Archives for July 2007

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Welcome Home

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This Television Program is available at

[Video Begins]

Paul Quander: Hello, I”m Paul Quander, the director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. I”m very pleased to invite you to watch the following presentation on our faith-based offender reentry initiative.

Female 1: When offenders come back from prison they face very real and pressing problems. Where are they going to live?

Male 1: I realize that it is difficult and stressful going back home living with your parents and being grown.

Female 1: How will they find a job?

Male 2: Just for the record, I need a job.

Female 1: How can they strengthen the family ties that were damaged during years in prison? Most importantly, where do they find the strength to build a new life free of old habits and old behaviors?

Male 3: What I”m trying to say, to help someone come home, they have to find network, they have to find some place where they can feel loved and feel safe.

Female 1: Our strategy is to bring community supervision directly to the streets where offenders live and work. We believe it will help us achieve of reducing recidivism and making our city a safer place. But we”ve known from the beginning that we can’t do it alone. Our city”s faith institutions are the major source of positive influences. Through this contact offenders build productive relationships, they develop the strength and determination they need to believe they can change.

Male 5: By dividing the city geographically and by then overlaying where we know the offenders are going to be coming and overlaying over that faith-based institutions, we then are able to look at your resources, your capabilities, the needs of the offender and the offenders” families, and the community.

Female 1: And they gain access to services such as job training, education, and counseling that augment the programs we offer.
Male 6: In talking to some of you and many others within the faith community, it became apparent to us that many institutions have through their respective ministries an array of services that they offer-have been offering for some time. We found clothing ministries, we found career development programs, we have found substance abuse counseling programs, we found family reunification programs, and it”s clear to us that all of those services can be a benefit to the individuals that we work with.

Female 1: We have made a commitment to bringing offenders back to greater opportunity than they left. The members of our faith community partnership have worked hard to make that vision a reality. In one year we have grown from a promising idea, to a program that offers fellowship and opportunity to returning offenders. CSOSA and its faith partners have collaborated to make this initiative work through ongoing and mentor and staff training.

Male 7: Restorative transformation and freedom-our ultimate goal at the end of the day is to be able to understand the science of helping our clients realize freedom in their lives. And a part of that realization will be one of restorative transformation.

Female 1: We have tapped into existing services and resources that the faith community has traditionally offered to those in need. Yet it is the responsibility of returning offenders to make a sincere commitment to rebuilding their lives with positive change.

Male 8: When I was incarcerated all my life and I just come and try to find-trying to do the best I can and try me something better to do as far as a job. Get myself together and hope I never turn that way again.

Male 9: Praise God.

Female 1: With the support and guidance of a mentor and the inclusive spirit of their faith family, we believe that freedom truly becomes a way of life.

Male 10: When I started dealing with the mentorship process I began to understand the concept or some of the concepts of restorative justice. Because what happens is it”s like this is a healing process, that”s one of the main elements of it, it”s a healing process for the victim, it”s a healing process for the community, and it”s a healing process for the offender.

Female 1: We hope this presentation gives you a sense of how valuable and exciting this initiative has been and will continue to be.

Paul Quander: ,of one of the areas that the president can identify that he”s very passionate about and wants to see us working on is prison reentry. It”s something that the president has been involved in both here since he became president, and also in-depth while he was governor in Texas. It”s something that he sees the potential there and the real need to deliver services to folks who are trying to reenter into society-both for society”s good and for their good.

Female 1: Now that you have seen what we are doing, we know you will want to join us in this important work.

Male 11: And to the men and women who were being discharged, we also issue a charge, and it is that we stand here willing to facilitate your transformation, but it is certainly still up to you to assume your rightful role in the community as the men, women, the children, the uncles and aunts that we need to make our community whole in one part.

[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.


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CSOSA Faith Based Initiatives Overview

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This Television Program is available at

[Video Begins]

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

Male 1: We have organized probably about 20 to 25 faith organizations both Christian and Muslim that provide mentoring of the 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 2: Yeah, it sounds kind of wild, but I got to work. I mean, my plan-

Female 1: When you get home, you need to see your CSO-

Male 2: Right.

Female 1: -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 Rivers okay?

Male 1: 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 3: It’s bible study night. So I sacrificed to miss bible study so I could come down here and be with you.

Male 4: I really enjoy this mentoring because it wasn’t such a long time ago that I was released from prison.

[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.


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UK Criminal Justice Professionals Visit CSOSA

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[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: Hello, this is Cedric Hendricks, and this is D.C. Public Safety. Today we’re talking with three guests from Manchester, England that have come to visit the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Please introduce yourselves.

Neal Parnell(ph): I’m Sergeant Neal Parnell, I’m from Greater Manchester Police, and I’m involved in the management of sexual and violent high-risk offenders in Manchester.

Claire Fuller(ph): And I’m Claire Fuller, I’m a Senior Probation Officer, also from Greater Manchester. I work alongside Neal in the management of high-risk sexual and violent offenders across the Greater Manchester area.

Marianne Meekin: I’m Marianne Meekin, District Manager from Greater Manchester Probation and I oversee the projects that Claire and Neal work in, and also manage a district.

Cedric Hendricks: Now I met Claire I guess over a year ago when-well less than a year ago when me and some other colleagues from CSOSA visited the Manchester probation office and we were there to learn a bit about them. But Claire, you took it upon yourself to pull together the resources and a team to come over and visit CSOSA. What triggered your interest and desire to do that?

Claire Fuller: Well my particular interest was around your close working relationship with the MPD. The Unit that Neal and I work in is flagship unit really in the country because it’s a whole probation team that’s been collocated within a specialist unit of Greater Manchester Police. So we’re always on the lookout for developing our relationship between the two agencies, and I can see that CSOSA already had that particularly well imbedded. So I was particularly interested to see that. Our other big priority for us in the coming year is about taking the message about managing offenders effectively out to the community. And again, I can see from our small conversation with yourself and your colleagues that you had a good program and some good ideas that we were very happy to come over and see so that was the plan.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Marianne is Claire’s manager, what value did you see in letting her come over here?

Marianne Meekin: Well the important thing was that she made arrangements for me to come as well, so I’ve benefited a great deal. I have the overview of the project, I could see the work that Neal and Claire have been trying to do. And this was a way of improving what we were looking to do. But also, I have a district responsibility, so I’ve looked at how we could gain more information from lots of other areas of work that we could build on in the UK.

Cedric Hendricks: And Neal, as a police officer, what was the value in this trip for you?

