by these microphones and on television, hundreds. Yet you can’t overcome the newspaper talking about the ex-felon committing the crime, you can’t get beyond what they’re watching on the evening news. You get a steady barrage of people caught up in the criminal justice system going out there and doing terrible things.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: That’s what it is I think that we’re trying to overcome when we’re talking about support for reentry programs. The overwhelming majority of the news is negative.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Not everybody hears Lamont Carey speaking passionately about reentry every day.

Lamont Carey: Right, right. And, again, it goes – I mean there are individuals that’s committing crimes, and it seems that the media pounces on that he was an ex-offender, he was a former offender, or whatever the titles may be, but where’s the good stories of the individuals in that state who have added more good to that community than have taken away? Because all of the returning citizens, ex-offenders that I know that are doing good things are affecting thousands of lives –

Len Sipes: Right.

Lamont Carey: And nobody’s writing about that. No news is flashing that in comparison to those that come out and commit other crimes. I know it’s happening, ladies and gentlemen. I know people are coming home and they’re committing other crimes. But just compare that to, figure out from the day that they came home what have they tried to do up until that point. A lot of people, again, I’m not unique, but a lot of people aren’t as determined or as committed to success as I am. Some people run into enough walls that they just completely give up and they revert back to what they know.

Len Sipes: Final minutes of the program. So I hear family, I hear society, I hear government, I hear a need for programs, I hear a need for understanding. If you put all that on the table, if you put all that on a table, everything that people are looking for from the reentry perspective, you put it all on the table, what happens?

Lamont Carey: You put it all on the table and pushes it through I bet you that you will see a drastic change in recidivism. But this, not just outside the gate, it has to begin behind those prison walls, it has to, because you just can’t wait until we come out and then try to create a plan for us when we’ve already created a plan for ourselves. But the biggest that I think is missing, Leonard, is that they don’t, nobody asks us really what it is that we want to do. They always give suggestions or they say, “This is what we’re offering.” Leonard, I was never going on a construction site and breaking no bricks, that was never my goal. I was coming home to be an entrepreneur, Leonard. And so by me coming home and pursuing that and accomplishing that, Leonard, I’m thriving, Leonard. And I think if you create the kind of programs that individuals want, not what we think they should have like we’re kids, but what we need, what we think we need for us to succeed, and I guarantee you, you will see the recidivism rate drop.

Len Sipes: And every governor in this country is, they’re dismayed by all the money going into corrections –

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: Because they’re saying, “I don’t have the money for roads, I don’t have the money for schools, I don’t have the money for the elderly.” So that would cut back on the correctional budget tremendously.

Lamont Carey: Right.

Len Sipes: It would be a win-win across the board, less crime, less burden on taxpayers.

Lamont Carey: I agree.

Len Sipes: You have people living more productive lives.

Lamont Carey: Agreed.

Len Sipes: So in the final seconds of the program, why aren’t we there?

Lamont Carey: It’s we’re not there because we’re not willing to take a chance on previous offenders.

Len Sipes: And I think we’re going to have to close with that. Lamont Carey, President of LaCarey Enterprises,, I really appreciate you being on the program, Lamont. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

Crime Victim Rights in the US-NOVA

Crime Victim Rights in the US-NOVA

A Constitutional Amendment for Victim Rights

National Organization for Victim Assistance

DC Public Safety Radio

Radio show available at

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones ladies and gentlemen Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trinova N O V A .org talking about victim’s rights in the United States. Before we hit the record button there is a whole laundry list of things that we’re talking about, number one if you’ve been listening to the show at all, that you know the NOVA is trying to do a constitutional amendment, the United States constitutional amendment to better protect victim’s rights. We’re also going to be talking about the limitations of incarceration, and the possibility of a holistic approach  as to involving victims credentialing, and what NOVA is doing to bring people into, up to speed I suppose in terms of making sure that they have the skills necessary to be victim’s advocates. A BJS report from the Department of Justice talking about the harm, the tremendous harm documented by victims of crime and the final question, whether or not victims of crime, and the issues of victims of crime has lessened in impact in the last couple of years, as we shift over to a conversation about incarceration, Will Marling welcome back to DC Public Safety.

WILL MARLING: Thank you Len, always a pleasure, always a pleasure.

LEONARD SIPES: Will, give us an update in terms of the United States constitutional amendment to better protect victims of crime.

WILL MARLING: Well thanks, we’ve been working in the 113th congress, which is the one, it is just coming to a close now, post-election, that covers men and women, as well as of course, or really in the lame duck period now as we conclude the year. But for the past two years, which is the length of congressional session, we have been working hard to educate legislators, particularly on the House of Representatives side, to understand this need for victim’s rights. In 33 states, crime victim’s rights are inculcated in the state constitutions, but that leaves 17 states without, and that means that there is not a constitutional amendment. I will also admit that even among the 33 states, it’s not as consistent as we might want it to be. So we recognize the need for a United States constitutional amendment to address victim’s rights. In the context of the last two years, we have been working very hard to educate those congressional leaders, particularly on the House side, to understand this need, and to focus on it. The challenges have been abundant, just with Congress itself, but just as an average there are roughly 20, to 25,000 bills introduced into a congressional session of two years. Between 2% and 4% of those pass, of course many of those bills are symbolic, everybody recognizes that, but at the same time, the math on that shows you that legislation itself is a real challenge. Then when we’re talking about moving it to the level of a United States constitutional amendment that, of course, ups the ante tremendously.

LEONARD SIPES: Constitutional amendments were made by our founding fathers, to be difficult. But the constitution as a living breathing document is susceptible to change. It does change, it has changed, but it’s not that easy to get a change in terms of the United States Constitution.

WILL MARLING: Well that’s exactly right, you have to have that two thirds in the house, and two thirds in the senate, and then three quarters of the known states. The only reason I say it that way, is back when the constitution was ratified by that same process, 13 colonies, 13 states had to do that. So three quarters of 13 states had to pass an amendment. Well now when you’re talking 50 states, you know there’s a lot more to that, and of course a lot more legislators that are representing, particularly in the House side, because we’ve always had two representatives in the Senate side from each state. So the math on that is the intriguing thing, but also the environment orient people don’t really understand that victims don’t have rights. It’s an assumption that victims should have rights, they’re at the core of the criminal justice process, people believe, but in reality the justice system is the system that’s working out its own form of justice, and that can be cumbersome.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s set the stage here so people understand that the United States Constitutional amendment would apply to federal crimes, not necessarily state crimes, but the assumption is, for those 17 states without any victim protections at all, in terms of their own constitutions. The assumption is that if there’s a federal US constitutional amendment to protect victims of crimes, the rest of the states will fall in line, probably if it’s done at the federal level.

WILL MARLING: Yes the United States Constitution trumps basically state constitutions in that we recognize from the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments that that will still apply to every citizen. So it can— a state constitution can be argued for affirming somebody’s rights, but the end of the day it’s going to be the United States Constitution that represents the extensive rights that the Supreme Court for instance is going to judge. So we’re just suggesting that, just like those accused in a given state of a crime, they can appeal to the United States Constitution for a number of rights, up to 23 perspective rights. We just want victims to have an affirmation of rights themselves, they don’t even need 23, but the dignity, the respect, the right to information, the right to protection, those can be part of the United States Constitution as well to protect them.

LEONARD SIPES: Yes and I don’t want to bore the audience in terms of technicalities, but the Bill of Rights, or search and seizure, the right to remain silent, they were at one time, only applied to federal crimes, the nationalization of the Bill of Rights, came gradually through a wide variety of Supreme Court cases, beginning back at the beginning of the 20th century. So if there was a federal constitutional amendment, I’m assuming that the same process would hold that they apply to federal crimes, not necessarily the state crimes, they could eventually apply to state crimes, through a nationalization of this particular amendment. Am I right or wrong?

