Archives for July 2007

Mentoring Offenders Released From Prison: A Faith-Based Program

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Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Reverend Yvonne Cooper, also here is Paul Tranthan. Paul is an offender being supervised or helped or mentored by Reverend Yvonne Cooper. And we’re going to start off with Reverend Cooper and we’re going to talk about volunteers, Yvonne, we’re going to be talking about people who voluntarily come in to assist offenders when they are released from prison. How are you doing today?

Yvonne Cooper: I’m doing wonderful and I am excited that you have me here on your show.

Leonard Sipes: Well I’m excited for you to be here and I’m excited for Paul to be here because we talk about assisting people coming out of prison. President Bush made it a part of the state of the union addresse a couple years ago; it really put reentry on the map. A lot of people who have been working the reentry beat, what I’m saying, reentry for the radio listeners, we’re talking about assisting people coming out of the prison system-assisting people coming out of jails to see if we can help them meaningfully reintegrate thems back into society. The statistics now are not very encouraging at all.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: According to national statistics, two-thirds are rearrested within three years, 50% are reincarcerated within three years. Now we’re not even talking about technical violations while on parole and probation. The great majority of the individuals, if you’re talking about re-arrest, quote unquote “fail.”  To a lot of people what that says is that, why bother? If so many people are going to fail, why bother? Some people run from the scene of an emergency and some people run to the emergency.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: You’re one of these people who run to the emergency.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: What prompted you to get involved in this program of helping-volunteering to help people coming out of the prison system?

Yvonne Cooper: Well you know Len; it was really quite easy for me because I am an ex-offender myself. I was once an administrative law judge who was indicted and arrested for accepting bribes of which I did accept and faced 105 years in prison and had the opportunity to go to prison. So had I not had that opportunity to go to prison I would not be doing what I’m doing today, I believe. Once I came home, having been there and seeing the conditions of the prison, my heart was pricked so that when I came home I would want to help somebody else. And so I think God everyday for having the opportunity to have gone to prison. So since I’ve been home for the last ten or eleven years, that’s all I’ve been doing-prison ministry is who I am, prison ministry is what I do. And helping out Paul was an easy thing for me to do and I’m excited about working with Paul and others, not just in this area, but in the country.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, we’re going to get to Paul; we’re going to focus on Paul in a while, but let’s focus on you for a while.

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

Leonard Sipes: Now the average person listening to this program, once again, I’m going to see if we can gear the program towards them.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: They’re going to say, -all right, well fine Reverend, you’re a minister and there are biblical passages engorging assistance…’ and when we’re talking about this faith-based program by the way, this is a faith-based effort with the churches and mosques and the synagogues within Washington D.C. and the metropolitan area.

Yvonne Cooper: Right.

Leonard Sipes: We’re talking about people who have a religious fervor-I guess I’m not quite sure fervor is the word to use, but that’s why they’re helping offenders. I as a Christian know that my Christian upbringing basically asks me, or not asks, but commands me-

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: -to deal with the least of society-and actually Jesus commanded that we go inside the prisons to assist offenders.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: But the average person will not. The average person is basically saying, -I’m sorry, Yvonne, thank God your Christian sentiments propel you to do this sort of thing, I’m not. Criminal offenders, I have no sympathy for them, they’ve done something terrible, they’ve done something wrong-I’m not quite sure I want to deal with them at all.’ The story I always tell are about the most influential women in my life, my mother and my wife. And my mother basically said, -I’m not going to give a dime to criminal offenders.’

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

Leonard Sipes: She said -Give it to the elderly. The elderly are the people who went through the Great Depression, who fought the Second World War, who’s given so much to this society. The elderly need this money, not criminal offenders.’ My wife, who was vice president of a PTA, said, -give it to the children.’

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: -Let’s build on the children; let’s not build on the backs of people who have done wrong to other people.’ But you’re there nevertheless in the trenches day in, day out, dealing with offenders because of your incarcerative background, but because of what else? Why are some of the other people-why are you beyond your incarcerative experience, why do you think other people are involved in mentoring to inmates coming out of prison?

