Archives for May 2007

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A Career with CSOSA

This Television Program is available at

[Video Begins]

Male 1: And it’s not just about the paycheck, there is another type of richness that affects the body and the soul. And that’s that richness that helps you to sleep at night knowing that you’ve helped your fellow man, that you have done an outstanding job.

Male 2: We here at Court Services have the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of life in the District of Columbia.

Female 1: It exists to help other people.

Male 3: We feel like now that the work we do has more socially redeeming value than any other work that an individual can possibly get involved in.

Announcer: In 1997, Congress passed the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act. This progressive legislation set the stage for the creation of Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia.

Female 2: People who get out of prison need services if they are to stay out of prison.

Announcer: CSOSA, this independent federal agency brings together the functions of parole, probation, and
pre-trial services under one umbrella.

Male 4: It’s a very important area of law enforcement. Without CSOSA, it would be very difficult for us to maintain safe streets in the District of Columbia.

Female 3: And it’s not just to put people back into confinement, but to offer all types of community supervision solutions.

Male 5: It’s the cost of incarceration both human and financial are very high, so it’s a vital role to be able to take those who can safely work within the community and work with them in the community.

Male 6: When someone comes out of corrections and they’re given the proper supervision and proper rehabilitation, and CSOSA clearly plays a role in that, that reduces the repeat incidents of crime which has a tremendous public value.

Announcer: Today, there are approximately 14,000 offenders under CSOSA’s supervision. On the frontline is the community supervision officer or CSO.

Female 4: We have that social work in law enforcement capability so you’re able to assist people and show them that there are other choices out there.

Male 7: Supervision officers many times are very purpose-driven or very passionate and are very focused persons who are working – getting paid for things that they look like they would do for free.

Male 8: There’s a passion that goes along with this process. When I conduct group therapy sessions-cognitive restructuring therapy sessions with the offenders, there’s a passion that I have. The key to it is that the offender has to know that you are concerned about their welfare and their well-being.

Male 9: You just gotta get to know the CSO because a lot of people that’s coming home, they think CSO is police. So they’re always being rebellious against police, but it’s not like that.

Announcer: CSOSA partners with community organizations and faith-based groups greatly expanding the resources available to offenders on release.

Female 5: CSOSA has really been instrumental in helping me and the citizens that I represent actually
reclaim our neighborhood.

Male 10: We have organized probably about 20 to 25 faith organizations both Christian and Muslim that provide mentoring and other support services to ex-offenders who are returning to the community.

Announcer: In a unique program, CSOSA makes it possible for inmates hundreds of miles away to
teleconference with mentors and prepare for life on the outside.

Male 11: Yeah, it sounds kind of wild, but I got to work. I mean, my plan –

Female 6: Just calm down, when you get home, you need to see your CSO –

Male 11: Right.

Female 6: –and one of those days I need to go in there with you to meet your CSO so we can talk about some things about what’s going to keep you out here on this end and not down at Rivers [Correctional Facility], okay?

Male 12: So what we want to do is reach them now while they’re still in the penitentiary, and when they come home we try to get them to come to the support group.

Male 13: But well it’s bible study night. So I sacrificed to miss bible study so I could come down here and be with you.

Male 14: I really enjoy this mentoring because it wasn’t such a long time ago that I was released from prison.

Female 7: We connect them to the community, to their neighborhoods, to ministers, to employers.

Male 15: We have a wealth of resources. If an offender wants treatment, we provide them with treatment at no cost to them. If the offender wants GED programming, we provide that. If they’re underemployed, underachieved, we help assist them in acquiring whatever goals they want to acquire, so it’s a great feeling. We are truly a one-stop shop.

Female 8: I have a little girl, she’s five, so basically I live for her and I’m just willing to get ahead to be able to
just have a comfortable life for her.

Female 9: We want to be successful with that individual because we want that individual to achieve that goal that he has set and we don’t let go of that.

Male 16: It’s not about a paycheck, the money isn’t an issue, it goes out the window when you see lives are being changed.

Male 17: I was interested in doing social work or law enforcement and early in college I didn’t even realize that you could do both at the same time.

Male 18: And just really trying to deal with why people do what they do and try to bring them into a place of compliance. And that’s not an easy job, but it’s fun for me, it’s my passion.

Male 19: Well we’re unique in that we’re a federal agency that has a local mission. But what that means in
reality is that we have resources and we have a mandate to be creative.