WILL MARLING: Well fair enough Len, I mean you know I’m not a constitutional lawyer for sure, but I think the precedent that we all discuss among my friends who are lawyers, and trying to imbue these rights for victims of crime, would reflect that precedent exists. That a state individual accused now can truly appeal by precedent at the very least, to federal rights as a United States citizen. That’s what we would anticipate would happen, yes it would take time to go through a process, but we anticipate that that’s exactly what would happen.

LEONARD SIPES: But it would set the stage in terms of a national standard for protecting victim’s rights?

WILL MARLING: Yes you know I love that, I love the way you said that, that is really, that’s good.

LEONARD SIPES: There you go. So we have a change in Congress now, does that help you, or hurt you, or it’s just a slog to sit down with the individual members and their staff, and to go through what a United States Constitutional amendment to protect victim’s rights would mean?

WILL MARLING: Great question, strategically, in terms of the discussion at this point, I think we look at it, and we say well it doesn’t hurt. Now you know, the House and the Senate are now controlled by one party, and we were working with the House, that was controlled by the Republican side, and looking to educate them. Now, with the Senate controlled by the Republican side that can make for greater continuity. The work really comes down to educating all members of both sides of Congress into the importance of this issue, the value that it represents, and the deep reasons we should have it. I mean very few people will believe we ought to amend the Constitution with any frequency, and I would be one of those. At the same time there are good reasons to amend the Constitution, and I would suggest, with even some simple research you can see that victim’s rights would be one of those reasons. The long standing impact would be very positive for our society.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so the bottom line behind the effort to create a constitutional amendment for victim’s rights, is that it’s an ongoing process, and probably will be an ongoing process for the next year or two.

WILL MARLING: That’s exactly right, we’re going to be looking obviously into the next congressional session, trying to build on what we’ve established here in this one. Learning from that but also seeing the opportunities as we move forward.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay let me shift gears for a couple of seconds because the larger question before we get into this debate on the limitations of incarceration and the need as you said it, in terms of a holistic approach. Is a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics from the United States Department of Justice, the statistical arm of the US Department of Justice. They did a piece of research on victimization, and come to find that in terms of serious victimization, that the harm, both the psychological and financial harm to those victims were profound. If memory serves me correctly that 80% were talking about the devastating impact of being a victim of violent crime, and what it meant to them, again psychologically, and emotionally, and financially. So there’s no doubt, it simply quantifies what we’ve been talking about for decades, is the fact that violent victimization has an immense impact on American citizens.

WILL MARLING: Yes there’s no question, now I haven’t seen the report that you’re referencing and I’m looking forward to doing just that. This is something that we have known at the very least by anecdotal testimony of victims, 30 years ago when President Reagan’s taskforce for victim’s of crime, toured the country interviewing people, they had that same conclusion anecdotally that the long term impact of the losses created by violence specifically, and other levels of harm I would say. They ripple through our society, they touch a lot of people, but they affect us financially. I mean the losses from workplace violence alone, are measured in billions of dollars. Loss of productivity, insurance claims, disability claims, and so on. So we need to address remediation on the backside, no question, we need to support people who have been harmed. My contention Len as you bring this up, is that discussing victim’s right on the front end, and raising the profile of those needs, at a societal constitutional level, begins to put it on people’s radar, their awareness to say, okay people have rights. Just like with many other rights that are inculcated, through civil rights and so on, we say, okay this actually gives me a new awareness. I need to be thinking about that, and I need to be respecting and reflecting on those rights that victim’s of crime should have.

LEONARD SIPES: But the idea here is that there’s a possibility that victim’s rights seems to be diminishing in the minds of a variety of people. I’m not the first person who brings that observation to the table, because we get into the other issue were are going to talk about today, the whole idea that what we need is a limitation on incarceration. That we over incarcerate, that there are probably a good two dozen groups out there with very prestigious names behind them, who are talking about less incarceration. The fact that we over incarcerate and every governor in the country is probably talking to his or her correctional administrator and saying, look we’re spending way too much on corrections. You’ve got to bring down the bill, I don’t have the money to build roads, I don’t have the money to build schools, I don’t have the money to do the different things that we want to do, because so much of it is going towards correction. So I’m hearing fiscal issue, I’m hearing what I believe some people would consider to be a moral issues, in terms of the fact that we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. I’m not hearing much about victims of crime, that’s why I brought up the BJS report, is that it documents strongly what happens to victims of violent crime. Our experience, my experience, your experience is that there are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of victims of non-violent crime, where it becomes a life changing experience. So if this is all true, and if it’s having this devastating impact on people who are victims of crime. Why isn’t the conversation at a level that it was ten, 15, 20 years ago?

WILL MARLING: Well you know another great question that you pose. I would say 20 to 25 years ago when there was little discussion about any of this, in fact there was little awareness about the needs of victims of crime. People — we had kind of evolved in our society into this debt against society kind of motif that we built up in the early part of the founding of this country. We had adopted that, so if I commit a crime against somebody, it’s actually a debt to society. So how do I pay my debt to society? I do my penitence by going to a petitionary, that’s actually the historic route. Well the early stages of the victim’s rights movement and the victim’s rights and services movement was recognized, hey wait a minute, it’s got to be more than just state versus the perpetrator, where are the victims? That really catalyzed a lot of changes, today we have compensation programs in every state, and we have a lot of victim services, and as I mentioned, state constitutional amendments for victim’s rights. It’s like so many things, I think the cycle has waned a little bit, the energy, even from our movement to recognize, wait a minute, our work’s not done. Then also other truly pressing needs, like this over incarceration issue, that many of us even in the victim side recognize. If you’re going to incarcerate everybody for so many things, then the seriousness that should be reflected in incarceration for crimes that deeply and profoundly traumatize and hurt people, that they’re minimized in some sense, almost. It’s the classic, if I only have a hammer then everything is a nail. That’s what we’re trying to reorient, that’s why this kind of holistic commitment to saying, wait a minute let’s look at the process more holistically. We need to take a longer term approach than just a congressional season to fix these things. I’m personally a proponent, I’m not speaking for anybody in particular, but I’m a proponent of looking at a ten year strategy, to bring about, to analyze, to look, to bring together all the players in these processes. Including the people that are critical of over incarceration and other things, and say okay what, upon what do we agree? There are things at the center in this society that the average reasonable person agrees with the other reasonable person, even though they might be on different sides of a political aisle, or an issue aisle. We just need to have that conversation, and it needs to be facilitated rather than creating these caricatures of other people and labels quite frankly. I’ve gone into the social science here, but that’s a little bit, to me what needs to happen.

LEONARD SIPES: Well let me reintroduce you Will before we continue the conversation, ladies and gentlemen, we’re more than halfway through the show. Show examining victim’s rights in the United States, Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, is by our microphones once again, National Organization for Victim Assistance has been around for a long time. I can remember years ago, being a member of the criminal justice system when NOVA called you, your organization was going to be held accountable. We all had great respect for NOVA, but going back to the holistic approach, I do get the sense that victim’s rights seems to have dropped off the radar screen, considerably. I like your idea of a holistic approach, as long as victims of crime are part and parcel to that holistic approach.

WILL MARLING: Yes I agree, why can’t they be, there are a lot of people on the ground who have been doing this work for 30 years, 40 years. Those folks should be brought to bear to this discussion. I don’t mean just the victim’s movement, there are a lot of people in the victim’s movement. NOVA’s the oldest victim assistance organization of its kind in the nation. Then there are folks who have been working on the incarceration issues and needs of the incarcerated, and post release issues, and we all generally tend to respect that. We’re talking about human beings, but how can we then address the needs and the priorities, and part of my other reflection on the diminishing impact for victim’s rights. Len I would say it’s maybe not as much that victim’s rights have been diminished, as much as just other voices have now become more popular. As you described it the physical impact of building more and more prisons, and dealing with incarceration issues, simply has taken hold, because state’s budgets are so impacted in profound ways by that. That causes governors and their accountants to turn around and say, hey wait a minute, how are we going to fix this, how are we going to solve it? I personally don’t think we should just throw out justice principles, and say well what’s the cheapest way we can get this done? At the same time can we ask ways for appropriate, cost effective, but also evidence approach, evidence appropriate ways to really address, justice, crime and victim advocacy in our society.

