Law Enforcement’s and Community Correction’s Use of GPS

Updated January, 2012

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Brian Glover is an eight-year veteran of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). He patrols the fifth district in northeast D.C.  A couple of years ago, he heard something about the local parole and probation authority putting criminal offenders on Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking.

“I started to notice that some of the offenders we run into were wearing cell phones on their right ankles.  So, I took a training course offered by the parole and probation people and learned that I can track the movements of these guys right from the computer in my car, and I think that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Every time a crime is committed in my patrol area, I can find out if one of these guys was at the crime scene or close by.”

Lt. Michael J. Farish (a supervisor working on homicides, cold cases and special investigations) likes the capabilities GPS brings to criminal investigations. “Maybe the most important tool in the use of GPS is not the ability to place an offender at the crime scene, although that happens, but the ability to tell who was in the immediate area. We track these people down and get important leads that solve homicides and a variety of additional crimes. They may not have done the crime, but they may know who did. Or maybe this person was holding the gun or driving the get-away car or just out for a smoke. But just having someone close to the crime scene can produce valuable information.”

Capt. Mario Patrizio (Commander of Special Investigations) knew immediately in 2006 that the use of GPS on offenders was going to be an important investigative tool. “Our detectives are mandated to check the list of new crimes against the GPS data. Every day, we do hundreds of checks.”

InNortheast Washington,D.C., an offender was sexually assaulting teenage girls who were walking in their communities. A sketch of the assailant supplied by the Metropolitan Police Department was recognized by a Community Supervision Officer (CSO–referred to as Parole and Probation Agent or Officer in the rest of the country) who, through GPS, placed the offender at the scenes on the exact days and times of the assaults.

The CSO is an employee of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA).  CSOSA is a federal, executive branch agency providing parole and probation services to residents ofWashington,D.C.It was established in August of 2000. The agency considers itself to be one of the most technologically sophisticated community supervision agencies in the country. The agency believes that with accountability and opportunity for programs, increasing numbers of offenders can avoid future criminality. CSOSA has been using GPS or satellite tracking since 2003 and currently has approximately 600 people on the system.

The numbers on GPS change due to new initiatives or requests from law enforcement partners.

Does GPS Help Prevent Crime?

CSOSA’s Associate Director for Community Supervision Services believes that the use of GPS can prevent crimes. Thomas H. Williams is a veteran of community supervision administration at the highest levels. “There is a wide variety of offenders who are looking for a way out of the criminal lifestyle. They want normalcy in their lives, but their friends and associates can drag them down. GPS stiffens their backbone.  If an offender’s criminal associates know that he’s on GPS, well, they certainly don’t want him around during the commission of a crime.”

Lt. Farish also feels that GPS can prevent criminality. “Criminal offenders on supervision really need to do the right thing. They often have prior arrests, convictions and periods of supervision with CSOSA. Everyone wants them to be successful when coming out of prison or being placed on probation. It’s impossible to put everyone in prison, so the more they succeed, the more the community is protected. The device seems to give some the courage to do the right thing.”

New Research

A new study (“A Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Electronic Monitoring”) was offered by theFloridaStateUniversityin January of 2010. It provides the latest update of previous studies on the use of 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.”

New research 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 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.


The Issue of Interagency Cooperation

CSOSA and the Metropolitan Police Department share information on an ongoing basis at the headquarters, district and officer levels. Metropolitan Police Department and Community Supervision Officers conduct announced and unannounced home visits (called Accountability Tours) of new and high-risk offenders. MPD staff also participates in CSOSA’s Mass Orientation program, which informs offenders new to supervision of CSOSA’s expectations for them while under supervision.  There are joint endeavors to serve warrants and to create leads for homicides and serious crimes.

Officer Glover states that he likes the GPS program for the communication it provides between himself and the CSOs. “If I discover that someone on the street may be causing problems, and he’s not working, I’ll ask the CSO to put him on GPS or in CSOSA’sDayReportingCenterprogram.  I also can access CSOSA’s information system, SMART (Supervision, Management and Automated Record system), to determine the name of the CSO and call or send him or her an e-mail. “

“Recently, I had a guy who was taking a lot of items to pawn shops, and he was under CSOSA’s supervision, so I asked CSOSA to put him on GPS tracking. Within weeks, we were able to tie him into several burglaries. I’m also able to tell CSOSA’s sex offender unit when someone is hanging out at school or playground. “

When asked if he is this vigilant because of his veteran status, he states that his fellow officers are taking increased interest in the use of GPS data and asking CSOSA to place additional offenders on the program. “The level of information exchange is improving,” he states.