Neal Parnell: Well it’s been really useful for me. I mean, as Claire touched on before, we’re involved in some groundbreaking work in the UK, joint work between police and probation particularly, but involving a lot of other agencies. And it was interesting for me to come across and see the links that CSOSA had with the MPD and how the whole thing links together and know it all works. And again, as we previously mentioned, issues surrounding community awareness, getting out there and giving out the message in the UK about the strict measures that are in place to manage offenders and how we actually go about that process.

Cedric Hendricks: Now we took you over to the Metropolitan Police Department Academy because we begin our engagement with them while they’re still trainees, and then you were able to see that relationship as it manifests itself out in the field. What was it about the visit to the police academy that you found most interesting or impressive?

Neal Parnell: I think the big thing for those are that we tend to, at this moment in time, concentrate our efforts in sharing practice and procedures between the agency-between specialists. And certainly what’s happening out here with CSOSA and the MPD is you’re hitting officers right from the outset and the training and you’re giving them the information that they need to be aware of the benefits of multi-agency working in relation to the management of offenders. And that’s one of the key messages I think that we’re going to be taking back to the UK with us.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Claire and Marianne, one of the other things we did was go to what’s called a commander’s meeting that was held at a CSOSA office, what did you find interesting about that operational engagement?

Claire Fuller: I found that to be really groundbreaking, the police were sharing information on a daily basis about what was happening in their districts and getting information back from the CSOSA offices which was helping them with their detections. And CSOSA was getting information from the police as well about the offenders that their supervising. So the message that was going out, I think certainly coming out to us was that you’re all working together, all pushing in the same direction and all giving the message to the community here that you’re really interested in reducing the crime rates in their area.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Marianne, one of the other things that you saw here was our investment in community relationships-community relations, you as a branch chief, do you engage of similar kinds of relationship building or partnership building with the neighbors in your community?

Marianne Meekin: We have started-we do lots of work, not the same level as I’ve seen here, but we are actually starting looking at the faith community and building that up because the value of seeing that over here and the extra support and mentoring and motivation and enthusiasm that we’ve seen is something that we are really starting with and it’s giving me the inspiration to explore that-take that back to our senior management and pursue that in more detail really.

Cedric Hendricks: Now one of the things that you’ve heard us talk about a lot is community policing and that involves officers out walking the beat, getting to know the neighbors, and policing on a very close and intimate basis. Neal, is something like that going on in the Manchester community?

Neal Parnell: Yes it is going on in the Manchester Community and like I said, as we progressed over the last five or six years, that’s happening more and more. I think it was particularly interesting to see the way in which the officers from the MPD and the CSOSA staff interacted with the offenders at the meeting that we went to the other day and the way that they’re seen as a partnership by everyone. No one sees them as separate entities, it’s all that it’s one section of offender management and public safety that’s being pulled together and being directed from a central resource and that’s really impressive.

Cedric Hendricks: And one of the things that you also had an opportunity to do was to see or interact with some of the offenders that we have under supervision, and I’m wondering whether the challenges-the needs that they presented are in any way similar to those presented by the offenders that you all worked with back in Manchester.

Claire Fuller: I would say there are a lot of similarities there and it was a privilege really to be involved in that particular group and I would like to thank the men who were involved in that group for letting us see what they were doing. I think you could see how difficult their lives had been and how hard they were trying to make a change in their lives. And we have a number of districts in Manchester which would have some broad similarities to the districts that you have in Columbia with high gun-related crime, lots of gang-related problems and drugs too. And so it was inspirational to see those groups like that and the changes those men were hoping to make.

Cedric Hendricks: And one of the things that we were of course trying to do with those groups was to introduce the men there to community-based resources and services to help them meet their needs, do you think that we were at all effective in our effort to do that?

Marianne Meekin: Oh clearly, I mean, after meeting the offenders and through the environment that they were working, you could clearly feel that they were comfortable in that group work. And if they’re comfortable in the group work, they’re going to take steps, they’re going to open up and clearly we saw that with that group of individuals. What I would like to take back really is that we in Greater Manchester and across the probation service really need to work more with ex-offenders, I thought that was inspirational looking at an individual who’s experiences he could draw upon to I suppose open discussion.

Cedric Hendricks: Okay. Claire, anything to add? Neal?

Claire Fuller: Well I would like to add that one of the things that I have noticed is how many community groups there are in the D.C. area who are coming forward to work with offenders and to embrace the reentry programs that you have. And there’s a wide range of services available for offenders if they want to do that, and linking that in with your sanctions program, we’ll make offenders perhaps take steps that they might not have done otherwise. And as Marianne was saying, some of the ex-offenders who’ve come and addressed us and offender groups too had a very good message about the experiences they’ve had from some of the-what we would call resettlement or reentry programs that they’ve engaged in as a result of their contact with CSOSA. And it is enlightening to see the community reaching out to offenders who are often people that the community don’t want to reach out to, and taking those steps and really making a difference.

Cedric Hendricks: Well as we conclude, I know that as we went through the various activities this week we found a great deal of interest on the part of CSOSA staff and you and what’s going on in Manchester, and I would hope that at some point soon we can send a delegation over and have an opportunity to visit with you all.

Claire Fuller: Well you’d be more than welcome. We would-

Neal Parnell: Most definitely.

Cedric Hendricks: Well we’ve been talking with Neal Parnell, Marianne Meekin, and Claire Fuller. My name is Cedric Hendricks and this has been D.C. Public Safety.

[Audio 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.


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DC and National Sex Offender Registries

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[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes. The program today is about the Sex Offender Registry in the District of Columbia and some of the larger issues about sex offender registries throughout the country. With us today, we have Stephanie Gray, she is a specialist with the Sex Offender Registry for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And we have Sergeant Robert Panizari, he is a sergeant unit supervisor for the Sex Offender Unit with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. And to Stephanie and to Bob, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Stephanie Gray: Good morning.

Robert Panizari: Good morning.

Leonard Sipes: Now did I get your name right, Bob?

Robert Panizari: Yes you did.

Leonard Sipes: All right, good. It’s Panizari, okay-I practiced that before the program. We’re talking about sex offender registries-now it’s interesting that virtually every state in the United States has a Sex Offender Registry, there is a National Sex Offender Registry as well maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. In sex offender registries throughout the country, and I’ll speak from my experience in the state of Maryland where I was director of public relations for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for 14 years. We had an enormous amount of interest and an enormous demand from citizens for this information. Citizens obviously wanted information about sex offender registries. It has a certain amount of controversy in terms of its ethicacy-does it work, does it not work? But nevertheless, citizens want this information and citizens continue to want this information today. When we put up the Sex Offender Registry on the Maryland website, it almost brought down the website itself, it was that popular. So to discuss the circumstances in Washington D.C. again we have Stephanie with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Bob who is the unit supervisor for the Metropolitan Police Department. Bob, the first question goes to you, now Metropolitan Police Department is the police department for Washington D.C. and you have about five people in your unit, a couple civilians, and you’re in charge of promoting or making public the registry and also to check on offenders, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct. You know, there’s two main ways we try to get information out there. We do have a website that we maintain which has information on certain classes of offenders, plus we have books at all of our police precincts that the community can come view there. And also, I just want to say this, the registry is there for the community so they can look at it and they can take reasonable precautions, and it’s also there for the police officers so the officers learn who the convicted sex offenders are on their beats. And that’s the kind of way we have it set up here in the city.