LEONARD SIPES: Before hitting the record button you were talking about delineating levels of harm, because the question was, okay if we’re going to decide to take individuals and not put them in prison. If we’re going to agree that we have over incarcerated, we do have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The governors are complaining about the cost of the budget, people do believe that this is a moral issue. Then fine, if we go along with that, then who doesn’t go to prison? Who are those people? So you introduced this concept of level of harm, that there’s got to be some delineation that a person who comes to the table, who has committed a violent crime. Let’s say it’s aggravated assault, but let’s say it’s two brothers, and let’s say one hits the other over the head with a beer bottle, which is an aggravated assault it’s with a weapon. But neither brother has an extensive criminal history, does that person go to prison? I mean there comes a point where it does— you start having to slice it and dice it at that level, do you not?

WILL MARLING: Well you do, here’s where I would bring in a slight philosophical issue that becomes very practical. This is the victim’s side movement where we can engage but then we need to recognize realities. Let’s use the example of, a horrible example unfortunately of a homicide. When somebody is murdered in this country, that is an infinite loss to most loved ones, surviving family members, surviving friends. What the justice system by necessity has to do is immediately put a price tag on that. So what is that infinite life worth? It’s worth 25 to life or something like that right? So what we miss in this is really helping calibrate victim’s expectations that the infinite is not going to be reclaimed by a finite system. It is our best attempt to reflect what we consider to be the value of a person’s life, and the justice commencer it with their violation of another human being. That’s why I say it’s levels of harm. I think there are ways, not perfect, that we can look and say, okay what is the harm that’s caused? Recognize that and then yes it’s going to have to have tangible price tags to it. Sometimes what’s missing is that there are profound issues of crime in our society that create harm, and we’re say they’re not violent. Therefore they’re not as harmful, and I would just suggest to you, because we take toll free victim assistance calls, and people calling for help. That those can be profoundly devastating, and in some ways are more devastating than what we might say is that violent crime, like the assault that you gave, the two brothers. Well what about the older couple, who have everything stolen from them through a data breach, or maybe some other nefarious way, and now they’re completely impoverished, they don’t have a wait to sustain themselves, they might end up on some kind of support system. The level can be profound there to the point that we’ve had people that have taken their lives because they simply can’t cope with that loss. So our examples obviously are pretty simple, but they’re still real, as we think about the impact.

LEONARD SIPES: The examples are real, they’re simple but drop back, you could have, and I’ve encountered all throughout my career, individuals who have been victimized by a property crime, who are profoundly affected by that. I’m preaching to the choir when I’m saying this to you, okay so they came into their house and they stole something off the porch, or they stole something out of the garage. There are people who move based upon that, destroy the character of a neighborhood, take away tax dollars from a city. There are people who are suddenly frightened and the idea of somebody either in their house, or near their house, this is a profoundly moving event for them. So the question becomes, once you start measuring the degree of harm, that I think really begins to put things into perspective, and makes the conversation a lot muddier in terms of who goes to prison and who doesn’t. If you psychologically damage people to the point where they hurt an entire community, by withdrawing from that community, you’ve done something pretty bad.

WILL MARLING: Yes you have.

LEONARD SIPES: But at the same time you can’t put everybody in prison.

WILL MARLING: Well that’s right and that doesn’t mean the result for everybody should be prison. What I would suggest at the risk of sounding like I’m speaking for victims which I don’t do, we try to empower victims individually, to extend their voice. What I would suggest though is they need options, victims need options for remediation number one, but also for support and validation in these things. Sometimes even just the simple acknowledgment by the justice system, we do recognize that this is a profound loss, we can’t reclaim that loss for you, but we respect you and we acknowledge that yes, a lot was lost in this. You, your neighbors, your society, community and so on. Even there the whole issue of victim’s rights isn’t in view, we’re not even using that kind of language. Just like when we think we need to respect another person civilly, there’s civil rights, why? Because they’re a human being. We’ve raised that conversation up to a societal level, and do we have Civil Rights violations in our country? Of course every day, but now at least it’s a discussion that people’s rights are violated, as opposed to yes I treat people like this because I’m better than they are, or whatever. That’s what I would suggest can happen with raising the profile of victims and their needs, and then to having a discussion, ask victims.

LEONARD SIPES: Two quick issues, number one, the issue is that I’ve never heard within the victim’s community animosity towards rehabilitation programs, towards reentry programs, towards changing the criminal justice system, towards less incarceration, most of the people that I’ve talked to, including you and other people from the victim’s community, seem to be willing to have that discussion. They simply want to be part of that discussion, which gets us right back to the constitutional amendment for victim’s rights.

WILL MARLING: Yes, no you’re exactly right I would say that most people, sensible folk, who’ve gone through things, have suffered at the hands of another. They understand that there are limitations to the changes that post incarceration issues, and all of these things. They just want to help inform people’s thinking about what that could look like, and that is a very reasonable consideration. People are scared of victims because many times when they see a victim whose suffered harm, they see them immediately afterwards, and the expressions of emotion, of anger, of angst, and so on, are very present, and very prominent. You know I always say commonly, if a person was sensible before their victimization, they’re sensible after their victimization, they’re just a lot more informed and aware about what that kind of victimization looks like for them personally.

LEONARD SIPES: Well the — I think that both of us agree that the level of discourse needs to be raised in terms of including a victim. So that’s the bottom line that’s why we’re looking at the constitutional amendment, that’s why we’re having this conversation. Victims simply want to be at the table, they don’t want to be ignored, they want their voice to be heard, they’re not against change, they understand change, they understand reentry, they understand reentry programs. They simply want to be part of that conversation, and they simply don’t want to be shoved off to the side, is that the bottom line?

WILL MARLING: Yes and I would say thank you Len, as well, because you’re actually helping to include this kind of dialogue and discourse in the context of our conversation. This is what we should be doing, let’s talk out the issues, let’s have a reasonable, sensible conversation, that impacts not just today, and people’s society today, but I got kids, and I’m thinking about how all these things will impact them as adults, and the posterity for the future.

LEONARD SIPES: Well this program goes into an awful lot of college classrooms, not only throughout the country, but throughout the world. We have 150 organizations that pick up this feed automatically and post it on their websites, and I’d say that probably two thirds of those are colleges. So we get involved in a lot of interesting conversations with people who come back to us and say I heard a show on victim’s rights, and we discussed it in the classroom. So that’s all important. So we’re going to go from all of these big issues, in the final minute and a half, two minutes of the program. I do want to get into the fact that you’re still working with the military, you’re still working with the Department of Defense, you’re still doing credentialing, you’re still doing training of individuals to be victim’s reps correct?

WILL MARLING: That’s right, I appreciate the query there, we are focused on best practices and advocacy, and the National Advocate Credentialing Program really reflects that commitment to those standards. We’re working with the Department of Defense and the standards that we have helped them establish for the very same kind of advocacy in the sexual assault victim assistance arena. What I’m very proud of is our network, and this doesn’t just network NOVA it’s the network, this profoundly incredible network of folks that iceberg so to speak, where we’re just the tip. That do this work, day in and day out, reflect the best professional standards, service and compassion, competence and commitment. Those are the three legs of my stool, compassion, competence and commitment, and credentialing reflects that. So I’m very proud of the team that really has joined together as an allied professional network, to say look, we do good work, and these are the standards that we reflect, and these are the best practices that we promote in advocacy.

LEONARD SIPES: Well and advocacy nevertheless the people need to be trained, they need education, they need to know what to do, and how to do it. When you’re dealing with a person who is suffering from the post-traumatic stress of a violent crime, or a property crime, they have to be dealt with in a certain way. So they have to be credentialed and they have to be trained.