Capt. Patrizio and Lt. Farish cite the case of a retired MPD officer who was shot while resisting a robbery outside of his house after watching a Monday night football game.  The officer was walking his brother to his car when two guys walked past and returned a short time later and announced a robbery. MPD asked CSOSA to immediately run offenders through the GPS system. That allowed detectives to concentrate on interviews and evidence collection. Within minutes, CSOSA personnel were able to place a suspect 11 feet away from the crime scene at the precise time and date of the crime.

The Future of GPS

The term electronic monitoring does not necessarily indicate the use of GPS or Satellite tracking. Electronic monitoring could include radio frequency devices tethered to a telephone for supervision in the home or immediate area.

ToCarlton Butler, CSOSA’s GPS Manager, who supervises the provision of GPS equipment to offenders, it’s only going to grow. “We are in partnership with MPD and other law enforcement agencies, and many officers would like to see the continued, beneficial use of GPS.  The spirit of cooperation is strong, and the exchange of information is increasing.”

“The use of GPS technology is not a panacea and will not replace good old traditional law enforcement investigation techniques, but it is another helpful tool to assist in fighting crime.”

But to Capt. Patrizio and Lt. Farish, it’s simply an idea whose time has come.  It’s a way to prevent crime and help some offenders do what needs to be done to straighten themselves out.  But with respect to violent law breakers, “The quicker we get them off the streets, the safer the city will be. With CSOSA as our partner, we can help offenders get the programs they need and make the city safer,” states Mario Patrizio.


Three Years of Social Media: Marketing Lessons Learned

Multimedia Wall from Crestock Creative Images

By Leonard Sipes and Timothy Barnes

See for “DC Public Safety” radio, television and transcripts.

This is the seventh article in a series on podcasting and social media. The purpose is to explain social media and to attempt to “cut through the clutter” and offer an understanding of effective methods.

We were one of the first federal agencies to engage in social media and a large number of government, criminal justice and nonprofit agencies have come to us for advice and guidance.

This article summarizes what we’ve learned about marketing our four federal social media websites, our friend’s sites and our assistance to government, non-profit agencies and national organizations.

We may use terms that some of you are unfamiliar with (happens to me everyday). Please go to The Common Craft store on YouTube provides simple explanations for many additional terms. Please do not be put off by their simplicity. Sometimes, simplicity is just what you need to learn or to explain terms to others.

Some Background

Social media is an internet based effort to give customers interesting material so they have a better understanding as to what your agency is or does. Customers read, watch or listen to your offerings and respond; thus giving the agency the feedback it needs to accomplish operational goals.

The key word is “social.” You have an on-line conversation with your customers. You offer content that’s compelling; they offer their opinions or provide needed information. Social media is today’s focus group.

An example would be a law enforcement agency providing Twitter or Facebook messages about burglaries and “customers” respond with suspect information. You Tweet-you arrest–you accomplish your objectives.

Another example would be a national association or nonprofit providing really interesting video, audio and fact sheets backed-up by Twitter and Facebook accounts. You provide compelling content; you interact with tens of thousands of new people who join and financially support the organization.

Social media accomplishes operational goals. We’re not doing this to be interesting or informative; we’re doing it to advance the mission of the organization. There are endless corporations doing it to both serve customers and improve their bottom-line.

The Reality

It sounds so simple but the reality is anything but. Those entering social media have expressed considerable dismay regarding the complexity and work required and they have every reason to express concern.

Social media is like a dog-fight; it’s quick and furious and confusing. Those inhabiting the internet can be sophomoric and crude – they can also be insightful and informative. It’s like having a party for thousands of people where some bring something to contribute and some get obnoxious and loud.

For those who like things nice and tidy, social media is not for you. For those who like to get things done, well, the reality is that social media is a daily and ongoing process.