Leonard Sipes: Now that’s one of the things about the relationship between the court services and the offender supervision agency which is essentially the parole and probation agency for Washington D.C. even though we’re a federal agency, and the Metropolitan Police Department, we have a good working relationship; we exchange a ton of information all the time. And the Sex Offender Registry, part of it is important for the police officers to know who is out there, who we’re supervising, who we’re not supervising. Because my understanding is half the list are under active supervision by my agency again, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and half are not. So it’s important that this information is being exchanged between the two agencies, correct?

Robert Panizari: Oh no doubt and everything starts with CSOSA or Court Services. They’re the actual ones who do the registration of the offenders and everything starts with them. They get the information, they verify the information so we make sure that the information that we’re putting out there is correct-it all starts with Court Services.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So you do the website which is essentially the community notification, correct?

Robert Panizari: Yeah, that’s one of the main means we used to get the information out because you can get it out there quickly. We do have the books in the districts which we only update once a month. But again, the information on the website, once we get the information with Court Services, it’s a computer program that we share. Once they’ve entered it, we get it, we verify it, and then we can post it on our website.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and what is the website address?

Robert Panizari: The website is at

Leonard Sipes: Okay, one more time, www-

Robert Panizari: Dot M-P-D-C dot D-C dot gov.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, cool. And Stephanie, we’re going to go over to you now because the registry itself, and this is interesting, in Maryland, my old agency, we had pretty much exclusive responsibility for the registry. In this case we’re sharing responsibility. We as the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency as the good sergeant said, we populate the information, we verify who they are and we put the information into the website and then MPD promotes the website, correct?

Stephanie Gray: That is correct.

Leonard Sipes: That’s difficult in terms of identifying offenders, being sure we have the right names, being sure we have the right addresses, being sure that we have the right crimes-that’s an awesome task.

Stephanie Gray: Yes. Once the offender-we identify him by his identification, he’ll have an ID card, and then we’ll verify and get the information that he was convicted of from the U.S. courts, or the D.C. courts that has a signed judge’s name and date that he was sentenced so that we have the accurate information on what we’re registering that offender on.

Leonard Sipes: And so is there ever any question about the offender’s identity?

Stephanie Gray: Yes it is because a lot of them will go by an alias name where we’ll do a comparison of fingerprints to get it matched to that particular person.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the points that I wanted to make because that’s crucial in my criminal justice career which is 38 years. Boy have I seen a lot of people with aliases. I mean, I’ve run rap sheets in the past with 20 aliases, 15 dates of birth.

Stephanie Gray: Yeah.

Leonard Sipes: And the whole idea as far as to the listening public is that they were able in the past to fool the system because you could be arrested and come in and be booked and give a false name, give a false date a birth, and we within in the law enforcement community would release that person thinking that we had John Doe when the guy’s real name is Tim Smith and he’s wanted for a homicide from Nebraska. I mean, that’s an extreme example, so we now match them via fingerprints, and that’s a positive identification so we know who that person is, we know their aliases, we know who they are, we know their backgrounds and their criminal histories.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And we have what, three categories in the District of Columbia of offenders that we use?

Stephanie Gray: Yes, we have three classifications levels. Class A is registered for every 90 days and that’s a lifetime registration, they are on the public website.

Leonard Sipes: All right, now let me stop you there. Every 90 days they have to come in to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and do what?

Stephanie Gray: They’re updating their registration requirement, they’re updating their address, their work information, if they have a car, their driver’s license, all the information has to be updated with us every 90 days.

Leonard Sipes: And so they have to bring in an array of original documents to prove this?

Stephanie Gray: Yes. We ask for a copy of a lease. If they’re working we’ll make a copy of the pay stub, and we also make copies of their driver’s license.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so we have a fairly complete process in terms of who they are and they’re positively identified through their fingerprints. Now every 90 days, do they really do that-do they really come in every 90 days and register?

Stephanie Gray: The most part, yes. The problem we have on some are our homeless offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: Or offenders who are in shelters.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: And a lot of times either they don’t get the mail or they’ll just overlook it because they see that it’s a certified letter from somewhere and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh, who is sending me a certified letter?’

Leonard Sipes: So what do we do when we can’t track that person down?

Stephanie Gray: At that time, if they’re not in the office by a due date-we give them a due date.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: A notice goes up to Sergeant Panizari and his staff to go out and do the search for them.

Leonard Sipes: All right. And I’ll suggest to most of the listeners that that level of scrutiny is probably the exception. That’s good because my experience with the National Sex Offender Registry and the folks over at the Department of Justice, most jurisdictions in the country are not doing that. That’s just my observation, you guys don’t have to comment on it, I’ll take responsibility for that observation. All right, so we have the level one offender, that’s what we’re calling him?

Stephanie Gray: We’re calling him a class A offender.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, class A offender. Now he is probably a fairly serious person–committed a fairly serious crime for that person to have to come in every 90 days.

Stephanie Gray: Yes, that’s our high-risk.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And ordinarily, what are they convicted of?

Stephanie Gray: They can be convicted of as far as a rape. It can be child abuse against a person under 12.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so these are the fairly serious offenders.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And how many offenders do we have on the registry? About six or seven hundred?

Stephanie Gray: We have 600 plus.

Leonard Sipes: Okay about 600 offenders. So how many-just give percentage off the top of your head, would be the class As?

Robert Panizari: I think currently we have around 671 offenders that are out in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And out of that number, I believe it’s about 330 that are class As.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a lot.

Robert Panizari: That’s a lot.

Leonard Sipes: I’m surprised that it’s that many. So 330 out of, let’s just say 700 to round it off.

Robert Panizari: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: 330 out of 700. That’ surprises me in terms of that class of an offender.

Robert Panizari: Well you know, it is a lot and-

Leonard Sipes: But it’s a big responsibility in terms of-I was expecting you to tell me that it’s 30, 40, 50. Keeping up with all these guys is tough. Now that I’m heartened as a citizen regardingt this level of cooperation that the two agencies have. All right, so then second-category Stephanie, we’ll get back to you, the second category is what, class Bs?

Stephanie Gray: It’s the class B.