WILL MARLING: That’s exactly right, I mean that’s important today to reflect those standards, and those standards in our context do reflect a certain kind of training, experience, background. It doesn’t necessarily require a certain kind of education, but that as well can be acknowledged in the process of credentialing. It’s on the ground ability to serve those people at their worst possible moment, and provide the resources that they need to help them cope and move forward.

LEONARD SIPES: We have been talking today to Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, we all are always appreciative of Will coming on and talking to us. Will thank you,, Ladies and gentlemen this DC Public Safety, we appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

DC Public Safety Radio-Podcast


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LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Our show today ladies and gentleman Information Sharing Between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, back at our microphones is Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, and we have Yogesh Chawla. He is an Information Sharing Specialist with SEARCH and the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. The website for SEARCH is Adam, welcome back. Yogesh, welcome to our microphones at DC Public Safety.

ADAM MATZ: It is great to be back.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Thanks it great to be here Len.

LEONARD SIPES: Well it is great to have both of you. Adam, I thank you for doing these shows with the American Probation and Parole Association. Always great shows; some of our more popular shows. All right, we are talking about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement and you wrote an article that is currently being submitted addressing the Offender Transfer Notification Service and I want to start off with establishing some of the definitions that we are dealing with here. Essentially, Adam tell me if I’m right or wrong, we have a prototype program that electronically sends out information on offenders being transferred from one state to another to a law enforcement fusion center and when they get that information they can disseminate that to everybody else in that law enforcement fusion center or in that state correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that is correct. The information exchange project: APPA American Probation and Parole Association has been working with SEARCH who is the technical partner on this particular exchange. We partner with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and what we have done is developed a project where a subset of the state transfers, folks deemed potentially dangerous, whenever their transfers are approved and they are ready to be relocated to another state, the idea behind this exchange is that that state will receive notification so that the Fusion Centers in that state will receive notifications of these individuals. And it’s just basic information. And then those fusion center are then able to turn around and distribute that information through their channels to the local law enforcement in that state.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay now we do have and for our none, it is mostly a criminal justice audience, but for the non criminal justice audience I always use the same example to the aid of the mayor of Milwaukee who is looking for information about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement. The states transfer people under supervision to each other all the time and there’s hundreds of thousands of people moving from one state to the other for a wide variety of reasons. That state, through the Interstate Compact, the receiving state must accept this individual and it happens routinely. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay and so the idea is to be sure that law enforcement, through a fusion center, and describe to me what fusion center is.

ADAM MATZ: Yes, the fusion center, the State fusion centers and there is roughly 70 of them across the country but basically after 9-11 there was concern about information sharing across the country and the Department of Homeland Security was a big part of developing these Fusion Centers and they are maintained by the individual states and they are basically responsible for compiling information on various different, it could be criminal, it could be disaster related type of information, compiling that information and making folks in that state aware of those.

LEONARD SIPES: So that was in reaction to the criticism after 9-11 that law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies were not talking to each other.

ADAM MATZ: That’s right, exactly right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So the idea here and the idea behind the article, is that they are pilot testing this in New York State but this is something that’s going to be expanded to the possibility of it being expanded to all the other states throughout the United States?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and in fact the Interstate Compact as you know is national in scope, so it takes care of basically takes care of all the exchanges, for all the transfers for all the states in the country. Now where we are at with this exchange we’ve had a pilot in place with New York State intelligent centre and a New York State Fusion Center to receive notifications of individuals transferring into that state and that can include anyone across the country, any of the other 49 states. And that’s been going on for about a year. Now on average they get basically maybe 10-15 notifications per week.

LEONARD SIPES: This is in New York State?

ADAM MATZ: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, because they are not talking about every offender, they are talking about those deemed to be of most concern; those are the people of the highest risk?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of expand on that, one of the conversation points we had early on, we had work group meetings several years ago on this, was there’s no standardized risk assessment across the country and that was kind of an issue. So we couldn’t really go by a risk level, if you will, because it varies depending on what instrument folks use. So because of standardization what we ended up doing instead was relying on primary offence, NCIC codes – so basically the primary offence, what level that is and the seriousness of that. And we worked with obviously the fusion center in New York to develop that specific list as well.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, so the bottom line behind all of this though, is that this is the program that we are going to be talking about or the issue. The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what we are talking about today but I just want to make it clear to the listeners that the vast majority of information exchange between law enforcement and parole and probation and corrections is done at the local level like here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and for those who don’t know we are a federal agency. We provide parole and probation services to Washington DC. We’re in constant contact with law enforcement anywhere from the FBI to the Secret Service to Housing Authority but principally the Metropolitan Police Department. We’re in touch with them on a daily basis exchanging information. Our parole and probation agents, known here as community supervision officers, are constantly exchanging information with police officers at the street level. So I don’t want to give the opinion or the sense that the bulk of this information exchange happens through this sort of mechanism, that the bulk of information exchange happens at the command level and between individual police officers and parole and probation agents. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of build on that a little bit, you know. and we have had prior shows about police and probation and parole partnerships, and sort of informal information sharing that happens. This exchange is new. There is not any previous sort of attempt to share information like this between the Interstate Compact and the law enforcement, so it is kind of a nice opportunity to kind of automate, because it is automated. There is no manual aspect to it. Once the exchange is established, the information and notifications go out basically as soon as they’re ready. And usually it’s once a week but it is kind of configurable depending on you know the fusion center and how they want to receive it and how they want to disseminate. So there is some flexibility in there as well.

One thing that I want to point out too, is the goals of this exchange in particular. One of the primarily goals of this exchange, from the very beginning, has always been about increasing officer safety, particularly police officer safety and situational awareness. And there is obviously different examples of where maybe law enforcement go into situations where they are not fully prepared or maybe they are not fully aware of the individuals they’re dealing with. So the genesis behind this exchange is twofold. One is officer safety and two, it is really about encouraging more dialogue, more coordination between police and probation and parole agents.

LEONARD SIPES: Which is a good thing. Which is a necessary thing. Yogesh Chawla, I apologize for not getting to you. I am looking down at my time clock and we’re close to 9 minutes in the program and you and I haven’t even talked yet. But let me give something in the article that both of you wrote along with Harry Higman is it and Gloria Brewer. The one example that you provide in this article is a Washington State parolee by the name of Maurice Clemens was involved with the murder of four police officers back in 2009 and your article says, “Still it’s unclear whether such a tragic complicated incident could have been prevented. It was understood that there was a need for greater information sharing between law enforcement and the community corrections.” Do you want to comment on that?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, one thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of the challenges we have with information sharing exchanges is the cost and the scope of them. So one nice thing about this particular project, when we started it, is that we had a national focus in mind. We couldn’t be thinking in silos or in state to state or point to point exchanges. When we built this exchange, we said, “How can we get this information to all 50 states, get all 50 states sending and receiving these offender transfers so we can scale our officer safety, so that it is not just limited to certain jurisdictions?” So what we did is, what we had in mind with this exchange is, in the initial pilot is to build as much functionality as we can and then we’re basically in the process of rolling this out to other states and if states want to receive this information, they can do it at a very low cost. Basically all they’d have to provide is an internet connection and a server which would receive it and then they would be receiving these transfers and once they get them they can disseminate them to their local partners as they wish to do so. So we do have this national scope in mind and cost is a really important thing especially when we are looking to scale out to the entire country.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I have taken up so much of the program just trying to form a base line for the person listening to the program but let me do the final baseline issue, and we’re probably coming close to halfway through the program. Adam, The American Probation and Parole Association is the premier organization in the United States providing information for the rest of us in community supervision, providing us with information and research and guidance in terms of what good parole and probation, what state of the art parole and probation, what evidence parole and probation is correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, give me – you are with, you are an information sharing specialist for the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing and you were also with SEARCH. So give me a sense as to what the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing is, and then give me a sense as to what SEARCH is.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, SEARCH is basically the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. We are a membership based organization and we have representatives from all 50 states and we are non profit and we have been around since 1969. So we have being doing justice information sharing when it was originally done with paper and pen or telephone and we have seen that all the way through to a lot of the advances that we have made with justice information sharing in technology. What we try to do is we try to provide local jurisdictions, states, even national public safety organizations with the tools to do justice information sharing: and that’s planning, design and implementation and support. So if you have a justice information sharing problem we are here to provide a solution basically from point A to point Z and in this specific exchange we partnered up with APPA to provide the technical resources to actually write the software which is doing the exchange here and to do it in such a way, since it is funded by federal grants, in a way that it can be reused in, for example, other exchanges.