Yvonne Cooper: A good number of the people are mentoring those who come home as a result of a person like me who educates them and let them know. Because I was like your mom, I was like your wife. I didn’t care; I could care less about someone who was in prison. I was 41 or 42 years old before I even thought about helping out a prisoner, I thought that was taboo. I mean, they did something wrong, they need to be there.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yvonne Cooper: And so I had an opportunity as I said before, to go inside and see for myself the assistance that they needed, and my heart was pricked to come out and educate folk like your mom, my mom, my cousins, my brothers, my dad, to let them know that these people need some help. And so I not only help those that have been to prison, I also try to educate others. And as you know Len, every person that I can think of that’s in my life or that I know have someone that’s been to prison or know someone that’s been there. And so I try to raise the conscious level and let them know that you have to help these people out. Plus it’s a public safety issue; it makes sense to help these folks so that they don’t-

Leonard Sipes: What do you mean by a public safety issue? Let’s dwell on that for a while.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay. It’s public safety issue in that it would behoove us to help those when they come home so that when they do come home they’re going to break into my car; they’re not going to break into my house. I want to help them to get a job, help them get on their feet, and help them with the GED program-that kind of thing.

Leonard Sipes: Does it work then? If we’re going to say that by assisting individuals like Paul, who is going to come to the microphone in a second. To assist individuals like Paul, then we can actually lower rates of recidivism, and when I say lower rates of recidivism, I’m saying that your house is likely to be broken into, your family is less likely to be robbed or violated-that’s what I’m talking about. Is it possible to meaningfully reach these individuals?

Yvonne Cooper: I’ve seen the evidence. I mean, I’ve seen in it Paul, and as you said, Paul will come to the mike in a moment-I’ve seen the evidence throughout no just in this city, but in Alabama. I’ll just throw this out for a moment; I assisted a gentleman who had life without parole in the state of Alabama. He happened to write me and I wrote him back and I ministered to him back and forth on the phone and through the mail, and again, he had life without parole. Well there came a time that from the ministering to him and my encouraging him to file a document for his case, the without parole piece came off the table and then he began to believe that maybe there’s something to this Jesus thing. And so later on as I was mentoring to him, he called me one day excited, he said, -Reverend Cooper, guess what? I go up before the parole board; you said I was going to go.’ I said, -well what you need to do young man is to send your things home,’ he said, -well Reverend Cooper, if I send my stuff home, that’s the only way I can make money.’ I said, -if you believe, that’s what you’re going to have to do.’

Leonard Sipes: And this was a sewing machine that he was using to make-

Yvonne Cooper: This was a sewing machine that-

Leonard Sipes: -bible covers and-

Yvonne Cooper: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Yvonne Cooper: Yes, yes, yes yes. As a matter of fact, he made bible covers, he mad purses; he made so many things with the sewing machine.

Leonard Sipes: He was a gifted individual.

Yvonne Cooper: Right, very gifted-very gifted. And so I said, -you need to send these home young man,’ and he said, -well if I send those things home, what am I going to do if I don’t come home?’ I said, -well you have to believe you’re going to come home,’ so he sent them home. And I had the blessed opportunity to go to the state of Alabama, I sent myself down there, and the parole board allowed me the opportunity to come before them and to speak on behalf of this young man. And that was on January 31st, just the early part of this year. Well let me tell you, this young man came home three weeks ago and he’s working today. He’s working, he’s doing what he likes to do-he likes to work with his hands. He’s working at a construction company as he did when his father was living. I talked to him as a matter of fact today, and he’s so excited about the job and the opportunity. He was there for 17 years and so he’s excited. I believe that he’s going to make it you know; he was a three-time loser.