Leonard Sipes: And who are the class Bs?

Stephanie Gray: Class Bs are required to register once a year for ten years or the life of their probation or parole.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, they got ten years regardless of the amount of time they’re on probation with the amount of time that they’re on parole.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So I’m assuming that the class Bs are less than predatory offenders. I’m assuming, and tell me if I’m wrong, that class As are the really predatory hardcore folks, and the class Bs are less than that.

Stephanie Gray: Yeah you can say that, but some of our class Bs are-I mean, they’re high-risk as well.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, I accept that. And you could be-for the listening public, you could be charged with possession of drugs and be high-risk. You could be charged with a higher crime, but not be such a high risk because you’re cooperating, you’re in treatment, and everything’s going fine.

Stephanie Gray: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: So it’s not just the crime, it’s what’s happening in that person’s life at the same time.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Right? In terms of the risk level of that person.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. But we establish, I would imagine, class As and Bs based upon a certain criminal criteria, correct? In terms of crimes that you’re convicted of?

Robert Panizari: Yeah, that’s correct. Let me just chime in here for one second here.

Leonard Sipes: All right, go ahead.

Robert Panizari: Again, we do have the three classes of offenders: class As, which Ms. Gray said are our lifetime registrants, and the law requires a verification of information every 90 days, and class Bs, which is a ten-year registration period, and class Cs, which is also a ten-year registration period. Now class Bs, the age of the victim-a lot of these laws, when they were convicted, the categories, that determines what their class is going to be-either A, B, or C. So a class A offender for the most part does the most serious crimes – the rapes, forcible sodomy.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: Things of that nature.

Leonard Sipes: Understood.

Robert Panizari: And where the age of the victim was under 12, it could be a first or second degree child offense and the age of the victim is only 12.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: For Bs, the victim is between the age of 12 and 18.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And for Cs, the victim was over 18.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: Now I do want to stress here that the Court Services or MPD, we have doe no type of risk assessment whatsoever on any of these offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: We can’t tell you if the class A offender is more likely to reoffend versus the class C offender.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But I guess, and stop me if I’m wrong, 50%-approximately, I’ve been told, 50% of the approximately 700 offenders that we have on the registry are under the act of supervision with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And there within that, we do our own classifications in terms of risks levels. Sometimes I’m mixing Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and what we do with the Sex Offender Registry, but half of them are under act of supervision so I think that’s what I was referring to.

Robert Panizari: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. All right, so we have class A, class B, class Cs. The class As and Bs are on the registry, correct-on the Sex Offender Registry?

Robert Panizari: All three classes are on the Sex Offender Registry now, the only difference is the class C offender we don’t post on our website.

Leonard Sipes: We don’t post them on the website, but these are in books available at any Metropolitan Police Department district station.

Robert Panizari: Yeah, for class C offenders you’d have to visit one of the book locations.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: And there’s about 17 copies of the books in various police facilities throughout the city.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so anybody who wants access to that information can go to the books, okay.

Robert Panizari: Right.

Leonard Sipes: By the way, in terms of a piece of backup, I think it was the Wetterling Act-there is national legislation that really does suggest that the states and the district and the territories to have a Sex Offender Registry. I think there is sort of 10% reduction in funds if they don’t. So this is a national movement –this is something that’s happening throughout the country, but the states will do it differently. In Maryland we put everybody on the Sex Offender Registry. In the district the class As and the class Bs, what I’m going to refer to is really serious offenders or on the Sex Offender Registry, right? Somewhere in that ballpark?

Robert Panizari: Somewhere in ballpark, yeah.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs]

Robert Panizari: I do want to stress that no risk assessment is don’t whatsoever-

Leonard Sipes: Right, I hear you and I appreciate you correcting me. Okay, so people come to the Sex Offender Registry, and one of the things that we were really concerned about in Maryland, and I think the same concern happens-and Bob, this question goes to you, is that we mandate that nobody, absolutely nobody take any illegal action whatsoever towards that offender. And the Maryland registry and in the district, I think there’s a page that basically says that, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct. I mean, anytime you’re putting information out to the public and you’re posting it on the website, there is a potential there for abuse. And we try to stress (inaudible 15:15) that this information that we put out there that we presume is going to be used lawfully to promote public safety. Now we don’t force it onto anybody, some people might not even want to know if the person that lives next door is a convicted sex offender. But we put the information out there and we haven’t had many issues or many problems with the offenders being threatened or intimidated just based solely on the fact that they’re on the registry.

Leonard Sipes: But this is information that individuals can use. My wife was vice president of a county PTA and they discussed this endlessly-that, ‘the Sex Offender Registry is up, it’s running, everybody look at it.’ Any time you are thinking about employing somebody as a baby sitter or somebody that’s going to coach your little league team, the registry is there for you to take a look at it, and to them it was a very big deal. I mean, this is information that they truly wanted.

Robert Panizari: Yeah. And it is, it’s there-I mean, we encourage all of our citizens to use the registry. I would hope they would want to know the people in the community who are on the registry and if they live in the same block of any of the people. Again, it helps in a couple ways. It can be another set of eyes and ears out there in the community-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: -to let us know if something doesn’t look right. And we do get calls from time to time about people who know that this offender is not currently living at the address. I know Ms. Gray said earlier that the class A offenders come in every 90 days, and the class Bs and Cs once a year. I don’t want to say it’s an honor system, because it’s a little bit more than an honor system. But what’s to prevent the guy coming in-say he’s a class A, he comes in today-it’s time to report, and then tomorrow he moves.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: But we’re not necessarily going to be looking for that guy unless something draws our attention to him.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the things that everybody has got to deal with every registry in the country, not just the District of Columbia. There is no way of guaranteeing 100% accuracy 100% of the time. I’ll take the emphasis off of the Sex Offender Registry and put it on my own agency and that is that offenders move for many reasons-all the time. And an offender can have a legally established residence with his mother, mother gets really ticked off at him and throws him out.

Robert Panizari: Right.

Leonard Sipes: So suddenly he’s in the air. Now where he goes, I mean, he’s legally obligated to report back in to us and tell us that he is now living with his cousin or what his set of circumstances are. That’s one of the reasons why we and the Metropolitan Police Department do something called accountability where we go to that house of that offender, knock on his door-unannounced in many cases, and to verify his residency. And that’s one of-again, the beauties of this partnership between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. So even in my own agency there is difficulty following-up on-and every parole and probation agency in the country has this, and every Sex Offender Registry in the country has this, a certain percentage of the addresses and a certain percentage of the information is going to be inaccurate. And we need citizens to come back to us and to say, ‘this guy is no longer there, you need to know this,’ so we can launch it into investigation.