Female 10: I think we have the freedom to try a lot of things that you traditionally wouldn’t find in other areas of federal government.

Male 20: There’s a wealth of talent here, there’s ability to grow and implement and take chances.

Male 21: We have lots of tools available to us that other jurisdictions envy.

Female 11: I’m a Domestic Violence Treatment Counselor.

Female 12: I’m a Special assistant for communications.

Female 13: Officer of the General Counsel.

Male 22: Community Supervision Officer.

Female 14: Human Resources Assistant.

Male 23: Community Relations Specialist.

Male 24: Supervisor of the Sex Offender Unit.

Male 25: IT Department.

Female 15: I’m a Quality Assurance Specialist.

Male 26: Drug Testing Operations Manager.

Male 27: Senior Program Analyst.

Male 28: Customer Support Manager.

Male 29: Under my office we have architects, engineers, space planners, property management, we have got accountants, budget analysts, contracting specialists, security specialists.

Male 30: We’re looking for people who have very good writing skills and very good communication skills.

Male 31: If you’re motivated, if you want some challenging opportunities and you want to stay on the leading edge, please contact us.

Female 16: There are so many opportunities for someone who really wants to move up.

Female 17: I started out as a receptionist and a year later I’m a Human Resources Assistant.

Male 32: I started off as a LAN tech and worked my way up to management.

Female 18: We have many programs, we have management discovery, we have leadership development programs.

Male 33: It’s got great job security obviously being the federal government.

Male 34: There’s nothing like government benefits, I mean, there’s no match. Corporate can’t do what we do.

Female 19: We have one of the best retirement systems available.

Male 35: You get the best of both worlds in a sense that you have the benefits and stability of working with the federal government, but you also have an opportunity to work directly with the community.

Male 36: It’s just exciting to work in this environment anyway in our nation’s capital.

Male 37: A lot of history is being made.

Male 38: Perfect place to build a career.

Male 39: In terms of arts and cultures, it’s one of the leading cities in the world.

Female 20: I did internships in the D.C. area and decided it was a very exciting place to be – a lot of things to do, a lot of things to see. I seriously went back home and said, ‘mom, when I graduate, I love you, but I have to leave New Jersey, I have to move the D.C. area.’

Male 40: Another person gets help, another family is assisted, another community becomes more stable-and that’s the joy in this work for me and what keeps me coming back every day.

Male 21: It’s a fun place to work.

Female 21: We have to work hard, but we have a great time.

Male 41: The best thing about working here at CSOSA-

Female 22: They offer classes-

Female 23: Tuition reimbursement.

Female 24: It’s the recognition that we get for the work that we do.

Male 43: There’s never a dull moment.

Male 44: You’re not being micromanaged.

Male 45: It pays well.

Male 46: Flextime.

Female 25: The support that the agency gives me.

Male 47: Telecommuting.

Female 26: Transit subsidy.

Female 27: I love the people that I work with. The people –

Female 28: The facilities are beautiful.

Male 48: The CSOSA mission.

Female 29: Knowing that you make the streets a little bit safer.

Male 49: They’re only paying me for something that I enjoy to do, you can’t get a better job than that.

Male 50: We’re saving this community and we’re making a difference in people’s lives. And if that makes
you feel good, then this is the place where you need to be.

[Video Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, employment.


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Women Offenders

This Radio Program is available at

This Television Program is available at


[Audio/Video Begins]

Segment One

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes. Today’s program address women offenders, and as you will find out, there are major differences between male and female offenders. We will interview two women in the first segment; one currently under supervision, and one finished with her supervision with my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. In the second segment we will interview two community supervision officers who work with women offenders. Throughout the program we will post contact agencies if you have questions about what’s available for women offenders in the District, Virginia, and Maryland. And with that I’d like to introduce our first guest, Henrietta Meeks, who is currently under supervision, and Beverly Pollard who has successfully completed supervision. And ladies, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Female 1: Thank you.

Female 2: You’re welcome.

Leonard Sipes: All right, before going into the program, I just want to read four quick statistics and get your responses to them and learn a little bit more about you. Since 1990, the number of women offenders convicted of felonies has grown at twice the rate of male offenders. Nearly six in ten women in state prisons had experience of physical or sexual abuse in the past. Women offenders are more likely than men to be addicted to drugs or to be unemployed before incarceration. And more than two-thirds of women in prison have children under the age of 18. And what all this means to me is that more and more women are coming into the criminal justice system and they’re bringing problems that are unique to themselves and that are vastly different from men. Beverly, tell me about a little bit about your experience please-your background and how you got involved in the criminal justice system.

