Recovery Month and Parole and Probation

By Kim M. Barry

National Recovery Month Observance is part of a national initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) observance of National Recovery Month emphasizes our belief in the value of partnerships with community organizations, local, and federal criminal justice agencies, city government, the faith community and individual citizens in promoting both successful reintegration and public safety.

CSOSA is a federal, executive branch agency providing parole and probation services to Washington, D.C. We supervise 16,000 people on supervision daily and 24,000 yearly. Ninety percent have histories of substance abuse. CSOSA is a research based, best practices agency.

This article examines the integration of SAMHSA best practices into the work of CSOSA.

Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.

In recognition of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month 2012, President Obama issued this Presidential Proclamation: “Every day, millions of Americans with substance use disorders commit to managing their health by maintaining their recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.  People in recovery are not strangers:  they are our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we recognize their strength and resilience.”

Research on Substance Abuse and Recovery:

According to research findings by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at least four major types of drug abuse treatment can be extremely effective in reducing drug use. These include supportive group therapy, urine monitoring during treatment, relapse prevention, and post-treatment involvement in self-help groups. In addition drug abuse treatment produces decreases in illegal acts and increases in full-time employment.

CSOSA’s Mission:

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s mission is “To increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and support the fair administration of justice in close collaboration with the community.” CSOSA contracts with experienced providers to offer outpatient treatment, long-term residential treatment, short-term inpatient treatment and a Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP). The Secure Residential Treatment Program provides an alternative to incarceration for offenders facing revocation of parole or supervised release as a result of illegal drug use, criminal arrest or other violations of their release conditions.

In addition, CSOSA‘s Reentry and Sanctions Center provides offenders with a 28-day assessment and treatment preparation program prior to placement in residential or outpatient programming. Also, CSOSA has Faith Community Partnerships designed to provide mentors for returning offenders and to establish a network of faith-based institutions that may have housing, employment, substance abuse, or other resources that can benefit returning offenders. In addition, CSOSA provides supportive services such as drug aftercare, relapse prevention groups, and educational seminars for family members.

Recent Developments:

CSOSA’s Director Nancy Ware stated in her Strategic Plan that over the next five years CSOSA will strive to enhance public safety by lowering the re-arrest rate among supervised offenders and increasing the numbers of offenders who successfully complete supervision. CSOSA will achieve this goal through continued use of assessment-driven case planning, evidence-based interventions, consistent use of sanctions and incentives, and effective partnerships with the community, law enforcement and other stakeholders. Integrating the efforts of regional law enforcement will also be critical to success. Ware stated that, “Through its supervision activities, CSOSA’s seeks to continually enhance the agency’s impact on a safe Nation’s Capital.”

Overview of the Treatment Management Team:

The goal of CSOSA’s Treatment Management Team (TMT) is to enhance public safety by providing supportive services to community supervision staff. TMT is responsible for making timely referrals to drug treatment based on clinical evaluations, matching offenders with appropriate interventions, timely processing of placements and monitoring of offenders in treatment.

In 2010, CSOSA contracted an average of 3,000 treatment placements into 1 of 4 treatment modalities, namely detox, outpatient, short-term or long-term residential treatment.

The Agency’s fiscal appropriation allows for CSOSA to meet 25% of the population’s addiction treatment need. CSOSA focuses its resources on high-risk offenders and strives to make clinically appropriate treatment placements. Lower-risk offenders are referred to the District of Columbia Department of Health, Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA), the agency primarily responsible for addressing substance abuse treatment needs of eligible District of Columbia Residents.


CSOSA’s Director Nancy Ware states that “The long-term outcomes toward which CSOSA directs its efforts are the successful completion of supervision and the reduction in recidivism among supervised individuals, particularly those persons assessed as high risk”.

CSOSA embraces Recovery Month which spreads the message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

CSOSA’s vision is to create a model of community supervision that is recognized for positively impacting public safety by ensuring that offenders are referred and approved for treatment and supportive programs consistent with SAMHSA protocols.

Work Cited:

  1. NIH Press Release- New Research Documents Success of Drug Abuse Treatments-12/15
  2. A Guide To Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within The Court Services article/28820
  3. CSOSA Fact Sheet-CSOSA Office of Legislative Intergovernmental and Public Affairs
  4. CSOSA 2011-2016 Strategic Plan
  5. Presidential Proclamation—National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month 2012 issued by press-office/2012/08/31



GPS Tracking of Criminal Offenders in Washington, D.C.