Robert Panizari: That’s right. I mean, there’s no way that-you know, we’re almost up to 700 offenders now in the community, there’s no way we can watch 700 people 24 hours a day.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: But by putting the information out there, hopefully the community can help be our eyes and ears.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Stephanie, we’re going to close the program pretty much with you. Now again, you have these offenders, they come in all-oh by the way, the class C offenders, they have to report once again every year?

Stephanie Gray: Yeah, they come in once and a year and theirs is also for ten years or the life of their supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And that’s amazing. You have to be Grand Central Station for sex offenders in the District of Columbia.

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You know, a lot of these people I would imagine all on a fairly regular basis-you know who they are, you know their backgrounds, you know their circumstances.

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s the important thing is if you find anything that’s out of line, any suspicions, you give that information over to Bob.

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and that’s an important part of the partnership. Now is there anything else that you guys do? You basically verify the information that they provide you and register them, and if there are inaccuracies on the list, it goes over to the Metropolitan Police Department. Is there anything else that Court Services-I know that for our offenders on supervision, you get information from our community supervision officers known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, you get that information that, ‘this person’s not where he’s supposed to be,’ or, ‘we believe this person is engaged in this sort of behavior,’ but principally where the person is to update the registry information, correct?

Stephanie Gray: Right, that is correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So it’s a partnership. If the guys under supervision by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, if he’s on parole and probation then we have a pretty decent amount of contact. The information flows through you as the registry specialist-

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -to record all this information, and then the Metropolitan Police Department has the responsibility of putting this information on the website and to disseminate the information from time to time in ways that is suitable and protects public safety and tracks down discrepancies and goes after people who are not doing what they should be doing, correct?

Robert Panizari: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

Robert Panizari: And another thing before we finish up here, I wanted make sure we talk about is that National Sex Offender Registry.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

Robert Panizari: Because that’s a great tool for the community, especially here in the District of Columbia where we have Maryland and Virginia borders are so close. The District of Columbia is part of that national registry. People can go there-one thing about a national registry is you can go in and you can run a zip code.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: If you want to check a zip code-or you can check by name.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Robert Panizari: So by all the states feeding into that national registry that is a big help because again, here in the city where we border other states so closely.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s a wonderful point because that’s what I did in the Maryland registry, I added Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia-and the District’s registry links to the Maryland registry just for that reason.

Robert Panizari: Yeah. On our website you’ll see not only a link to the national registry, but links to the surrounding state registries.

Leonard Sipes: That is great. That is a great idea. All right, Stephanie Gray, Sex Offender Registry Specialist and Sergeant Robert Panizari, the Unit Supervisor the for Sex Offender Registry Unit-thank you. Bob, one more time, the web address of the Sex Offender Registry is?

Robert Panizari: It’s And can I finish by saying one little thing here?

Leonard Sipes: Oh sure.

Robert Panizari: We want to be careful here that we don’t give a false sense of security in the community either. Now the ones on our website are the ones that are registered with Court Services. These are the offenders we know about. The ones we gotta be particularly careful about are the ones who haven’t been caught yet or we don’t know about. And we do offer information on our website on tips that you can (inaudible 22:39) yourself.

Leonard Sipes: And thank God you brought that up because when we were deciding what was the primary message with the Maryland registry, we decided that the primary message was going to be exactly that. That most sex offenders who are in our community are not on that registry because most sex offenders, the crimes have not been reported because as you know, there’s an outrageous amount of these sort of crimes that are not reported to law enforcement. So there’s a good number of people, probably the majority of what we call sex offenders, who are not-I’m so happy you brought at that up, who are not registered. What I said when we produced the Maryland registry it that, ‘this is an opportunity for parents to have age appropriate conversations with their children about what is right and what is not right-what other people have, what other people can do and can not do, and if that information-if in any way, shape, or form that child feels uncomfortable with that contact, it could be verbal, could be physical, could be just the slightest of touches, to come to the parents and talk to the parents about that-to establish that type of relationship.’ And that’s what’s going to prevent a lot of child abuse. And the second thing is that the good-let’s just say the majority of sexual child abuse, or child abuse in general-I’m sorry, I’m going to back up. Sexual child abuse is by somebody who the child knows.

Robert Panizari: That’s correct, and the statistics are pretty high. I want to say it’s almost 90% or it might even be a little higher where on the child abuse-child sexual abuse cases where the perpetrator and the victim know one another.

Leonard Sipes: Yep.

Robert Panizari: These aren’t stranger crimes. There’s not somebody jumping out behind the bushes in the vast majority of them.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and that’s what parents need to know. Parents need-and I really am very appreciative that you brought that up-are so focused on the mechanics of the registry that I completely forgot the larger issue of what we’re trying to accomplish here. But it really is extraordinarily important that parents understand and that children understand age-appropriate conversation. I can’t stress that enough, age-appropriate conversations that the majority of people who victimize their children, they may know that person-the child certainly knows that person, and that becomes a key issue. So the registry is there as a public information tool, but as Bob-as you said, it is extraordinarily important that people not get a false sense of security.

Robert Panizari: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: Thank you very much for bringing it up. All right, we’re going to close, again with Stephanie Gray, Sex Offender Registry Specialist and Sergeant Robert Panizari, he’s the Unit Supervisor for the Sex Offender Registry Unit. And we gave out the website address for the Sex Offender Registry. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. Watch for us next time as we explore another important issue within the criminal justice system. Our website is Thanks and have a great day.

[Audio Ends]

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

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Previously Incarcerated Persons (PIPS)-An Interview

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I am your host Len Sipes. Today we’re going to talk about people coming out of prison-what needs to be done, what should be done. And at our microphones is Darnell Bradford El, he is with the Moorish Science Temple of America, he is a minister and is a coordinator with the PIPS program and it stands for the Previously Incarcerated Persons program. Also at our microphones is a veteran of this show, Reverend Yvonne Cooper, she is also a coordinator with PIPS and she is with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And again, we’re here to discuss what happens, what needs to be done, what should be done in terms of people being released from prison. Darnell, we’re going to start off with you. We have well over 650,000 people being released from prison systems throughout the United States. Approximately 2,000 come back to the District of Columbia out of federal prison every year. They go through what can only be described fairly, regardless as to what side of the political spectrum that you’re on, as extraordinarily difficult times. They face substance abuse issues when they came back home, housing, healthcare, finding a job, going back into the communities where you have all these influences that drag you back into the life of crime. Sometimes they come out determined not to go back and sometimes they come out determined to continue their life of crime. It’s an extraordinarily difficult situation. But your group has been around for how long?

Darnell Bradford El: We’ve been around for about three years formally.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And why did you form the Previously Incarcerated Persons as an organization in the District of Columbia? Why did you get together?