Beverly Pollard: I got in the criminal justice system a little while back, maybe in the early 90s.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: I was older when I got caught up in the criminal justice system.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: I had some things happening in my life-losing a parent, lost a house-family deceased and everything.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: I used drugs for a long time but I was a functional addict.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What did you use, may I ask?

Beverly Pollard: Well I used to use powder cocaine in military and in federal government.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: And all of a sudden when I lost-had this losing of my mother, my father, then my home, then I was introduced to crack cocaine.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: And then my whole life failed at that particular time. So therefore you do certain things to support your habit.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: And at the time that I completely stopped working and left the government, then I had to support my habit the best way I could.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: So therefore I used to be a thief.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: And that one thing led to another. I was in jail in Virginia, in jail here, in jail there for short periods of time.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: And then I straightened up for a while and then I’d go back into the system again.

Leonard Sipes: All right, I want to talk about what was the final break in terms of allowing you to come out crime-free this time. But I want to go on to talk to Henrietta a little bit. Henrietta, your background?

Henrietta Meeks: Well my background, I’m a mother of three and my husband was an abusive man.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And we split and I had to take care of my kids by myself.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: I was injured and being injured led me into using drugs.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: My drug of choice was heroine.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: Because I needed it for the pain.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: But in the process of taking care of my kids I had to work two jobs and the money wasn’t enough because I was used to living a certain way. So I decided I was going to get fast money by transporting and bringing drugs across the line.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Now out of curiosity, were your crimes involving a man in your life who was somehow someway a coconspirator, if you will, in terms of your criminal activity.

Henrietta Meeks: No.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. No? Okay. What is about women offenders? You’ve heard me read some statistics coming out. If the criminal justice system is going to deal seriously with women offenders and if more and more women are coming into the criminal justice system, what do you think the system needs to do to assist you when you-or coming out of prison? My agency has a ton of services. We supervise the dickens out of people-public safety is our top priority, but at the same time we recognize that those services need to be there if you’re going to make that transformation, what services do you think are necessary for women offenders and are they any different from what we would provide for male offenders? Beverly?

Beverly Pollard: I think that a person them self has to make up their mind actually what type of things that they need first.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: They have to open up, they have to talk to whoever the person is whether it’s their PO, probation, parole officer or what have you. But the whole thing of it is that a person has to make up their mind that they’re going to get their life together no matter what types of places and things and organizations they have for the offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right, but every offender that I’ve talked to in the years of doing these sort of shows have told me exactly the same thing-that he or she has gotta come to that point where they make the decision for themselves.

Beverly Pollard: Right.

Leonard Sipes: And before that, it really becomes tough. But what do you think that-if you’re ready, are we ready for you? If you’re ready to make that break-on a previous television show that I did, it was the faith-based organizations helping the individual make that transformation, that was her break, but she was ready to make that break. What do you think it is that we can do-that society can do to help you make that break from a criminal background? Henrietta?

Henrietta Meeks: I think that first of all the staffs that they are putting into these organizations have to be caring people. You have a lot of them there just for the money.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: Okay, and then when a person is ready to make the break, they have to have the honest desire. Like Beverly said, you’ve got to really want, you have to be sick and tired.

Leonard Sipes: Sick and tired of being sick tired-yeah, I’ve heard that about a thousand times.

Henrietta Meeks: Yes, but then when it comes time for you to have to ask for housing or for different organizations coming to help you to mend your family, to go to therapy and what not, it’s always a waiting list or you’ve got to go through so many different rigmaroles to get to where you gotta get to, so therefore you get tired and you give up.

Leonard Sipes: All right. So a lot of people-when the offenders come out, they encounter these roadblocks and there’s a certain point where they say, ‘the heck with it,’ and do it.

Beverly Pollard: They get impatient.

Henrietta Meeks: Yeah.

Leonard Sipes: They get impatient and go-but again, that’s a common theme that I hear from all offenders. Now let me look at it from society’s point of view. Society is going to say, ‘we don’t care.’ Now too many people in society do say that-they say, ‘you committed the crime, you do the time. If you’re out there thieving or selling drugs or doing whatever, you’ve made your own bed in life.’ But my point is this, and tell me if I’m right or wrong, if you’re ready and if the services are there, you can make that break from a criminal background. Correct or incorrect?