Updated March, 2012

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

In Washington, D.C. offenders on community supervision—probation, parole, or supervised release—face an impediment to criminal activity and non-compliance:  GPS tracking, which monitors the individual’s whereabouts 24 hours per day.

This article summarizes the effort in the nation’s capital and offers a brief overview of national GPS research.

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), the federal agency that supervises D.C. Superior Court sentenced offenders in the nation’s capital, has been using GPS since April 2003.  About 600 offenders are currently in the program.  The numbers will change to respond to new initiatives or requests from law enforcement partners.

“GPS is a wonderful tool to help protect society,” states Carlton Butler, Program Administrator of the unit that oversees CSOSA’s GPS program.  “We share our GPS technology with law enforcement agencies in D.C and throughout the metropolitan area. They have the ability to track any of our offenders via their own computers and see if they can place them in the vicinity of a crime scene, which they do numerous times throughout the week.”

 “The use of GPS Technology is not a panacea and will not replace good old one-on-one interaction data exchange by the supervision officer and/or the traditional law enforcement investigation techniques, but it is another helpful tool to assist in supervision and crime fighting,” stated Butler.

CSOSA supervises about 16,000 offenders, half of whom are in treatment or on a specialized high-contact caseload.  The agency emphasizes evidence-based practices in case management; GPS is just one of the strategies it employs to promote compliance. 

It is typically employed as a sanction for non-compliance among high-risk offenders and those with specific geographic limitations (such as stay-away orders).  It is also used to monitor high-risk offenders who refuse to maintain or actively seek employment.

 “In addition to sex offenders, we place high risk and domestic violence offenders on GPS,” says Thomas H. Williams, Associate Director for Community Supervision Services at CSOSA. “In the past, a domestic violence offender could stalk a victim without our knowing it. Now we know and can notify both the victim and our law enforcement partners and take swift and certain action in conjunction with the courts or parole commission.” 

GPS can greatly increase Community Supervision Officers’ (CSO’s) ability to protect the public.  The following case illustrates how quickly GPS data can make a difference. 

Local news in Washington, D.C. reported a string of assaults on teenage girls in a particular neighborhood.  Police provided a sketch of the suspect to the media in order to solicit the public’s assistance with the investigation.

An alert CSO saw the sketch on the news broadcast and recognized the subject as a high-risk parolee on GPS.  She immediately checked the individual’s whereabouts at the times of the assaults and placed him at the crime scenes.  She visited his home to verify that his car matched the description of the vehicle used in the crimes.  She then arranged for the man to come into her office, where he was arrested by Metropolitan Police Department officers.  CSOSA works closely with the United States Attorney’s Office, wherein a conviction was achieved.

An Enormous Responsibility

Implementing GPS tracking places an enormous responsibility on any agency.  While CSOSA has stringent contact standards, requiring eight contacts per month for offenders at the highest risk levels (even more contacts are possible for drug testing and treatment programs) GPS provides a great deal of additional information on each offender.  Learning to interpret and respond to that information is a challenge for even the most experienced CSOs.

Generally, the Community Supervision Officer will review daily reports provided by the vendor: (1) a daily summary on each offender indicating whether the GPS unit transmitted appropriately and whether the offender remained in compliance with location parameters the CSO had previously defined, and (2) an incident hit report, which details whether offenders on GPS were in the vicinity of crime locations reported by the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. 

The CSO can also review the actual tracking data, which shows the offender’s movements through the city.  For some types of offenders, including sex offenders, daily review of the tracking report is a must.

Paul Brennan, a Supervisory Community Supervision Officer for one of CSOSA’s sex offender teams, demonstrates his ability to interpret the tracking report.  He pulls up the report, which follows the movements of a particular sex offender on the previous day.  With a few keystrokes, Brennan lays a detailed map of the city over the tracking report. 

For an even higher level of detail, he superimposes satellite images from Google Earth over the offender’s movements.  Suddenly, a daycare center with a playground appears in the offender’s path.  Brennan now has a good idea why that sex offender has been loitering in the area.  He and his team also share intelligence with the police and use it to inform their own surveillance and case management activities.

“We use polygraph tests, GPS, drug testing, surveillance and other forms of human and technological intelligence with our sex offenders, but we are only as good as our ability to interpret and react to the data we get,” Brennan says.  “We are not perfect, and offenders will test the capabilities of the system, but we have some of the best tools in the country to provide accountability while getting offenders into programs they need.”