Darnell Bradford El: Well there are a number of people who have navigated the system and have returned to the community and have stayed out and become successful. And we look back and we try to remove the stones that were on the path so those who follow us won’t have to stumble over the ones that we had to stumble over. So it’s about giving back.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Darnell Bradford El: And we saw that we had understood how to get through the system, how to make it, some of the keys to being successful, and we want to pass them on because it’s too many people are going back for too many reasons.

Leonard Sipes: Now there is a piece of research that came out of the United States Department of Justice that essentially said that two-thirds-66% within three years are rearrested, 50% are reincarcerated. To a lot of people those are pretty discouraging statistics.

Darnell Bradford El: Well you take a look at what you have as the situation. First of all, the prisons do very little to help prepare people for reentering back into society so that some people spend a lot of time in the institutions and a lot of their time is wasted. There are golden opportunities to get in touch with yourself, and without the distractions of life on the outside you can learn things. It used to be that you could get a college degree in prison, right now you can’t do that because the money is not available, it’s not allowable. People come out with their major occupation there was making automobile tags.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and that was the old D.C. prison before all D.C. inmates under the Revitalization Act, and for those of us listening beyond the District of Columbia, there was an act that occurred in 2000, actually it was 1997, but it took place for us in 2000 where all D.C. offenders now went into the federal prison system to relive the District of Columbia from what should be state level financial responsibilities. Darnell, you’ve been a prisoner.

Darnell Bradford El: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, can I ask why you were in?

Darnell Bradford El: Yes, I was in for armed robbery. I had two counts of armed robbery and I had four years-four to 12 years for both counts and that was turned to eight to 24 years. Because of work that we did inside of prison, transforming our lives and transforming the reformatory through an organization founded by myself and Rich Brown called Intervoices where we took our lessons of life and put them on the stage first of all for the inmate population, and then we took them into the community so that we could give young people an opportunity to see how they could go another route. That was a very successful experience, it gave me a footing into the community. As a result of that work, Judge June Green, who gave me the 24 years, reduced my sentence to 12 years and I was eligible for a parole and came out and continued the same work. And I’ve been doing the same related work for the past 30 years.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. We’re going to go over to Reverend Yvonne Cooper. And she is again a minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Reverend Cooper, or Yvonne, now you’ve done time in prison as well.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s correct. I did-as a matter of fact, I faced 105 years in prison but through God’s grace and mercy, he shortened that time and I only did eight months. That’s the only time that I served was eight months. And as I tell people from time to time, I’m so excited and delighted that God gave me that opportunity to go to prison because like my brother Darnell, I too tried my level best to help those who have been in prison and even go to the prisons and assist those that are in prison so when they do come out, prayerfully they’ll have an opportunity to stay on the outside. You said it quite well, Len, that folk are going back at phenomenal numbers and something needs to be done. And so Darnell and I and a few others got together and formed the PIPS Association and what better way to help those that are inside than to have those of us who have been there and done that-because we’ve gone down that road, we’ve gone through the fire, we’ve gone through the flood, and so we know those things that the people go through. And so we do the best that we can to assist them.

Leonard Sipes: Now can I ask you what you served time for?

Yvonne Cooper: Sure, this was for accepting bribes. I was an administrative law judge in Washington D.C. and had seven counts of accepting bribes. And I’ll be the very first one to say I did accept the bribes. But I have been forgiven, I’ve forgiven myself and I paid my debt to society. And like those others who have gone to prison, I wanted-once I came out, I wanted to have the opportunity to redeem myself and I want to pay my taxes. I mean, even people who go to prison, once they come home they really want the opportunity to pay their taxes, they want the opportunity to come out and help their family.

Leonard Sipes: Both of you are involved in as mentors.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Faith-based mentors as part of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s faith-based program? Okay, cool. Now let’s get around to the larger issue of offenders and what they need and what they should get because there is good research now that basically indicates that the better prepared an individual is in prison, the better they are going to do on the outside. There is research now that basically says that if they’re provided with services when they’re released from prison, which we try to do in conjunction with D.C. government-which we tried to do in conjunction with the faith-based community or other governmental entities like the Veteran’s Administration, what we try to do is to provide a certain level of services, the collective we.

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

Leonard Sipes: Because we know that they continue to need drug treatment, they continue to need a place to live, they continue to need medical care, they continue to need a job, job training, day care in some cases, educational programs, job development, job training-there’s a need for that that is not completed when you’re in the prison system. Now depending upon who you talk to and depending upon what federal prison you go to, there’s a difference in terms of the level of preparation that they will give you.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: So there’s a lot that need in terms of dealing with the social needs of offenders. We all recognize that and we all recognize the research essentially states that these programs are successful. Yvonne, I’m going to ask you the same question I asked you last time that we were at these microphones, is that the average person sitting there is going to say to themselves, ‘wait a minute, schools are in dire need. The kids need textbooks, teachers need salaries. The elderly-and we have an increasing number of elderly with needs, the elderly need housing, they need healthcare, they need people-we have so many needs, why do we spend money on individuals who have hurt other human beings? The kids haven’t hurt anybody, the elderly haven’t hurt anybody, that’s where the money needs to go-or all the other programs that people think need to be funded. Why give it to former offenders? Why give it to people coming out of the prison system?

Yvonne Cooper: Well that’s an awfully good question and a long question. I’m going to do my level best to address those things you raised. First and foremost, Len, Darnell and I just happen to have gotten caught. I’m more than sure you’ve done something and the listeners have done things that they should have been, not couldn’t have been, but should have been arrested for but did not get caught. And so the question then becomes is there any reason why we should not help out those that are the least of them, the lost and the limited?

Leonard Sipes: I’m going to interrupt you-

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

Leonard Sipes: -because again, representing the audience, they’re going to say, ‘I’ve never put a gun to anyone’s face.’

Yvonne Cooper: [Laughs] That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: ‘I’ve never raped another human being.’

Yvonne Cooper: That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: ‘I’ve never threatened another human being’s life. I’ve never killed another person.’

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: So they’re going to say-

Yvonne Cooper: Well I didn’t either.

Leonard Sipes: I know.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay. [Laughs]

Leonard Sipes: But they’re going to say in terms of people coming out of prison who have done these things-

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

Leonard Sipes: They’re going to say, ‘I am separate. No, no, we don’t buy the argument.

Yvonne Cooper: Right, I was going to get there.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Yvonne Cooper: And what I was going to say is that I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve seen men and women in a grocery store-in Washington D.C. we have stores called Safeway, Giant-those kind of stores-Piggly Wiggly down south and I would imagine people go in and they see strawberries and they’ll pick one up and taste it and say, ‘mmm, that tastes good, I guess I’ll buy some,’ that’s stealing.