Beverly Pollard: Correct.

Henrietta Meeks: Correct.

Beverly Pollard: But the time that I made my decision to turn my life around when I went before the judge, the judge gave me-she asked me two questions and she asked me-well she didn’t ask me, she told me.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: ‘Either you’re going to jail or you had to go into a program.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: When I first got into the program, I did not want to go.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: But I knew I didn’t want to be incarcerated.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: Once I started in the program, I had made up my mind then and applied myself.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: And then that’s when my faith grew stronger.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What program was that, may I ask?

Beverly Pollard: New Directions.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So that was a substance abuse program?

Beverly Pollard: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Any other services that you received that were helpful?

Beverly Pollard: My service was my God and my savior.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: That was my service.

Leonard Sipes: Were in you involved in the faith-based community in terms of helping you make that transformation?

Beverly Pollard: No.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: My church-

Leonard Sipes: It was your church?

Beverly Pollard: My church is very supportive.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: Extremely supportive.

Leonard Sipes: And there are a ton of churches in the district and there are a ton of churches in Virginia and Maryland who do work with offenders on a daily basis.

Beverly Pollard: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: We have a formal faith-based program, but those programs-that outreached existed before we started our program. Henrietta, again, anything with a principle reason?

Henrietta Meeks: Well with me-

Leonard Sipes: And what the program was?

Henrietta Meeks: I went to Safe Haven.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And that was basically a drug treatment. But I was sick and tired. I got stressed out and depressed and everything and I picked back up.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Henrietta Meeks: And I was sick and tired of being sick and tired so I went to my PO and asked him for help. I told him if they didn’t help me I was going to kill myself or kill somebody, and they helped me.

Leonard Sipes: All right.

Henrietta Meeks: And by being in the program, it helped me get into me. But I still had a hole inside of me because I didn’t have that spirituality part.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Henrietta Meeks: And until I turned my life over to God, joined the church, and started being around spiritual people, and learning about the spiritual principles, my life started going smoother.

Leonard Sipes: And again, there’re are all common themes that I’ve dealt with throughout the years is that for many offenders it’s not necessarily programs, although the drug treatment programs are important, the domestic violence programs are important-there’s all sorts of programs that are-the employment programs, the job training programs, there’re all important. But in many cases it’s having somebody support you, whether it’s a faith-based community, having somebody there who actually believes in you because so many offenders have told me, ‘nobody believes in me, everybody’s given up on me. I’ve been a pain in the butt to everybody,’ but the church or the mosque comes through and provides that level of support that helps them become a real human being again. Am I right or wrong?

Beverly Pollard: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: We say that because we don’t trust and believe in ourselves. And when we can start being healed and learn that and start trusting ourselves, then we can trust you.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And that’s the big thing in a nutshell. By us going through so many changes in life and so many roads down the journey-the journey is from the crazy to the crip is what we do in between.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And what we did in between, we damaged ourselves.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And the trust factor and the abandonment issues and all these other issues come about until we, like I say, go within ourselves and start working with us, then we can let you in to help us to do that things that we truly want to be-a normal person.

Leonard Sipes: And I ask you a tough question-okay, so there’s no hope for the younger offenders, whether they be male or female, they’ve gotta reach a certain age to the point where they believe in themselves enough to the point where they’re willing to make that break? So many of my interviews have been with older offenders. Very few of my interviews have been with the 20-year olds-the 21-year olds because they haven’t reached that point yet where they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. So what do with the younger offenders?

Henrietta Meeks: You gotta teach them to elevate their mind set.

Leonard Sipes: How do you do that?

Henrietta Meeks: You just gotta-you really got me on that one-

Leonard Sipes: It’s a tough question.

Henrietta Meeks: -because they’re stuck in an era-they’re stuck in a groove.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: It’s like a groove, they’re stuck. They’ve got to unlearn to relearn.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Henrietta Meeks: And like you say, you’ve got some of the young offenders come from good families.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: They went astray, the family didn’t do it, they did it.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: And when they go to the penitentiary, if they get into studies, college course what not, blah, blah, blah, and know what they did is wrong-they’ve got to believe that what they did is wrong.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Henrietta Meeks: If they don’t believe it, then you’ve got trouble on your hands.