Two Kinds of Social Media Efforts

Keep in mind that there are two kinds of social media efforts. Some sites are static. You do your best to create really interesting content; you update that content and have a method for customers to contact staff–that’s it. I suggest that most of you start with a static site and gradually move towards more frequent postings.

Dynamic social media can and often does mean daily or frequent creation of content. Every day (or fairly often) you are offering new material (often referred to as a blog) or a great video or television show or a dynamite audio or radio product or an analysis of someone’s work.

People come to your site because you frequently post new material. People will come to your site often because they like what you do. You end up with thousands of contacts every week or month that may join your association, contribute money or tell you want you need to know to improve operations.

Your association goes from little influence to an adequately funded national source of information on the subject you care about.  But getting there involves a price in time and money and there are many who are justifiably unwilling to pay the price. Most drop out of the process of daily or frequent postings. It’s simply too confusing and time consuming.


Through this article, we want to end some of the confusion. We assume that you have a website and it’s has some really interesting content and you have methods for your customers to contact you. You are dedicated to conversations that get people to interact with you.

Posting daily (or frequent) content is marketing and may be the best form of reaching people. But content does not have to be long or complex; it can be a couple paragraphs about a new initiative or recent research or data from another organization (virtually all government data is public domain). The bottom-line is that it’s interesting and informative. People like it.

But most bureaucracies hamper writers or other content creators with a lot of control that discourages someone who wants to write or create. Your management need to understand that content creation needs a simple approval process.

We need to get beyond what we were taught in school about writing; material for the internet needs to be short (200-400 words) and it needs to get to the point quickly. It should be completely free of jargon. It should be light and breezy. It should “sound” like a person talking to someone. The use of bullets is encouraged. Telling a story is key.

Internet readers skim rather than read. They will spend a minute or two on your site and move on.

What’s the minimum number of new material you can get away with? Two short articles a week or one audio or video program a week.

Don’t Kill Yourself with Options

The internet is filled with thousands of strategies for improving your site or improving your search engine optimization (SEO). People go crazy trying to know and understand them all. What you need to know:

* Create sites with great content that’s easy to find and easy to explore.

* Good sites get visitors to create links back to your site (people placing an address on their site that points back to yours).  Links are like a vote of confidence. Search engines send traffic partially based on the number and quality of links.

* Spend ten minutes a day asking similar sites to link to you (as you will link to them). Spend time on their site. Interact. See what they are doing right.

* Use key words in the title and throughout the article. If people are searching for material on crime prevention, having those words in the article helps them find it.

* Use a blogging platform that allows you to add key words and descriptions in the background so search engines have more to access.

* Everything else is close to unnecessary.

Advertise by Posting your Material on National Social Media Sites

Posting material from your website to additional websites gives your material greater exposure and creates links back to your site. You either manually submit material or the site automatically picks up your RSS feed

You don’t need to manually submit your material to a lot of sites. At this writing, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and possibly Reddit seem to work best for non-profits and government agencies. Note that every organization will discover for themselves what works best, but many doing social media are posting their content in too many forums. It’s exhausting.

Some of the big social media sites don’t like our content.  Social media likes technology, politics, and entertainment. Most of the big sites don’t have categories for the material we offer. Some of the people I’ve assisted have sites rejecting their material calling it spam, especially when it’s frequently posted. They willingly embrace something weird or wacky but reject research-based posts that contribute to the social good. Many sites reject insertions of links in articles regardless as to worthiness. You include a link to a great government report and they reject it as spam.

There are blogging sites like Blog Catalog that automatically pick your new material via your RSS feed. Search the internet for “free blog catalogs.” MySpace, Blogged. OnToplist are additional examples of sites willing to carry your RSS feed.

Warning – when you interact with Facebook and Twitter you are creating new websites that have to be maintained to be successful and Facebook is a confusing platform. But Twitter and Facebook are developing new search and linking capacities that may make them indispensible.  Google Buzz and Google Me (forthcoming) may evolve into a useful method to exchange information. All need to be approached with caution, especially as they apply to privacy.

Video and audio?

Doing a short (one to two minutes) audio or video post on a new subject and posting it on your site and YouTube takes minutes to do. A gazillion 14 year-olds do it every day.