Leonard Sipes: But they’re not going to go to prison for it.

Yvonne Cooper: No, but they could.

Leonard Sipes: But they’re not.

Yvonne Cooper: No, they’re not-

Leonard Sipes: Not in our criminal justice system.

Yvonne Cooper: Well no, they wouldn’t go, but they could go.

Leonard Sipes: Theoretically.

Yvonne Cooper: Theoretically they could. I mean, if you steal supplies out of the office where you’re here today, you really could be prosecuted.

Leonard Sipes: Theoretically.

Yvonne Cooper: Right, theoretically you could.

Leonard Sipes: I know that if I rob-if I use a gun and rob somebody, I may go to prison.

Yvonne Cooper: True.

Leonard Sipes: I’m not going to go to prison for stealing the strawberries.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: That’s what people say. I mean, people say that, ‘okay, there’s a degree, yes, we’ve all done things that theoretically we could go to jail for or that we could go to prison for,’ but these are pretty big events in people’s lives and why help them?

Yvonne Cooper: Okay. Well it’s ingrained in us, those of us that are protestants, and I’m more than sure the Muslims feel the same way that we should be helping out those that are the least of us, the limited and the lost, which would include senior citizens, which would include the children-plus there’s a public safety issue. I mean, the children and the seniors can’t get the certain things that they need done if you don’t help those that are in prison because they’ll come right back out and do the same thing all over again. And let me say-

Leonard Sipes: All right, and that’s the point I was going for.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: I mean, it doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum that you’re on, it’s pure pragmatism. The more we assist individuals coming out of the prison system, the less damage they’re going to do to the rest of us.

Yvonne Cooper: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Now we can do it from a religious point of view because you’re right, I mean, biblically speaking, Jesus didn’t request us-he ordered us to go inside the prison system.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: The Islamic religion has the same tenants that we are obligated to help out those people who have been caught up in the system. So we have an obligation according to our own religious tenants, I’m not quite sure we follow that obligation. We have the pragmatism of simply helping us, but at the same time one of the things that influences me is talking to literally hundreds of people who have committed crime who are now taxpaying people who are now reunited with their kids, they’re being good fathers, their being good mothers, they’re being taxpayers. And inevitably I always said, ‘if that program that you run through wasn’t there, would you have made it?’ and that perso would have said, ‘no, I think I would have continued my life of drugs or crime.’ Darnell-

Yvonne Cooper: Let me say-

Leonard Sipes: Okay, go ahead.

Yvonne Cooper: Let me say this one thing before we go to my brother Darnell. You know, you mention, and so did Darnell mention the fact that there are no things inside prison today and so certainly CSOSA and other organizations are doing things once they come home. But I venture to say that if we would go back to what we’ve done in the past, and that is to have some programs and opportunities inside the prison, then it would be-we would be further along in helping folk when they come home because they have something to hold on to. Now when they come home they have to start once they get home because there’s no-some prisons don’t even have a GED program.

Leonard Sipes: Right. The state of Washington utilizing research not just in the United States, but throughout the world, they ordered programs to take place in their prisons. They ordered reentry to begin the day the person goes into the state of Washington. They ordered that reentry begin as soon as the person enters the prison doors and continue when the person is out. Now they are doing this, I’m quite sure, not from a religious mandate, I’m not quite sure they’re doing it from a moral mandate, what they’re doing it from is a budgetary point of view because they believe that they’re going to lower the rate of recidivism to a certain point where they don’t have to build a new prison. And new prisons are-you know, we’re talking about $500 million structures and well over, oh heavens, about $125 million a year to run. So we’re talking about an enormous fiscal issue that the states have got to take a look at. And Washington’s basically said, ‘if we put more rehabilitation programs, for lack of a better word, in prison and while they’re on community supervision, that’ll keep us from building a brand new prison. Darnell.

Darnell Bradford El: Well Len-and I wish we had more time to deal with this because the issue is far broader than prison. Prison is a part of an unfair, unjust system that has the audacity to label those who get caught up in it as offenders, when the reality of their existence is an offense to human beings to have to live in unsuitable housing where drugs and all types of vices circulate around their being all the time to go to schools that don’t educate, that don’t teach, teachers that don’t teach-to have a whole pattern of criminal experiences set for young people and they fall into those traps by simply responding to their human nature under the conditions that they live, and then they end up in prison. And over the past few decades, the number of people in that system has increased to the point now that it’ll become a problem when they must come out-society begins to respond to it. So I want-I don’t like the idea of just isolating the prison and reentry because the larger issue is the disparity between races and classes in this country, and prisons as a tool all the way back to the plantation to maintain the equilibrium. Many of the people who are in the prison system who are of African descent represent what would be the potential leadership in this country. How many Obamas are down in Oak Hill? We don’t know.

Leonard Sipes: Oak Hill being a juvenile facility for the District of Columbia.

Darnell Bradford El: Yeah, a juvenile facility, I apologize for the audience.

Leonard Sipes: Please continue.

Darnell Bradford El: But the whole idea is that we don’t know that because we’re living in a system starting with the old prison leasing system and emancipation. People were released from the plantations as slaves and then arrested in the cities for vagrancy and then placed right back on the same plantations to continue to work as a part of their sentencing. And when we look at who not only are in the prisons, but who even gets arrested and how the laws are defined to capture and maintain a status quo that is both unjust and unfair. So here in D.C., we are challenging the government and getting some support to give us some basic human rights.

Leonard Sipes: Now when you say we, who is we specifically?

Darnell Bradford El: The PIPS.

Leonard Sipes: And the Previously Incarcerated Persons.

Darnell Bradford El: The Previously Incarcerated People are trying to-Mayor Marion Berry submitted a bill which included us under the Human Rights Act. It has faced some challenges, there are many barriers to people who have gone through the system and have paid a price and are trying to come back into the community, but there’s still a great deal of resistance to that because some people just don’t feel that if you have violated a law, that you deserve another chance, that you deserve an opportunity, but the impractical side of that is if you’re not given that chance, then you resort to what you know from the very beginning. Then we have a situation where there won’t be enough prisons.