Offenders try to “get around” GPS in a variety of ways—some as simple as failing to charge the unit or attempting to cut it off.   One of the ways that GPS is tamper-resistant is “double” monitoring; the offender is tracked not just by satellite but by cell phone towers as well.  GPS transmission may be hampered in large buildings or homes, but supplemental devices can be placed in those buildings to continue transmission.

National Trends

GPS tracking is poised to play a significant role in the system’s ability to protect society and place and keep offenders in programs.   The use of this technology will likely grow significantly in coming years.

The ability to track an offender every minute of every day provides new opportunities and challenges for the criminal justice system.  Criminological research has consistently emphasized the importance of immediate response to violations for those under supervision.

The nationwide adoption of intermediate sanctions (i.e., increased reporting or drug testing, community service, treatment programs, day reporting, halfway back measures or brief periods of incarceration) to respond to violations requires agencies to be in frequent contact with the offender if sanctions are to be imposed effectively.

GPS increases officers’ awareness of potential violations.  The offender’s non-compliance with GPS—attempting to tamper with the device or the signal—also constitutes a serious violation in itself.

One of the few evaluations that include both GPS and radio frequency monitoring was completed in 2006 by Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.  The study (“Under Surveillance: An Empirical Test of the Effectiveness and Consequences of Electronic Monitoring”) concludes that electronic monitoring has produced promising results:

“Overall, Florida’s program is found to provide an effective public safety alternative to prison for serious offenders, including those convicted of murder/manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, and other violent offenses…Our findings indicate that electronic monitoring actually reduces the likelihood of revocation for a technical violation for offenders on home confinement. More importantly, electronic monitoring also reduces the likelihood of revocation for a new offense [emphasis added] and the likelihood of absconding which demonstrates a positive effect on public safety.”

The authors conclude:  “…it appears likely that the use of electronic monitoring devices will increase dramatically in the very near future.”


Recent Research

A new study (“A Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Electronic Monitoring”) was offered by the Florida State University in January of 2010. It provides the latest update of previous studies using GPS and other forms of electronic monitoring.

The report indicates, “The balance of evidence from these studies shows that EM is effective in reducing supervision failure rates, as measured in a variety of ways.”

Researchers examined 5,034 medium- and high-risk offenders on EM and 266,991 offenders not placed on EM over a six year period plus interviews with staff and offenders. Selected findings include:

  • EM reduces the likelihood of failure under community supervision.  The reduction in the risk of failure is about 31%, relative to offenders placed on other forms of community supervision.
  • EM allows offenders to remain in the community thereby promoting family ties.
  • EM supervision has less of an impact on violent offenders than on sex, drug, property, and other types of offenders, although there are significant reductions in the hazard rate for all of these offense types.
  • There are no major differences in the effects of EM supervision across different age groups.
  • There were no major differences in the effects of EM for different types of supervision.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 EM offenders would have served time in prison if not for the electronic surveillance option available to the courts. 


Improved Public Safety

GPS is a useful tool in community supervision but, “It’s not foolproof,” Paul Brennan says.  “Nothing’s foolproof. If people want ironclad guarantees that the offender will not commit additional crimes in the community, their only alternative is incarceration.”

Despite its limitations, however, GPS helps CSOSA achieve its goal of protecting the public through effective community supervision.  “We can provide the citizens of the metropolitan area with improved public safety,” says Thomas Williams.  Because of its contribution to the bottom line, GPS will continue to be part of CSOSA’s supervision strategy.


A Guide to Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within CSOSA

A Guide to Treatment, Education and Job Related Services Within the

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA)

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

 Updated, Summer, 2011

Please see our website at and our social media site at

All of us at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) receive telephone calls and e-mails from family and friends asking for information on programs to assist their loved ones currently under parole, probation, or supervised release.

 Family involvement, support and encouragement are crucial to successful outcomes of people on community supervision. We appreciate your interest.

In an effort to assist those who are trying to help, we offer the following overview of services. CSOSA’s Community Supervision Officers (CSOs—the professional supervising or assisting the offender—known elsewhere as parole and probation officers or agents) are your first contacts for information.

CSOSA is a federal, independent agency supervising and offering services to people convicted of D.C. code violations or who have been accepted for supervision through the Interstate Compact Agreement. We do not provide assistance to individuals not convicted of D.C. code violations or accepted through the Interstate Compact Agreement; we do not assist individuals living in adjacent states.

