Returning From Prison to Washington D.C. “We Make Transition Possible”

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

The name sounds like the essence of bureaucracy-the Transitional Intervention for Parole Supervision unit, or TIPS. The TIPS teams of Community Supervision Officers evaluate and assist the vast majority of offenders returning from prison to Washington, D.C. They are part of the federal, executive branch agency that provides parole and probation supervision in the nation’s capital, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA).

CSOSA supervises approximately 15,500 parolees, supervised releasees and probationers on any given day. Each year, approximately 2,300 men and women return to Washington, D.C. from any one of the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities throughout the United States. For most of them, the first CSOSA staff member they meet is a TIPS officer.

The TIPS unit was a core requirement when CSOSA was initially established as a new federal agency in August of 2000. Recognizing that the District of Columbia’s Lorton prison would soon close, and that D.C. offenders would be housed in any one of the Bureau of Prison facilities, CSOSA knew it would be difficult for D.C. offenders to successfully reintegrate and reestablish ties with their families and the community. To address this need, the TIPS unit was established to work solely with returning offenders.

TIPS is truly unique. Through a collaborative, working relationship with the BOP, TIPS staff begin to work with offenders long before the offenders are released to the community or a BOP Residential Reentry Center (RRC, also known as halfway house). TIPS staff begin working on an offender’s case once they receive notice from the BOP of the offender’s pending release. TIPS staff begin to identify the offender’s needs and investigate the offender’s proposed home and employment release plans. One TIPS team is located in an RRC, working closely with offenders living there, but still under BOP’s supervision. In addition, CSOSA established a relationship with the faith-based community that links offenders to mentors who serve as a positive role model and community resource for the returning offender. TIP staff serve a vital role in this function by determining offenders suitable for participation in the program and linking them to mentors.

“TIPS staff perform a key, critical function in the reentry planning process,” says Thomas H. Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. “TIPS staff not only address offenders’ needs upon release so they can have the opportunity to successfully reintegrate in the community, but also help ensure public safety by approving or denying offender home and employment plans.”

TIPS officers can be compared to air traffic controllers: They take a look at thousands of incoming “flights” and organize their “arrival.” They act as persuaders and negotiators with offenders, families and service providers. They “set the stage” for the offender’s future supervision. Their first priority is public safety while being an offender’s advocate for needed services.

“I was doing a home plan for a returning offender with sex offenses in his background,” stated Sharon Jackson. Sharon has over 20 years of experience supervising juvenile and adult offenders. “His living arrangements would have put him in contact with children. There was no way I was going to approve him living in that house. He had to make other living arrangements,” she said.

There are 22 Community Supervision Officers (known as parole and probation agents elsewhere) and three supervisors dedicated to the TIPS function. Their job is to assess returning inmates for risk of re-offending and need for services. They work principally with offenders residing in six halfway houses operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (Since December 2001, D.C. offenders serve their time in federal prisons.)

Federal Bureau of Prison case managers submit a release plan to CSOSA; TIPS officers investigate these plans, which address a proposed place to live (or lack of one) and potential employment. Using the plan as a baseline, TIPS staff analyze the incoming offender’s needs and arrange for the offender to access services at the time of release. This can include medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment, as well as any requirements imposed by the US Parole Commission as conditions of release. Sometimes, TIPS officers have months to do their jobs-sometimes days.

“We had an offender who weighed 600 pounds coming out of prison in a couple days,” stated Sharon Jackson. “The federal halfway houses were not equipped to deal with him. He had a challenging medical need, and I was able to help him find housing with a private transitional center. That’s just one example of what we do and the unique challenges that confront us every day.”

To understand TIPS is to acknowledge that returning offenders bring with them very little luggage but a lot of baggage-the complex issues that need to be addressed to give them the highest likelihood of staying out of prison. TIPS officers prepare the way for the offender and those in CSOSA who will supervise him directly upon release from prison or the federal halfway houses.

Approximately 50 percent of all offenders returning to D.C. transition through a halfway houses. Another 30 percent enter post-release supervision without a halfway house stay. The remaining 20 percent are released with no supervision obligation. TIPS officers assist everyone having a term of community supervision.

Once the offender is released to the community, the offender’s supervision is transferred from TIPS staff to a general or special supervision team. Although TIPS work is short-term and intensive, it is critical to ensuring the smooth transition of the offender from incarceration to the community.

Every offender has issues; approximately 70 percent have substance abuse histories. Approximately 30 percent of DC offenders have temporary housing arrangements. Many have complex issues, like mental illness or medical problems. Most need services to find education or jobs.

“The issue is public safety, and will always be public safety,” states Edmond Pears, Branch Chief the Investigations, Diagnostics and Evaluations Branch that encompasses TIPS. “We fully understand, for example, that unmet mental health needs and homelessness greatly increase the possibility that the offender will commit another crime. We can intervene. We can stabilize. We can help this guy and lessen the chance of someone getting hurt.”

The Initial Process

TIPS receives information on most inmates from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) approximately six months before the scheduled release date. In addition, TIPS staff can access the BOP’s information system for the inmate’s criminal history, institutional behavior records, medical conditions, mental health and social needs, prior community supervision adjustment and programs and services received during incarceration. The TIPS staff create a plan of action that is ready when the offender enters the federal halfway houses and/or the community. (The offender is still in BOP custody while in the halfway house.)

The halfway houses provide an array of services, such as intake, orientation, screening, assessment, case staffing, referrals, crisis intervention, counseling, home and employment investigations and discharge planning. But the offender’s stay is limited and most cases does not exceed 30 days.

“Thirty days is not a lot of time to analyze a person and his risk and social history and to arrange for needed services,” said Trevola Singletary-Mohamed, a TIPS Community Supervision Officer (CSO). CSO Singletary-Mohamed started community supervision with the adult probation division of D.C. Superior Court before CSOSA assumed the function in 1997. “You may have the file months ahead, and that’s vital to the process, but nothing beats having the person sitting in front of you answering your questions. The file and evaluation may state that he has a history of cocaine use and received treatment while in prison, but you find out through an interview that a ‘history’ meant daily use for several years. Sometimes, it’s the quality of the information that you gain through personal interviews that tells you what you need to know.”

Housing

Finding housing for returning offenders is one of the most difficult parts of the job. The hyper-heated housing market in Washington, D.C. makes this especially difficult. If the average offender who comes back through a halfway house only stays there for a month, then that’s just a temporary solution.