Leonard Sipes: One of the things I want to get across to the public-I interviewed a woman offender some time ago who was talking about the amount of crime that she committed. And literally, we’re talking about hundreds of crimes a year. If you talked about the thefts, if you talked about the drug deals, if you talked about acts of violence, there were hundreds of crimes on a yearly basis that basically because she’s out of the system and she’s a taxpayer and she’s doing well, those crimes are no longer being committed. Were you guys involved in that level of volume of criminal activity?

Beverly Pollard: No, not really.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Beverly Pollard: You know, not really.

Leonard Sipes: But I guess my point is in terms of the programs, in terms of the outreach, in terms of helping women offenders, we do reduce recidivism, we do lower the crime rates. Correct or incorrect?

Beverly Pollard: You can lower the crime rates, what you’re saying is true, but also as I say again, that person has to make up their mind what they want to do as well. No matter what the system can do, within their self they have to honestly make up their mind that they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Leonard Sipes: Right, right.

Beverly Pollard: And sometimes-in my younger years, even though I didn’t get caught up in the system, but in my younger years not knowing the things I did or thinking I was getting by, my mother always said, ‘you can get by for a while, but you’ll never get away with it.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: Everything eventually catches up with you.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: And sometimes some kids or younger people will listen, and sometimes age has to tell them that they can no longer do this.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Beverly Pollard: You know, like I said, I didn’t get caught up until in my older years.

Leonard Sipes: All right, well ladies that ends this segment. I thank you both for being here. Ladies and gentlemen, stay with us for the second segment as we talk to two professionals who deal with women offenders on a day-to-day basis. We’ll be right back.


Segment Two

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety, I’m Len Sipes. Our guests for the second segment are two supervisory community supervision officers who work with male and female offenders. They are Tosha Trotter, who does general supervision, and Elizabeth Powell who does reentry for offenders coming out of federal prison back to the district. And ladies, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Tosha Trotter: Thank you.

Elizabeth Powell: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Tosha, the first question goes to you. We were talking offset about the whole issue between male and female offenders and what the differences are, and from your prospective, what do you think the differences are?

Tosha Trotter: I think the difference with the female population is dealing with the self-esteem and self-worth. You have child rearing issues, you have housing issues-and I think that’s more prevalent with the female offenders, more so with the male.

Leonard Sipes: Do you think it’s a more difficult transformation for women coming out of the prison system or women caught up in probation than it is for male offenders?

Tosha Trotter: Yes, I think there are more programs available for male offenders than females. And I think that a lot of the programs that they do have for females, they don’t work with the underlining issue. A lot of issues that happen in childhood that have never been dealt with later on, and that’s where the drugs come in, that’s where the victimization comes in, bad relationships, domestic violence-the female offender tends to always be the victim.

Leonard Sipes: And I want to go there because none of us are excusing-I mean, public safety is our primary issue, lowering recidivism, making the city safer, making the metropolitan area safer is our top priority. But we can’t ignore the statistics that go along with women offenders. They do have histories, in some cases ungodly histories of sexual violence as children or as teenagers-physical violence, in a lot of cases they’ve come up in some pretty tough households which results in those personal issues which results in higher levels of substance abuse. Elizabeth, you want to comment on of this?

Elizabeth Powell: Sure, I think it’s critical that we identify those issues early on. As a part of the TIPS program prereleased, we transition those offenders from the institution, but at some point we need to identify the individualized needs for the offender population as it relates to females, specifically around mental health, substance abuse, housing, parenting, physical abuse, domestic violence-are all issues that we need to identify and address early.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and so many of these issues weight women offenders down. I’ve been talking to women offenders throughout my career and the stories that they tell are just compelling as the dickens. Okay, so they’ve gone out, they have these backgrounds, they go out and they do these crimes and they come out of prisons-what’s weighing upon them-I mean, just the childcare arrangement, just dealing with their children while they’re in prison is just incredibly tough. They get these letters and get these phone calls as to how their 14-year old daughter is being caught up in drugs, that their 15-year old son is being caught up in gangs, and she’s in prison and there’s not much that she can do about it. And she sits there and just says, ‘oh my God, this is hell.’ So those issues-the child rearing issues alone are enough to make it very difficult when she finally comes out of prison because somebody else has been raising her kids.

Tosha Trotter: Yes, and that’s part of the cycle that begins because then you have that child without a mother that’s in the prison system and a mother that gets a letter from their child is a lucky one, to be honest. A lot of children don’t correspond with their parents while they’re incarcerated because of a lot of resentment that they have. And we’ve partnered with some programs within the city that work with-the video conferencing or to maintain that connection between mother and the child.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: Because we realize that is important.

