Beyond Prison, Probation and Parole-Interview With Former Offender Randy Kearse

Beyond Prison, Probation and Parole-Interview With Former Offender Randy Kearse

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

See radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/08/beyond-prison-probation-parole-interview-former-offender-randy-kearse/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, we are doing a series of radio shows for people who’ve been caught up in the criminal justice system, and to get their perspective as to what it is that we do both within the District of Columbia and throughout the country. My guest today is Randy Kearse, host of Straight Talk with Randy Kearse. It’s a public access show in New York City. He’s a bestselling author and independent film maker. He was convicted for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in 1992. Randy spent 15 years in a federal prison, sentenced under the mandatory minimum and now infamous Crack Law. His first documentary film is A Deeper Truth: The Politics of Racism; The Media Hysteria Behind the Crack Cocaine Epidemic. Randy, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

RANDY KEARSE: Thank for inviting me back, Leonard. I really appreciate what you’re doing. I really appreciate being on your show. I just hope that, you know, this conversation will help further the conversations that are going on in the reentry field today.

LEONARD SIPES: Well you know, I always get a bit of criticism that “Leonard, everything that you do is DC based. Why don’t you reach out to somebody beyond the District of Columbia when talking about the issue of reentry?” So you and I are Facebook friends, and I always think of you in terms of reaching out beyond New York City. People also say, “Leonard, everybody that you interview who’s caught up in the criminal justice system are documentary film makers. Is that the norm?” And I’m going, “No.” I said, “It’s just that they seem to do a better job of offering their opinions. They’ve thought about these issues, thought them through, and then offer clarity in terms of how they feel the criminal justice system should be improved.” So we were talking about issues right before we hit the start button in terms of recording the program, and this is interesting. One of the things you wanted to talk about was creating a reentry initiative think tank which consists of successful of former offenders. Tell me about that.

RANDY KEARSE: I think that today, we need to relook at how we approach reentry. If we look at the history of reentry over the last 20-30 years, nationally, the statistics of people returning back to prison is pretty much stayed the same in the high 60s, sometimes even up to 70s in the states. So I think it’s time to start really, honestly taking a different approach toward reentry and to tap into those people that have been to prison, came home, and are doing extremely well, and have done some extraordinary things to see what their formula was for not returning. And I think if you get enough of us people who have been there, done that, and are now doing that, I think that we’d have a better opportunity to have some real impactful reentry programs.

I mean if you look at the money that is being put into reentry, I mean we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. You know, upwards, I don’t even know how high it is, but the numbers never change. The numbers are not changing. For the money that we’re spending on reentry, and the numbers are not going down substantially, I mean, that would make anyone say, “Well, we need to rethink this thing. We need to, you know, find a different approach.” And I feel that if you took… if we created – you guys in DC, the politicians, and the criminal justice system was to be able to create a think tank that is basically filled with people from all over the country who have successfully transitioned back to society, and are doing well, and put these guys in a room and did some real serious stuff that think tanks do, I think we would have a better opportunity to really get to the meat of what the problem is and how to offer some real meaningful solutions.

LEONARD SIPES: When you’re talking about the numbers not going down, you’re talking about the recidivism numbers in terms of arrest convictions and return to prison?

RANDY KEARSE: Yes, yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, you’re absolutely right. The latest survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a very high rate of return to the criminal justice system for people who have spent time in prison and that’s caused people to pause.

RANDY KEARSE: Exactly.

LEONARD SIPES: I mean they’re saying to themselves, “What is it that we need to do better?” And quite frankly I think the reentry initiative think tank composed of people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system has value.

RANDY KEARSE: Yeah, it just makes sense to me that you bring in people who have been through that situation and made it through successfully, to be able to come up with some guide, some instructions, some type of blueprint on what the correctional facilities can be doing better, what reentry programs could be done better in order to help people transition back to society more completely. I think it just makes sense.

LEONARD SIPES: The title of today’s program is beyond Prison, Probation, and Parole: a Reentry Story. So that’s part of your reentry story, is getting people once caught up in the criminal justice system, people who are doing well to sit down with what? A hundred other people from all around the country and sit down and teach the rest of us in the criminal justice system how we could be doing it better?

RANDY KEARSE: Yes, I think that the criminal justice system and especially those who work in the reentry field should be, at this point, open to trying some different approaches. I mean listen, whatever is going on or whatever it’s been the norm for the last 20-30 years isn’t working, and you keep pouring money into a system that is not producing the results that we are looking for. I mean you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. Imagine what we could be doing with that money if we had some real sense of what would be better, where that money could be better spent, and how that money that could be better allocated when it comes to prison reentry? Now who better to talk to that issue than those who didn’t have those hundreds of millions of dollars, but were able to transition successfully and are doing good? We’re talking about entrepreneurs. We’re talking about educators. We’re talking about business people. We’re talking about a whole gambit of people who have been through that experience and are doing successful to this day. I mean you have celebrities. You have people across the board. And if you do it on a national level, and then maybe set up some state-wide task force or reentry type of think tank, I think that we would get a lot better mileage out of what we’re trying to do here.

LEONARD SIPES: What would we get out of it that we’re not getting now? The bureaucrat sitting in Washington, the people at the state level throughout the country – what is it that we’re missing about this story?

RANDY KEARSE: What you’re missing is that all of the money that’s being spent and the results that you’re getting don’t match up.

LEONARD SIPES: But no, we know that. We can see from the national data that recidivism remains high, and we’re sitting back and going, “Well, um, okay.” But at the same time 80% of people with a history of substance abuse – we know that people caught up in the prison system, 80% have a history of substance abuse – yet a lot of surveys out there say that 10%, while in prison are getting drug treatment. There’s disconnect between 10% getting treatment and 80% having history of substance abuse. Other people are simply saying, “Hey, it’s simply a matter of money, and the public doesn’t seem to be willing to support those expenditures that raises that to 40, 50, 60% getting drug treatment.”

RANDY KEARSE: Well, that’s another thing. I mean, being able to educate the public about why that we should get behind this kind of initiative that would help more people than just the 10% who are getting help, it’s about educating the public. I think politicians or people that are looking at this don’t take into account what the public wants or what the public doesn’t want. So there has to be a better sense of getting the information out to the public, to society, to show them that the benefits of providing services, of providing treatment, of providing alternate to incarceration and providing reentry service and all of these thing that would help people transition from that lifestyle that puts them in the situation to go to prison or go back to prison. So the public needs to be more informed on just how much society would benefit from having these type of conversations, having these type of programs that would help people get off of that, get out of that revolving door, to be able to get their life back together. And until we inform the public more, until we get that information out there, then I think we’re going to be beholden to people who think that they know what’s best for society, and society doesn’t have a say in it.

LEONARD SIPES: Go ahead.

RANDY KEARSE: So where I stand is just I think that one of things that’s missing here in this equation is people need to understand why reentry doesn’t start when a person gets out. Reentry should start when a person’s in. So we should switch from a reentry mindset to a pre-entry mindset. And if we took all of the resources, if we took more of the resources that are on the outside and actually put them inside the prisons and you set up a system where a person’s need are addressed in the prison, you would be able, we would be able to have more impact because we’re dealing with more of the population that’s going to return. Now if a program can only handle 50 people a year, or 75 people a year, and you have 2000 people getting out in DC alone every year, I mean how many people can actually be successfully acclimated back to society when the resources aren’t there for them?

If you put that money and you put those resources inside the prison, and used some of these programs as an after care tool to basically check up on what a person need when he gets out, I think we would definitely have a better advantage of helping people not go back to prison. When I was in federal prison, there was a reentry program, but the type of reentry program that it was, it was a joke. I’m going to be totally honest with you. It was something that was, if you showed up, you showed up. If you didn’t, you didn’t. You signed your name, but then you went to the [PH] wait tile. That was the only accountability that was needed or required of you. So if you didn’t take your own initiative to prepare yourself for getting out of prison, you were pretty much struck. You were pretty much stuck.

LEONARD SIPES: Let me ask you this. If we had the drug treatment for the 80%, if we had the mental health treatment for the 50%, if we had job training, vocational training, GED programs, reading programs; if we had all of that, if we had a full package so the individual inmate when he goes to prison, spends his or her entre day either dealing with substance abuse, dealing with mental health, learning a trade, learning how to read, getting a GED, what would be that impact? What would happen in terms of the recidivism rate, in terms of people getting out?

RANDY KEARSE: Oh man! That would help decrease the recidivism rate exponentially. I mean, it would be one step that would be part of helping to lower the recidivism rate, but now you’re talking of bringing the job preparedness, you’re talking about preparing job skills and computer training, getting people ready to get into the workforce while they’re there. I mean you have people who are coming home – I just talked to a guy, he’s been away for 25 years. He doesn’t know anything about a computer; he doesn’t know anything, the basics, anything sending an email, doing Word or anything like that. So how can this guy go into the new technology workforce when he’s not prepared? So once you address those immediate needs: education, substance abuse, and learning skills, and GED – okay, that’s one level. Now we have to take people to the next level where we get them job ready.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, I need a quick air [INDISCERNIBLE 00:13:10] because we have so much to go over. With governors throughout the country, really very, very clear, stating that they can no longer afford the level of incarceration; I mean it’s taking away money for schools, it’s taking away money for highways, it’s taking away money for colleges. So every governor in the country, theoretically, has had a conversation with their Director of Corrections saying, “You’ve got to decrease your budget. You’ve got to do a better job.” Then, okay, so if everybody’s on board, if everybody seems to pretty much agree with what it is that we should be doing, what’s your explanation for why it’s not happening?

RANDY KEARSE: Because the money is not being put in and the resources are not being put in place that we would allow for the things that we just talked about.

LEONARD SIPES: And why? Why is the bottom line question?

RANDY KEARSE: I don’t know. I’m not in control of the money. If I was in control of the money, then I could tell you. At least from my experience and research of some of these organizations in New York, I mean some of these organizations are getting million dollar budgets, hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars to service the reentry population and the numbers are still the same. So why don’t we grab some of that money that is being put into these programs that are not producing the results that we want, and shift that money into the prison and create that reentry department inside the prison, right there, in the prison where the guy goes to his case manager, he goes to see a reentry manager, reentry coordinator and we deal with it. They get the programs right there in the prison. You have the, an employment connection within the prison where a year before the guy comes out, you already have job opportunities that might be waiting for him based on his services or his productivity in the prison, and you can match to where he’s going to go when he gets out. To me, that’s the problem, that’s the problem.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re half way through the program. We’re talking today with Randy Kearse. And he spent 15 years in a federal prison, but Randy is now becoming an independent film maker, he is working on a variety of projects, and one of the things that I find it very interesting the movie that he’s about 80% though A Deeper Truth: The Politics of Racism, and Media Hysteria Behind the Crack Cocaine Epidemic. He is funding the last part of that through Indigogo. It’s I-N-D-I-G-O-G-O.com/a-deeper-truth2. If you just go to Indigogo and search for A Deeper Truth: The Politics, Racism, and Media Hysteria Behind the Crack Cocaine Epidemic. You can fund Randy’s newest project and with this announcement, Randy, I’m going to, this afternoon, go and make the donation to the project, so I’ve been…

RANDY KEARSE: I appreciate that, man. Thank you very much.

LEONARD SIPES: I’ve been waiting for this radio show before making that announcement.

RANDY KEARSE: Thank you man.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s go back. Again we’re beyond… Today’s program is called Beyond Prison, Probation, and Parole: a Reentry Story. A little bit about the crack cocaine issue. So the film that you’re doing The Politics of Racism, and Media Hysteria Behind the Crack Cocaine Epidemic, I remember those days. I’ve been around long enough. I do understand that the crime rate in this country was just astronomical and that crime rate and the crime problems associated with it, were destroying cities, hurting education, hurting business, hurting development, hurting investment in communities, and so we’ve had a pretty much a continuous 20 year decline in crime since that time, and there are some criminologists who would say that a portion of that decline has been massive incarceration. There are other reasons for it. I’m not saying it’s 50%, 75%. There are some criminologists – in fact the cover of Time Magazine just a couple years ago talked about that being a significant reason. Talk to me about that.

RANDY KEARSE: Any time you have a situation where there’s a new drug or some type of prohibition of a substance that the public wants, and there opens up an illegal market for it, you’re going to find that there’s going to be a propensity for violence. I mean, it happened in Prohibition where the gangs fought over the alcohol profits. It happened during heroin, where the gangs just fought over the heroin profits, and it happened in Las Vegas when they fought over profits of the casinos. It happened during the crack cocaine epidemic.

What we’ve found now is that the crack itself, the drug, was not the driving force that caused the violence, that the drug users weren’t the violent ones. It was the people who fighting over the profits or for the drugs that caused the violence. There is no excuse for violence. There is no reason that violence should be tolerated in this society, but what I’m trying to point out in this documentary, that it’s deeper than what society has been taught to believe, what the problems of – that everything was based on crack cocaine. Before crack cocaine in the African American community, there was unemployment, there was poverty, there was poor education. There was other factors that were in play before this drug hit the market to where we have to look at the root causes of why this phenomenon happened, and what were the reason.