Some do not come back through halfway houses because of limited bed space or previous medical or mental health issues that the halfway houses are not equipped to manage. Halfway house staffs also evaluate offenders based on criminal history and prior problems while in a previous halfway house.

Approximately 25 percent go home or to another residence upon release. TIPS staff investigate all proposed living arrangements to ensure that they are viable and safe for all concerned. The home environment is reviewed and evaluated. Issues include the occupants’ legal right to the residence, adequate living space, and evidence of illegal substances or criminal activity. The bottom line is whether placement will lead to future crimes.

Many offenders have burned their bridges with the family. Community corrections professionals have heard many stories of mothers who state that they will allow a returning son to live with them in public housing, but she never places his name on the lease. Other family members promise the use of their homes but back out when the home plan is investigated.

Some families have moved outside of D.C. US Probation or state agencies will assist with placement in the family’s new state of residence if the US Parole Commission approves. If the offender has a detainer on other criminal charges, he must resolve those legal matters before pursuing supervision in another jurisdiction.

Offenders also cannot be a hardship to their family members (for example, a one bedroom apartment with one adult and three children). For the returnee to live in public housing, his name must be on the lease. TIPS staff do not take the family’s word for it; they must see a copy of the lease.

TIPS staff will not automatically approve a plan if another offender is living there; it’s up to the discretion of the CSO. Each case is individually assessed and investigated for suitability of the residence and peer support within the residence.

There are faith-based, charitable and private institutions that will provide services for returning offenders. Some deal with unique needs, like medical or mental health issues. Some are merely shelters offering a legal place to stay at night and something to eat. Staff would rather not use shelters. They also strive for housing that promotes the offender’s transitional process.

With only 25 percent living in private residences (and some of these placements are temporary) then it is easy to see why housing can take so much staff time.

“It takes a dedicated person to make these arrangements,” states CSO Daynelle Allison, a D.C. resident who has worked for CSOSA for three years. “I’ve had months, but sometimes just days to find a place to live for people with special medical or mental health needs. We do not compromise the quality of our supervision or housing investigation based on how much time we have. We do what we need to get the job done.”

“We need to be sure that arrangements are made to the point that an ambulance will meet the returning offender’s plane or bus and transport the offender to the residence, a hospital, or mental health clinic. Part of all this is a commitment to meeting simple human needs, and part of it is a commitment to protecting the public,” Sharon Jackson said.

Finally, when other options have been exhausted, the TIPS officer can recommend public law placement to avoid homelessness. Under this option, TIPS staff request that the U.S. Parole Commission add a special condition of release for the offender that will require the offender to reside up to 120 days in a halfway house until suitable housing is available. This type of placement is utilized only as a last resort.

Services

Beyond housing, the placement of returning offenders into the right services is a challenging task. CSOSA provides direct services to a variety of offenders on special supervision caseloads, which include sex offenders, mental health, domestic violence, anger management, drinking and driving, and high-risk drug cases. CSOSA also provides educational and employment assessment and placement.

The bulk of support services are provided by the D.C. government and non-profit agencies; in recent years, CSOSA has instituted a partnership with the city’s faith community to augment these services. CSOSA is leading a movement in the nation’s capital to galvanize churches, mosques, and synagogues to provide direct mentoring services. Hundreds of offenders have taken advantage of this initiative.

Service organizations throughout the country often express reluctance to work with offenders. With limited budgets, some organizations prefer “easier” clients. TIPS staff have expressed that providers in the District of Columbia are more likely to assist offenders because of close supervision imposed by Community Supervision Officers.

“CSOSA has worked extensively with service providers throughout the city to make sure they understand that helping a returning offender means fewer crimes and a safer community,” states Elizabeth Powell, Supervisory Community Supervision Officer (SCSO). “CSOSA has some of the toughest contact and drug testing standards in the country. Service providers know they have allies when it comes to addressing non-compliant offenders. The Community Supervision Officers are there to help if the offender creates a problem or does not take their interventions seriously. Close supervision works.”

“We also help offenders readjust to life in D.C.” states CSO Singletary-Mohamed. “Some of them have never ridden the Metro [D.C.’s subway system] before. Some of them just want to talk, to express their hopes and fears. And some offenders refuse services and require motivation from TIP to understand how they can benefit from participating in services. But we care, and they seem to understand that and comply.”

Conclusion

All of us in community corrections understand the challenges. President George W. Bush clearly laid out the issues for reentry in his State of the Union speech in 2004. He announced a new plan to bring local and faith-based groups together with federal agencies to help recently released prisoners make a successful transition back to society – reducing the chance that they will be arrested again. This 4-year, $300 million initiative seeks to provide transitional housing, basic job training, and mentoring services. Reentry is now a popular topic within criminological circles. More has been written about reentry in the last three or four years than the last ten.

Reentry may be the buzzword in the criminal justice system right now, but it is not just a buzzword at CSOSA. TIPS staff do the real work of reintegration. With one eye on public safety, and the other on the offender’s needs, TIPS staff guide returning offenders through their first steps beyond the prison gates and give them a real opportunity to successfully reintegrate into the community.

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Technology that Works:An Overview of the Supervision and Management Automated Record Tracking (SMART) Application

By Frank Lu, Laurence Wolfe, Beverly Hill and Leonard Sipes. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

This is not an article about an information system; it is an overview of our attempt to dramatically improve the criminal justice system in Washington, DC and beyond. For too long, justice system managers could only guess the impact of their operations and strategies. In the nation’s capitol, we know (or will know) the impact of policy quickly, and in some categories, daily. Our information system is a management tool more than it is a collection of data. Finally, we intend to prove that aggressive and fair community supervision of offenders in the community is a cost effective method of reducing crime and recidivism. We intend to offer the supervision, staffing ratios, drug testing and treatment, partnerships and services to have an impact. SMART provides us with the accountability and measurement tool to accomplish our goals.” Paul Quander Jr., Director, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

There was a murder of a young woman in the District, and the Metropolitan Police Department had scanty information about a possible suspect. Within a few minutes, we were able to run a series of screens regarding aliases and offences, and we were able to provide a list of possible suspects. When the investigation narrowed the field to one suspect, we were able to provide a recent digital photograph, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of relatives, friends, coworkers and treatment providers. The suspect was quickly found, and brought to justice.” Community Supervision Officer.