Leonard Sipes: But before we go to Paul, we’re going to go to Paul in a second. So many people listening to this program, they’re going to say, -okay, fine. Reverend Cooper, Yvonne, I’ll buy into the possibility that if you give people coming out of prison mentoring, if you give them drug treatment programs, GED programs, help them find a job, they’re going to lower the rate of recidivism and my chances and my family’s chances of being violated are less.’ But they would say at the same time -but Yvonne, certainly you’ve gotta admit that there are people who desperately belong in prison and who are dangerous human beings and they belong there.’

Yvonne Cooper: I concur with you 101%, no question.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Paul, we’re going to go over to you. Paul Tranthan, and I got the name correct the second time around, right Paul?

Paul Tranthan: Yes you did.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Paul, you came out of the federal prison system, now all offenders in the District of Columbia now go to the federal prison system, for our listeners’ clarification. You came out from the prison system when?

Paul Tranthan: 2003.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so you’ve been out for three years, how you been? And what were you in for by the way?

Paul Tranthan: Well I was in for robbery.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And so how many years did you do?

Paul Tranthan: I did approximately eight years.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Paul Tranthan: I went in 1994 and I came out in 2003.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And so you came out in 2003 and this has been a piece of cake, right, reentry back into society?

Paul Tranthan: I would say yes, it has been a piece of cake.

Leonard Sipes: Now wait a minute, for most offenders it’s not a piece of cake. For most offenders it’s one of the most difficult things they’ve ever been through. I didn’t expect that answer from you. You know, and the listeners to this program know that I don’t prep my folks, but I did not expect that answer. I expected, -hey, this has been one of the hardest things in my life,’ but for you it was easy?

Paul Tranthan: Well let me clear that up, the reason what I was meaning by it was a piece cake, the walk that I have taken now is really a piece of cake. When I went in this time, I had made up in my mind that when I do come out of prison, I’m never going to return back into prison. So it started in there-my thinking, my attitude, my behavior, my discipline, all that started when I got incarcerated again.

Leonard Sipes: Now I’m going to interrupt you as we go along. Do you want to know how many-I’ve been in the system for 37 years that dates me, and I’ve been dealing with corrections for probably 20 of those 37 years. If I had a nickel for every offending coming out of prison who said they’re not coming back and who came back, I’d probably be rich. So I understand you said, -I’m not going back.’ Most people say, -I’m not going back,’ the results show otherwise-the statistics.

Paul Tranthan: And I agree with you there, however, my actions speak for me not returning. When I came home I immediately started looking for employment. After I received employment then I started looking for housing, and the housing is that great here in D.C., however, I was provided with a room. And while living in this room and working-I’ve been a member of my church, Allan(ph) AME Chapel and I have great support from the ministerial staff all the way down to the congregation. And that was the-

Leonard Sipes: Did that make a difference for you, Paul, having that faith-based program, having not just one mentor, it is a church-it is a mosque, it is a synagogue, so it’s just not the one volunteer, it’s the entire congregation trying to help out people coming out of the prison system. Do you think that that made a big difference in terms of your successful adjustment?

Paul Tranthan: I know that that had a lot to do with my success because as I was going into the church you know, staying under refuge-under God, so many people came to me with open arms and if I made a quote or statement, I’m not a judge-we all make mistakes. And you know-

Leonard Sipes: Okay, but we all don’t commit robbery.

Paul Tranthan: Exactly, we may not break the law of the earth, but we break God’s laws all the time.

Leonard Sipes: All the time, yes. No doubt.