One of the reasons was the media. The media had a very strong role in shaping the framework for how society seen this drug, who used the drug, who was more susceptible to the violence of the drug, and stuff like that. But those studies and studies and studies, a lot of the things that politicians use to instill fear in society and was actually led to war on drugs, was not facts. It was a lot of fear. And even if you take away the drug aspect, even when you look at some of the things that are going on today in politics, in how policy is shaped, a lot of times based on misinformation and fear. And that’s what we’re talking about, how fear drove a lot of the policies during that period of time. And we hope to bring out some of those factors in the documentary, where hopefully that we, as the public and society, that we will be more visible and more wanted more facts before we decide to make policies that actually do more damage the situation itself. The war on drugs did more damage to the African American community than crack cocaine could ever do. And if you fast forward. . . Go ahead.

LEONARD SIPES: What you’re suggesting is inherently a misinformation campaign that it was not as portrayed by the media, not as portrayed by the larger community, there were deeper issues; and those deeper issues were ignored, and that it resulted in incarceration policies.

RANDY KEARSE: Absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: Specifically within the African American community.

RANDY KEARSE: Absolutely. I mean, now, if you fast forward almost 30years later, they lowered the penalties for crack cocaine astronomically, to the point where it’s almost equal to powder cocaine, now. Remember the infamous crack war was 100:1. One gram of crack cocaine was equal to 100 grams of powder cocaine. Now one gram of crack cocaine is equal to, I think, 18 grams of powder cocaine. So now that law was not based on scientific fact because… and in this documentary, we’ve talked to one of the nations, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists who have done studies upon studies upon studies of drugs and the pharmaceutical impact of drugs and cocaine and crack cocaine and powder cocaine are the same drug. It’s just the manner of ingestion that is different, but they’re actually the same drug. So they’ve lowered the threshold for crack and powder, now, they’re about to make it retroactive in November, the Commission, they’re supposed to make it retroactive, but now…

LEONARD SIPES: Federal Sentencing Commission?

RANDY KEARSE: [OVERLAY] Yeah, the Federal Sentence Commission, in order to make it retroactive, now you have 30 years of people who were sentenced to these Draconian drug laws who… I just interviewed a guy Thursday, last Thursday. First time offender. Never been in trouble in his life. Never even had a traffic ticket. I’m not saying what he did was right, what I’m saying is first time offender. He got caught in a drug conspiracy and he got 20 years. He did 20 years. And now 30 years later, they’re saying, “You know what? It’s not that bad. We’re going to equal it out.” How do you give that person back their time?

LEONARD SIPES: But I get where there are common themes, and we do want to get on to the third part of the program which is specifically Beyond Prison, Probation, and Parole: A Reentry Story, your next project that you’re currently working on. But in essence, what we’re talking about in terms of first topic, in terms of the funding for reentry; the second topic in terms of the perception of an overreaction to the cocaine epidemic, we’re talking about a fearful society, not giving a good hard, look at what the reality is, and that lack of that good, hard look at reality is creating forces that are not necessarily productive for the larger society. If we’re saying that we can no longer afford the level of incarceration that we’ve had, and every state in the country is basically wrestling with this, if we’re talking about it, we can no longer afford those expenditures, then we have created a scenario that we can’t sustain. And what you’re suggesting is that we’re not taking a hard look at what’s going on by the larger society and the media.

RANDY KEARSE: I think that, you know, people get so used to doing the same thing, and it just becomes the norm. I think it’s time to think outside the box. That’s the bottom line. It’s time to really look at what isn’t working, and try to come up with some better solutions. I mean, come on. . .

LEONARD SIPES: And that gets us back to the initial opening statement in terms of what I find fascinating, the reentry initiative think tank consisting of former, successful offenders from throughout the country that would be that body that would say, “Hey, you know, let’s look at this a bit differently in terms of how you’re looking at it because you could end up doing more harm than good.” Okay, your third project, and we only have a couple minutes to address this, and I want to get to it. The title is Beyond. . . the show is Beyond Prison Probation and Parole: a Reentry Story, but it’s also your new project?

RANDY KEARSE: Yeah, I’m working on a series. It’s going to be a series that I’m profiling successful people who have been to prison and made a successful transition back to society. The name of the project is Beyond Prison, Probation, and Parole, and what we’re trying to do is get as many profiles for people and then to hopefully have a correctional institution bring these profiles into the prison and be able to show the offenders and the inmates some of the people’s stories of how they successfully transitioned and how they were able to beat the odds of going back. I think that for people who are incarcerated right now, they need to see what is possible. You know, whether they’re being provided the resources right there in the immediacy, I think they need to see other people who have done it. You know it’s easy, and you guys in the reentry and the criminal justice system have a lot of good intentions. You want to try to beat back this problem of recidivism and stuff like that, but it’s those guys, like ourselves, that have been there that will probably have a better bearing on what a person decides to do with their life if they see that they see someone else doing it. If they see the formula that someone else used. That they be able to connect to these stories, and think that’s another way to provide some incentive for people to not want to go back to prison.

LEONARD SIPES: Randy, beyond the lack of resources in terms of the funding for these programs, what is the bottom line analysis in terms of the individual caught up in criminal justice system? He or she comes out of prison. There are a lot of people who do make it, 50% go back to prison, but 50% don’t. So for the 50% who don’t go back to prison often times I’ve had hundreds of people over the years sitting in front of microphones or doing the TV show, and they simply say, “Hey look. The bottom line is I made my own personal decision not to go back.”

RANDY KEARSE: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: But, I mean, is it just that? Is it, “Hey, I have the will and the determination, and you don’t?”

RANDY KEARSE: Well, it’s going to be according the individual. In my case, it was just that the bottom line was I decided I wanted something better for myself. I decided I want to make a change. I decided that I was going to not go back to prison. And I was offered no programs or resources to tap into, so I had to create my own opportunities. Now for someone who might want to change and may not want to go back, they might not have that willpower or that determination, but if you provide them just a little push, just a little push in the right direction, that might be all that they need. Every individual is not as strong, every individual is not as solid to take that step on their own, but if you provide them a little nudge, a push, you’ll be surprised at what they’ll probably be able to accomplish. So, yes, it is up to the individual, no matter how many resources or their availability, but at the same time, if you provide the right resources, at the right time, for the right people, then you’ll definitely have a stronger impact on the recidivism and beating down the recidivism rate, absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: We got 10 seconds left, but the right time and the right person at the right place is as awfully… is a very scientific and very precise formula. Are we in the criminal justice system really capable of figuring out right person, right place, right time?

RANDY KEARSE: Yes, you are. I mean, like I said, we get together. You know, you guys with us that have been through it. We can sit down at the table, and we can come up with a formula that will work. That will work, and it would be cost effective to the public.

LEONARD SIPES: Randy, you’ve got the final word. Randy Kearse is host of Straight Talk with Randy Kearse up in New York City. I really appreciate you being by our microphone today.

RANDY KEARSE: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

LEONARD SIPES: An independent film maker. He is… his latest film is A Deeper Truth: The Politics of Racism, and Media Hysteria Behind the Crack Cocaine Epidemic. If you’re interested in funding this project, it’s through indigogo/a-deeper-truth2 or just go to Indigogo and search for “a deeper truth”. Ladies and Gentlemen, this DC public safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms, and I want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment: The Impact on Parole and Probation

The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment: The Impact on Parole and Probation

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/08/challenges-justice-reinvestment-william-burrell/

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, Bill Burrell. Bill is an independent corrections management consultant and author of a book that I find very interesting. He can be reached at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L, at comcast.net. The topic of today’s program is the challenge of justice reinvestment; what’s happening in parole and probation throughout the United States in terms of new ways of doing things, new ways of coping with the criminal justice system. Bill, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

BILL BURRELL: Thank you, Len. It’s great to be with you.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, before we started the program we were talking about the corollary of mental health back in the 60s and 70s. We did have a massive undertaking throughout the country, where we sort of recognized that these large mental hospitals in virtually every state in the Unites States, and it probably was not a good idea to keep mentally incapacitated people in these large hospitals, these large structures. They probably could be a better treated, better dealt with out in the community. Yet we never did develop the community infrastructure to handle all those people coming out of all of those state mental hospitals and the disparaging fact is that it now seems that the criminal justice system is the principal provider of mental health treatment. Comment on that. Am I right or wrong?

BILL BURRELL: Yes. You’re right on the money there, Len. The idea was a good one. You think about those hospitals. You think about the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They were pretty horrible places. And once these new psychotropic drugs were developed back in the 50s and 60s they were able to stabilize the symptoms and consider the release of these to the community, which made a whole lot of sense, it’s a lot cheaper, much more humane, and more effective. But, as you mentioned, the community infrastructure, the group homes, residential facilities to house these folks in the community were never built. So we ended up with a good idea that went pretty horribly wrong. And now some 20, 30 years later we’re looking at the jails and prisons being populated largely by some of the socially released with mental problems.

LEONARD SIPES: But what we’re talking about here is that we had a great idea and we implemented it and they went into the community. Without community infrastructure to take care of the mentally ill they end up with us in the criminal justice system. And there’s a lot of people out there who would say that somehow, someway there became a big difference between what was conceptualized and what actually happened.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s exactly the problem. We had a great idea, but it was implemented poorly, and that seems to be a very common story in the criminal justice system and maybe in government in general, that a good idea is developed, researchers come up with it, they test it, they evaluate it, and they put it out there, and then once it’s turned over to folks in agencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which relates to the fact that folks are really not trained in large scale organizational change and implementation, the execution of a good idea is flawed and the results that we expected don’t happen, because we really didn’t do the program as it was designed. And that was the lesson I guess we have to learn from the institutionalization of the mentally ill. It was one of the stools on the, one of the legs on the stool, so to speak, was the capacity in the community to have, supervise, and oversee the people released, and that never was completed, and we lost those folks in the community, in the boarding houses and the single room occupancy hotels in cities and they just disappeared.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, our program is called today the Challenges of Justice Reinvestment: The Impact on Parole and Probation because we see the possibility of a connection between that experience, the idea in terms of the institutionalization, dealing with mentally ill, the fact that there was not a sufficient infrastructure created to deal with all these people coming out. So we’re saying today that there’s the possibility that with justice reinvestment or reorganizing the way that we conduct business within the criminal justice system in terms of evidence based practices, in terms, again, of justice reinvestment, that there’s the possibility that the same thing may happen with parole and probation agencies that are not given sufficient staffing, money, resources, to deal with an increasing parole and probation population. Is that the connection?

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. That’s kind of the nub of the problem. Again, we have a situation with our prisons in the United States, they’re massively overcrowded, they’re not good places to house people with addiction problems, lack of education, and a whole variety of other problems. So the justice reinvestment model is saying we need to reduce those prison populations, get people out or don’t send them in, in the first place who are lower risk, nonviolent, less serious offenders, and handle them in a different way, thereby reducing prison populations, and if you can reduce those by enough you can actually close institutions and save money. And the second part of that logic is that a portion of that money would be reallocated or reinvested in community corrections to build the capacity to handle these folks. Now, and that’s a great idea, and where it has happened it has worked pretty well, if we look at the state of Texas and their experience. But part of the challenge is that the probation and parole system in this country is so overwhelmed. We have 70% of the correctional, adult correctional population is under the supervision of probation and parole, which surprises some people though, because they think we’ve locked everybody up over the last 30 years. Well, we have, but we’ve also put a lot more people under community control on probation and parole.

LEONARD SIPES: I think in the seven million, the correctional population between prisons and jails, it’s two million in community supervision, it’s five million. Am I in the ballpark?