Introduction

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA-a federal agency) of the District of Columbia got its start during the “Revitalization Act” of 1997 when Congress “federalized” selected agencies that were part of DC government. With CSOSA’s independence in August of 2000 and the implementation of the SMART system in January of 2002, the agency publicly declared that a system of (1) risk and needs management, (2) close supervision, (3) treatment and support services and (4) partnerships would have a significant impact on recidivism.

To achieve long lasting results, management decided to measure key variables, and to constantly add or alter more as initiatives progressed. Rearrest, reincarceration, technical violations, drug use, job retention, contacts with staff or treatment providers, educational or vocational efforts are or will be a growing package of measurements. Management can track progress (or lack of progress) by employee, team region or the entire system. Early warnings are built into the system to provide frontline managers with the tools to insure that offenders are properly supervised.

Advocates for effective supervision of criminal offenders in the community have long called for adequate training, salaries, supervision levels and services to €˜prove” that state-of-the-art strategies work. Some criminologists have stated, with proper funding and structure with a robust management and record keeping system, community supervision agencies could take their place as equals in the provision of crime prevention and safer communities.

CSOSA reports its findings to the President through the Office of Management and Budget, the US Congress and indirectly, the international and national media based in Washington, DC. You may not be aware of CSOSA and its status as an independent federal agency, but the agency and the SMART system are about to take center stage. Public accountability in the criminal justice system is about to enter a new day.

Overview

SMART is a superior means of case management; everything is at your fingertips immediately. You do not have to read someone’s handwriting. The information is current. You can respond with accurate and timely information. You hit a few buttons; you can get anything at all.” Tosha Trotter, Community Supervision Officer,

Imagine the serious effects on public safety of using manual pen and paper methods and a two-decade-old database to track convicts, felons, sex offenders, and violent criminals when they are released back into society on parole or probation. That was the situation in the nation’s capital, Washington DC, until the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency developed its new automated criminal offenders case management system – SMART – the Supervision and Management Automated Record Tracking (SMART) system.

Taking an innovative approach to applications development, CSOSA developed its new SMART system to serve as a Web-based information retrieval and tracking system providing enhanced capabilities not found elsewhere. Building on top of traditional SQL technology, SMART adds enhanced logic through specialized modules that provide tracking and monitoring capabilities not found in other law enforcement applications. It incorporates features including E-mail notifications and workflow support, and is recognized as a highly successful project. SMART’s success is demonstrated by the use of SMART data by several local government bureaus, federal agencies, and the federal and local courts to perform their judicial functions. SMART is used to monitor and supervise convicted offenders on parole, probation, or supervised release; and offenders undergoing pre-sentence investigations in Washington DC. SMART is on track to add advanced capabilities such as biometrics, predictive logic, and mobile computers to aid fieldwork.

As the provider of supervisory and treatment services to over 26,000 individuals on pretrial release, probation and parole, as well as the key advisory agency in assisting federal and local courts in determining eligibility for release, CSOSA made the decision in September 2001 to replace an existing case management and tracking system that was difficult to modify and no longer able to meet the changing requirements of its users, mainly judicial and paroling authorities. The decision to develop a system from the ground up was made after careful research into the options available to CSOSA: customizing a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system. Ultimately, an analysis of the time constraints, financial comparisons, and core system requirements led to the decision to develop SMART as a new, independent, Web-based system that would address the agency’s needs.

The Core Requirements

It can document everything. You can go back many months to see the offender’s entire history. It saves a lot of effort. You can research the offender in record time. The information you need is always at your disposal. ” Randy Holley. Community Supervision Officer

CSOSA’s IT team conducted numerous interviews with senior management and users of the existing legacy system, who formed subcommittees for each of the agency business processes. A key factor of the project’s success was not only to secure senior management buy-in from the beginning, but partnership, with the business users for whom the system was being developed and the vendors that are going to help developing the system. Leadership emphasized the importance of strong user participation in providing the requirements for the system.

The requirements gathered from the users, coupled with comments in a GAO report describing the need for better coordination among DC’s criminal justice agencies[1], resulted in the following key requirements, which the new system needed to address before it could be claimed a success:

  • Reduce paperwork as a step toward a long-term goal of a paperless office;
  • Provide automatic notification of events in support of CSOSA policies and procedures;
  • Track historical data;
  • Seamlessly integrate with other agencies, where appropriate and viable;
  • Provide secure access from inside and outside the agency;
  • Present a usable and navigable interface;
  • Produce management-level and operational reports;
  • Include a fully searchable diary function;
  • Provide access via the Internet; and
  • Assist senior managers in their supervisory roles.

SMART (v.1.0) released in January 2002, addressed the core agency business needs; since then, additional modules to provide enhanced functionality, automated workflow, and added business functionality have been added. Specifically, SMART (v.1.0) consists of the following core modules and functionality:

  • Intake, including automatic assignment of cases to CSOSA teams based on offender demographics and round-robin cycles;
  • Reports, including detailed management-level caseload summaries, operational reports for use by case supervisors, and reports to demonstrate agency critical success factors;
  • “Home page” defaults to show caseload list, team assignments, or branch assignments;
  • Security roles to restrict access to modules based on a user’s assigned role;
  • Limited access for external users (e.g., judges, US Attorney’s Office, Metropolitan Police Department) to review case information and documents;
  • Tracking of offender demographics, including physical descriptions, identifiers, housing and employment history, contacts, drug test results, assessments, and victim data;
  • Replication of drug testing results;
  • Detailed supervision information, including dockets and charges, supervision sentences, and violations;
  • Treatment referral, placement, and tracking module;
  • Automatic generation of complex pre-sentence investigation and alleged violation court reports;
  • Attachment of case documents, including Word documents, offender photos, and Adobe PDF documents;
  • Electronic signature and workflow feature, including the integration of the supervisors’ signature image into an non-editable, secure document for delivery to the courts (see also figure 1);
  • Spell check for running record (diary) entries;
  • Tracking of offenders in Community Service and *Vocational, Educational, and Employment programs

Technical Specifications

“Smart is the most comprehensive computer based probation system I have seen. The different subtexts in Smart allow you to have complete picture of an offender from housing and employment to his drug usage to sanctions taken against them and appropriate interventions. . Smart allows me to access physical description of our offenders and cross reference them with recent sex offenses that have taken place in the Metropolitan area.” Akil Walker Community Supervision Officer

SMART is the result of over three years of research and development effort by the CSOSA’s IT Service Development team in partnership with SRA International, Inc. (a company providing systems design, development and integration services).