Leonard Sipes: And also so many women offenders, I found throughout my experience, are caught up with other male offenders. I’ve talked to, when I was with the Maryland Correctional System, was surround by women offenders when they were doing a symposium in a women’s prison prerelease center, and I was talking to them and I said, ‘how many of you all ran drugs for somebody-some guy who basically said run them or I’m going to beat the stuffings out of you?’ and quite a few hands went up.

Tosha Trotter: Well I think that that goes back to self-esteem and self-worth. A lot of women, and not just women offenders, women in general look to men for acceptance and to feel wanted and needed. And a lot of men take advantage of that. And I think that with the criminal justice system they’ve enacted more laws that address guys who take advantage of women.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But more and more women are coming into the criminal justice system. The statistics that I read at the beginning of the show is that they have twice the rate that they did before in terms of coming into the prison system. So more and more women are being caught up in the criminal justice system and they’re not being slapped on the wrist in probation, they’re being sent to prison.

Tosha Trotter: Right.

Leonard Sipes: So some real issues are on the table here in terms of how we in the criminal justice system deal with women.

Elizabeth Powell: Yes. And the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency that we work for has identified that as a need. We have a program that we work through video conferencing. We visited Rivers for the male population, now we do telephone conferences to assess offenders’ prerelease, discuss the release planning process, mental health needs, and all of the needs surrounding the female offender. So we have to make a shift within the agency within our partnerships to address the specific needs of female offenders.

Leonard Sipes: I’ll tell you a story-again going back to my 14 years with the Maryland Correctional System where again at this prerelease center where we were doing a symposium. And we were doing training of public affairs officers so somebody else was doing the training and I had an hour and a half to kill. And I actually talked to women out in the courtyard as they were having their cigarette and I was having my cigar in the days that you could smoke in prison, and we had this long conversation. And I said, ‘I get the impression from some of you that you’re in the prerelease center, you’re finishing your GED, you’re getting your bakers certificate, you’re drug-free, this is a nice safe environment. How many of you are reluctant to leave the prerelease center?’ And again a whole mess of hands went up. And what they said was, ‘it’s safer here, it’s safer and saner in prison than it is for me in the larger community. Here I’m cared for, here I’m dealt with, here I’m with my peers, here I’m getting the things I need. When I go back out into society, I’m on my own.’

Tosha Trotter: Well our agency during supervision of community-our community supervision officers try to make that transition smoother. They have a supervision officer to go to to ask for assistance, to make referrals, to navigate the healthcare system-the mental healthcare system. So we are that link for the offender back to the community.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and in all fairness to our program, and then I’ll ask do you think it’s enough, we do have drug treatment, we do have educational programs, we do have vocational programs, we do have mental health programs, we do have anger management programs. There’s a lot of programs within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We do believe, and the three of us belong to the same agency, that strict supervision and accountability plus programs is part of what helps people make that transformation into a crime-free lifestyle. But do you think it’s enough-whether it’s enough within Court Services, or do you think there’s enough in general society?

Tosha Trotter: Well I think that Court Services does have a lot of programs. I think that one thing that a lot of inmates are used to is programming.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: So they’re accustomed to going to a program and getting some information or getting something. I think that as an agency what we try to do is empower individuals to go out and to seek what’s not just given to them.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: But to seek out programs and to bring information back to us that will further help someone else.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Tosha Trotter: So I think that it works.

Leonard Sipes: But you heard in the first segment from Henrietta and from Beverly that there’s a certain point where you have to make that decision for yourself. And we’ve all heard that-all of us who have been in the criminal justice system have heard that you’ve really gotta make that decision for yourselves. What about the younger offenders when they’re coming out, you offer them these programs, you offer them these initiatives, you offer them a faith-based mentor-do they embrace it?

Elizabeth Powell: Well they embrace it, but as Beverly indicated, it has to be a change from within, they have to make that decision. We have the services for them, all of the programs that they need, but until they’re ready to accept, there will not be a change.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And is there a way of ever reaching out-I keep asking this question-out of all my guests, out of all my interviews, is there ever a way of reaching that 20-year old, that person who’s just got a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana, that person who’s coming out angry-is it a matter of-what do we do with these younger offenders?