Paul Tranthan: And you know, that’s the greatest offense, breaking God’s law, however, I did commit armed robbery, being on substance abuse-drugs, and I take full responsibility for my actions and what I did, and I paid time to society for the crime that I did. Like I said, in getting back to the church, the members in the church, they came to me. Certain ones came and offered up money, certain ones came up and offered up jobs that they had connections with, and some of them just came up and offered up good advice and encouraging words because sometimes just a hug would make the difference in a guy like my life. You know, because I’ve been down for so long, and what I mean by that-I’ve been hard on myself, I kicked myself so many times because I’ve never achieved nothing. I realized I was a 22-year old male and I had nothing and I self-pitied myself because of my background as far as being a foster child, I felt sorry for myself and why my mom and my daddy did what they did, and why God would allow such a person as great as me to suffer and endure life’s hardships on this earth. So I pitied myself, and with that then I ran to something that made me feel like I was okay, which was drugs. And as a result of doing those drugs, I ended up committing an offense. Now when I-

Leonard Sipes: And probably not just one.

Paul Tranthan: Well not-yeah, correct. That’s absolutely correct, I didn’t commit just one, I committed maybe a few and then I was caught and charged with the offense and a lot of people-but I just stopped feeling sorry for myself. When I went in this time I said, -this is it, enough is enough.’ And I started in there and I’ve had just like Reverend Cooper had said that she went up and spoke on behalf of this offender, I had a warden down in one of the federal institutions-I had him come up on the parole board and he said, -I don’t normally do this, but your behavior and how you been in this prison, I’m going to go down and speak to the parole commission,’ and that he did. And he said that, -Mr. Tranthan, I believe you will be a good candidate for parole,’ and his belief is correct.

Leonard Sipes: What do you think made you cross that line, Paul? Because what you just described, the drugs, the background, how you felt about yourself, problems with parents, that applies to probably 90% of the offenders that I’ve talked to throughout my career. Again, most-according to national statistics, two-thirds are rearrested in three years, 50% are reincarcerated in three years–that’s a pretty significant statement. So you’re a success, a lot of your peers aren’t successful, what do you think is the reason why? Because we’ve already talked about the fact that you said you weren’t going back, everybody says they’re not going back.

Paul Tranthan: And that’s true.

Leonard Sipes: And there they are-

Paul Tranthan: Back.

Leonard Sipes: They’re back, that’s right.

Paul Tranthan: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: What do you think was the issue in your life that helped you cross that bridge?

Paul Tranthan: It was believing in myself and loving myself enough to know that I could stay out of prison. I wasn’t no jail product, I wasn’t designed nor made for jail. God didn’t-

Leonard Sipes: Nobody is.

Paul Tranthan: Well that’s correct, however, some people will cause themselves to go to jail for a long time for the things that they’ve done. But for me, I realized that jail was not who I was, and as a result, I made up in my mind like I said in jail, that I was not coming back in these-behind these gates. And now while I’m in society, I do everything-I don’t hang around negativity, I don’t think negative, I plant myself in my church, I plant myself around people that give me encouraging words. I’m not financially stable to the point where I can just take a trip here, but I’m not financially broke where I can’t go and buy me a nice pair of pants or a suit. I had not clothes to wear but the clothes that were sent to me by sister. In prison I had nothing, but today I have over 15 or 16 suits brand new that I have bought through the grace of God and others that understood. I’ve even started working, I started out-

Leonard Sipes: What are you doing?

Paul Tranthan: Well I was working for Safeway and I started as a courtesy clerk, ended up as a Starbucks manager.

Leonard Sipes: Cool.

Paul Tranthan: And then I started working for the paper, one of our local papers within the city in which I live in.

Leonard Sipes: And what paper is that?

Paul Tranthan: And that is the Washington Informer by Mrs. Denise Rolark Barnes.

Leonard Sipes: Yep.

Paul Tranthan: Her father started that paper 42 years ago.

Leonard Sipes: I know it well.