Unlike traditional case management solutions, SMART is “offender-centric” – i.e., all data center around the offender, with the specific case information represented as simply one attribute of an offender. This model is particularly representative of the real business process of supervising offenders on parole, probation, or supervised release, since the agency’s concern is truly with the activities surrounding the offender, rather than the court actions or other activities.

SMART is a fully Web-based application. It is designed based on a three-tier architecture, with HTML as the presentation layer, Microsoft Active Server Page (ASP) as the business logic layer and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 as the database layer. It is running on a Microsoft Windows 2000 server with IIS 5.0 Web server. Data communications to the SMART system were secured through the use of V-One’s VPN software, and code was maintained using Microsoft Visual SourceSafe and Source Offsite

Conclusion

“Record keeping and management systems within the criminal justice system are vital ingredients in keeping the public safe from harm,” states Director Quander. “CSOSA offers some of the best supervision and services within the criminal justice system. But we are only as good as our management and supervision systems allow us to be. State-of-the-art information systems must be an everyday part of effective operations. At CSOSA, they are.”

With its modular architecture and extendable platform, SMART can react to new business requirements. Its reliability, sturdiness, and user-friendly qualities have translated into increased business efficiency. Though SMART was designed to reflect business processes that are specific to the needs of CSOSA, the processes used in gathering requirements and developing SMART, along with the advanced technologies used throughout the system, can be applied to offender-based case management solutions for other criminal justice agencies.


[1] GAO, D.C. Criminal Justice System: Better Coordination Needed Among Participating Agencies, March 2001. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01187.pdf

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Mass Orientations–Orienting Criminal Offenders in Washington, D.C.

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

The church basement in southwest Washington, D.C. overflows with criminal offenders. Approximately 200 people relatively new to a sentence of probation from the courts or released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons fill the room. Others are here as a sanction for violating the rules of their release. It is a cold and dreary night in one of the highest crime and drug areas in the nation’s capital.

Staff members from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), the federal, executive branch entity responsible for providing parole and probation services in the District of Columbia preside over this assembly. Also present are a prosecutor from the United States Attorney’s Office and contingents from the Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Housing Authority Police. All of these agencies deliver a unified message to the offenders: There are consequences for failure. There are also programs and services to increase the chances for success.

Much of the audience, however, does not seem pleased with the prospect of spending the next hour and a half with us. Some are curious, some look like their attention is focused many miles away, and some seem downright hostile. This should be an interesting evening.

Chain of Events

Mass Orientations of criminal offenders new to supervision are not isolated events; they are not programs unto themselves. They are part of the continuous and ongoing chain of events that define the essence of CSOSA’s partnership with the rest of the criminal justice system in Washington, D.C.

Mass Orientations began in 1999 when CSOSA was emerging as a new federal agency, created out of existing parole and court related probation agencies in D.C. CSOSA started as an effort to relieve D.C. government of the fiscal burdens of services ordinarily provided by state agencies. Pretrial, parole and probation, the public defender, the courts, and incarceration of long-term prisoners were all “federalized” or provided with federal funding. CSOSA became an independent federal agency in August of 2000.

The opportunity to create a new agency devoted to state-of-the-art parole and probation services was exciting. Liaisons with law enforcement were thought crucial. Assistant Chief Winston Robinson of the Metropolitan Police Department was a District Commander at the time. Robinson worked with Jay Carver, the leader of CSOSA under the initial three-year trusteeship, and Jasper Ormond, now CSOSA’s Associate Director for Community Justice Programs, to create a community supervision system founded on three essential principals: frequent information and intelligence sharing, thousands of joint patrols (Accountability Tours) to offenders’ homes, and Mass Orientations.

These core activities are the individual plays in CSOSA’s overall strategy to win the high-stakes game of community supervision. They are part of an integrated package deemed necessary for success. Each effort supports the others: Without the cooperation and involvement of police and prosecutors, CSOSA’s activities resemble a defense with no offense. . Both are necessary.

Research from the National Institute of Justice on Boot Camps and intensive supervision programs suggests that both supervision and social services are necessary for success. CSOSA offers an array of employment, education, substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, anger management and other services. CSOSA partners with D.C. city government (which provides the bulk of services), private non-profit organizations and places of worship throughout the city.

The combined energies and capabilities of law enforcement and social service organizations are brought to bear on the issue of criminal offenders and their obligations to themselves, their children and families. Mass Orientations are simply part of the overall strategy. Mass Orientations are but one product in an array of services and partnerships designed to reduce recidivism and crime.

Back to the Meeting

Greg Thomas is a Community Relations Specialist with CSOSA’s Office of Community Justice Programs. His job is to attend police and community meetings in his district dealing with crime. He also organizes crime related meetings with leaders within the communities he serves. He is a former member of the Metropolitan Police Department. His office brims with the awards of a lifetime in law enforcement. Tonight, however, he stands among 200 criminal offenders mandated to attend the Mass Orientation. He and five other Community Relations Specialists organize these events on a quarterly basis throughout the city.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to tonight’s orientation.” Greg cheerfully begins. “We are here to make sure you know the rules of supervision and understand the many programs that exist to help you become productive and law abiding citizens of the District of Columbia.”

The faces of the offenders in the crowd seem to predict who will succeed and who will struggle. The ones paying attention are the safer bets. The ones lost to the world will struggle.

Greg reaches out to the ones on the fence. You can tell that he has years of experience talking to offenders.

“Supervision is just not about drug tests and us showing up at your door with the police,” he says. “A lot of you in this room are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You know you want a better life. You know your kids are depending on you. You know that drugs will eventually kill you. You know that dealers live terrible lives. You know you want something different. You know that!”

More faces look up. Heads nod in agreement. To some in this room, drugs and hustling and beefing are all they know. Escape seems distant or impossible. Yet they know they want something better. They are not quite sure, however, what “better” means.