At the time this exchange was being written there was also a sex offender exchange which is very similar that was being written where sex offenders move from one state to the other where there could be a notification in place for that or the Adam Walsh Act. So one of the great thing about this project is that not only are we allowing it to scale when we are adding different states to it, we have also created an infrastructure out there nationally so if states want to do information sharing projects in the future there is basically a cloud infrastructure out there. So they have a place to put their information exchanges and we are looking to expand that as other information sharing needs become available.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I go back an awfully long time. I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 45 years, for 35 years in terms of doing media related endeavors for the criminal justice system and I can remember SEARCH from the very beginning of my career and I can remember the American Probation and Parole Association from the very beginning of my career. So I just wanted to give the listeners a sense that I am talking, they are listening to representatives from two organizations that have been around for decades.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright so we are more than half way through the program, are we, no. We are a minute before we get to the half way point, before I reintroduce you. So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what, Yogesh, give me a very brief synopsis of that.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, I’m actually going to throw that question over to Adam he has been very involved with that.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah go ahead.

ADAM MATZ: So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, they obviously, there’s Interstate Compact officers in every state but there is also a sort primarily headquarters if you will that is also in Lexington, Kentucky. APPA partnered with ICAOS to develop this exchange. It is obviously to support their work. It is all the data we are talking about is ICAOS, ICAOS data.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s stay away from acronyms again, if we could, for the general audience. The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah the Interstate Compact. Basically they are the ones that facilitate the transfers of probation and parolees across state lines.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and we are talking about, I said hundreds of thousands, I was wrong because I am looking at the article itself, we are talking about 150,000 transfers a year from one state to the other?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah, and since there is such a volume of transfers 150,000 you know as we stated before, we are focusing just on the high risk offenders here.

LEONARD SIPES: Right okay let me reintroduce both of you because I find this to be a fascinating program. The concept of information sharing between parole and probation and corrections and law enforcement, we have two people. Back at our microphone Adam Matz, Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. is the website for the American Probation and Parole Association. Yogesh Chawla is an information sharing specialist for the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing or SEARCH Both Adam and Yogesh and two other people put together an article that is currently being considered for national publication talking about using information technology to share information about high risk offenders as they move from one state to the next. Again, with the idea that most of this information exchange does occur on a day to day basis between law enforcement and parole and probation agencies and correctional agencies and that happens automatically, but this is really exciting because what we have here with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offenders Supervision is the idea that we can eventually bring every state in the United States into this concept. It’s being field tested with the State of New York, bring every state in there. So all high risk offenders, when they are being transferred from one state to the other, they don’t fall through the cracks. Law enforcement is notified through something called a fusion center and that fusion center distributes that information to all other law enforcement agencies in the states correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, that’s right and just to kind of chat on that a little bit. We are kind of using the term “high risk” but that is kind of used loosely. As I mentioned before there is no standardizes risk assessment across the country so I think probably the best way to refer to it would be “potentially high risk or potentially dangerous.”

LEONARD SIPES: Based upon the crime that they are being supervised for.

ADAM MATZ: Correct yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so the goal of the information sharing is officer safety and public safety, right?

ADAM MATZ: That’s correct and it is also to encourage more partnerships, more collaboration between police and probation and parole. I also want to throw in real quick. This project is funded by the Bureau of Justice, funded by the Department of Justice and those incidents like the Maurice Clemmons case, those are kind of the incidents that help kind of bring this to the attention at a national level and that is really what kind of created the genesis for this kind of exchange and all this work that we are doing so I wanted to plug that in there too.

LEONARD SIPES: Now you have here NIEM, what does National Information EM stand for.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure you know in the technical arena we often run into lots of acronyms and one of the things that the US DOJ and the Bureau of Justice Assistance provided was something called the global reference architecture. Many times, as IT practitioners, it seems like we are speaking a language but then when we speak to each other we are also speaking a different language. And what we really saw a need for in the justice arena and in the information sharing arena just in general, was the need for standards and standardization and the Global Reference Architecture really provided that. One of the building blocks for that is called The National Information Exchange model and that is basically the vocabulary that we use to talk to each other. When we’re defining what an offender is, an offender obviously has a first name, a last name, an address that they are going from, an address they are going to and what the National Information Exchange model allows us to do is to package these up into, the language its built on it is called XML, some of the tech people out there might know that but it allows us to package this up and allows us to basically speak the same language.

So if computer A and computer B are talking to each other, they are both speaking with the same language and same vocabulary and what you can do with this is, for example, right now we are using this specific exchange for offender transfer notifications. However, if you wanted to use this same information in a different way you wouldn’t need to go and reprogram everything, you can say, “Hey, we have this offender transfer profile that we have developed here how else can we use it? Would we like to use it to create more statistics? Would we like to use this to, you know, for a web portal so people can go search around and see who is moving into their neighborhood, things like that?” When you use NIEM and you use the Global Reference Architecture the whole purpose of it is to reduce cost and to take one exchange that you write and make it applicable for multiple purposes. That way every time we need to do something new in IT we are not going back and asking for more money to write something new. So BJA has been very instrumental in leadership and developing the Global Reference Architecture and that was the building blocks for the exchange that we have developed here.

LEONARD SIPES: But that has always been the problem for SEARCH across the board, because you know, you are dealing with 50 states and in some of our information systems that we have created, it goes way beyond 50 states. It goes into every law enforcement agency, every parole and probation agency. So there has to be an architecture that is common to almost every jurisdiction out there and that they understand and can be properly maintained so the entire country can talk to each other instantaneously if necessary. I mean that is the heart and soul behind SEARCH, I would imagine throughout the decades, is building those architectures that work from one criminal justice agency to another.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Absolutely, absolutely, and that is really instrumental here. And you know a couple of things I want to point out. I just want to give the listeners here a concrete example of what we are talking about. When we’re exchanging this information, this information all goes over the internet so there is a certain level of security that we need. Obviously we want to use encryption so anything that goes across the wire, no one can read it. You know we don’t want, you know if you read about a lot of these credit card breaches and what not, you know a lot of this encrypted information gets out there. The other thing we want to do is we want to digitally sign every message so if somebody takes one little piece of the message, they try to change the offenders name or the risk profile, that message would get rejected. The other thing we do is we put a time stamp on a message so it is only valid for a very short period of time. Now if you look at these requirements that we have right here, trying to get everyone to decide on how to program these specific things would be very difficult to do unless we had a reference architecture. So the Reference Architecture provides us guidance and says hey, “If you want to time stamp your messages, this is how you would want to do it. If you want to encrypt your messages this is how you would do it. If you want to sign your messages this is how you would do it.”


YOGESH CHAWLA: And the nice thing about it, it’s built on already existing IT standards. So it provides us a clearing house, a place where we can look to say, “Okay here are our requirements. How do we do this in the justice arena?”

LEONARD SIPES: Adam so you are pilot testing this in the state of New York how is that pilot test been going

ADAM MATZ: The pilot test has been great. We implemented it, I believe it was September of last year, so September 2013. We only have had a few maybe technical hiccups but very minor little issues and basically it’s been automated for practically a year. We have been keeping tabs on basically how many notifications would go to other states if they were connected. So we have some data on that as well it sort of helps us priorities. One thing I want to mention too, with that pilot, in that we did do just a few small interviews with a couple of different jurisdictions in New York to kind of get a sense of how is the information is used, is it helpful and one of the things I will note is that most folks agree pretty unanimously that the information is great, it’s helpful. We mentioned a little bit about local partnerships and information being shared. Now in some cases that’s true. There is some of this information being shared already. What’s kind of interesting though, is from the comments I got, a lot of times that information was isolated to just that jurisdiction. What they like about this notification is they get information about people going across the state. Not only that, they get a little bit more information. So this information exchange includes pictures with it. Those are types of extra elements that they are not getting already at the local level. So not only is it great nationally but also builds on any sort of local information sharing.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s important, again, because what we are talking about is a) expanding this from New York to every other states through, I am assuming, funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the US Department of Justice which is right up the street from me, and the possibility of using this for other endeavors, correct ? Or have we gone that far?