BILL BURRELL: That’s right. And what’s interesting is if you look at the historical numbers, you go back to the early 1980s when the Bureau of Justice Statistics starting reporting on probation on parole populations, we have had 70% of the population ever since that time. So it’s been consistent over decades. When you look at the impact of the war on drugs in the 80s probation actually absorbed a greater amount of the results of that war on drugs than did the prison system. So we are, in my experience, when I was with probation in New Jersey, our individual caseloads went from 110 per officer in 1981 to 189 per officer in 1988, which was directly the result of changes in our laws and enforcement practices around drugs. So we have to remember that the base that we’re looking to focus on for these justice reinvestment efforts is pretty resource poor, pretty lacking the capacity to really do the work for the population they have right now, not to mention any increased number of people coming in. And one of the challenges is when you look at diverting people out of prison these could be higher risk people with more needs and problems and demands on a system. It is currently unable to really effectively address the population that it has.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington DC we do have caseloads of 50 or less per parole and probation agent, what we call community supervision officers. But my experience in talking to people from throughout the country, as a result of the radio and television shows that we’ve done and when I go out and do training, it’s no usual they tell for there to be a ratio of 150 or more for every parole and probation agent out there. Now, I do know there are some jurisdictions where it is fairly close to 50 to 1, but my guess, and this is nothing more than a guess, is that the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to that’s not their experience, the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to are operating 125, 150 cases per parole and probation agent or more. So when you have caseloads of that size it’s awfully hard to do cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s awfully hard to really get into the lives of these individuals, encourage them to do better, encourage them to look at a different way of doing things, encouraging them to get drug treatment, mental health treatment, vocational programs, encourage them to find jobs and help them find jobs to do the home visits. All of these things are very labor-intensive and very difficult to do when you have caseloads of 150 to 1.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. Well, you said it very well and my experience echoes yours. When I go to the American Probation and Parole Association conferences twice a year and other conferences and through my consulting and work with APPA I talk to a lot of folks around the country. And the ideal caseload or the optimal caseload of 50 to 1 is a very rare occurrence, unfortunately. And we do see lots of departments, particularly where you have states with county-based probation departments, these caseloads tend to be much higher than recommended, in some cases, as you said, 150 or more. And it’s hard to even keep track of the activities of those folks, no less spend the quality time you need to with them to get to know them, get to know their problems, connect them with resources, follow up, and so on. It’s just it can’t be done with those large caseloads.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, I’m hearing the same thing. When I do the radio shows I would imagine the most popular response to the radio shows is, “Len, I listen to you talk about justice reinvestment, I listen to you talk about evidence-based practices, I’m 100% behind you. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we want to do. We want to have a good relationship with the people under supervision. We want to encourage them to do better. We want to get them involved in programs. We want to work with their families. We want to work with the faith based community. We want to do all of these things. We simply don’t have the resources to do them.” So if that’s true, why is there such a disconnect between the lofty sense of what I hear from my very good friends at the Department of Justice or Pew or Urban or Vera or lots of other organizations, American Probation and Parole Association, Council of State Governments, all of us are solidly behind justice reinvestment, all of us are solidly behind evidence-based practices, so why is there such a disconnect between what all of us want and what the reality is?

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s probably the 64,000 dollar question. I think some of it has to do with a disconnect between community corrections and policymakers, legislators, governors, officers and so on. We’re kind of a stepchild of the justice system, despite the fact that we own 70% of the workload. You don’t, you can’t go to a probation department and see caseload crowding like you can go to a prison or jail and look at the tiers and see people crowded, double, triple bunked and things like that. We tend to be seen as a, what I would say, a magical expanding resource, that more cases you give us we just expand and we take them in. Well, we put them on the books, but we really are not capable of keeping up with the workload demands. So as you add more bodies to this system the amount of time spent with each one goes down, the quality of that time generally goes down. So you’re diminishing the capacity of the system to do what it needs to do, but it’s very hard to see that physically. And we also don’t do a very good job as a field in terms of communicating performance information, outcomes, results, process measures and so on. We don’t really do a very good job of that.

So it’s hard to convince people of the nature of our problem and the extents of our problem, because we tend to be out of sight, out of mind, we don’t communicate well, we tend to in the field have a sense that we don’t have political and public support for the work that we do. And, fortunately, the research and the polling work that I’ve seen suggests exactly the opposite, that we do things that are valued by the community, and I think that is becoming more and more clear over the last few years, that we create public value for the community and we need to connect that value to the need for support, political support, community support, resource support and so on, to make that case that we do need the resources. We can do a lot better if we’ve got the capacity, the number of officers and staff we need to supervise in cases, and what I also like to say is the capability, the skills, the knowledge, the training, the resources for treatment and so on that will enable to effectively supervise those folks that we’ve already got in our caseloads. And if you want to do justice reinvestment, which everybody seems to be on board with, I just was reading that I think the 27th state just signed up for it, Utah, so better than half the country has signed onto this. And we need to figure out a way to communicate that we could be creating another deinstitutionalization type of situation if we begin pushing people out of prisons and jails into probation and parole caseloads without the capacity to provide effective supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: And what would that do, Bill? Before the program we were talking about the danger of what?

BILL BURRELL: Well, if you put more people and potentially higher risk people into probation caseloads the amount and the quality of supervision is going to decline and the inevitable result of that will be more crime in the community committed by people under the supervision of probation and parole officers. And what keeps me up at night is that the blame will then be placed on the probation and parole agencies, “Well, you didn’t supervise these people effectively.” Well, part of the problem is we have a caseload of 150 and no one, I don’t care who you are, can supervise that size caseload effectively.

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest –

BILL BURRELL: So this…. Go ahead.

LEONARD SIPES: Let me reintroduce you, Bill. We’re more than halfway through the program. Our guest today is Bill Burrell. He’s been at our microphones multiple times before. He’s an independent corrections management consultant and author of a pretty interesting book. – oh, I’m sorry at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net, william.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. Bill, you’ve been dealing with parole and probation agencies throughout the country in terms of your consultant role. You spent years with the New Jersey I think Department of Parole and Probation, is that correct?

BILL BURRELL: The Jersey court system, yeah, probation.

LEONARD SIPES: The Jersey court system, probation. So you have decades of experience in this, you’re out and about, you talk to people from throughout the country, you’re very well integrated with our friends at the American Probation and Parole Association, you go to their conferences, so you’re hearing this from more than a couple people.

BILL BURRELL: Yes, yes. And then this is kind of the theme I hear from almost everybody. There’s a frustration because they’ve read about and been trained on evidence-based practices, which is a pretty powerful vehicle for improving the results of what we do, but then they look at the, their organization, their department, and they look at their caseloads and they look at their lack of training resources and so on and they say, “We can’t do it. We don’t have the ability to move up to this new level of performance that we believe in, we think it’s a good idea, we’d like to do.” But it’s the ability to implement EBP, which is a much abused term these days, I think people throw it around very loosely, but really we’re talking about a set of practices that if they are implemented will reduce the risk of recidivism by the population that we supervise, reliably anywhere between 10% to 15%, 20% reductions in recidivism, which is significant. So people are looking at that and saying, “Gee, we’d like to be able to that, we would like to do our job better, we just don’t see how we can do it.”

And some of that relates to another issue that really hasn’t hit the radar screen of too many people yet. We’ve talked a lot about mass incarceration in this country. Some people are now starting to talk about mass supervision, those five million people that are under probation and parole supervision, how many of them really need to be on probation? Are there low-risk offenders there? Are there minor drug offenders? Are there people – there’re lots of people in my experience that’ll get placed on probation just to enable the court to collect fines and restitution fees and so on. So how much of that five million people is the chaff, so to speak, of the caseload that could be handled in some other fashion?

LEONARD SIPES: But I think that’s the point that most of the folks, again, that I just mentioned, from Pew, from Urban, and, again, are good friends and people who were completely supportive of, from Department of Justice and from other organizations will simply say you take those lower level individuals and you do, quote, unquote, “something else with them”. Their supervised by kiosks, they’re supervised administratively, that we have little contact with people at the lower end of the spectrum so we have the resources to devote towards people who do pose a clear and present danger or a risk to public safety. And you do that through objective risk and needs instruments and properly validated for local conditions and there you go, voila, the problem is solved.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. In fact, Vince Schiraldi, who was the Commissioner of Probation in New York City up until recently, and Mike Jacobson, who you may have encountered, who was also the Commissioner of Probation for a while, they just wrote a piece called “Could Less Be More When it Comes to Probation Supervision?”, and talking about reducing the amount of people, low-risk people on supervision, and those that are there, reducing the amount of resources that they devote to them. And New York was one of the, I think the first, or the most prominent department to do kiosk supervision. And they had at one point almost two thirds of their population was reporting on kiosks and the re-arrest rate was like 1.5%. It was no different than the general citywide re-arrest rate. So we have lots of folks that did stupid things, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever the scenario you want to present, are really not a risk. These are people that we should have the minimum amount to do with, collect whatever financial obligations we want from them, or whatever else we need to do, and then get them out of the system as quickly as possible, because we’re learning that we can actually make things worse by supervising those people, having them hang out with high-risk offenders in the waiting room in the probation department. Well, guess what. It’s usually the bad guys who make the good guys bad, not the other way around.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re also told that trying to help individuals at the lower end of the continuum also poses a problem, because if you have a person who is a lower risk offender, the judge orders drug treatment for that individual, well, that’s just money that’s taken up that could be reallocated towards a higher risk individual. And if he or she doesn’t complete that treatment or they’re going half the time or they’re creating a problem within the group, bam, they’re revoked and out in a prison.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. And we have lots of places where judges and prosecutors almost reflexively give probation, and they put on lots of conditions, special conditions of supervision, most of which they have no intention of enforcing, but it makes them feel good, makes them feel like we’re being tough on crime. Well, you got to realize that every one of those people you place on probation has a set of conditions that a probation has to enforce, and, ultimately, they can be brought back into court for failure to do that, to live up to those conditions, and potentially go to jail.

LEONARD SIPES: But help me, because I’m struggling with this, because if we did that then are the folks who at the national level are right? What they’re saying is, is that take that good percentage of your caseload – you just said that two thirds of the probation caseload in New York City was being supervised by kiosk and they had the same re-arrest rate as the general population. Then the question now becomes, is why aren’t we taking that I don’t know what percentage, two third, one third, one half, whatever that is of the lower risk offenders and doing something else with them besides regular and parole, then why aren’t we doing that? That’s what the people at the national level would say. It’s that it’s not a capacity issue; it’s the lack of a willingness on our part to do, quote, unquote, “something else with lower level offenders”.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s the I think the new breaking issue right now is focusing on the sentencing decision and the plea bargaining decision and introducing risk assessment into that. And there were just a series of things in the paper; Attorney General Holder came out apparently against using risk assessment in sentencing, which is kind of going against the tide of where the field seems to be going in terms of evidence-based decision-making. But the sentencing decision usually focuses on the seriousness of the crime and the extent of the offender’s prior involvement, prior record, and that’s pretty much it. And that really doesn’t get to the question of risk. To some extent prior record is a driver of risk, but there’re a lot of other factors that are involved. So we have people sentencing offenders for lots of reasons that have little or nothing to do with their risk of reoffending. Now, there may be other objectives of sentencing you want to accomplish, deterrents and punishment and so on, and we have to accomplish, accommodate those. But until we can figure out a way to help judges and defense attorneys and public defenders and DAs get a sense of the level of risk and sentence accordingly, we’re not going to get a reduction in the number of low-risk offenders that are going into probation.

LEONARD SIPES: But they could say the onus is on us. They could say that, “Okay, fine. We imposed all these restrictions. You do with them what you think is permissible.” Again, going back to the example of New York City probation where two thirds are in kiosks. They’re simply going to say, “Hey. We did what we think is proper, now you make the decision in terms of how you handle them.” And all we have to do is shift massive amounts of people into these lower level categories and suddenly we have the resources for the higher level people. What they’re going to say is that’s our job not theirs.

BILL BURRELL: Well, yes, there’s a good deal of truth to that, but one of the problems we see is judges will impose a probation sentence, sometimes three, four, five years, with lots of conditions, and send it over to probation, and probation is obligated to enforce those conditions, and sometimes that’s not possible by putting them on a kiosk kind of reporting. So some of this has to do with the use of probation in terms of the length of time, the number of conditions, even beyond the question of whether they should be on probation at all, because each one of those cases consumes probation resources.

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

BILL BURRELL: I had a discussion with one of our judges in New Jersey years ago and his favorite sentence was to put somebody on probation until the restitution is collected. So all he wanted was the money. He wanted to get the money to the victim of the crime.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: He really didn’t want the person being supervised by a probation officer.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: But I, and I suggested to him there was another mechanism in our criminal code that enabled us in probation to collect that money for him and hold that person accountable without me having to devote a professional probation officer to that case. He said, “Gee, I had no idea.” Well, so shame on me too, you know, that we weren’t really educating folks about the implications of those probation sentences and then also that there were other mechanisms within the criminal code to accomplish the objective that he was looking to accomplish.

LEONARD SIPES: So in the final four minutes, basically what you’re saying, Bill, is that we, within the criminal justice system throughout the country, need to have a very powerful examination as to how we conduct business, how we do what we do, and if we’re unwilling to do something else with lower level individuals then at least give us the resources, the caseloads, the treatment resources, the training, the money to do it well.

BILL BURRELL: Yes. But I would first argue that we need to look at the front end of the system, the whole criminal processing up to the point of sentencing, diversion of low-risk offenders, presentencing into treatment programs if they need them, really begin to sort through that pile of offenders coming into the system and figure out who’s really dangerous, who are we really scared of, who really needs to be punished by going to prison, who are those people with serious problems that need to be supervised by probation officers to get them into treatment and so on. And that group that I call the chaff, the low-risk, minor offenders that we’re just mad at, we’re not scared of, we’re just mad at them, let’s not push them father into the system. Let’s find other ways of dealing with them in the community so that the caseload of a probation department is really moderate and high-risk people. The low-risk people for the most part never get there.