The evening starts off with the rules of supervision. Community Supervision Officers clearly state what is expected. CSOSA has some of the most stringent contact standards in the nation. Twice a week drug testing is mandatory for the first eight weeks, twice a month testing follows for the next 12 weeks, and monthly drug tests occur throughout supervision. Fail one and you go back to the beginning of the cycle.

Close to half the population is either under high levels of supervision (four to eight office and community contacts each month) or they are part of a special supervision caseload (i.e., sex offenders, satellite tracking, mental health, domestic violence, day reporting, etc.).

It’s important to note that there are others in the room beyond rank and file Community Supervision Officers. Management at various levels within CSOSA attends these events and meets the audience.

All of this reinforces one message: You will be held accountable for your behaviors. While all of us are aware that there are no guarantees regarding community supervision, there is some optimism that we are bringing accountability to the table.

The police are next. Various officers go to the front of the packed room and tell those assembled that they will be looking for them as they patrol. If they are on the corner causing the community grief, their Community Supervision Officers will be informed, and action will be taken.

The stories of police officers recognizing offenders during Mass Orientations as troublemakers and instantly holding decision meetings with Community Supervision Officers are many. But treatment needs are also discussed, and the officers often encourage offenders to attend. Everybody understands that both approaches are necessary.

The Assistant United States Attorney makes the next appearance. She has the demeanor of a docent at one of Washington’s many historical monuments: Just the facts, delivered politely. She is direct, polite, and matter-of-fact. Her voice is not raised. She simply tells those assembled that those holding a gun or ammunition will go away to a federal prison in another state for a minimum of five years. If they engage in acts of violence or criminal conspiracies, they will be aggressively prosecuted.

During her presentation, no offenders stare at the floor or nod off to sleep.

For the moment, everybody’s listening.

Services

CSOSA’s partnership philosophy also applies to services. For example, the agency works with faith institutions to provide mentors to offenders returning from prison and link offenders with faith-based support services. CSOSA has put significant effort into cataloging the programs offered by Washington’s churches and mosques. Some provide clothing. Others offer job placement and training. Housing, childcare, drug treatment, food and fellowship are additional services.

But identifying services can be an academic exercise. Getting offenders to use them and embrace their benefit is another issue.

Offenders, for a wide variety of reasons, have difficulty dealing with the vast and impersonal bureaucracies that often administer social services. If the services are constructed with offenders in mind, then participation rates increase.

Back at the Mass Orientation, Greg Thomas introduces members of CSOSA’s VOTEE Unit (Vocational Opportunities, Training, Education and Employment) who stand up to address the crowd.

“We have services designed just for you,” they state. We can provide you with a job or provide job training through the city.”

They point out that many former offenders have trained as commercial truck drivers who go on to make very good money. If fact, they say, some former offenders have hired people released from prison who completed the training. “There are many other opportunities,” they state. The unit will do a comprehensive vocational and educational assessment of any offender and provide direct services.

They continue with an overview of additional services offered directly by CSOSA or other agencies: drug and alcohol treatment, anger management, mental health counseling, and others.

Offer of Services is Always There

It’s important to note that there is no “expiration date” on CSOSA’s offer to match offenders with helpful services. There is a formal intake process, during which the Community Supervision Officer does a complete assessment of the new offender’s risk and social needs, and a contract is signed. Beginning in 2006, CSOSA implemented an enhanced, expanded, and fully automated assessment instrument, the Auto Screener.

CSOSA’s Transitional Interventions for Parole Supervision (TIPS) Unit have staff placed in every Bureau of Prisons halfway house in the city. These officers provide the same assessment for the 50 percent of prison returnees who come back to the District through halfway house placement.

At every contact with their Community Supervision Officers, offenders can say that they are ready to accept the help that is offered. CSOs will then initiate referrals to the various service units. They do not have to rely on the courts or Parole Commission to get someone into drug treatment, mental health programming or job training.

An End, or a Beginning

Ninety minutes can seem like a lifetime. After the program, many audience members rush out into the cold night air. Many others, however, stay and learn more about programs they know they need.

“It’s a system philosophy,” states Paul Quander, the Director of CSOSA. “We apply pressure, especially to high-risk offenders. We show them a unified system, but we also show them that we care about their well being, their future and their child’s future.”

Bryan Young, a CSOSA Senior Management Analyst and organization historian offers, “We learn stuff through Mass Orientations and other partnership activities that you will not learn through day-to-day office and community contacts. We find key data to protect society and help offenders and their families. That’s what makes our partnership work. That’s what makes the District of Columbia safer.”

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Managing the Mentally Ill Offender in Washington, D.C.

“We Fix the Complexities of Life”

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. and Beverly Hill. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

Walk down the streets of any major American city and you will likely encounter more than a few mentally ill individuals. Sometimes friendly, sometimes demanding and often scary, mentally ill people pose both a serious public health problem and a moral dilemma for our society. Both victimizer and victim, the mentally ill present especially unique challenges for those of us within the criminal justice system.

According to a Washington Post story filed by Rick Weiss on June 7, 2005, a recent National Institute of Mental Health study found that “One quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a serious disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day.” Many criminologists suggest that rates of mental illness are even higher among the criminal offender population.

The vast majority of criminological concern for the mentally ill seems directed towards incarceration. Anyone working in our jails or prisons knows of the unique challenges mentally ill offenders offer to institutions attempting to balance security and treatment needs with the realities of budget. It’s difficult to operate within a purely medical model when a mentally ill offender becomes violent or disruptive and threatens the safety and security of the institution. Most correctional professionals have witnessed nurses and psychologists attempting to “talk down” an inmate after a verbal and near-physical encounter with staff or fellow inmates. Seething with emotion and ready to burst, the mentally ill inmate may sometimes stay in that agitated condition for hours at a time while the realities of prison continue to surround them.

Society justifiably calls for humane treatment. Correctional staff just try to keep the peace. But sooner or later, the mentally ill inmate is released back to the community, usually with the same mental health issues they went in with. What happens then?

In the Community

In the District of Columbia, they come to a unique federal, executive branch organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). CSOSA supervises 15,500 offenders on parole, supervised release or probation every day. CSOSA assigns almost 50 percent of its caseload to its highest levels of supervision or to specialized caseloads, where each Community Supervision Officer (CSO – known elsewhere as a parole or probation officer) is responsible for only 25 or 30 offenders. Backed up by extensive drug testing, cooperative endeavors with police and prosecutors, a state-of-the-art information technology system, satellite tracking and 50 to 1 general supervision caseload ratios, CSOSA is well positioned to implement its community-based model of offender supervision. This research-based model combines the traditional elements of supervision with an equal emphasis on treatment, social services, and community involvement.