There are high-definition flip video cameras that cost less that $200.00 (many closer to $100.00) that will allow almost instant creations and posting to your site and/or YouTube.

Please note that internet users (and all learners) want a variety of formats; there are people who would rather watch or listen than read.

Does it have to look like the evening news or sound like National Public Radio?

Nope. Believe it or not, people like their internet offerings unpolished. I’ve read articles about the hours some people spend editing audio or video. It’s our experience that people like it genuine.

Different audiences with different needs

ProBlogger ( asks “What problems are you solving for your audience?” Well, you start your site seeking an audience interested in crime or teaching or social change and you get people interested in segments of your topics. They aren’t teachers, but you start getting traffic about the most effective methods of helping kids with homework. And you find that this topic is the most frequent request. You reach out to people in the criminal justice system and end up with scads of people wanting to know how to pick the safest neighborhoods to live in.  The internet has two different audiences, your targeted professionals and everyone else. You will find that demand may move your site in unanticipated directions.

Dot Gov or Dot Org – the Google Sandbox

Search engines like Google like government sites so if that applies to you, get a dot-gov as part of your domain name (address for your site).

For those of you who have associations, woe be unto you. Google and the other search engines distrust new websites and will not send you traffic until your sites ages (at least a year) and you have a sufficient number of links (100). Most successful sites are a minimum of two years old and have hundreds of really good links

That means that you will create all that great content and few will see it during the first year or more, but they will see it later when Google starts sending you greater amounts of traffic (be sure to make it easy to find via key words, categories, etc.).

One more item to consider; Google and the other search engines do not have the ability to judge the quality of sites. I’ve seen sites that haven’t posted material in years with inaccurate content rank higher than great but new sites with wonderful content because the competing site is older and carries many links.

Old Sites

If you have an older site, please develop your social media effort within that site; don’t start a new site.

Why? I assisted a national criminal justice organization that had a website for the last ten years and they were not aware that had hundreds of high-quality links. All they had to do was create new content and use keywords within that content (keywords are the words-phrases people are searching for).

They went from being un-findable to quickly going to the top of the list on Google searches (for those keywords) all because that added relevant content (with key words) and posted frequently and were willing to interact with their “customers.”

Interacting with Customers

Don’t worry about the time you need to spend with people who react to your sites. Develop fact sheets on all of your main content areas and use the fact sheets to respond. Most people using our sites simply complement us on our efforts. But when they offer information you can use, thank them. When they offer good information or criticism, interact with them; ask them what it is that they need or get clarification. It’s important to your mission.

Sites with Movement

Don’t develop sites with extensive and annoying Flash (software presenting motion). Keep it simple. Users want simplicity and quick access. Big corporations use Flash but they can get away with it. You want to keep your site relevant to the needs of users.  In addition, the computer industry is currently moving away from Adobe Flash-based technology, which is proprietary, to the new HTML Version 5 open standards.

We’ve all seen sites created entirely in Flash. But the search engines can’t search Flash or photographs; search engines only recognize words. All their efforts to become a presence on the internet were doomed to failure because no one could find their site unless they already knew the address (URL).

Finding People to Interact With or Market to–Facebook

For many of us, finding our key audience is very challenging. For me, finding people interested in criminal justice related issues is very hard unless you have the budget to advertise in publications or websites.

People who represent issues that are popular and who use the internet frequently have a much easier time finding like-minded individuals or organizations. There are people interested in topics like technology, religion or politics that use the internet frequently.

But if you are looking for cops, firefighters, teachers or plumbers, how do you find your audience?

Facebook offers the most interactive web presence on the internet. They now have hundreds of millions of daily users (500 million users total) who stay on the site longer than any other. Facebook claims to drive more people to websites than Google.

Facebook gives you two options, developing a “page” (for businesses and organizations) and developing a “profile” site organized by an individual’s name. Please note that as I write this, Facebook is making changes and may offer a new kind of presence for organizations.

A Facebook page almost seems to be a questionable option. You can open a Facebook page and use your key term but that term will be buried by all the organizations that have come before you. You could be “the” authority in your field, but everyone who came before you will come first in the Facebook search regardless as to the worthiness of content. In essence, people can’t find you.