The CSOSA Website

 Many of the resources listed on the CSOSA website (see below) are available to anyone. Please note that there are a wide array of government and private organizations providing services beyond those offered by CSOSA.

 Please see The top of the main page offers a button marked “Offender Reentry.” The section marked “Reentry Resources” provides a comprehensive overview of assistance available throughout the city.

Examples include:

  • A directory of helpful resources created by the Public Defenders Service
  • An emergency food and shelter directory offered by the Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington
  • “Starting Out-Starting Over-Staying Out” by D.C. Cure
  • CSOSA’s Faith-Based Initiative

There are many additional services and opportunities to explore on the website, as well as a series of television and radio programs featuring the experiences of people on supervision with CSOSA.  See link on the website (main page on right) for “DC Public Safety.”

Washington, D.C. Government and Non-Profit Providers

The District of Columbiagovernment provides the majority of services available to people on CSOSA supervision. You can find comprehensive, up-to-date listings of social services available through the DC government at “211 Answers, Please!” ( For general employment information available at the District’s one-stop workforce development centers, please contact the DC Department of Employment Services at 202-724-7000, or see (

Services Available from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

CSOSA supervises 16,000 offenders on parole, supervised release or probation every day.

CSOSA enforces the conditions and requirements imposed by the court or the US Parole Commission (such as drug testing and finding employment) and also refers individuals to supportive programs .

An individual supervision and treatment plan is developed for each offender.

The CSOSA Starting Point: Risk and Needs Assessment

Every individual entering supervision receives a comprehensive risk and needs assessment.  The assessment identifies the particular areas in which the offender needs assistance and accountability. The assessment is updated throughout the year.

The Role of the Community Supervision Officer (CSO)

We encourage you to contact your friend’s or relative’s CSO, but please note that most information regarding an individual’s status on supervision or program participation is protected under the Federal Privacy Act.  This information cannot be shared with anyone other than relevant government agencies without the offender’s written consent. Within these limitations, however, CSOs can be helpful and encouraging to family members and loved ones trying to assist offenders.

If you are uncertain of the name and telephone number of your loved one’s CSO, please contact 202-585-7377.

The CSOSA/Faith Community Partnership

CSOSA works with a wide variety of faith institutions throughout the city to coordinate a network of support services for people returning to the District from prison.  Many of these services are also available to offenders not under CSOSA’s supervision, as well as probationers.  CSOSA’s faith partners provide an array of services including mentoring, drug counseling, emergency food and clothing, job placement, housing assistance and more. See the CSOSA reentry web site mentioned above.

Substance Abuse Treatment

 In fiscal year 2010, 90 percent of offenders entering supervision self-reported a history of illicit drug use.  The connection between drug abuse and crime has been well established.  Long-term success in reducing recidivism among drug-abusing offenders depends upon two key factors:

  1.  Identifying and treating drug use and other social problems; and
  2. Establishing swift and certain consequences for violations of release conditions.

Treatment reduces drug use and criminal behavior; it also can improve the offender’s prospects for employment.

CSOSA’s treatment resources are focused on the highest-risk, highest-need individuals.  We also work with District government to place other individuals, as appropriate, in city-funded treatment as slots are available.

Offenders access treatment in several different ways:

  • By testing positive for drug use, which usually results in referral for assessment and possible treatment placement;
  • By talking with the Community Supervision Officer and requesting treatment;
  • By having a condition for substance abuse treatment imposed by the U.S. Parole Commission or D.C. Superior Court; or
  • By completing the pre-treatment program in CSOSA’s Reentry andSanctionsCenterand being discharged to continue treatment.

The CSOSA substance abuse treatment continuum includes the following programs:

  •  7-Day Medically Monitored Detoxification,
  • 28-Day Residential Treatment,
  • 90- to 120-Day Residential Treatment,
  • 120-Day Residential Treatment and Transitional Housing for Women with Children,
  • 120-Day Residential Treatment for Dually Diagnosed Offenders (mental health and substance abuse),
  • 90-Day Supervised Transitional Housing, and
  • Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient Treatment.
  •  After the individual completes treatment, he or she generally is assigned to an aftercare support group.

 The Reentry andSanctionsCenter(RSC)

CSOSA’s 102 bed Reentry and Sanctions Center (RSC) provides 28 days of intensive assessment and pre-treatment programming for individuals with long-term histories of substance abuse and criminal involvement.  These individuals are the highest-risk, highest-need offenders under CSOSA supervision.