Tosha Trotter: Well I think it’s a lot more than just a chip. I recall one female offender who was about 20 or 21-years old and she had been prostituted, her mother used her as a prostitute. She had not completed her high school. She was living with a man twice her age, 57-years old, because he would provide her with a place to stay.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: He would get her hair done.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: He would get her nails done. And so it was the process of trying to rebuild her self-esteem to get her out of that situation and she was successful doing that. I think that the community supervision officers that work within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, they understand that and they meet the offenders where they are and work with them, young or older.

Leonard Sipes: And again, I’m not excusing their criminality, but what you’ve described, I’ve heard a hundred times. I’ve heard a lot of tragedy on the part of women offenders and sometimes I wonder if they can make the break at all. Because you can do a GED program, you can do a job training program, they can get their commercial driver’s license, they can go through drug treatment, they can go through anger management, but how do you reach that core? I mean, any child who is raised that way, any child who was neglected or abused or slapped around or physically abused, how do you-that core, that very essence of a human being is damaged in some cases to almost non-repair. Do you think, I mean, that’s a tough nut to crack.

Tosha Trotter: I think it’s important to listen and to be there for not only female offenders, but we interact a lot with the male offenders’ girlfriends and wives and mothers.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: And a lot are in that same environment.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah.

Tosha Trotter: And it’s about listening to people and meeting people where they are and being there.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: Offering partnerships or programs that we have. Like Henrietta talked about before, it’s about trusting the system. It’s hard to trust a process that you’ve never trusted before.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: And so they have out there-when they learn that they can trust you and that they can build that relationship with you, then they find that it’s worth it.

Leonard Sipes: Well that’s the interesting thing in terms of being a community supervision officer, both of you are supervisory community supervision officers so you have a team of people who you supervise. On one side you’re enforcement, on one side you’ve gotta protect public safety-public safety is our number one issue. But on the other side, you’ve gotta be a caring helping human being who helps that person to the best of their ability to make that transformation, and sometimes that takes a ton of time to do.

Tosha Trotter: Sure.

Elizabeth Powell: Earlier one of the females mentioned in the earlier segment that you have to want to do this. It’s not about the money, it’s about changing lives, making a difference, sometimes one person at a time.

Leonard Sipes: Right. We went to a conference that Court Services put on a little while ago, a couple months ago, and a woman stood up and said, ‘I’m in an environment where the woman pulled a knife on me, but this is the only place I have to stay. I have two kids. If you don’t get me out of this environment,’ she just stood up in the conference and said that. ‘If you don’t get me out of this environment I’m going to hurt somebody. I’m going to hurt her.’ Now that takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to help her find someplace else to live, but that’s the reality of so much of what it is that we deal with. It chews up a lot of your time as a community supervision officer, but what choice do you have?

Elizabeth Powell: And that’s where we have to rely on our partnerships for housing and employment services. We as an agency can not do it alone, it’s a community effort. If the female offender has a problem, it’s a community problem that we have to address as a whole community.

Leonard Sipes: But the whole community-and again, we brought this up in the first segment, a lot of people out there basically said, ‘you did the crime, you do the time. The heck with you, I’m just not going to invest-lots of other people out here who haven’t done the crime and haven’t done the time, so let’s invest in them. The heck with the offender coming out of the prison system or the heck with the offender on probation.’ If that continues, what does that say to that offender? And will the offender just continue to commit more crimes?

Tosha Trotter: I would believe that that person would continue to commit more crimes.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: And we have to invest in the people. We have to.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s a message we need to consistently get out.

Elizabeth Powell: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Supervision is important. We send a lot of people back to prison, but if we can help them, we should help them, correct?

Elizabeth Powell: Yes.

Tosha Trotter: Yes. Just as Elizabeth said, we help one person at a time. One individual can change an entire makeup of a family.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Tosha Trotter: That will further keep that family or those children out of the criminal justice system.

Leonard Sipes: And the other part of it is that reality, there are kids, it’s just not her. I mean, it’s her and her children, it’s her and her family. So there could be three or four kids who are depending upon her for their livelihood and for their moral compass-so it’s not just her.

Elizabeth Powell: Sure, and that’s why the program has to be unique, as Tosha indicated earlier, if the program does not address the family unit and just the female and her issues without bringing the child in and having counseling for the child, the program would not be successful, it has to be geared to the female offender.

Leonard Sipes: All right. Ladies, thank you-at the end of the program. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Watch for us next time when we produce another show of importance to the District of Columbia criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio/Video Ends]

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