Every major corporation has a Facebook page and thousands of people become fans of that page, but for us it does not seem to work nearly as well as a Facebook profile.

Creating a Facebook site using the name of a trusted person within your organization is the way to go. That person creates the site and asks others who have the same interests to be their friend.

Once they have accepted your offer to be your friend, you have access to everyone else who are their friends and you contact them as well. Soon you could have thousands of people representing thousands of organizations similar to yours creating a mechanism to interact.

But beware that Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and similar sites also get you many who have no interest in your topic. They sign up or agree to be your friend solely to market to you. It’s part of the price for doing social media. There are people who feel that their Facebook and Twitter efforts produce a lot of garbage. Out of every 100 people who follow you, maybe 20 are really interested in what you have to say. Don’t be afraid to delete the rest.


All federal government agencies are required by section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act to make their websites accessible to handicapped individuals.  This means that all video must be closed captioned and transcripts for audio and video programs must be provided in addition to the program.  Websites should also be compatible with “machine readers” which speak the content of websites for those who are visually impaired.  Many state and local governments as well as corporations have similar regulations or policies.  Make sure you are aware of any legal or policy requirements regarding accessibility and plan them into your social media strategy.

In summary, these are the most important ingredients to marketing a social media site:

* Choose your strategy – a static site or one with frequent postings.

* A simple word-based website. Leave the fancy graphics to General Motors

* Use a  dot-gov address whenever possible

* Build your social media presences within the framework of an older, existing site

* Have a content approval process that works quickly.

* Ad material frequently

* Post what your audience wants

* Make it very easy to find (create categories – post categories at the top of your site)

* Post material in a variety of formats (audio, video, fact sheets, and story-based articles)

* Place your content on Facebook, Stumble Upon and Twitter (or the sites that work best for your audience). Don’t worry about the endless options.

* Create fact sheets on key topics to respond so you won’t feel overwhelmed by user requests.


We understand that some people feel that all of this is simply too much when it occurs in conjunction with existing jobs. You’re right, it is. For those of you who choose a great static site, good for you. Make it the best.

But for the remaining the question is exposure. Would you rather have 10,000 people interested in what you do come to you and spend two minutes a day being exposed to your material? Most corporations would love to have that interaction.

Just remember that speed, relevancy and interest rules the internet. Most organizations move with the speed of a wounded snail thus taking them out of contention. The question remains, are you willing to talk to millions or are you willing to concede the opportunity to others? For local governments, nonprofits and national associations, this becomes a defining issue.  For some of us, it becomes a matter of public safety or national security.


Offender Reentry: What it Means to the Law Enforcement Community

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

Please see for “DC Public Safety” radio and television programs

Please see for the web site for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

Approximately 650,000 offenders are released from incarceration every year in the United States. Hundreds of thousands more are released from jails. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over two thirds of state releases are rearrested for felonies and serious misdemeanors within three years (

Fifty percent are reincarcerated. The numbers would be greater if one counted all arrests (rather then just serious misdemeanors) and revocations for technical reasons from parole and probation agencies.

Those statistics produce an array of responses. To some, it’s a problem that’s too big to “solve.” The response by many is to ignore it, especially considering the enormity of other social problems.

But others, particularly those of us within the criminal justice community, focus on the evidence that reentry programs can make a meaningful difference in the lives of many returning offenders. Programs conducted both within and outside of prison can reduce criminality and its broad societal impact.

Any impact on recidivism means fewer victims of crime. The stories that many read about in the morning paper, and often forget by lunchtime, become landmark events in the lives of victims. These events stay with them forever, and have a profound impact on any community’s ability to sustain itself. As all of us know, criminal victimization has endless social, moral and political implications.

The majority of offenders are parents. Many of us have interacted with their children, as well as with the mothers and grandmothers who are caring for these children. The results of a parent’s criminality can be devastating to the lives of children; research indicates self-destructive behaviors and increased delinquency.

Why Support Reentry?

For some, supporting programs for people coming out of prison is difficult. But it is in our pragmatic self-interest to become meaningfully involved in reentry efforts. When it comes to improving the lives of those mentioned above, efforts to assist offenders lessen the burden for everyone.