CSOSA’s specialized units offers counseling and special supervision techniques to offenders who are hard core substance abusers, involved in acts of violence, domestic violence, sex offenses and traffic-alcohol issues. Offenders with mental health issues may interact with any of these categories and are assigned to the Metal Health Unit. CSOSA currently supervises almost 800 offenders with confirmed mental health diagnoses Eighty-five percent are male. Some are assigned to mental health institutions and are monitored through regular correspondence with the facility.

CSOSA’s mental health teams have among the lowest caseload ratios in the country. At 30 offenders to each Community Supervision Officers, CSOs and their supervisors have contact with the offender an average of three to four times per week. All CSOs come to the job with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and many hold master’s degrees as well. Most have a background in law or the criminological or social sciences. Most CSOs on the mental health teams volunteered for the assignment.

Thirty CSOs and supervisors staff the mental health teams. Mental health offenders are assigned to this specialized unit via a D.C. Superior Court or U.S. Parole Commission order; offenders assigned to another unit may also be referred by the CSO for evaluation. CSOSA contracts with psychologists who conduct an assessment of every referred offender. If the psychologist establishes a diagnosis of mental illness, retardation or a personality disorder, “gatekeepers” (licensed professional counselors with master’s degrees) then see the offender. It’s their job to represent the offender as he or she navigates through the District of Columbia’s mental health system to obtain counseling, therapy and medication services.

CSOSA’s gatekeepers have expert knowledge of the public and private resources available. In addition to the standard D.C. agencies, CSOSA explores alternative strategies, such as accessing services through Medicaid or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The focus is on developing a precise diagnosis and an appropriate intervention plan, so that psychologists and social workers can act as advocates to get each offender the best possible treatment.

Once the offender’s mental health condition is controlled, he or she can benefit from other CSOSA services, such as job training, drug treatment, anger management or a faith-based mentor.

Community Supervision Officers

But CSOSA contends that a vital ingredient in the success of the program is the dedication of the Community Supervision Officers who see the offenders on a regular basis. “We care about the public’s safety and the offender’s progress,” states 30-year veteran and supervisor Verna Young. “We are determined to achieve both.”

Ms. Young suggests that the CSOs who volunteer for the mental health team are some of the best in CSOSA, if not some of the best in the nation. “Think about it for a moment,” she urges. “These are highly educated individuals who deal with the toughest clients possible. These offenders bring an immense array of problems that would challenge the most dedicated professional. We are the lifeline between the mental health profession, their families and friends, their employers and everyone who interacts with them. We talk them down from negative encounters. We act as intermediaries with frustrated family members. They grow to depend on us for structure and guidance in a world that offers fear and resistance. We help them survive on their own without returning to the criminal justice or social services system. More importantly, we help them exist without doing harm to anyone else.”

DeAndro Baker, Verna’s supervisor and another seasoned veteran of the criminal justice system, explains that offenders with mental health, retardation issues and personality disorders offer an amazing array of problems.

Research for all criminal offenders (examples: Bureau of Justice Statistics-Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers and the National Institute of Justice-Early Childhood Victimization Among Incarcerated Adult Male Felons) indicates that substantial social problems result from child abuse and neglect, sexual and physical violence, early age onset of alcohol and drug use and criminal activity. Couple all of this with poor school performance and limited employment histories and involvement in the criminal justice system, and the challenges seem insurmountable. To state that the average offender is a trial is an understatement. Add mental health or retardation or personality disorders, and the challenges are immense.

“But we do not shy from the task at hand,” states Mr. Baker. “The bottom line is protecting the public. We will not hesitate to go back to the courts or the U.S. Parole Commission and state that the individual cannot be safely supervised in the community. We will reincarcerate. But we do everything in our power, including day reporting, to make sure that offenders live a productive life without harm to themselves or others. We are the front line in the effort to serve the offender’s needs and protect society, and we do it every day.”

“The New Asylums”

All of this takes on greater importance as society grapples with the need for safety, balanced with a desire for humane treatment. This dilemma was explored in a “Frontline” episode entitled “The New Asylums” (www.pbs.org/wbgh/frontline) produced by WGBH in Boston and co-produced by Mead Street Films. The episode aired on PBS stations on May 10, 2005. The implications of the program are profound. There are no easy answers.

The New York Times reported on the episode: “An enormously disturbing Frontline report profiles the enormously disturbed.” Times reporter Ned Martin wrote that the documentary …. “explains that the mentally ill, in the decade after a mass release from mental hospitals, have often wound up in less forgiving confines.”

“The New Asylums asserts that 500,000 mentally ill patients, who in earlier decades would’ve been treated in hospitals, are now mistreated in prisons. The mental hospitals now house only a tenth of that number, the narrator says.”

Ultimately, after they leave the hospitals, or the prisons, the mentally ill return to the community.

According to the “Frontline” web site, “In 2004, some 630,000 prisoners were released back into their communities, many with mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse. Studies have shown that 60 percent of released offenders are likely to be rearrested within 18 months, and that mentally ill offenders are likely to be rearrested at an even higher rate. Experts claim that a major cause for recidivism among the mentally ill is the “epidemic” shortfall in community-based mental health services (emphasis added). While offenders have a constitutional right to receive mental health treatment when they are incarcerated, they do not enjoy a similar right to treatment in the community…”

I do not understand how everything began to unravel,” said a 52-year-old woman from northwest DC. She is on probation for drug distribution. Her years of cocaine abuse produced severe depression and an array of medical problems. She just got out of drug treatment, but recently tested positive for marijuana. She understands that CSOSA will mandate twice a week drug testing as a sanction for drug use. She believes that this level of scrutiny (and the possibility of returning to jail) will keep her from doing drugs.

“I need structure in my life, and my CSO provides that structure. My CSO comes to my home to check on me. It’s nice that I can talk to people who insist that I take care of myself.”