Offenders are generally referred to the RSC directly upon release from prison or early in their supervision period.  Participation for offenders is voluntary, though some defendants are court-ordered to participate.  The program provides offenders and defendants with tools to prevent relapse, improve family relationships, and modify deviant behaviors.

After completion, most participants are placed in custom-designed  community-based programs to continue treatment.

The Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP)

 The Secure Residential Treatment Program (SRTP) is a 32 bed, residential 180 day program operating within the DC Department of Corrections’ Correctional Treatment Facility.

The program is an alternative to incarceration for individuals facing revocation by the US Parole Commission. The primary focus is a comprehensive, intensive cognitive behavioral model aimed at the inmates’ individual criminal and substance using lifestyle rather than a focus on substance abuse alone.

Core treatment components include pre-screening, intake, orientation, assessment, crisis intervention, individualized treatment planning, inmate psycho-education, abstinence directed counseling, supportive group and individual counseling, urine toxicology screening, comprehensive case management, anger management education, spiritual education and group counseling, recreation therapy, group/individual psychotherapy, relapse and recidivism prevention, community re-integration, supervision compliance planning, discharge planning, introduction to community support meetings and continuity of care planning.

 Mental Health Services

CSOSA contracts with mental health service providers for psychiatric screening and evaluation; psychological case reviews; pretreatment counseling; aftercare counseling; medication compliance/education groups; and full battery assessments on an as needed basis.

CSOSA does not provide mental health therapy or medication management.  Based on the assessment results, CSOSA will refer the individual to the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health for appropriate services.

CSOSA has a supervision branch comprised of six teams that specialize in managing offenders with mental health issues.

Violence Reduction Program (VRP)

 The Violence Reduction Program (VRP) is a programmatic intervention that blends best practices from the literature – such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mentoring – into a three-phase treatment intervention for men, aged 18-35, with histories of violent, weapons, and/or drug distribution convictions.  The goal of the VRP is to help offenders:

  •  Develop non-violent approaches to conflict resolution,
  • Increase problem-solving skills,
  • Adopt communication styles that improve social skills,
  • Establish an alternative peer network by promoting pro-social supports and accountability networks, and
  • Learn and apply skills to regulate anxiety.

Specialized Treatment:

 Several specialized treatment interventions are provided to offenders who have committed certain types of crimes or are assigned to special supervision caseloads:

 Traffic Alcohol Program (TAP) 

 Offenders are court-ordered to complete the Traffic Alcohol Program (TAP) following conviction for traffic and/or alcohol related offenses.

Sex Offender Assessment and Treatment

CSOSA contracts with treatment providers to assess and treat individuals convicted of sex offenses, as ordered by the Superior Court or U.S. Parole Commission.

 Domestic Violence Treatment

As part of CSOSA’s supervision of offenders with domestic violence convictions, offenders convicted of domestic violence may be court-ordered to participate in an 18-week Family Violence Intervention Program or a 22-week Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

 Women Offenders

 One example of a community-based program providing services for women offenders and their families is Our Place DC ( The phone number is 202-548-2400. Our Place works with CSOSA to bring comprehensive services to women offenders.

CSOSA has specialized supervision teams, treatment services, and groups for women offenders.  Women offenders have unique and challenging needs that are best met through gender-specific groups.

 Anger Management

 CSOSA Treatment Specialists facilitate a 12-session Anger Management group program.    Participants attend one 90-minute session each week.

Educational Assistance and Job Placement–Vocational Opportunities, Training, Education, and Employment Unit (V.O.T.E.E.)

The Vocational Opportunities for Training, Education, and Employment (VOTEE) Program assesses and responds to the individual educational and vocational needs of offenders.  Vocational Development Specialists provide direct assistance in preparing offenders for job readiness training, community-based vocational and rehabilitative programs, and job search/placement and retention assistance.  The unit also provides adult basic education and GED preparation courses at one of four learning labs staffed by CSOSA Learning Lab Specialists.  The Learning Lab Specialists assist offenders in improving their educational levels.  In addition, the Learning Labs provide information systems technology training and referrals for certification training.


CSOSA’s Community Supervision Officers (CSOs) are responsible for creating a supervision and treatment plan for each offender under CSOSA’s supervision. Please contact the CSO supervising your friend or family member if you would like to discuss your loved one’s needs. Your support, encouragement and guidance are often critical elements that keep many offenders from returning to crime or drugs.