Leonard Sipes: Well there is a validity to a lot of the things that you say, especially in terms of the fact that they’re caught up in an atmosphere where crime is fairly easy. Because crime is all around them, drugs are all around them. I’ve spoken to hundreds of offenders who basically raised themselves, who started drugs early, who started crime early-what we in parole and probation call self-raised issues. I’ve spoken to many female offenders who were sexually assaulted. I mean, there’s a human tragedy going on. There’s a part of society that basically says, ‘we don’t care, you do the crime you do the time. Have yourself a pleasant day,’ but it is again, a human tragedy. There are hundreds of thousands of lives being wasted; I’m not going to disagree with you there. Prisons, and I’ve been into-in the prison system hundreds of times, is a sad affair. You can’t walk through a prison without feeling a sense of being depressed by the total waste of humanity. When you talk to offenders inside the prison system- they’re talking exactly like you and I are talking. They have hopes, they have aspirations, they have dreams. Most of them believe that they are going to go and live crime-free lives. Getting on the outside, they run smack into a reality that they can not deal with in many circumstances.

Darnell Bradford El: The reason that we call ourselves Association of Previously Incarcerated People is because even the terms, the language that’s used, we have issues with. I don’t feel like I’m an offender-have ever been an offender. I don’t feel like I’m an ex-con. I don’t feel like I’m-I think that I can’t deny the fact that I’ve been incarcerated for a crime, but some of the language that is used is sort of gravitates down and keeps down. It creates a reaction, a stereotypical picture in a lot of people’s minds. I’m just reflecting back when we were sitting in the council chamber down at the Wilson Building when the debate was going on about the including us as humans under the Human Rights Act as a class. And it was very clear that those who have economic advantages to us being in prison would support keeping us in prison because we are in prison operating almost as slave labor.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Darnell Bradford El: And it’s just how do you make this thing fair? How do you give hope, as you talked about, for those who are the hopeless? You take a man, you put him on the desert and you train him for a swimming meet but he’s surrounded by sand. And then you come out and you ask, ‘why can’t you swim?’ And then when you get out here, the people raise-there’s discrimination in housing, there’s discrimination in employment, there’s limitations in terms of what you can do educationally because of your prison status. When I was in Lawton(ph) we had an opportunity to go to college-went to UDC, why was the program stopped? Because we found that 85% of those went through the college program stayed in the street.

Leonard Sipes: The college program had one of the best success rates of any program. Now when I represented the Maryland prison system, when I was the spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, most of the complaints that we got were the college program. Because what they said was, ‘I can’t afford to send my kid to college, why should somebody who’s done harm get the college education versus my own child who gets no education? So you do something wrong and you get a free college education, you do something right and you don’t get a college education-that’s basically unfair.’ These are the question that we’re wrestling with in terms of previously incarcerated people. This is how society looks at it, but at the same time society needs to give those people who are coming out of the system a break. Its not in their own self-interest of turning tax burdens into taxpayers in terms of keeping society safer-in terms of the betterment of our cities, in terms of the betterment of our schools. That strikes me that regardless of where you stand on this issue, some how some way we’ve got to look again at what we do with offenders before they get into prison-fine, I agree; while they’re in prison-I agree; after they’re out-I agree. But the question becomes, and I’m sort of hoping that people listening to this program today have a better understanding of these issues because of what the two of you are saying. Yvonne.

Yvonne Cooper: You know, that’s the human side is what you just depicted and what Darnell just talked about. But let’s be also realistic here, prisons are big business and it makes sense to those who have a vested interest to keep people in prison because their pockets get fat with the high cost of telephone calls, with the government-to me, I mean, I hate to say this but it appears as though the government is selling out wherein the government might have paid about $25,000 a year for a prisoner at one point, has now acquiesced and allowed the business end of privatization-what is it called? Correctional Corporation of America.

Leonard Sipes: Corrections Corporation of America and there are others.

Yvonne Cooper: Yeah, and others. You know, I think there are about 50 or 51% of folks that are running the prisons.

Leonard Sipes: We only have a couple minutes left.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: What can we say to the average person listening to this program, what does that person need to know?

Yvonne Cooper: With respect to-well you know, while in prison, to do what Darnell said initially when he first spoke, use the opportunity while you are in prison to get yourself together. Just get a hold of whatever programs are there, and there may not be many, but whatever programs are there, you need to get into a program and do the best you can to get yourself together so when you come out you can join up with some other programs for people when they come home for reentry. There are a limited number of programs, so it’s not too much that a person can do. And that the government needs to do a little bit more-a whole lot more, I’ll let Darnell speak for the last minute or so.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What do you want the government to do specifically? And what do you want the average person to do? I mean, when I talk to individuals I do say, ‘look, that person coming out of the prison system, he comes to you for a job unless that person’s ineligible like a sex offender working with kids, obviously that’s not going to work. But that person needs another chance in terms of work and there’s an awful lot of people coming out of the prison who need a job, and please don’t blow off a person because he has a criminal history.’ I mean, that’s one thing that comes from me. Darnell, what are some others?

Darnell Bradford El: I think it’s fairly complex, but then it’s simple. Peace to society depends upon justice. And the challenge is not so much to the public as it is for those of us who understand these issues and are willing to provide some enlightment. That’s one of the reasons why the PIPS were organized so that we can begin to do forums that uplift understanding around these issues. And we are mounting right now. We’re also asking people to get involved and get engaged to help work with the population that’s coming out. And one of the problems in the past has been that the training for that has not been very good so that a lot of people really don’t know how to deal with that. So we are in the process of developing a training module to assist those who are interested in helping deal with this transition so that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, as they say, in order to help somebody. You just need to have the kind of training that is required to understand the dynamics of what you’re dealing with.

Leonard Sipes: And you’re talking about the people who work with people coming out of the prison system as volunteers and mentors.

Darnell Bradford El: Yes, and we see that as going a long way at this time, that there be education and enlightment, there be training and assistance and volunteers of those who want to try to help strike a little bit of equilibrium in a non-just situation.

Leonard Sipes: All right, so we need more people to mentor to offenders coming out of the prison system, we need more opportunities in the prison system for jobs, substance abuse, job training-rather, and when they come out they continue to need services, specifically jobs and substance abuse related issues. And in the District of Columbia-housing. I don’t know if in Topeka, Kansas housing is going to be that much of an issue, but in the super hot D.C. real estate market it is.

Darnell Bradford El: They say one of the fifth richest cities in the world. It’s a challenge. There are some institutional things that’s going to take time, but there’s some things that can happen right now. And just talking with one of your directors here who acknowledged the fact that regardless of the preparation, the critical stage is when they first hit the street. So we’re saying that come and be a part of assisting those in that transitional period through volunteer mentoring.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to have you back at the microphones, we need to continue this conversation. At our microphones today was-or is Darnell Bradford El, a minister with the Moorish Science Temple of America and Reverend Yvonne Cooper. Again, both coordinators with the Previously Incarcerated Persons program here in the District of Columbia. Both are faith-based mentors and Reverend Cooper is a minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host Len Sipes. Look for us on our website at of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Thanks and have yourself a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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