A 48-year-old parolee from southeast DC presents similar problems. He was incarcerated for assault and gun charges. He is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. His drug use (cocaine) was a social event with friends until it became a demon that made his illness much worse. Structure is an essential element in his rehabilitation, and the requirements of supervision help him cope with life’s problems. “As long as I keep my job, I can stay away from drugs and take care of my family. CSOSA helps me cope with problems and keeps me on track.” He admits that drug testing is an essential element. “It’s nice that they care,” he states, “but I know that they will put me back in prison if I do not improve, so I know that I must stay on my medication and do what they want me to do.”

“Public safety is combined with a sincere desire to assist…”

It was because of concern for the community that CSOSA started its innovative mental health caseload. “Public safety is combined with a sincere desire to assist these offenders in meaningful ways,” states CSOSA’s director, Paul A Quander, Jr. “We can manage this caseload in a way that services both goals.”

Thomas H. Williams, CSOSA’s Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, states, “The Frontline report only confirms our experience with mentally ill offenders. Many of the recommendations of the report are already in place within the District of Columbia. The challenges are immense, but we are attempting to meet them with vigor and dedication.”

Tiffany Robinson is ready. “We fix the complexities of life,” she states. A CSO on the Mental Health Unit, she is ready to bring her education and enthusiasm to the challenges offered by this population. Ms. Robinson understands her caseload. “They often say, “˜Please help me,” she reflects. “They do not understand the world they inhabit. It’s my job to help them cope, to reassure, to make the world a less frightening place. That requires structure, and that’s what we and the mental health professionals offer. If that need for structure leads to incarceration or commitment to a mental health facility, then so be it. We will protect society.”

Ms. Robinson understands that CSOSA embraces both sides of the challenges posed by the mentally ill offender. “But we will also offer a humane and compassionate hand to those who need it,” she says. “Thousands have become productive citizens because of it.”

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Supervising and Treating Violent Drug Offenders in the Nation’s Capital

By: Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. Edited by Cedric Hendricks and Joyce McGinnis

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.

See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.

Since the increase in crime during the mid 1960’s, the primary challenge within the criminal justice system has been the substance-abusing offender. Society in general, and the justice system in particular, has revised their thoughts on crime and what we should do about criminals. However, the concern regarding the drug addicted offender remains constant.

We have learned a lot in the last four decades. For instance, we have experienced epidemics of heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and endless other illicit substances along the way. Proposed remedies have ranged from therapeutic communities (sometimes involving whole prison wings devoted to drug treatment) to “tough-love” environments to today’s focus on assessment (placing the offender in the most effective modality) and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Both state and federal governments have tried mandatory incarceration and alternative community-based approaches.

Although the rate of crime in the U.S. has been at record lows for the last ten years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that populations within the prison and community corrections systems have increased. Most of the increase is driven by substance abusing offenders and changes in sentencing.

In the 1994 report “Controlling Cocaine: Supply vs. Demand Programs,” the Rand Corporation projected that for every dollar spent on drug treatment society reaps seven dollars in benefit (http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Cocaine-Supply-Demand1994.htm). There are many studies (The Washington State Institute for Public Policy provides a summation) that supply the good news that drug and alcohol treatment works to reduce criminal activity, as well as a range of other positive results (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/06-06-3901.pdf).

But the bottom line of 40 years of effort is that 80 percent of offenders coming into this country’s correctional institutions have histories of substance abuse, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the vast majority do not receive treatment in prison. These same individuals will enter community supervision, where the lack of treatment will influence whether, and how quickly, they relapse into using drugs and committing crimes.

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) attempts to deal not just with criminal offenders with histories of drug use, but with individuals that some describe as the most difficult people in the criminal justice system.

CSOSA (http://www.csosa.gov/ and http://media.csosa.gov/ ) is the federal agency that provides parole and probation supervision for D.C. Code offenders in Washington, D.C. CSOSA is responsible for approximately 15,000 offenders each day. Approximately 2,000 offenders return from prison to the nation’s capital each year.

CSOSA has adopted notably stringent contact and drug testing standards. The agency is equally committed to providing the services necessary to assist offenders on supervision. Special supervision units involve high-risk drug offenders, sex and mental health offenders, and those with drinking and driving, or domestic violence issues. The agency also provides educational and vocational assistance. CSOSA has developed an innovative network of partnerships to bring as many resources as possible to the task of community supervision.

The Drug Unit Teams

Two special supervision teams provide interventions for approximately 500 high-risk offenders with extensive criminal and substance abuse histories. They are:

  • Substance Abuse and Intervention Team (SAINT) provides supervision for high-risk parole offenders;
  • Sanctions Team for Addition and Recovery (STAR) supervises probationers using the drug court model.

“The drug units deal with the toughest substance abuse offenders within the CSOSA system,” states DeAndro Baker, Branch Chief for substance abuse, mental health and traffic-alcohol teams for CSOSA. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Master Addiction Counselor, and certified train the trainer in “What Works” by the National Institute of Corrections.

“We go where few dare to tread,” Baker states. “We know that offenders in the specialized drug units have co-occurring disorders [concurrent mental health and substance abuse diagnoses], are more likely to re-offend, and are at a higher risk to commit anti-social acts. We utilize a range of graduated sanctions to reinforce positive behavior and to swiftly address antisocial attitudes and belief systems. Appropriate sanctions are then followed by proper interventions, including a variety of community-based treatment and programming options. We take public safety and the conditions of release very seriously. The overall effort is to change criminal thinking and behaviors.”

Fifteen Community Supervision Officers (CSO’s–known as parole and probation agents elsewhere) in SAINT and STAR, along with three supervisors, provide a combination of supervision and services. The caseload ratio of 35 offenders per CSO enables close supervision of these high-risk offenders. The normal ratio of supervision in CSOSA is 50 to 1. Lowering caseloads to a level that permits substantial, meaningful contact between the offender and the CSO has been a priority within CSOSA since the agency was established in 1997.

A combination of veteran officers and new CSO’s fresh from the agency’s training academy staff the unit. Mr. Baker indicates that officers “are grounded in clinical evaluation, treatment planning, and establishing and maintaining a continuum of care.” CSO’s provide individual and group counseling. They use a combination of strict accountability and motivational counseling to try to reorient offenders into a new way of thinking and gaining control over their lives. Working with this tough offender population is not only challenging but also critical to public safety. Mr. Baker indicates, “The key to effective supervision is the Community Supervision Officers.”