And that means a much more systematic, disciplined sorting process in the presentencing arena so that we’ve taken them out as much as we can so that what we’re left with is the people who really do need supervision. And then when you begin to think about the justice reinvestment side of things, because you go back a couple years, the Pew Public Safety Performance Project published a report, it talked about the amount of money, how the corrections dollar is allocated, and 12% of the corrections dollar was going to probation and parole, even though we have 70% of the population. Most expensive parole supervision was 7,000 dollars a year. And the average prison

BILL BURRELL: Prison cost –

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

BILL BURRELL: Was six or seven times that. I said, “I don’t –”

LEONARD SIPES: Yes.

BILL BURRELL: “I don’t even want all of that difference. Just give me, just double what I’m getting and I could do amazing things.”

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line between it, the bottom line is that our people within parole and probation throughout the country want to do a good job, they’re dedicated to what they’re doing, they’re very important to our public safety, they’re very important to limiting the expenditures of tax paid dollars, they’re dedicated to justice reinvestment, they’re dedicated to evidence-based practices, they simply want a decent shot of doing that job well. That’s the bottom line, correct?

BILL BURRELL: Absolutely. You don’t stay in the field of probation and parole for very long if you’re not interested in helping people. And what we’ve found out from the research on burnout, for example, is that it’s not working with the offenders that burns out probation and parole officers; it’s impossible policies and procedures and organizational structures, which includes very large caseloads, that effectively prohibit them from doing the job that they came in to do.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, it’s a fascinating conversation. As always, I invite you back to the microphones any time, because you provide a sense of clarity from the field that sometimes we don’t hear from the national organizations. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today has been Bill Burrell, independent corrections management consultant and author. You can reach at William, W-I-L-L-I-A-M.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. 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.

Offenders and the Affordable Care Act

Offenders and the Affordable Care Act

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/07/offenders-affordable-care-act-urban-institute/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s topic, Offenders and the Affordable Care Act, something of real importance to those of us in the criminal justice system and throughout the country. It’s a real pleasure to have Kamala Mallik-Kane; she is a research associate, Justice Policy Center for the Urban Institute, www.urban.org, www.urban.org. Kamala Mallik-Kane, welcome to DC Public Safety.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Hi, Len. I’m glad to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: Hi. This is exciting, because we have a new study that Urban is going to come out with next week talking about the Affordable Care Act and offenders, how many enroll, and what happens. Tell me about that.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Sure. This is a study that is funded by the National Institute of Corrections, and we are very excited to be doing this work, because it gives us an important preview of what might be happening under the ACA as states are expanding their access to Medicaid. In our study we look at two states that were early adopters of Medicaid expansion. We’re looking at what these states did before 2014, so that we can have some insights about what may happen as Medicaid expansion moves forward post-ACA.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, those of us in the criminal justice system, this is the Holy Grail, and I’ve seen that term “Holy Grail” used in a wide variety of articles. We have said for decades, those of us throughout the criminal justice system throughout the United States, that people in the criminal justice system, offenders, people on supervision, are not getting mental health treatment, they’re not getting substance abuse treatment. I’ve seen surveys that put it at 10% or less within some state correctional systems. People on the outside, again, are not getting substance abuse treatment; they’re not getting mental health treatment. We all see the potential of the Affordable Care Act as being something that’s going to revolutionize the way that we deliver services. Is there a snowball’s chance in Hades of that actually happening?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: I’m optimistic. I think there’s a good chance of that happening. I think it’ll take a while, but I think that this is definitely a step in the right direction. We know that so many people in the criminal justice system suffer from substance abuse problems, mental illness, and various chronic physical conditions, and we know that before the ACA, in most places, that they would be released from prison without health insurance. So what would happen is somebody comes into prison or jail, they get a certain level of treatment while they’re in prison or jail, they get stabilized and they manage these conditions, then they get released without health insurance. And so within a couple of months they are no longer receiving treatment for these conditions and they can spiral out of control.

LEONARD SIPES: When I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety for 14 years the staff there explained to me that mental health treatment was designed to do nothing more than stabilize their experience while in prison or while in jail, it had little to do with stabilizing that experience in the community. So that’s what you’re talking about in terms of in many cases getting access to mental health treatment in prisons or in jails. It’s not designed for them to transfer to the community and for some sort of services to follow. It’s purely to help them maintain their sanity in the correctional facility.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. My understanding is that many prison and jail systems provide people with a small supply of what they like to call walking meds, and sometimes may set people up with a prescription to get a refill at a community-based pharmacy, but we all know if you don’t show up at a pharmacy with insurance this going to cost you an outrageous amount of money.

LEONARD SIPES: Yes.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: And so having insurance is a key step for people to be able to get those medications in an affordable way.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, there is I think a dollar amount stipulation, that they have to earn less than a certain amount every year to be eligible for the Affordable Healthcare Act.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. With the ACA that is 138% of the poverty level and to qualify for the subsidies for the ACA exchanges I think you can be up to 400% of poverty. And programs in the States vary with respect to what their income thresholds are, because Medicaid is a combined federal state program, and so the states have some discretion too in setting those limits.

LEONARD SIPES: I’ve seen figures like 16,000 dollars, 18,000 dollars, less than that, and I would imagine it does vary from state to state, because, as you said, it’s a combined federal-state program.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. That sounds about right to me. And certainly in the pre-ACA time period that we studied the thresholds for the two states that we looked at, Oregon and Connecticut, were quite different.

LEONARD SIPES: Again, and it’ll be the last time I’ll beat this point to death, is that we see, those of us in the criminal justice system are so excited about Urban, the fact that you’re coming out with this report next week. I’d really urge everybody to go to the website at the Urban Institute, www.urban.org, www.urban.org, because this whole idea is, again, we in the system understand that they need treatment, we in the system understand that oftentimes the experience throughout the United States is that they’re not getting treatment. We believe that if they got treatment they would do a lot better, recidivate less, cost taxpayers fewer dollars, cost victims of crime – there would be fewer victims of crime. We see this as a huge win for people in the criminal justice system and our ability to control cost.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. I think there’s a lot of research out there showing things like substance abuse treatment with aftercare being effective at engaging people in treatment after release and keeping their reoffending rates lower and similar things with mental health treatment. I think that what we tend to see in the justice system are pretty small-scale programs that are effective but serve a pretty small slice of the total population coming out. But we know there’s such a lot of unmet need. And that’s what makes the potential under the ACA very exciting is that insurance can be extended to a huge swath of individuals who are returning. As long as they meet the program eligibility requirements this is something that doesn’t affect 1% or 2% of people coming out but the majority.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So we know that the, I would say the majority of people caught up in the criminal justice system have substance abuse history, certainly. I’ve seen self-reporting studies that say 55% self-report mental health issues in the past. I’ve seen studies that say; suggest that 16%, up to 16% of people have diagnosable histories of mental health problems. But physical health problems, if you throw all that in, I think we’re talking about certainly the majority and probably more than that of people caught up in the criminal justice system.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: At Urban we did a study called Returning Home several years back that interviewed people as they were leaving prison and then followed up with them in the community at several times over the course of a year. And when we did interview them in prison we found that when you looked across the spectrum of the types of issues that someone could have it was eight in ten men had at least one chronic physical or mental or substance abuse condition, it was like nine in ten women. So it’s really a huge swath of the population. Of course the severity of these conditions can vary, but in some of the, in some other data that I’ve seen I’ve seen numbers I think around something like 60% having conditions that require active treatment or management.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So they leave prison, they’re typically uninsured, and their health deteriorates, right?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so the bottom line in all of this is, we in the criminal justice system care, but I’m not quite sure the average person out there sees this as that big of an issue, but it really is to them, is it not, in terms of holding down costs of correctional care, holding down re-victimizations?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Sure. I think that the most obvious connection that you can make for an average layperson who’s looking at this is to think about substance abuse and relapse. When someone is clean they are not stealing or victimizing people or doing other harmful things just for the purpose of being able to obtain more drugs. When somebody has relapsed they slide into those behaviors again. I’m not saying that everybody who’s addicted does these things, but it’s a common enough pattern that substance abuse is one of these key drivers of this revolving door phenomenon that we see in the justice system.

LEONARD SIPES: So we all agree that this could have a huge impact. I said I would not bring that topic back up again. What can be done on the part of the criminal justice system? I mean what we have to then, and I’ve seen in some articles where jails and prisons are actually creating staff to help the men enroll, that they’re being very proactive in terms of getting as many people enrolled as possible, but this involves a lot of effort on the part of the criminal justice system in terms of discharge and release planning, treatment referrals, care coordination, so this, the criminal justice system should take an active role in terms of enrolling as many people as possible.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Yeah. I agree with that. And I think that states and localities are doing a number of these various things. They’re engaged in some level of release planning. They make treatment referrals for individuals. I think some of this is triaged so that you’re putting more resources into the people that have greater needs. But Medicaid enrollment is something that is being implemented into release planning curricula or programming in criminal justice systems around the country.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. The report that’s coming out next week – is this, do we have specific findings in terms of how many enroll and what happens? Or what is the purpose of the study? It is it describing what it is that you’re doing or will it have impact findings?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Sure. So our study has two broad goals. One of them is to understand more about the enrollment process, how do you get inmates connected to Medicaid, what are some of the challenges that systems and individuals face, and what are the rates of enrollment when people have the opportunity to apply for Medicaid. So that’s the first part of our study. The second part of our study is a little further down the road. We’re looking at impacts post-release with regard to when people get enrolled in Medicaid, do they utilize Medicaid health services, and are there impacts post-release, one to two years later on employment and recidivism.

LEONARD SIPES: You and I were talking before we hit the record button is that I remember a national researcher, I’m sorry, a national reporter reporting for a national publication was trying to do an article that he was calling ObamaCare and Offenders or ObamaCare and Inmates, and he said he found a general reluctance on the part of those of us in the criminal justice system to talk about this, because we don’t know what the impact will be, we don’t have a clear understanding as to whether or not this will have a huge impact. What he was heard on an off the record basis from so many people was that just because you have health insurance doesn’t mean you act on it, doesn’t mean that you go out and get the mental healthcare that you need, doesn’t mean that you go out and get the substance abuse care you need. You may use it to fund your physical infirmaries, but not necessarily mental health or substance abuse. So we really don’t know what the impact is and we won’t know until your research is completed, correct?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s right. I think that’s a very valid point, just because you have insurance doesn’t mean that overnight you change the way that you seek services or get care or take care of yourself. But having insurance I think is a necessary first step to being able to use preventative health services, to be able to use mental health treatment services and substance abuse treatment that’s out in the community.

LEONARD SIPES: And this study that you all are doing is in Oregon in terms of the prison stage and a jail study in Connecticut.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: And how – was it difficult to get them involved in this?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Well, in Oregon what we did was we looked historically at an effort that the Department of Corrections had implemented. In Oregon before the ACA Oregon had a very interesting Medicaid program for what’s called childless adults. Have you heard that phrase or should I talk through that?

LEONARD SIPES: That’s fine.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Okay. Just that historically Medicaid had been a program for children and parents and people with disabilities and people with some specific eligibility criteria in addition to being low income. And before the ACA Oregon had expanded its Medicaid program to be more broadly a low income adults program, but because of limited funds in the state what they did was to have a lottery process so that it would be fair who they could provide this to. And so they had been doing this lottery process from about 2008, and we looked at what was going on in the prisons in 2010 and 2011 with respect to signing up for this lottery process, and then if people were selected at random to apply for Medicaid, how many of them did apply given that opportunity.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re more than halfway through the program. What we’re talking about today, ladies and gentlemen, is offenders and the Affordable Care Act. At our microphones is Kamala Mallik-Kane; she is a research associate with the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, www.urban.org, www.urban.org, coming out with a new study report next week talking about what they plan on looking at in terms of how many enroll in the Affordable Care Act and what happens afterwards, correct?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: And that’s exciting, because we in the system are really, really looking forward to these findings. Okay. Some of the challenges of getting and keeping inmates enrolled in Medicaid, now, again, you’re talking jail, you’re talking prison, you’re not talking about necessarily community supervision, but some of the releases could be on community supervision at the same time, right?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. Tell me about that.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: About community supervision in particular or –?