The reasons for supporting reentry programs are as varied as people themselves. Some see it as a religious duty. Others view reentry as part of a need to assist people coming from troubled backgrounds. Many within the victim’s community understand that reentry programming reduces recidivism and produces fewer victims. Some see it as a common-sense approach to dealing with returning offenders. Governors seeking ways to redirect tax dollars for schools or the elderly offer support in lieu of building and operating new prisons

During his State of the Union address in 2004, President George W. Bush called for support of reentry, and community and faith-based programs. President Bush proposed “[a] plan to harness the resources and experience of faith-based and community organizations in dealing with the challenges of helping returning inmates contribute to society.” The President’s statement moved reentry to center stage in the minds of many.

But others justifiably want some assurance that programs for offenders have an impact. One indicator of success is the record of those released from prison via parole. Parolees participate in programs in prison and generally receive assistance and supervision from parole authorities. This results in a lower recidivism rate than those not released via parole. This conclusion is based on Department of Justice data and has been a consistent finding for many years. In every year between 1990 and 2000, State prisoners released by a parole board had higher success rates than those released through mandatory parole. Among parole discharges in 2000, 54% of discretionary parolees were successful compared to 35% of those who had received mandatory parole (

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy issued a study with national implications titled, “Evidence Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not.” The publication documents well done research throughout the country indicating that prison and community based programs focusing on the treatment and supervision of offenders reduce rearrests and prevent further victimization ( ).

The cited research, plus the many findings from individual programs, especially as it applies to drug courts and drug treatment (even for those forced into treatment), indicate that programs can have a positive impact on crime, victim trauma and society.

Law Enforcement And Reentry

Many law enforcement officers feel they have been conducting reentry related activities for years. Like community oriented policing or other “new” initiatives, officers often feel that national efforts simply replicate what they were already doing. Not mentioning this would be insulting to many.

Police officials have often stated that much (if not the majority) of law enforcement is the process of helping people rather then a strict enforcement of laws. Officers have worked with countless mothers of young offenders to provide them with lists of resources and options. Officers have referred many to drug treatment and gone so far as to advocate an early entrance into programs with administrators. If officers had a dollar for every offender they have counseled over the years, they would retire thousands of dollars richer.

Officers engage in frequent conversations with parole and probation agents to keep an eye on offenders under supervision. They work cooperatively to help those in need of assistance and take action against those who pose a threat to public safety. They patrol together with parole and probation agents and exchange information. Many do this as a matter of good policing rather than taking part in an effort of national importance.


That said, national resources are becoming increasingly available to law enforcement agencies that will aid their efforts to systematically engage in reentry activities. One document is available now and two others are forthcoming. They are:

1. The Jail Reentry Roundtable, hosted by the Urban Institute and other agencies, and funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance ( Considering the fact that Sheriff’s Departments operate most of the jails in this country, the document can be seen as a resource for law enforcement. The Jail Reentry Roundtable found that “At least 50 jails operate programs to successfully help inmates return successfully to society”– reported by Crime and Justice News on June 29, 2006.

2. “Prisoner Reentry and Community Policing,” from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), U.S. Department of Justice and the Urban Institute: ( The document provides a comprehensive review of reentry strategies and examples from the field.

3. A DVD and report are available from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) from the US Department of Justice on “Offender Re-entry”. The link for the DVD and additional materials is

4. Another document, “Building an Offender Reentry Program: A Guide for Law Enforcement,” from the Bureau of justice Assistance and the IACP is available at

The essence of all the publications is a “call to action” for law enforcement to take leadership roles regarding reentry. All urge law enforcement to enter into partnerships with allied agencies to make the reentry process as effective as possible.

The Experience in Washington, D.C.–The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency:

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) is responsible for providing community supervision to approximately 15,500 men and women on probation, parole and supervised release in the District of Columbia. CSOSA is a new federal agency, independent as of August of 2000. The agency’s operations embody the best practices of criminological research. Returning offenders are a top priority.

Most citizens of the District of Columbia are supportive of our presence and understand that the more closely we supervise and assist offenders, the less likely they are to threaten the community. The public understands that our mission, first and foremost, is their safety.