YOGESH CHAWLA: We’re currently in talks with four or five states right now who are really excited about this. And you know and when we brought up the existing pilot and the level of effort [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:07] a lot of the states are really happy to hear that. Based off the work that we have done in New York we can basically just take what we have in New York and basically just drop it onto their server and they should be able to connect it at a very low cost and that allows us to scale the grant money that we have left as well and that was one of the advantages of using the Global Reference Architecture. So if there are any listeners out there who are working in local law enforcement or who work at a fusion center or are working in information sharing in a state you are looking for a very simple project, a very easy win and a very easy way to provide additional information to your local law enforcement for public safety, this would be a really good exchange at looking at joining since the cost is so low and since you can see results so quickly.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, I would image in terms of any information sharing across state lines, that they would automatically go to SEARCH considering the fact that SEARCH has been around for a decade. What else could the system is used for?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, just to build on that a little bit. The Interstate Compact actually, right now the focus is obviously sharing information with law enforcement but the Interstate Compact may find other uses for this or other means of sharing information with other organizations like the courts and so on and so forth. So there might be more application for this for the Interstate Compact than what we are currently using it now even though our focus is fairly specific at the moment.

LEONARD SIPES: Uh huh. But I mean the idea of people at a, I’m sorry I don’t know how else to put it, at a certain risk level – I know we are not using an objective risk instrument to judge risk, but if you are transferring, if a person is transferred from Nabraska to Maryland and the person has a homicide charge, that sort of person is something that the State of Maryland is going to want to know about.

ADAM MATZ: Exactly, yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so the idea here is that instead of just going to Baltimore and Baltimore and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation sharing that with Baltimore police well that offender can easily go across state, I mean county lines, four or five counties away and so that is the beauty of not just local information sharing between local police and local parole and probation officers, that is the beauty of sharing of it through the fusion center so the entire state is notified that George Smith, who was convicted of homicide but now he is going to be supervised in the state of Maryland – and we do want to do this by the way, for the casual person listening to this we do want people to go through the Interstate Compact and be transferred from one state to the other because we don’t want that person taking off on their own. We do want that person, if that person has a legitimate reason to be in that other state for family or for job or for whatever reason, if they have a legitimate reason for being in that other state we want them supervised. Thus the Interstate Compact, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and the other really nice thing about the way that this exchange is set up and the information is being shared is that along with each of those individuals, the information and it’s just the basic information about who they are and where they are located and what they, you know if there is gang affiliation and those kind of things; it doesn’t include all their background. It doesn’t include that. It is just very specific you know. Here is an individual who is coming in and here is where they are going. And it also includes the contact information for the supervising officer, if that’s a probation or parole officer which is great.

LEONARD SIPES: So they can get the information they need because if a county, I am going to use the state of Maryland again, if a county three counties away from Baltimore City where that person is going to live suddenly has, if a sex offender has been transferred and suddenly starts getting sex offender sort of crimes and they have no leads, maybe a call to that parole and probation agent asking for information about that person and does he have any contact with my particular county, may be a good call.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what we are hoping that this exchange will do. It will make folks aware, so obviously increase situational awareness, but we really want to encourage that dialogue.

LEONARD SIPES: And dialogue is the heart and soul in terms of the exchange of information between law enforcement and corrections and parole and probation and you have got about five seconds. Right?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah great and what we are really looking to do is just to get additional fusion centers and additional states connected. So once again if you represent a state and you would like to get this information, please go ahead and get in touch with us at either or as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen we are doing a show today on information sharing between parole and probation corrections and law enforcement. Adam Matz and Yogesh Chawla has been by our microphones. We really appreciate both of you being here. Ladies and gentlemen we really appreciate you listening to DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate you criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

DC Public Safety Radio

See radio program at

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentleman domestic violence is the topic of our program today, domestic violence in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month for the month of October. We have two people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency with us today to talk about their supervision and treatment process regarding domestic violence individuals. We have Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countiss. He is again the Community Supervision Officer – what other organizations call Parole and Probation Agents. Again he is with the Domestic Violence Program, Intervention Program here at The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, our website to Princess and to Marc welcome to DC Public Safety.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Thank you for having us.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright this is really important. I mean you all deal with people who have been adjudicated as somehow, some way a court has said you need to supervise this individual and that person has put this person on probation and says that you all need to both treat and supervise this individual and keep the victim safe. Do I have that right?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and do we involve people coming out of the prison system who are either on probation or mandatory supervision? Do we have, are they involved in the Domestic Violence Unit?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, that’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so again we have parolees, we have people who are mandatorily released which means that they have served their time 85% and now they are out and we have probationers. So we have a wide variety of people. What do we have, about 30 employees doing this?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and we have how many teams, that’s broken into how many teams.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: They are broken into four teams. So there are three supervision teams and then there is one treatment team.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, we have a lot of the people who are being supervised and treated in the Domestic Violence Unit. Correct?



LEONARD SIPES: Okay, tell me about it. Tell me about your experiences. I mean domestic violence is a very important topic to me. I remember as a young police officer, an awfully long time ago, dealing with domestic violence issues and it scared me half to death. I mean I have never seen my parents fight. My first case involving domestic violence we rode up and there was a woman who answered the door, a neighbor called. She didn’t call and her face was like twice its size. Her husband beat her with a frying pan and I was just floored, I was just appalled over this vicious act against people who supposedly love each other. I have gone to other cases where a man was firing bullets into the wall with his wife on the other side of it. I mean domestic violence is a real issue. It is an insidious issue. It is something that impacts way too many American families. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes this is correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it; tell me about your experiences. How long have you been doing it Princess?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so, I have been here at CSOSA for eight years. I have been on the treatment team for two going on three years.

LEONARD SIPES: Were you on the supervision side for domestic violence before you worked for the treatment unit?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: I was for five years.

LEONARD SIPES: For five years, so you have been, your entire experience has been involved in domestic violence, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Right tell me about that. What are your feelings? You have eight years supervising at this point. You have come into direct contact with thousands of people involved in domestic violence cases, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about them.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so initially it can be a bit overwhelming. Folks come in with different belief systems and it is our job to penetrate those different belief systems. It is our job to help them and arm them with tools that they need in order for them to have healthy relationships. And so part of that is providing them with information about respect, accountability, boundaries, making sure that they are aware of their behaviors. You know domestic violence is something that can be intergenerational you know, it can be something that they witnessed as a child and so therefore they are mimicking the same behaviors that they had seen as children and no one has challenged them to change their behavior. The environments that they surround themselves in also perpetuate that same type of behavior. So it’s our job to give them the information that they need to make changes and have positive and healthy relationships.

LEONARD SIPES: For a lot of individuals Marc, on community supervision that we deal with, for the first time, in many cases for the first time in their lives they’re being told that they can’t do this.

MARC COUNTISS: That is correct. Because as Princess said, a lot of times when we talk about domestic violence, we are talking about something that is a learned behavior, where individuals have gone through different generations learning that and feeling that violence is acceptable and it’s appropriate and this is probably the first time that many of our offenders have been told that this behavior is inappropriate and the fact is, it’s not going to be accepted or tolerated.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is very difficult for a lot of them to accept because they have grown up in households where they have seen domestic violence. They see that as normal. They don’t see it as abnormal. They see it as normal behavior, the right to strike your wife or the right to strike your husband is a normal action that there is nothing wrong with it.