LEONARD SIPES: Well, federal, the federal and state Medicaid rules. You’re not allowed to use Medicaid while incarcerated, a few states let you stay covered but suspend your benefits, so some of this gets technical in terms of the challenges of getting and keeping inmates enrolled in Medicaid.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s right. The timing really matters, timing it appropriately with release so that – the Medicaid rules don’t permit people to be, to receive Medicaid benefits while they’re incarcerated. And this is an old provision in the Medicaid program and one that’s really intended to guard against Medicaid billings that are inappropriate.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: But what happens when –

LEONARD SIPES: So they get double billing because they’re already getting healthcare within the prison setting.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. And I think as a way of sort of ensuring that there’s not a community provider that’s billing for somebody –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That’s not out in the community.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: But I think the difficulty for people who are frequently in and out of the justice system is that the information technology systems that are out there aren’t particularly good at keeping track of when people are in and out of jail. And so this is an issue that a lot of states are grappling with. I believe that there’s funding through the ACA for Medicaid systems to upgrade their information technology systems for a whole lot of reasons. But places that are attuned to this issue of correctional populations and their need for Medicaid and the challenges of timing things correctly so that the Medicaid system is aware of when people are being released from prison so that they can have benefits when they’re in the community is –

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. But this is specifically – we’re not talking about necessarily medical care within a correctional facility. We’re talking about giving them access to Medicaid so they can get treatment in the community.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. Because in general inmates receive healthcare from the correctional system when they’re in, and so Medicaid is not – the purpose of the Medicaid is to have continuity of care from the prison or jail setting to the community so that –

LEONARD SIPES: Okay.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: They can continue that care when they’re in the community.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, that’s an important distinction. But what if they don’t get like say mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment while in prison, because the studies I’ve seen put that figure pretty low, at around 10% or lower, for most state systems. So what if you’re getting a, what if you’re getting mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in prison, would Medicaid still provide funding for those particular programs while in prison?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: For mental or for substance abuse treatment in prison?

LEONARD SIPES: Uh huh.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: No. I don’t believe Medicaid funds that.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. All right, so we’re talking about getting them enrolled and when they get out to the community and seeing what happens, and your study is looking specifically at one jail and one prison.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: We’re looking at prisons in Oregon and we’re looking at some jail facilities in Connecticut.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. The level of interest, so we find folks in the criminal justice system are really interested in this, what about the offenders themselves?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. In Oregon what we saw was that given the opportunity – so, again, let me just go back to what I was saying about –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: The way you had to apply before the ACA in Oregon was you had to two stage process. The first stage was that you put your name what they called a reservation list, and so about half of the inmates who were leaving Oregon prisons at the time of our study put their names on that reservation list. Then the state did a random drawing and then based on who they invited at that point then people got mailed a Medicaid application and then they had 45 days to fill out the application, turn in their documentation, and then get it reviewed by the Medicaid agency. What we found that was very interesting in Oregon was that about 4 in 10 of the inmates that got invited turned in their application and this was identical to the level of participation in the general population in Oregon.

LEONARD SIPES: So 4 in 10, and that was indicative of the population across the board that was eligible, not necessarily for people caught up in the criminal justice system.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right.

LEONARD SIPES: And, okay, findings on Medicaid impacts. So you’re working on this data and you’re collecting this data. Are you aware of anybody else out there in terms of your literature review who has looked at this issue previously?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: We’ve seen smaller studies from a couple of years back –

LEONARD SIPES: Okay.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Looking at specific subpopulations. So I know that there are studies of people who are seriously mentally ill and their rates of Medicaid enrolment and how that impacts arrest, for example.

LEONARD SIPES: Do we have any findings?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: I believe that they found a lower rate of rearrest among the people that were enrolled, but I don’t remember too, too clearly to talk about it more than that.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. But in essence, as long as they meet guidelines, as long as they meet the state Medicaid guidelines they’re eligible, as long as they’re under a certain – I know the percentage of gross poverty, whatever – it’s even confusing to me. If they make, what I’ve seen commonly thrown out in newspaper throughout the country, if they make less than 16, 18,000 dollars, it depends upon it at state level, they’re eligible. And so there’s no question about eligibility. You’ve just got to be under that threshold.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. And when we looked at the applicants in Oregon we found that when people got their applications into the Medicaid agency that about 8 in 10 of them qualified, and that was higher than in the general population, because there was more poverty –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Among the people who were leaving prison.

LEONARD SIPES: So 8 in 10 are eligible. And so that gives us hope that those of us in the criminal justice system can find sources of funding for substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. This gives people a ticket to be able to –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Access those services in the community.

LEONARD SIPES: So what is the sense between yourself or your peers at Urban in terms of what the impact could be down the road? I mean you’re talking to people, again, specifically in Connecticut and Oregon, but you’re probably talking to other people throughout the country. You were quoted in a rather extensive article, ObamaCare for Ex-Inmates: Is Health Insurance an Antidote to Crime?, and I think that was from the Christian Science Monitor, a very powerful article talking about how people around the country feel about the Affordable Care Act and what its potential could be. So what are your perceptions from talking to people?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: I think there’s a sense of a lot of potential and a lot of work ahead of us. I think, yeah, I like to think of having the insurance card as being sort of a ticket that you need to enter, but you need to do a whole lot of other things in order to make the change happen. I think some of the challenges are getting people to use healthcare differently, and I think that involves education.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: One of the things in our Connecticut study was as they were doing enrollment there was an eligibility worker who talked with individuals about what kinds of services they could go out and get in the community. But another thing that we saw as we observed these recruitment sessions in Connecticut was that there was some confusion about the program, there was confusion about whether people had Medicaid or not. We had people in our sessions that we felt we had screened and thought them to be needing Medicaid who said, “No, no, I already have it. I don’t need to stay here and I don’t need to apply for this.” So I think people knowing what their status is and knowing how their perception affects what they do out in the community, that’s an important thing for us to figure out.

LEONARD SIPES: So there’s an educational process on the part of the system. This is not going to be an easy process for those of us in the criminal justice system. It’s going to take a lot of work to explain what the rules are, to figure out if they are eligible, to sign them up, to, and, again, try to encourage them to participate if they have funding. So it’s a multi-step process between correctional facilities and community correction facilities and parole and probation agencies, so this is going to involve a lot of work.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: And I would add that also community based health organizations have to be a partner in these conversations, because I think some of the disconnect that we may see are that there are treatment providers that have been serving the criminal justice population that have not been previously Medicaid providers and they may need to do things about the way they run their organizations in order to be qualified Medicaid providers so that the insurance can actually be used to pay for services in those facilities.

LEONARD SIPES: I didn’t even think about that. So not only must the criminal justice system gear up in terms of implementing this, the providers need to gear up to implement it.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right. There was a story in the New York Times recently about an old Medicaid rule about just which types of residential substance abuse treatment facilities they could reimburse or not. And so I think there needs to be that exchange between the provider network that’s out there and the Medicaid structure to figure out whether these are going to be reimbursable services.

LEONARD SIPES: Why is that a question though? I thought it would be pretty much straightforward.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: I would’ve thought that too. But I think that these kinds of details, you have a population that’s been receiving typically non-Medicaid services –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: That are now coming into the Medicaid world, and so I think these details haven’t yet been worked out.

LEONARD SIPES: And we need to remind the audience that only half the states are involved in the Affordable Care Act provision, so half the people in the country listening to this are going to say, “Well, yes, this applies to me.” but half it doesn’t apply to the offenders within their states.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right.

LEONARD SIPES: And so what’s the final analysis? In the final minutes of the program, I mean we in the criminal justice system do have to gear up, correct? We probably have to add staff; we probably have to add training. A significant burden falls on us to be sure that people who are eligible enroll. But that’s going to require a lot of effort and probably staffing and training on our part.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Right, and a certain amount of coordination with the Medicaid agency. A lot of what we observed in our Connecticut Study and a lot of what was possible in the Connecticut Study was the result of a year’s long collaboration between the Department of Corrections and their Department of Social Services to establish procedures and workarounds that would let the correctional population enroll.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And that’s the other part of it is that we need to need to reach out to all the providers out there, because some who may be eligible to be providers may not want to take upon an offender based population. So we need to do a lot of work on our part to convince people who are the providers to get involved in this and to be sure that they are attuned to our needs and the needs of the people coming out.

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Yeah, absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: And what else? What is the general sense to the public that they need to understand? You’re talking to aides to mayors, aides to governors through this program. What do they need to understand?

KAMALA MALLIK-KANE: Sure. I think that this is a great opportunity, because I think for years we have all known that substance abuse and mental illness are problems that have been feeding this revolving door cycle that we’ve had in our justice system, and you’ve had people coming in with problems, the problems don’t get resolved, and then they get released without any resources to deal with them. So I think that this is a great opportunity to begin addressing those problems that can slow down this revolving door of recidivism.

LEONARD SIPES: I couldn’t agree with you more. Our guest today has been Kamala Mallik-Kane; she is a research associate, Justice Policy Center, the Urban Institute, www.urban.org, www.urban.org. 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 pleasant day.

Fundamental change within the criminal justice system-Adam Gelb

Fundamental change within the criminal justice system-Adam Gelb

DC Public Safety Radio

Http://media.csosa.gov

Radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/07/fundamental-change-justice-system-adam-gelb-pew/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we got a treat for you today. Adam Gelb, the Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. We’re going to be talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system. I want to read briefly from Adam’s bio. Adam Gelb directs Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, which helps states advance policies and practices in adult and juvenile sentencing and corrections that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control correctional costs. As project lead, Adam oversees Pew’s assistance to states to seek a greater public safety return on their corrections spending. He also supervises a vigorous research portfolio that highlights strategies for reducing recidivism while cutting costs. Adam frequently speaks to the media about national trends and state innovations, that’s why we have Adam by our microphones.

And before we start the program, I think that Adam and Pew are probably the principle spokespeople for fundamental change within the criminal justice system in this country right now. There are a lot of groups out there that are doing wonderful things, Council of State Governments, Urban Institute, the US Department of Justice. Lots of organizations are really promoting a fundamental change within the criminal justice system. But it’s Adam and Pew that seems to get the press and Adam and Pew that seem to get the notice, thus making Adam probably in my opinion the principle spokesperson for fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Adam Gelb, welcome to DC Public Safety.

ADAM GELB: Thank you very much, Len. It’s great to be with you.

LEONARD SIPES: Do you disagree with me when I say that? Pew is on the forefront, Pew because it is Pew. It’s not government so you don’t have to be overly careful. Pew is out there leading fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Do you agree or disagree?

ADAM GELB: You are very kind and generous. We are not doing any of the things that we’re doing without the partnerships with the organizations that you mentioned.

LEONARD SIPES: Of course.

ADAM GELB: And it’s terrific to be part of what really now is a movement –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: To fundamentally change the criminal justice system and I think we’re seeing that happen.

LEONARD SIPES: Len, we are almost upon the 20th anniversary of the Crime Bill signing, right, back in 1994?

ADAM GELB: Uh huh.

LEONARD SIPES: There was an historic landmark piece of legislation passed of more police – you remember the 100,000 police –?

ADAM GELB: Sure.

LEONARD SIPES: And Midnight basketball prevention?

ADAM GELB: But also 7.9 billion dollars that the federal government put out for states to increase their prison populations. And here we are 20 years later, a lot of prisons have built, right, we got to a point in 2008 where 1 out every 100 adults in this country was behind bars –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And 1 out of every 31 was on some form of correctional, under some form of correctional control. No doubt increased incarceration helped reduce the crime rate over this period and nobody –

LEONARD SIPES: And there’s been an almost continuous 20 year reduction in crime.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And nobody really challenges the notion that increased incarceration helped achieve some of that crime reduction. But the best research on the question shows that about 30%, maybe a third of the crime drop, can be attributable to increased incarceration, the rest has come from other things, and also significant consensus now that we’re past the tipping point, where more and more incarceration is not the best way to reduce crime.

LEONARD SIPES: There’s bipartisan support now across the board in terms of both sides of the aisle, so the issue was not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue. There is really significant support from both sides. Every governor in this country has had a conversation with their state corrections administrator in terms of you got to control correctional cost. Criminological associations, organizations have basically said, we think that there’s a better fairer, more just, more productive, smarter way of conducting the criminal justice system, of doing business within the criminal justice system. And that in essence is the heart and soul of what Pew has tried to do, in bring a smarter, better databased approach to fundamental change.

ADAM GELB: That’s absolutely right. There is now consensus, broad political consensus on issues that used to be among the most divisive in American politics.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s right.

ADAM GELB: And just quickly think about this. Back in 1994 when the Crime Bill was being debated – I just want to us an example here of how things have changed – there was a young congressman named John Kasich from Ohio, who was one of the chief negotiators on the Crime Bill at the time, and there was a big debate in terms of the prison section of that bill about what the money would be used for, and the debate came down to two words. The two words were “and programs”. And the question was. Was all this money, the 7.9 billion dollars, going to be for facilities, bricks and mortar, or for facilities and programs? And the final bill ended up being all about bricks and mortar. Then Representative John Kasich and the Republican leadership had their way on that issue and the money turned out to be all for brick-and-mortar. Now flash-forward 20 years, John Kasich is the now the governor of Ohio, and, along with the Council of State Governments and the Justice Department and help from our project and the Justice reinvestment Initiative, that state has undertaken a very comprehensive set of reforms to try to make sure that prisons are for career and violent criminals and that lower level, nonviolent offenders are steered into more effective alternatives. Ohio has a long way to go, but the state has made some significant changes under the leadership of Governor Kasich, and he’s very proud of making that move. And so to see the contrast, were we were 20 years ago during the Crime Bill debate and where we are today is rather dramatic.