CSOSA offers a wide array of initiatives. Close to 50 percent of the offender population are in special programs or intensively supervised. Special programs involve sex offenders, high-risk substance abusers, domestic violence, drinking and driving, mental health, day reporting and anger management. These programs include both treatment and supervision.

We opened a state-of-the-art substance abuse assessment and pre-treatment center that will provide a 28-day residential program. This program will be used as both an initial placement after release from prison and a residential sanction for offenders facing revocation of release. The Reentry and Sanctions Center will serve approximately 1,000 offenders each year.

CSOSA has an inclusive faith-based partnership with local religious institutions and recruits mentors from within their congregations to assist returning offenders. The faith community provides many services beyond mentoring. Drug treatment, clothing, housing and many other services are offered.

CSOSA operates seven field offices around the city where offenders report for supervision appointments and, in most cases, drug testing. An additional four learning lab locations provide computerized literacy programming, GED preparation, and job placement assistance.


CSOSA collaborates closely with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), conducting over 8,000 “Accountability Tours,” where Community Supervision Officers (CSO’s””what most jurisdictions refer to as parole and probation officers) visit offenders’ homes accompanied by police officers. These visits not only allow CSOs to meet with offenders and their family members in the home environment, but also ensure that MPD officers know who in the neighborhood is under active supervision.

MPD officers are often a great source of both encouragement and accountability. They frequently remind offenders that they are under supervision and that their questionable activities and associates will be reported to their CSO. This can prevent an offender from engaging in acts of lawlessness. Police personnel will ask CSO’s for a special condition of drug treatment or state that the individual has too much time on his hands and needs to go to day reporting or get assistance in finding a job. MPD officers understand that some offenders need structure and help, and some need to be brought to the attention of the U.S. Parole Commission or local court.

MPD officers also attend orientation sessions for individuals recently placed on community supervision to instruct them on CSOSA’s standards of conduct, provide information on support programs and treatment, and reinforce the consequences for further criminal behavior.

In addition to our ever-expanding collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department, we also work closely with the US Attorney’s Office, US Marshals Service, the FBI and the D.C. Housing Authority Police and others to share information and coordinate warrant service and additional public safety efforts. In addition to working closely with District of Columbia public safety agencies, we continue to strengthen our relationships with our peers in Maryland and Virginia.

The Reentry Plan in the District of Columbia

By fostering collaboration, CSOSA involves as many law enforcement, criminal justice and community resource providers as possible in an inclusive reentry effort. This is articulated in the Comprehensive Reentry Strategy for Adults in the District of Columbia, which was developed in 2003 to provide a detailed, long-range plan for effective reentry services that begin while the offender is incarcerated, continue during the transition from prison to the community and culminate in long-term community-based support.

CSOSA, the Mayor’s office, D.C. and federal government agencies, religious and community organizations and law enforcement worked together to create the Strategy. The Strategy contains an action agenda for reentry service providers that include community education and the pursuit of legislative priorities. The document and other reentry-related materials are available on CSOSA’s web site (

So What’s Possible?

Research on community based anti-crime programs indicates that law enforcement personnel are seen as primary leaders in the fight against crime. Citizens naturally look to police executives and officers for guidance and reassurance when crime problems seem to get out of hand.

The same can hold true for offender reentry. Parole and probation agencies need the power of partnerships to get the job done. While law enforcement agencies feel that they are overwhelmed with current duties, a partnership with community corrections can pay off with fewer crimes, safer communities and a renewed emphasis on getting the truly dangerous offenders off the streets.

Law enforcement officers can assist offenders, and, as stated above, many already do. Those out of prison or on probation need structure to change their lives. If they know that officers are watching them, then maybe they will begin the process of change. Officers can encourage or insist that those under supervision enroll in drug treatment or job readiness classes. They can be the authority figures that so many young men and women need if the youth are approached in the correct manner.

Many offenders want to change and can change with the right support. Police officers have been change agents in the lives of many caught up in lawbreaking behavior. If police and sheriff’s agencies can come together with parole and probation officials, and community and business leaders to form an active partnership, then the community will be better off for the effort. It’s up to us to try.