MARC COUNTISS: Right and typically we get a lot of resistance. We get a lot of defenses when individuals come to us for services because it goes against their core really. It goes against the belief systems and our challenge is to dispute these irrational beliefs and show them that there are healthier ways and more appropriate ways of being in a relationship.

LEONARD SIPES: There are times where you have to say, “You can’t do that. You cannot continue this behavior. It is not only wrong, it is not only illegal, it is just flat out unacceptable and you can’t do it.” and I have talked to different people who have worked for our agency throughout the years, again Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and I should remind the audience throughout the country that we are a federally funded parole and probation agency serving Washington DC so that will give people a context in terms of when I say talk to our people. But I have talked to people on the domestic, in the Domestic Violence Unit for years and they have told me that it is very difficult sometimes to get through to the individuals who we supervise. “You can’t do this its wrong and I am going to try to give you the tools that you need to understand how you can respond appropriately to your loved one in the future.” Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And so the beauty of facilitating groups is that there are peer groups and so there are folks in the grope that are just like, you know, they’re all alike in a sense, you know, a lot of them come from the same backgrounds. They have been charged with similar offences, and so when they challenge one another it is authentic. You know it is something that they can appreciate and that they can respect as appose to a facilitator whose life and walks of life and background is quite different from theirs. And so that is the beauty of facilitating a group and allowing the peers in the group to challenge each other and let them know that, you know, what you are doing is wrong and these are ways that you can change things. Yes this is; you know I was arrested for this but these are ways that I can change my behavior. These are some of the things that you can arm yourself with to change your behavior as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we have individuals there who don’t do well under supervision and we do have to talk about the supervision process. One of the things that we here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency are dedicated to is a twofold process of both supervision and assistance. So you guys are in the assistance part of it, in terms of running the groups to try using the Duluth model I think it is which is a nationally understood, nationally known model of dealing with people who are in domestic violence case loads; but at that same time we do supervise them and we do hold them accountable for their behavior. So if there is a court order saying that you have got to stay away from your wife and you have to give, what’s the boundary for a typical protective order for a female involved in domestic violence or a woman, a victim involved in domestic violence, what is it?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: So that person would have to stay 100 feet away from the person, away from the school, child care, home, place of employment. Those are some of the boundaries that they would have.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, okay so we can actually, if we find that they are violating that or coming close to violating that we can put them on GPS tracking, Global Position System Tracking so we can keep track of their whereabouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I am not saying that somebody is looking at a computer monitor but we do come in and look at where he has been and where she has been and we can tell whether or not they are violating that restraining order correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes that’s correct. The GPS is another tool that we can use to help assist us in victim safety. We also do periodic case staffing, if we find that an individual is having difficulty remaining in compliance or following the stay away order so we are always meeting with the offender as well as the victim in the cases to make sure that we are doing what we can to make sure that she remains safe.

LEONARD SIPES: Now it is 90% to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, I am not asking you for exact numbers, but my experience has been 90% of the victims of domestic violence are women. Am I correct, for our particular case load? So we are talking about the overwhelming majority of cases men battering women.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, they could be married. They could be cohabitating, they could be dating but they are intimate with each other. They are not strangers to each other. This is not a stranger to stranger crime. This is the people who do know each other and have had a relationship with each other.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Yes, but I also want to make it clear that we also have female batterers groups and so females are also perpetrators of domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: Right and for those groups we have women who need to be given the same message that they cannot batter. That it is inappropriate and wrong and they can’t do it.


LEONARD SIPES: Do we find that women pick up on this better than the men, worse than the men, same thing.

MARC COUNTISS: I would say both men and women have some of the same belief systems so we have to make sure that we are challenging both those beliefs as well because when you talk about it being learnt behavior sometimes men learn that violence is acceptable as well as women learn the same thing.

LEONARD SIPES: But you know that is the interesting part of this. We are not talking about somebody who decides to commit an act, say, use drugs and its episodic and it happens every once in a while and that is a decision a person makes at 14, 17, 25 whatever. This is ingrained in that individual, in many cases, if not mostly all cases throughout their lives. This is something that is part and parcel to their own personality, part and parcel to their own makeup. So convincing them that this is not something that they can do, should do, convincing them that it is wrong takes a lot of doing does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And it does and we focus a lot on you know, changing that behavior. Talking about the flip side, well it is still the Duluth model but the equality wheel. We talk about respect, accountability. We talk about responsible parenting but we also talk about consequences. You know, the consequences of your actions led you to CSOSA, and so we defiantly talk about, you know, your actions can result in incarceration, can result in you being away from your friends and family that you love and so we defiantly talk about the outcome of your behaviors.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are not going to hesitate, if he violates the order, we go back to the judge. If he provides problems for us or her, if they don’t meet the stipulations of their supervision under our agency, we can take them back to the parole commission, we can take them back to the courts and they can go back to prison or go to prison.


LEONARD SIPES: I mean that’s a very serious consequence if they do not meet their mandate.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay we drug test them as well do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay I’m finding throughout my career that drugs and alcohol are heavily connected, correlated to domestic violence. Am I right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: This is true. A lot of the individuals that come to our program do have histories of alcohol use and drug abuse. However, we have to be very careful when we are looking at this issue of substance abuse because we don’t want to get to a point where we start to rationalize or justify an individual’s behavior and say that this is why they were violent or abusive, because they were on drugs or because they were drinking because it is often times that individuals are drinking and they are not violent or abusive. So we don’t want to give them an excuse to say this is why they became violent.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, but we do drug test them do we not? I mean we do test them for drugs and alcohol and that is often at times can be another factor that we have to deal with in terms of their, shall I say the word recovery. There are adjustments that we have to deal with. There are substance abuse issues, do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so we do either refer them out to other agencies or if they are serious enough we take care of it ourselves here within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. What about mental health problems? Over a third of our case load has had histories of mental health issues. So I am trying to, I guess, provide layers of the complexity of what it is you have to do because you have to deal with mental health issues as well as substance abuse issues, as well as something that they thought was appropriate behavior.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is true, you know, as being on the Domestic Violence Intervention Team we have a treatment program that is specifically geared towards those that have mental health diagnosis and so one of the things that we do, we use the same curriculum but we defiantly take things in a different direction for them based on their mental health illness.

LEONARD SIPES: We are more than half way through the program. We are doing a program today on domestic violence and the way that we do it here in the District of Columbia but it represents efforts from throughout the United States in terms of parole and probation agencies. We have two people by our microphones today: Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer, again, what other agencies, virtually all other agencies in the United States call Parole and Probation Unit that she is with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countess. He is a Community Supervision Officer with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program is the website for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

And we just did a program with the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia on the issue of domestic violence just a couple of weeks ago and I will put in the links to that show as well to give the listeners a comprehensive overview of what we do. We had the judge who was in charge of the Domestic Violence Program for the Superior Court. He was very complementary of CSOSA. Their program is special. They have two intake units throughout the city. They deal with close to 100 cases of domestic violence a day which I found astounding and they work with a lot of agencies including ourselves to try to provide services to individuals because people come to us with employment issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, child care issues and so we try, they and we try to do wrap around services to try to get that individual in as many services as possible to stabilize their situation right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it.