LEONARD SIPES: How many states are we talking about the Pew and allied organizations have worked with?

ADAM GELB: I’d say about 30 states.

LEONARD SIPES: It’s about 30 states. So it’s most of the states in the United States.

ADAM GELB: That’s how that –

LEONARD SIPES: Needless to say. Yes.

ADAM GELB: That’s how that works.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s how that works. And so but think about that, that’s significant. I mean when you started this whole thing it was really a lot of uncertainty. Now you have 30 states behind your belt. And these states are doing a data analysis, looking at every aspect of the criminal justice system, trying to figure out if there’s a way of doing it smarter through data, keeping the people who are at obvious risk to public safety, but doing quote, unquote “something else with everybody else”.

ADAM GELB: I think you’re putting finger on one of the keys to why we’re seeing as many states make as dramatic changes as they are, and that is because the justice reinvestment approach is based on data and research. There is not an imperative here through this initiative to get rid of mandatory minimums or to divert all first and second time drug offenders, which you may or may not have an opinion on, but that’s not the approach. The approach is on a state by state basis roll up your sleeves, dig into the data, see what it shows about what the specific drivers are of the prison population in that state. And as you can imagine over 30 states there’ve been all kinds of different particular policies, statutes that are driving the prison population. In one state, which happens to be state where you go to state prison for any offence that carries 90 days or more, one of the leading drivers of state prison beds was driving with a suspended license. And so when you take an approach that is based on data and research, and not on emotion and ideology, you can find some common ground and consensus.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. One of the things we want to talk about  today are people coming out of the prison system unsupervised. Now, there’s been an increase per your research and per research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from the US Department of Justice, there is data that basically says that more people are coming out of the prison system unsupervised. My sense is, is that some people would say, “Well, so what?” What is the answer to “so what”?

ADAM GELB: Well, I’ll just say, overall the trend is in the right direction, right, as we’ve just been talking about, lots of states doing data analysis and identifying smarter ways to do sentencing corrections policy. This trend you just mentioned is a little bit of a counterweight to that, it’s a little bit of a wind blowing in the opposite direction, and that is that a large and increasing number of offenders are serving out their prison sentences to the very last day and then being released to the streets without supervision. Back in 1990 it was about 1 in 7, about 14% of offenders were coming out that way, maxing out without supervision, and we found, unfortunately, that up through 2012 that had now increased to about 1 in 5.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Actually 22% of offenders now being released without supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: Why the increase?

ADAM GELB: Yeah. So product of a number obviously of different states, of different policies in specific, but really at the end of the day a prevailing attitude or philosophy that the best way to reduce crime would be to lock up as many people and hold them for as long as possible. And so it’s decisions by legislatures, in terms of restricting discretion of parole boards and other releasing authorities on the back end, and then decisions by parole boards, that rather than put our names behind the release of a particular inmate, it’s safer for everybody to hold that inmate till the very end of his or her sentence. And so a combination of factors led to it. What we’re seeing now, and this is very encouraging, is several states realizing this does not make sense for public safety. It does not make sense to hold somebody to the very last day of their sentence and then release them to the streets with no supervision. This is somebody who, right, who would’ve been institutionalized in some cases for a number of years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And then expect to succeed –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: When they get back home without any instruction, supervision –

LEONARD SIPES: One day they’re in prison, one day they’re on the street and –

ADAM GELB: Support –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Accountability or anything of the kind. And that if you’re serious about public safety the better thing to do is to make sure that there’s a period of supervision that’s carved out of that prison term. And we have about eight states in just the last couple years that have passed mandatory reentry supervision policies that essentially require inmates to be released before their sentence is expired to ensure there’s a period of transition and supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, parole, historically parole has done a lot better than those people who are mandatorily released. They’ve done a lot better. There’s been up to a 20% difference. In most years it’s a 15% to 20% difference between those paroled. The discretionary release based upon a person doing well within the prison system, obeying the rules, engaging in program and coming up versus those people who are, that none of that happens, the person just maxes out, whether they’re supervised or unsupervised. Now, parole and supervision seems to have a positive effect based upon that data and that data alone.

ADAM GELB: Yeah. That’s right. And this is a tricky issue, because people who max out may be maxing out because they are misbehaving –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Behind the walls –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And they’re not completing programs or they’re assaulting guards, and in those cases, right, I think everybody sort of agrees, you want those people to spend more time behind bars –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Still. And this is the case in particular even for inmates who are in solitary confinement. We see corrections professionals and policymakers saying even those people you don’t want them to be released to the streets without supervision. What sense does that make either? And so most of the states are carving out a period of supervision to make sure that it’s there; a couple of states have said we want to tack on this supervision period at the end, of course that’s difficult because of the funding. And really I think, Len, at this point policymakers are starting to realize and the public certainly realizes, and our polling shows this, that it doesn’t really matter whether somebody gets out in June or July. People at this point understand we’re not going to build our way to public safety and that the most important thing is that the system does a better job reducing crime, right? We have 87%, 90% of voters will respond favorably when asked the question, “Does it matter to you more whether somebody spends a longer time behind bars or that whenever it is that they do get out that they’re supervised adequately so they don’t commit another crime.

LEONARD SIPES: But the bottom line is you want them supervised. So the research, your polling, criminologically speaking they’re better supervised. It’s better then – instead of one day in solitary, the next day on M Street. How do we expect that person to successfully reintegrate in society without any help, without any assistance, without any place to go to?

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And we presented some research in this report, our max out report that you mentioned, from both Kentucky and New Jersey that shows that outperform max-outs, they’re less likely to return to prison for new crimes. Unfortunately the cost savings isn’t as great as it might be because some of them are returned to prison for technical violations.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Breaking the rules of their supervision. But their rates of crime commission are lower. And in the New Jersey, in particular, we were able to control for risk. So the issues we mentioned a minute ago, which is that somebody who’s maxing out might be higher risk, say, than a parolee, well, this research actually controlled for that and compared similar risk offenders who maxed out to similar risk offenders who were put under supervision, and those offenders who were under supervision by New Jersey parole returned to prison 36% less frequently for new crimes than the max-outs do.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. But California, the California Realignment is such an odd duck compared to what’s happening in the other 49 states, I realize that. And realignment in California, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t know, is the idea of sentencing individuals to local jails for crimes that ordinarily would’ve gone to state prisons and also releasing massive numbers of offenders. Every time I look the number seems to change, but somewhere in the ballpark of 30 to 40,000 people coming out of the prison system and being supervised locally instead of the state parole. So the bottom line there is that they did release a bunch of people with a no-cut contract, that unless you committed a new crime, they were unsupervised, and they wanted that to happen. They sort of felt that if they were supervised more people would end upcoming back, better than not being supervised at all and better than only coming back if they had committed a new crime. So there’s an example where people are releasing people unsupervised and they think it’s a good thing.

ADAM GELB: Right. Our report calls for universal post-prison supervision. The point you make and what was recognized in California some time ago is that there are some people who, for some combination of reasons, come out the back door of the prison gate and they’re fairly low-risk. And you on your show have highlighted many times the research that says you don’t want to over-supervise low-risk people, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: You’re going to make them worse. You’re going to put conditions on them that are just too difficult for them to meet. You’re going to have them in programs with other offenders who they shouldn’t be consorting with and building relationships with people they shouldn’t be hanging out with and so on. So while there’s a call for universal post-prison supervision, like with everything, there needs to be some flexibility and a safety valve here to make sure that the state would have flexibility to determine that some inmates in fact should not be really actively supervised but could be on an administrative case load or some other way to make sure they don’t reoffend.

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest is Adam Gelb. Halfway through the program, and these programs with Adam fly by very quickly. Adam Gelb, Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system, in this particular program talking about unsupervised offenders. Now, they’re coming out unsupervised in states because of, and I still have been struggling with this reason, we know that they do better upon supervision, but even that’s been a controversial issue within criminological circles. There are a lot of people who say that there’s very little difference between supervision and no supervision in parole and probation. And what they’re saying is it’s the programs that make the difference, not the supervision. So are we talking about coming out of prison not just unsupervised but without assistance? Is that the principle concern?

ADAM GELB: Yeah. There was nothing in our broad national research that identified, right, the components of effective supervision, but, as you’re well aware, lots of research has and there are many different aspects of, right, what makes an effective supervision scheme. We don’t want to do a lecture on this now, but I would highlight a couple things. It goes back to the beginning of our conversation. And what we see out in the states working with corrections and parole officials, working with state legislators and other policymakers are the following. There have been tremendous advances in how we do risk assessment. It wasn’t anywhere near the kind of science 20, 30 years ago that it is today, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Correct.

ADAM GELB: So we know so much better about how to identify and sort offenders by risk level, high, medium, or low, and also what, right, what the criminogenic risk factors are, and then how to target the interventions to individuals offenders’ criminal risk factors. We also –

LEONARD SIPES: Being smarter about making the decisions of what we do with people on community supervision.

ADAM GELB: Absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

ADAM GELB: And then we know what programs are more likely to work with the offender population and in particular a cognitive behavioral therapy, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: This is a move away from sitting around in a group and talking about your problems, which has some value. But the research is really pretty clear that a cognitive behavioral approach and really breaking down what are the triggers that in people’s lives provoke them to use drugs or do other things they shouldn’t be doing and try to come up with strategies, just very practical strategies for avoiding the people, the places, and the things –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: That get them into trouble.

LEONARD SIPES: Drug treatment –

ADAM GELB: You know more about –

LEONARD SIPES: Mental health, job assistance –

ADAM GELB: And how to specifically do those things effectively, because, right, we don’t want to talk about – all those things aren’t effective. You can’t just say we’re going to do job assistance and that is going to work, or drug treatment, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: There’s a lot more knowledge about how to make those broad buckets of programs effective. And then finally, and this is something that, Len, you have pioneered in your career, is the electronic monitoring piece did not exist back in the day, but whether it’s GPS or rapid result drug tests or ATM like kiosks that low level offenders can report to rather than taking up the time of a supervision officer, these are technologies that are not only efficient, but they’re giving policymakers and judges and prosecutors I think more confidence that there’s a credible alternative to prison for appropriate offenders.

LEONARD SIPES: And if you put it all together these programs do have a way of reducing recidivism, do have a way of reducing the return to the prison system, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody. There’s fewer crimes, less money that states have to spend on their corrections budgets, and they can take some of that money and redirect it in other directions, whether it was restorative justice with the idea of saying, “Hey, fine. You’ve saved me 15 million dollars. We’re going to invest 7 million of that 15 million in terms of programs for people under supervision.” or building bridges and taking care of older people or building schools or that sort of thing. So it seems to be a win-win situation for everybody. So, again, I go back to the question. If it’s a win-win situation for everybody, if we now have these tools, we now have this understanding, we’re in 30 states and 30 states are using data to make good decisions, how come the rate of unsupervised offenders is going up?

ADAM GELB: There, as you know, there are so many facets of the criminal justice system, there’re sentencing laws, there’re release laws and policies, there’re practices throughout the system, and this is one piece that has lagged behind the others. I think our report has shed some light on it and we’ll hopefully accelerate attention to it and try to make sure that more and more states are looking at their own situations. There’s tremendous variance, by the way, here in the state max-out rates, right? We talked about the overall national rate being 22%. But Florida has the highest max-out rate with 64% -

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

ADAM GELB: Of inmates, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Almost two out of three inmates in Florida maxing out their prison terms, down to the opposite end of the scale, which is Oregon, which has almost no one –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Maxing out. So this is on a state by state basis something that needs to be part of what officials who are serious about public safety and serious about containing the cost of corrections in overall government spending need to look at.

LEONARD SIPES: But to be powerful, to really have the results that we’re looking for in terms of people under supervision, you have to have the programs, you have to have the caseloads, you have to have the tools, you’ve got to have the mechanisms in place to really do both supervision and programming, and a lot of states don’t. Bill Burrell, an independent parole and probation consultant is coming before these microphones in a couple weeks to talk about his concern that states are being underfunded, and this whole revolution that’s occurring within the criminal justice system, in many ways thanks to Pew and thanks to your leadership, may be at risk because states aren’t providing enough funding for programs and for supervision and not providing the tools necessary to do a good job, to supervise people, to reduce crime, to lessen the rate of return back to the prison system. That seems to be his concern and the concern of many others.