The Offenders

With the right mix of treatment services and accountability, many offenders go on to lead productive and crime free lives. CSOSA is dedicated to offering the right combination of case management and treatment. The Washington State Public Policy Institute’s 2006 study of adult corrections programs concluded that the combination of supervision and treatment holds one of the more promising approaches to community supervision and reducing recidivism (http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/pub.asp?docid=06-01-1201).

CSOSA has been successful in using special units and partnerships (especially with the faith-based community) to achieve promising results. Close to half our daily population is in a specialized treatment unit or is undergoing intensive supervision, vocational assessments, coordinated treatment activities, and drug testing. The drug units, however, deal with offenders who pose challenges beyond those presented by other offenders.

“In supervision, we provide in-depth case management that includes: screening; assessments; treatment planning; referrals; staffing; counseling and documenting the offenders’ efforts. A performance plan is constructed that provides instructions to assist the offender in making lifestyle changes towards desired pro-social activities,” states Mr. Baker.

To understand the kind of offender and modalities we are talking about, you need to get to the root of the problem-the underlying psychological problems and issues that drive substance abuse and criminality.

According to staff, it’s that “root understanding” that causes some observers to have difficulty in understanding what the units do. “We’re not about business as usual,” Baker states. “We are about restructuring a person who desperately needs help with problem solving, self efficacy, internal accountability, employment readiness, and simple life skills.”

“Working with substance abusers is challenging,” states Cassandra N. Brown, a 15-year veteran in community supervision who has been with CSOSA since its inception. “There are always other issues in the background.”

Brown works with probationers in the drug court. She finds the drug court effective and supportive because of the swift impositions of sanctions and the attention of caring judges. An increasing body of national research on drug courts, such as that cited in the National Institute of Justice report Drug Courts: the Second Decade, points to their efficacy and impact on recidivism (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/211081.pdf).

The Program

“We tell them that it’s going to be different,” states Ms. Brown. “They don’t believe us, but that’s how the process begins.”

Every offender brings an array of issues. Housing, health care, jobs and substance abuse are just the tip of the iceberg. Significant numbers of offenders, according to Department of Justice research, claim histories of child abuse and neglect  or mental health problems.

While most of us can be compared to a glass that is 70 or 80 percent full, many criminal offenders are people whose glass is perpetually 30 percent full. Addressing the needs of housing and providing job opportunities or drug counseling increases the fullness of the glass. The question that continues to confound criminologists is defining the point at which a combination of supervision and services tips the scales and the offender begins to overcome his or her difficulties. “To overcome those problems, you have to screen, assess, and plan to restructure the person,” states Mr. Baker.

The process begins with comprehensive evaluation of the offender’s background. Within CSOSA, there are teams of specialists who perform evaluations of substance abuse, mental, educational or criminal histories. Offenders in need are placed in specialized programs as appropriate.

According to Mr. Baker, the foundation for effective supervision of these offenders is identifying the crisis points in their lives. The unit does not simply focus on substance abuse but also on the many issues that offenders face. Relapse and problems are expected. A variety of sanctions and interventions are in place to deal with anticipated problems.

“We teach them how to deal with the endless triggers of negative behavior in their lives,” Ms. Brown says. “Through individual and group counseling, we role play these triggers for violence and drugs and teach them that there are better ways to conduct their lives. They need to understand the triggers and how to govern themselves.”

A psychologist, a licensed counselor, supervisors and Mr. Baker run the group counseling sessions and provide individual assistance. They assist with the “heavy duty co-occurring” cases. Community Supervision Officers can also run groups to constantly reinforce the lessons of role-play and “trigger” management.

Modalities used in groups can include cognitive therapy under a variety of guises, including psycho educational classes with names like “Thinking for a Change” or “Reality Therapy.” Strategies are chosen that fit the lifestyle and background of the offender. Baker insists that there is nothing “cookie-cutter” in their approach. “The assessments tell us what the person needs, and we build a case management strategy that evokes change,” he states. “Basically, it all comes down to understanding stages of change, criminological identifiers, anti-social thinking, environmental triggers, pro-social modeling, interventions, structure, and what the offender can do about them.”

Strict supervision is crucial. The units constantly interact with the offender within the office and out in the community. The drug units, drug testing professionals and sanctions teams within CSOSA can come into contact with the offender as many as six times each week. The Drug Court side of the program (for probationers) insures that offenders are before the judge as needed.

It’s the combination of strict supervision and treatment that works to reduce recidivism, according to staff members. “They need the structure. They require the contacts and drug testing. Anything less is setting them up for failure,” according to staff.

Staff insists that they will not hesitate to start the process that may return or place a person in prison. But they are equally adamant that offenders can be taught to successfully deal with the addictions and other challenges their lives.

The Reentry and Sanctions Center–Reductions in Re-arrests are Possible

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 67 percent of all those released from prison commit felonies and serious misdemeanors within three years of release. Many commit multiple serious crimes. The lesson of this and other research is that future criminality is probable (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf).

CSOSA has a new and important tool to help interrupt the cycle of substance abuse and crime. The agency’s Reentry and Sanctions Center (RSC), which opened in the spring of 2006, is a 100-bed residential facility that provides 28 days of intensive assessment, pre-treatment programming, and case planning for offenders with long histories of drug abuse and crime. The RSC expands the strategies available to CSOSA-and increases the probability that at least some of these offenders will escape the revolving door for good. More information on the RSC is available at (http://www.csosa.gov/) or (http://www.csosa.gov/reentry/rsc_leadership.pdf). The latter provides specifics as to components for the SAINT program.

The SAINT parole team supervises offenders who graduate from the Reentry and Sanctions Center. Prior to the RSC’s opening, CSOSA operated a smaller program, the Assessment and Orientation Center, which was partially funded by the Washington-Baltimore HIDTA. Studies by the University of Maryland’s Institute for Behavior and Health found that offenders who completed the program at the Assessment and Orientation Center were significantly less likely to be arrested after the program.

A 2001 study indicated that all HIDTA program participants (from programs in other locations) experienced a 47 percent decrease in arrest rate. The Reentry and Sanction Center graduates supervised by the drug units experienced a 35 percent decrease. Considering their drug, criminal and social histories, this type of success seems nothing short of remarkable.

“If we can achieve these results with a very difficult population, it’s clear that, given the resources, parole and probation agencies throughout the country can do a better job of supervision,” states Thomas Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services. “We can protect the public and reduce future criminality. Our experience can help.”

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