MARC COUNTISS: There has to be a coordinated community response to domestic violence. The courts can’t handle it alone, intervention programs cannot handle it alone, victim servicers programs can’t handle it alone. We have to work in conjunction with each other to make sure that individuals are receiving the services that are necessary.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. Now on a community supervision side again we are, I mentioned GPS before, I mentioned drug testing. We are in constant contact with this individual in the community are we not, on the supervision side?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and so we are going and making home visits, sometimes unannounced home visits. We meet with them in the office so it’s just not you guys who are working on the treatment side, there are people within our agency who are concurrently supervising that person, making sure that they are not engaged in any other nefarious actives out there in the community. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And even on the supervision and treatment side, you know, we make sure that there is a coordinated response when things do happen. While we may not discuss in detail about the group process and what is talked about there, you know if we feel like someone may be in imminent harm or danger we will make contact with the supervision officer and we will have a coordinated effort to make sure that the victim isn’t being re-victimized.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are also working with law enforcement agencies, specifically in our case the Metropolitan Police Department, but there are lots of other law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia, they are the principal, by far, law enforcement agency but we will work with law enforcement agencies to coordinate the response and to pick up intelligent because often at times that law enforcement officer will contact us and say, “You know that person who beat up his wife, I saw him on the corner making noise and obviously he was, you know, drunk and neighbors were complaining so I’m passing that information along to you guys so you can take appropriate action.” That happens as well does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so all the agencies are suppose to be working together to protect the victim and make sure that the offender gets the services he or she needs.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, how do you feel about this, by the way? I am going to ask you the same questions I asked a Superior Court Judge you know, how do you feel after years of dealing with folks in the Domestic Violence Unit? I mean that’s got to take its toll on you personally as members of this agency.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: It does at times but it’s one of those things where you want to make sure that the person who is the perpetrator is getting what he or she needs so that ultimately they can have a healthy family, a healthy life. Making sure that their children even recognize that there has been some changes in Mom and Dad because they have the tools that they need to be successful and be healthy.

LEONARD SIPES: Now I would imagine that an awful lot of these cases, if not the majority of these cases do involve kids, do they not Marc?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes they do.

LEONARD SIPES: Right so you’re talking about a man and a women, we are talking about kids, we are talking about in many cases substance abuse, mental health problems, in some cases joblessness, again we are not making excuses for those people who batter but we are saying these are realities of what it is you have to deal with. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, what we have to do is we have to make sure that when individuals come to our groups that they know that this offence not only impacts them and the victim it also has an impact on their children, it has an impact on society and our community and to let them know that there are healthier ways of managing conflict and dealing with dispute. So it’s an ongoing battle and struggle to get this across because normally individuals may not get it the first time. So that’s why our groups are approximately 22 weeks long. And so over that time individuals get an opportunity to practice their skills and utilize the tools and normally their defenses become lessened and they embrace more of the information.

LEONARD SIPES: Well they have to come to grips with this because it just doesn’t affect them it affects their spouse, it affects their kids. I mean if we can intervene here at this level and straighten it out and make sure that the kids understand that what Dad did or what Mom did is wrong by involving them in the process, we could be putting a stop to, Princess, you mentioned something that is often at times intergenerational. This is something that has been going on for decades and sometimes grandparents and parents and kids are all part of the same spectrum.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct and part of it is making sure that the parents are armed with what they need to be armed with so that it then trickles down to the children and so we can stop the cycle of abuse. We have to make sure that they are implementing the concepts that we are talking about when we are talking about, you know, isolation – what does that mean? Have you seen this done before. How can we prevent those types of things? And again we talk about consequences. What are the consequences of your actions? Making sure folks are held accountable for what they have done and taken ownership of what they have done.

LEONARD SIPES: Well I think that you guys probably have one of the toughest beats I can possibly imagine because when I was a police officer I said to myself, you know there is no way I could handle this sort of thing day in, day out. There was just no way, it was too traumatic. Give me an armed robbery, give me a terrible automobile accident, give me anything besides seeing people who supposedly love each other, destroy each other and to see that the kids are involved in it at the same time. For me it was very emotional. I found it to be probably the most difficult thing that I handled beside you know a fatal accident or somebody dying, the probably most difficult thing I had to handle as a police officer. That is why I was asking you how does it impact you directly as people.

MARC COUNTISS: It does have a direct impact on us but it is also important that we as facilitators, we as community supervision officers make sure that we take care of ourselves as well, so self care is a big part of it, dealing with this level of stress, this level of secondary trauma. So it is important that we do the things that are necessary to take care of ourselves.

LEONARD SIPES: Do we, I’m assuming we have our fair share of victories. I’m assuming we have our fair share of individuals who come to grips with the fact that they can’t do this and understand the impact that it is having on the kids and understand the impact that it’s having on their spouse or their loved one? That’s got to be gratifying at the same time when they finally come to grips with, they can’t do this. Now they understand the damage that they have done. Now they own up to it and now they are looking for ways to end this pattern.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so in treatment like Marc said. They are 22 weeks with us. I mean that is just shy of six months on a weekly basis for an hour and a half. You meet with us, we have a group. And so as Marc also said initially they are resistant, you know they are defensive, they don’t want to talk about the issue. They want to blame everybody else. But you notice some change talk within those 22 weeks. You notice them coming around. You notice them, you know, being accountable for what they did. You notice them saying, “You know what I am responsible for what happened. I am responsible for being here in this setting but there are some things that I can do to change that and this is what I am going to do.” and so that is the beauty of the treatment process in that you can see someone who was very resistant start to change, start to accept responsibility and say, you know, today is a new day and I am going to do things differently.

LEONARD SIPES: Do they really apologize to their kids? Do they really apologize to their spouse for their behavior?

MARC COUNTISS: In some cases where they may have contact with that individual there is a portion where they can make amends. When we talk about accepting responsibility and acknowledging it and being able to apologies and say that they are sorry. So in the event that there is a stay away order in place we don’t advise it. However, if an individual still maintains contact or sees their children, we recommend that the individual apologize and they try to make things right.

LEONARD SIPES: And in the program in terms of the courts that we did that there are safe places where the batterer can come into contact with his kids, that is being supervised by the courts or supervised by us, where they can interact with their kids and the victim does not have to worry. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That is correct, the visitation center.

LEONARD SIPES: So there is all sorts of contact that is still going on even though a protective order may be in place but it’s a supervised, safe place for the victim?


LEONARD SIPES: Now we deal with same sex couples as well.


LEONARD SIPES: And is there anything different in terms of same sex couples?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: No the curriculum is the same.

MARC COUNTISS: And really when we look at the dynamics of domestic violence, you find a lot of similarities whether they are same sex couples or not.

LEONARD SIPES: Young adults, we have younger individuals on our case loads and they have been involved in acts of domestic violence. I would imagine dealing with the younger folks as a bit more difficult than dealing with the older folks. Am I right or wrong?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: There are challenges. There are definitely challenges when you talk about age, the difference in age. And so what the facilitators tend to do is to use some of the things that pertain to that particular population and so whether that is pulling something out of the headlines, whether that is music. We use the Duluth model but we also try to use some different things so that it’s relatable.

LEONARD SIPES: But I would image especially with younger people but I think it crosses over to everybody involved, that we do have the music, we do have the culture. I am amazed when I listen to music, of music that does, almost encourage violence towards women, movies, television shows, sometimes I feel that they are not just getting the wrong message from their upbringing they are getting the wrong message from society as well.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct. And what we try to do is personalize it. You know, would you want that going on with your Mom or your sister? We try to make sure that we speak to them in a way that you know, they can understand. Speak to them in their culture, in their language, making sure that they understand the consequences of their actions.

LEONARD SIPES: But we’re trying so hard to provide services and instruction so that they can straighten out their lives, so that they can understand that it is wrong but again I do want to emphasis that if that does not work we will go back to court and we will go back to the Parole Commission and say, “I think this person needs to be off the streets.” If that person violates the protective order we take a look at our GPS coordinates, we hear from police that he is in the area. We can put him back; we can put him in prison or put him back in prison, correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Well we can take them before the judge and have the judge make that recommendation.

LEONARD SIPES: Right we don’t do it but we have to take them to the judge and we have to take them to the Parole Commission so the bottom line is that we will do it if necessary but we will do, we will take all steps necessary to try to convince them that they need to straighten out their path. Correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Alright, I want to thank both of you for being on the program today. I can’t think of anything more difficult than the domestic violence beat and I want to personally thank both of you and everybody in this agency and parole and probation agencies throughout the county that are dealing with domestic violence victims. Ladies and Gentleman our program today has been on domestic violence here in the District of Columbia and again I think it is very typical what we discussed today happening throughout the country. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Our guests today have been Princess McDuffie and Marc Countiss, again they are with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very, pleasant day.