ADAM GELB: It’s a very valid concern and everybody involved in this work has the exact same concern. Some states have been very aggressive about reinvesting prison savings into supervision, others less so. But as a general matter, hundreds of millions of dollars have been plowed back into supervision coming out of the sentencing and release law and policy changes. And I think there’s a growing awareness that the parole and probation systems are the backbone of this system and that they need to be adequately funded.

LEONARD SIPES: And that’s a fundamental sea change. When you and I were in the state of Maryland I remember asking the people within Parole and Probation, I said, “What is the role of parole and probation?” and their response was to enforce the dictates of the court and enforce the dictates of the Parole Commission. There was nothing there about reducing recidivism, there was nothing there about gaining a bigger bang for the tax paid dollar. It was simply to follow the rules. And at one point when we were with the state of Maryland, 70% of the intakes in one particular year were parole and probation violations. So there’s no way a state prison system can operate efficiently if 70% of your parole probation, if 70% of the intakes are parole and probation failures. There’s got to be a better way of doing it. That’s why there’s a bit of a dichotomy. There’s a bit of a struggle, there’s a bit of frustration. We had this consensus, we have Pew, we have all these organizations that are pushing for fundamental change, fundamental change is happening, yet parole and probation still seems to be short-funded or shortchanged.

ADAM GELB: I think almost any agency of government is always going to claim that it is underfunded. That said there are lots of new dollar flowing in the direction of these agencies and a rising awareness of their role as part of the crime fighting machinery in the states. We see in state after state, really changing the culture of the conversation around here and it’s sort of based on two things. One is the growing awareness of the research that shows that supervision can work if it’s done well.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And there really is a growing awareness among policymakers of that research. And the National –

LEONARD SIPES: It’s a sea change.

ADAM GELB: The National Governor’s Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Center for State Courts, as well as the partners that you’ve mentioned, the Justice Department, Council of State Governments, Justice Center, the Bureau Institute on Justice, there are a lot organizations providing information to policymakers about this and it’s starting to sink in. So on that side there is growing recognition of credible alternatives. The flip-side of that is that more and more people seem to think that prisons are essentially schools for crime, and particularly on the conservative side here a lot of the conservative voices are saying, “This makes no sense and how can we expect large government bureaucracies that put a bunch of criminals together to turn out people who are corrected?” And so there’s growing, at the same time as there’s growing confidence in alternatives, there’s growing skepticism that prison will actually accomplish that recidivism reduction that some folks once thought they would.

LEONARD SIPES: Final four minutes of the program. There has been a sea change in terms of both of our careers, where we are in terms of people coming out of the prison system, what happens to them, how they’re supervised, how they’re assisted. The conversation has changed completely. What does the future hold? Where are we going within the next five years in terms of a fundamental change within the criminal justice system?

ADAM GELB: Great question. And I don’t have a crystal ball here, but I’ll give you –

LEONARD SIPES: But you’re leading the charge so guess.

ADAM GELB: I’ll give you some thoughts. It is a mystery to many people why the prison population has leveled off and started to fall in the context of a sour economy. And it’s nice to see the economy picking back up again at the extent to which you want to think there’s a relationship between the crime rate and the economic situation. That’s a myth that has been challenged, drastically, right? It’s been –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: It’s been almost a full six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the Great Recession, and we have seen a sort of plateauing of the crime drop. It’s, it continues down slightly, not at the same rate it had been.

LEONARD SIPES: But from a longitudinal point of view it has plummeted –

ADAM GELB: It is way down.

LEONARD SIPES: And for the last four years there’s been a decrease in admissions to prisons.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. So from that perspective it looks like the population will continue to head down. A lot of these reforms that the states that we’ve been talking about have done really are just starting to kick in. I mean the last, really the last two or three years the states have gotten even more aggressive about some of the reforms that they’re embarking on, changing property crime statutes, changing the penalties for drug offences, diverting more offenders, reducing length of stay, incentivizing offenders to comply with supervision so that they can earn their way off sooner, which is another way of creating resources –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: For supervision. Not more dollars, but it’s reducing caseloads by getting these low-risk offenders off of those caseloads, etc. So for those reasons I think we’re going to start to see the population go down. There’s something else afoot here, Len, that we don’t have good measures for yet that we need to start tracking, and that is not just the quantity of offenders behind bars, but, if you will, the quality.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And what a lot of these reforms are designed to do is not necessarily explicitly reduce the prison population itself, but to make sure that the prison beds are occupied by truly dangerous offenders, by the violent career criminals.

LEONARD SIPES: The people posing the highest risk to public safety.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And this is what governors and legislative leadership want to talk about, they want to talk about making sure the taxpayer dollars funding these expensive prison cells are being used for serious chronic and violent offenders. And we need to start having some more measures that look at whether that’s true, whether that’s actually happening. And I think it is. When you look at the changes in the sentencing and release laws and policies for nonviolent offenders and changes in policies we’re dealing with, technical violators on supervision, I think we’re starting to see a lot of states change the complexion, the composition of their prison populations, and we will see over time a significant increase in the –

LEONARD SIPES: We both agree that there has been a huge change and a very positive change in terms of the conversation about what we do with the criminal justice system.

ADAM GELB: There really has. It’s a very exciting time in this field.

LEONARD SIPES: And a very exciting time because of the work of Pew and the partners. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking to Adam Gelb, Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system. And, ladies and gentlemen, we really do appreciate your comments, we really do appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

Community Correction Collaborative Network

Community Correction Collaborative Network

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Podcast available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/09/community-corrections-collaborative-network-national-institute-corrections/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman the Community Correction Collaborative Network, they are back at our microphones to talk about all the issues that we can do, should do if all the organization that are involved in the correctional system come together and agree to debate and agree to disagree on certain  issues. The Community Correction Collaborative Network’s mission is to serve as a forum to develop and work with the emerging issues, activities and goals in the community corrections fields. Back at our microphone is Greg Crawford; Greg is a Correctional Program Specialist at the Community Service Division at the National Institute of Corrections. He has experience in the Criminal Justice and mental health field that includes over 14 years working in a misdemeanant Probation Department and at a Community based Mental Health Center. Also by our microphones is Phil Nunes, Phil brings extensive experience totaling 25 years in management nonprofit operations. Phil joined Avis House in July of 2014 as a Chief Programs Officer. And we have Spurgeon Kennedy, our Spurgeon Kennedy at Pretrial here in the District of Columbia. He is Director of Strategic Development for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia and Vice President for the National association of Pretrial Services and to Phil and Spurgeon and Greg welcome to DC Public Safety.

GREG CRAWFORD: Thanks a lot.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: How are you?

LEONARD SIPES: You know this is an interesting concept we talked about it last time and I think it really is an extraordinarily interesting because what we are talking about doing is bringing a wide variety of organizations together at the same table to debate and agree and disagree on the topics that are so important to us. I am going to read a couple of the organizations involved American Probation and Parole Association, Association of Paroling Authorities, International Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association, International Community Correction Association, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, National Association of Probation Executives and Greg you are going to tell me that we have a new one.

GREG CRAWFORD: We do Leonard.

LEONARD SIPES: And what is that new one.

GREG CRAWFORD: It is the National Association of Drug Core Professionals.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is extraordinarily important. Greg what is new in terms of the Community Corrections Collaborative Network.

GREG CRAWFORD: Well we are actually in town. We meet twice a year. We are in town tomorrow and Thursday. We have all of our Associations coming to Washington DC. We have a robust agenda and we are looking forward to continuing the discussion about the emerging issues of the field.

LEONARD SIPES: Now the emerging issues of the field are what? I mean the public is being inundated in terms of correctional news. I mean it is very hard to read the newspaper or watch evening television without corrections being part of the news either from a good point or a bad point of view but we have the Affordable Care Act in terms of how that is going to impact Community Corrections Populations. We have the Second Chance Act, we have Justice Reinvestment. There are a lot of different things that are happening throughout the country that these organizations find to be very important. So let’s start off with the Affordable Care Act.

GREG CRAWFORD: Well let me just, if I could, just back up for half a second. I think it is important that we just sort of lay out the state of the Criminal Justice System. If you look at our local jails we average about 11.7 million cycling through our local jails each year. Since the early 80s we have approximately a 375% increase in the US prison population. We have nearly 5 million people on probation or parole. So the system really is sort of bursting at the schemes and so now with the introduction of health care reform and reauthorization of the Second Chance Act and Justice Reinvestment Initiatives, to me this is a real opportunity to make an impact and reduce recidivism and help these people that are in the system address these underlying issues of substance abuse and mental health issues and the discussion I hope we get into today is about building capacity in the Community and meeting the needs of these new opportunities for these folks in the system.

LEONARD SIPES: And having the major Community Corrections Organization in the country all come together and all agreeing in terms of a platform would be a huge plus if we were all marching in lockstep together but these are organization that are ordinarily overwhelmed by the amount of people coming into them. There are 7 million people under Correctional Supervision. 1.5 million are in prisons and in federal prison systems and another what 500 thousand, 600 thousand are in jails then we having another 5 million people onto some sort of community Correction setting. I mean that is 7 million human beings on any given day. That is an enormous amount of people. Do we have the capacity to individually look at these people, provide treatment services, and provide remediation so they would do better upon release? 95% of them are going to come out; they are going to be released. Do we have the capacity to actually deal with these numbers. Phil do you want to go with that?

PHIL NUNES: Sure, I mean I think first of all I mean Community Corrections is an extremely important; I always use the analogy that it is the Penicillin pill for the Corrections Department. Without Community Corrections prisons over the last two decades would have just continued to grow and spiral out of control. Community Corrections has always served as an out lay and a relief valve for people coming home but in years past science is catching up and you know back in the 1940s and the 1950s there is actually a research article that says nothing works. Well today, fast forward to 2014 we know what works. We know that risk based approaches, tailoring individual and addressing needs of those in the Criminal Justice System based upon a risk and their needs has great impact on reducing recidivism. So Community Corrections is a very big and very vital important part to the Correctional World but that world is about to change and it is changing in many states in the country because we are hitting way over capacity on funding issues. But it is also changing because we just cannot lock everybody up and throw away the key. Community Corrections really serves and the seven of us organizations coming together and really speaking with one voice it is rather historic actually.

LEONARD SIPES: I do what to get back to the affordable care act that Greg brought up because of extraordinary importance to those of us in Community Corrections. Spurgeon did you want to opine about where we are in terms of resources?

SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think Phil makes an excellent point. In years past the Community Corrections field was almost a stop gap and if your jail or prison got to crowded you use probationary sources, you used parole, you use pretrial resources. That is not happening any more. Right now Community Corrections is not a stop gap we are the first option. And for most defendants and Offenders we are the best option in the Criminal Justice System. We are the thing that makes the most sense if reducing recidivism is the thing that you are trying to accomplish. Because of that we are going to be used a lot more. Jurisdictions across the country are beginning to buy-in to the idea of evidence based practices. They are beginning to buy into the idea that Community Supervision is the best way to address recidivism and with that new way of thinking does have to come new strategies and new ways of getting resources to what’s going to become a fast growing population of defendants and offenders.

LEONARD SIPES: Throughout the program I do want to remind the listeners that we are talking about a collaboration that is headed up by the National Institute of Corrections that deals with, and marches in lockstep hopefully, or in agreement certainly with most of the major Community Corrections Organizations in the Country so it is something exciting not just having the National Institute of Corrections come along and suggest something but to have all the National Associations that support Community Corrections also agree to it. But getting back to the substance of the field. Lots of people have been before these microphones claiming that we are dumping literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of people into the Community Correction systems who have mental health problems. People who would have been served under, you know 20-30 years ago by facilities at the state level to deal with mental health. We suddenly become the repository for people who have mental health problems. So first of all is that correct and secondly what is the state of the art from the National Institute of Corrections point of view and the Community Collaborations point of view?

GREG CRAWFORD: Well I would say that up until health care reform the jails and prisons had become the defectum mental health institutions in this country and now with health care reform individuals have an opportunity to receive health care to treat theses underlying issues that help lead them into the system of substance abuse and mental health issues.

LEONARD SIPES: And do we have the capacity to deal with it. If we are the defectum, repository for people with mental health problems, do we have that capacity and it leads us back hopefully to the discussion about the affordable care act?

GREG CRAWFORD: I think resources are definitely going to be an issue. There is going to be a period of time where ewe are going to have to figure out ways to build capacity in the Community in order to really take advantage and leverage the opportunities of health care reform. Phil?

PHIL NUNES: I would just add I think that the Affordable Care Act is a terrific starting point but health care is a really big ship that is taking a long time to turn as well. So we are just now on the eve of rewriting rules and regulations and I think states and the federal government actually are now starting to see exactly how do they get through some of the red tape that use to exist but also how do you leverage resources and get a provider because it is a potential issue that the infrastructure does not exist to support this new wave of new services that overnight people became eligible for.

LEONARD SIPES: But I mean people are describing this as the most, one of the, describing it optimistically in a way that I haven’t heard in the last four or five years. Now the Affordable Care Act with all its difficulties and infrastructure issues does provide us somewhere down the road with the best chance of providing individuals caught up in the Criminal Justice System with a medical and mental health and possibly substance abuse issues that they so desperately need. Spurgeon am I right or wrong?

SPURGEON KENNEDY: This is potentially one of the biggest game changes that we have had in the Criminal Justice in a very long time. It is also and again Phil makes an excellent point if we don’t use it well and if we don’t know the population to apply to the best it could be a waste as well. We need to be able to know that these are the defendants and the offenders who are in the most need of mental health services and substance abuse services. We have to get better at assessing. We have to get better at identifying and we have to get better at matching the need to the resources and this is a great and wonderful thing. We have to get better at knowing how to use it and use it well.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay but are the different organizations, Greg how many are we talking about now at National Organizations?

GREG CRAWFORD: Seven.

LEONARD SIPES: Seven, okay do those seven organizations plus your individual organizations, do you all agree that this is, this has huge potential but at the same time has huge pitfalls, all of you marching in lockstep in terms of what we can get out of this, what we should be getting out of affordable health care?

GREG CRAWFORD: Well I think as Kennedy said this is the potential to be a huge game changer for the Criminal Justice System and for the folks in the system. I mean really this is the first time that a lot of these folks has had the opportunity to receive health care and be covered to receive the treatment for these issues. And so take a look at this, if you look in Cook County, in Chicago Illinois prior to the health care reform one out of ten individuals who came into the Court room had health care coverage. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act they now have 9/10 so that is a big difference. If you look at you know local and state jurisdictions across the county they have to be proactive in this thing. They can’t just sit there and let it unfold and expect miracles to happen. They have to be proactive in helping build that capacity in the Community in order to meet these needs.

PHIL NUNES: You know Len I would just add one other thing and for years I have been hearing this as a practitioner in the Community for Community Corrections is that sometimes you have to commit a crime to even be eligible to get in and get drug treatment, rehab. This is to me, that is the game changer part and I think the system is just going through some growth right now but when it does catch up these folks hopefully can be caught early on to get to the point where we prevent them from committing crimes and they get their drug treatment or their mental health issues back in check so that they are not going to the Criminal Justice System.

LEONARD SIPES: Does the Affordable Care Act focus on drug treatment.

PHIL NUNES: Yes.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: Substance abuse treatment, mental health services, also physical issues as well. So these are all risk factors when you are looking at recidivism reduction.

LEONARD SIPES: Is it agreed between the four of us in this room that resources certainly haven’t been there. We have all wondered why resources certainly haven’t been there when the great bulk of the people caught up in the Criminal Justice System belong to us in Community Corrections. I mean is that a true statement and we are wondering why the resources haven’t been there and now there is the possibility, if everything works well that four or five years down the road we could have an infrastructure that actually provides treatment services to people on Community Supervision.

PHIL NUNES: Len if I could add too, I think there is an important caveat that we need to make sure we outline too because this is going to work in states that actually took the Affordable Care Act and raised the poverty level to the 133% level because that is the game changes. I think it is 25 out of the 50.

GREG CRAWFORD: 27 Actually now.

PHIL NUNES: 27 so they have adopted that. Those states that have adopted that overnight people who, single men for example, single men in general but of course even women with children who were making a different amount of money overnight became eligible for medical services which again include mental health and substance abuse.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay the radio program today ladies and gentlemen is on the Community Collections Collaborative Network produced by the National Institution of Corrections and we really do appreciate the work at the National Institution of Corrections in terms of setting up this program. Greg Crawford is by our microphones today. Phil Nunes is also by our microphones for the first time, he is, I want to mention him because he has not been here before. He has joined Avis House as a Chiefs Programs Officer in July of 2014. Spurgeon Kennedy is back at our microphones as the Strategic Director of Development Services for Pretrial and is also the Vice President at the National Association of Pretrial Services. I do want to refer everybody to the website for the National Institute of Corrections www.nicic.gov. There is a report that deals with the collaborative network, Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America’s Correctional challenges. Greg we are going to go back to you. Correctional challenges, you know when I read something in the newspaper, when I hear something on the radio, watch something on television about corrections it is uniformly negative. I don’t think the average person out there and I have seen surveys that back this up, sees us in the same light as our law enforcement partners. They see us not in the best of all possible lights. Is that part of the reason as to why corrections, especially Community Corrections has been so resource poor over time. Do people have confidence in us and is that one of the goals of the Collaborative Network?

GREG CRAWFORD: Yeah I think so, I think you know as we have kind of shifted away from this heavy incarceration push and folks are starting to realize the effectiveness of Community Corrections. I think often at times the only thing that people see is the negative stuff in the medial but the reality is that there is probation officers largely do a great job, you know addressing these issues, holding people accountable. But the reality is there has been some frustrations on both the part of the folk and the system and the probation officers with these resources. I am going to get back to that for a second. A lot of these folks have not had the funding or they don’t have jobs with the economy crashing in 08 and so forth, and now with health care reform they have an opportunity to get coverage, they have an opportunity to engage in treatment and deal with the underlying issues and that was a lot of the frustrations and the cause of these technical violations that these probations have had to deal with; was the fact that these folks could not afford treatment and now that has been removed. But what is really important is that these Criminal Justice Agencies across the country look at setting up enrolment systems and determining eligibility for these folks and assisting these folks in getting the health care coverage and probation, parole and pretrial officers can play a major role in this and education folks what’s available to them. If you look at the decision points within the Criminal Justice System between law enforcement, court, jails, prisons and community corrections, there is no wrong door for enrolment in determining eligibility and so that to me, people need to be aware that they can all play a critical role as a Criminal Justice Professional in assisting these folks to access health coverage and deal with the underlying issues that help lead them into the system in the first place.

LEONARD SIPES: There is optimism because we do have the Second Chance Act which we do what to talk about a little bit. We do have something known as Justice Reinvestment to those of us in the Criminal Justice System. We understand that maybe the average person listening to this program does not. We do have a research base that is being more and more positive about what it is that we can do to help individuals not recidivate and lowers crime, lowers the burden on the tax payer. We do have all points of the political spectrum now suddenly agreeing within the last five years as to this is the way to go. We do have organizations such as Pew, Urban again National Institute of Corrections who are basically saying there is a better way, a smarter way, a more productive way of managing the correctional system so the stars are starting to align for us in Community Corrections am I right or wrong?

GREG CRAWFORD: Absolutely Len. I would say first of all the Second Chance Act when we talked about resources a minute ago provides those resources. I mean one thing about, we can do all the great evidence based research in the world but if we don’t get to the point of funding those best practices all that research is for nothing. I think the Second Chance Act really provides a pool of funding you know and I will give a shout out to my Senator Portman from Ohio who is a big sponsor of this, to give programs and services and start to fund these programs using this evidence. So the problems we have in this field right now is you have case loads for probation officers are way unyielding. Research shows that higher risk and not meaning dangerous risk but those with higher needs or moderate needs would need more dosage treatment hours of services if it is going to go to reduce the likelihood of them recidivating and coming back into the system. The Second Chance Act actually provides a venue or a stream of funding potential for programs to continue to move forward with those best practices.

LEONARD SIPES: But the point that I am trying to make is that we are talking about funding and here we have the President and Congress supporting the Second Chance Act which is putting more money into research program, putting more money into programs in the community and researching them to see if they are affective so we do have funding from a variety of sources and that is way Spurgeon I am beginning to believe, I am beginning to be a bit more optimistic about our place in the sun. Our place in terms of how people perceive us as having the potential for improving dramatically because we are getting more money from a variety of sources.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think that all of the groups that you mention are now on the same page and that is the goal of any good Criminal Justice System is to protect the public. It is to reduce recidivism. It is to look for ways of keeping people who are in the system out of the system in the future. We are on the same page with that. We are on the same page with the things that are most effective, those evidence based practices that make the most sense and that yield us the best successes. The real issue now and this is we are having partners such as Pew and others in the discussion is how best to do those things.

LEONARD SIPES: And this is why the Community Corrections Collaborative Network now comes together at a very opportune time because now there is money, now there is agreement, now there is consensus.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: You have 90 thousand people who every single day do the job. They manage defendants and offenders. They work with those evidence based practices. They have to live with those shortages of resources. What they have lacked over the years and hopefully what the collaborative gives them is a voice to the people making those decisions about this is what we belief works best.

LEONARD SIPES: But national organizations are coming together and are saying hey this, we believe is the path, very powerful National Organizations, the President, Congress. It is not politically popular regardless of what side of the political spectrum you’re on. We now have again this is collaborative network of national organizations coming together yet I’m still wondering if we are convincing the average person sitting out there about our worthiness if all they are hearing is principally negative news coming out of the newspapers, television stations and radio stations. Are we doing enough to see this new collaboration, not just in terms of your network but everything that I have just mentioned all these new funding sources? Are we doing enough talking to the American people to convince them that we are players and we know what we are doing and we know which way to go?

SPURGEON KENNEDY: I think the group that we have convinced the most is those who make the decisions about where resources are going to go. If you are looking at law makers, local decision makers, even as you said before those at a national level even with the dearth of public opinion, whether you’re Liberal, whether you are Conservative you now know what the issues are regarding crime and justice.

LEONARD SIPES: The governors are certainly on board.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: True, I think we have the people on board who will listen and who can make the decisions about resources and about best practices that need to be made for us to move forward.

LEONARD SIPES: The question I have for everybody is that if we really put all these things in place. If we had the drug treatment, if we had the mental health treatment, if we had the vocational treatment, if we had reasonable case loads for people who are doing community corrections where they can actually implement best practice, where they had a shot at implementing best practices. What would change for the average American? What would change in terms of the tax payer contribution Greg?

GREG CRAWFORD: Well I think first of all we are going to get safer communities and I think one this that

LEONARD SIPES: Marginally safer communities, much safer communities?

GREG CRAWFORD: Much safer communities and here is the thing. Our country incarcerates more people than any country in the world. One out of every three Americans has some sort of criminal record or charge or has been arrested and so we need to go about things a little differently and I think what folks are going to see with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act with the Second Chance Act with Justice reinvestment with people paying attention to the fact that we have gone about things a little differently. There is a tremendous collateral consequence from having an arrest or criminal conviction. If you look at what happens a collateral consequence of incarceration, harder to get a job, you know renting an apartment or getting a load or getting a school load these are all negative things that occur and I think people are recognizing that if we want to stop this cycle we need to really take a look at changing that trend by promoting what is working and Community Corrections to me instead of long term incarceration, diversion type program where you know if you comply with a court order treatment program the charge drops off your record. We need to take a look at shifting to those type of things if we really want to make a difference in terms of you know, keeping people connected to the community rather than as Kennedy mentioned in the last broadcast, shipping people off to prison for long stretches.

LEONARD SIPES: We are getting into the final minute of the program so I am going to ask for your answers to be fairly short. Phil again if we really did have all of these resources together, Greg said there would be a significant contribution to public safety. We would definitely lower the burden of tax payers. We would throw fewer dollars into the criminal Justice System. If this is such a win-win situation why is it taking so long to come to this point of national consensus in terms of what to do?

PHIL NUNES: Len I think you can’t get past the 1 in 31 number of the Pew research in 2007. 1 in 31 adult men and women were under some kind of correctional supervision. I think that is what has awakened our country to think about this issue. I think that has opened the door to have now realistic conversation around the issues and impacting, but we have to go even further than what we are looking at and talking about today. We have to look at the 1.5 million kids of incarcerated parents and that 600 thousand are destined to come in our systems. Our system is somewhat broken and now is the time for us I think to come together and that is what our collaborative is about. We are about coming together to talk about what are the most appropriate and of course we haven’t got much into it in this show but maybe for a future show but the justice reinvestment movement that is going on nationwide, you are going to have to get to that point but any time you can keep someone a tax payer and not a tax taker it’s a win-win for I think all of us.

LEONARD SIPES: Spurgeon you have got the final point. How do you summarize all of this to the governor’s aide who are sitting there listening to this program wanting to do something better in Community Corrections what is our message to that individual.

SPURGEON KENNEDY: The use of Community Corrections not only is the smarter way of doing business now but also the cheaper and as a tax payer, as all tax payers I think we all appreciate that. I will give you an example in DC where we try to implement evidence based practices both pretrial and also probation and our jail is 51% capacity and crime has gone down in our city. Most people are supervised in the community, they are supervised well and we are safe.

LEONARD SIPES: Phil and Spurgeon and to Greg I do want to express my appreciation for doing this show today talking about an extraordinarily important topic. I do want to remind everybody that there is a document called Safe and Smart Ways to Solve America’s Correctional Challenges it is at the website of the national Institute of Corrections www.nicic.gov. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public Safety we really do appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourself a very pleasant day.