Paul Tranthan: All right. And so you know, and this is what I’m talking about going back to, those in my church-these people in my church that have helped me and are still helping me, they don’t look down on me. As a matter of fact, they come to me and assist me, and they ask me to speak to other brothers that are incarcerated. Some members in my church have walked up to me and said, -Paul, you know, I have an uncle and I have a cousin that is incarcerated and you know, I really am impressed-I didn’t know you were locked up, but I’m really impressed. Would you be willing to talk to them and give them some encouraging words?’ And I said, -yeah, sure I will.’ One lady, she came and she said, -he’s fifty-something years old, Paul, and he just keeps going back in jail. Will you talk to him?’ And I said, -yeah.’ I said, -but you know, some people are set in their ways after a certain time.’ But I went and I talked with him and he understood. And then I had another brother when we went out one day and evangelized on Robertson Place, and this brother came to me-a member came to me and said, -Paul, what you said to him is why he’s here today,’ and I said, -okay then.’ And then when he came up to me I didn’t know who he was, because I said many encouraging good words to many different people out there in the community. And he came up and he said, -man what you said and everything you said to me was so true.’ And that’s why today, right now today, Reverend Cooper can acclaim to this individual, she knows him, but right now today he comes to church, he participates, he’s very active in our church. And our church is very warm and open to people that want to come and get to know about the Lord and just want to be loved-and Allan is a church of love. Allan is a church where we understand, we’re not one of those churches that’s saying that, -we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that.’ We put what we say into action, we’re out there. I mean, from the ministerial staff all the way to the youth of our church, we’re into action-we’re in there giving out you know-

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Before we go back to Reverend Cooper, I do want to ask you about programs. Were there any programs in federal prison or any programs given by my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency that helped you out?

Paul Tranthan: I’m glad you asked me that question. Yes, there are many programs on the inside of the federal prison that would help anyone that wants to come out and stay out in the prison.

Leonard Sipes: Like what?

Paul Tranthan: Okay, they had a program-they asked me, -Mr. Tranthan, you’re going to have to take anger management.’

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Paul Tranthan: That’s one program. And I said, -anger management? I’m already managing my anger; I’m not going to no anger management.’ But then when I got into this program and started going in there and sitting down listening to the instructor and telling you about-describing what is management and how to control your anger, I said, -oh, this is a positive program.’ Then you know, they had a program in there like the GED program, they had college programs in the federal prison institutions where a lot of people took advantage of these programs.

Leonard Sipes: With those, not to confuse the listener, but most of these college programs, you have to pay them yourself, correct?

Paul Tranthan: Yes that’s correct, you have to pay some money to what-not much, but some you do have to pay.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Any programs in CSOSA, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency? I never did announce who we are at the beginning of this program. [Laughs] We’re the federally funded parole and probation agency serving Washington D.C. providing parole and probation services. So did anything that we offered you besides the faith-based program?

Paul Tranthan: CSOSA offered me a lot, they offered me the mentoring course, they offered me-I’m just trying to remember all the rewards I you know, all the programs that I took. I took many programs in prison, but these programs that I took were-you know, a lot of people would say to get out of prison. However, I took them because I wanted them to benefit me when I did come out.

Leonard Sipes: I started off the program saying that nobody cares? Few care about offenders-and you know this, and Reverend Cooper knows this-I’ll say an awful lot of people simply don’t care about people coming out of prison. One of the things that we say is that the more programs we have in place like the faith-based program-but GED programs, helping individuals find work, helping the mental health offenders deal with their mental health problems in a substantive way. What programs did you have on the table to help individuals come out of the prison system the better they do? That is in essence the proposition that we put on the table. We put that proposition on the table from the standpoint that it lowers recidivism. What is recidivism, people ask, it simply means that these individuals do not climb into your home to burglarize it and that don’t violate your family. That’s the bottom line behind recidivism, am I right or wrong in terms of programs?

Paul Tranthan: We need the programs in the institution because without the programs then you leave them no alternative but to come back out and do what they consider, -I’m just living, I gotta do what I have to do.’ Without these programs, they’re not educated. You have a lot of ignorance in jail and because of that, if they don’t have certain programs that they can apply to themselves so when they come out, be prepared to work-if they don’t know nothing about filling our a resume, if they don’t know nothing about how to go on an interview, if they don’t know nothing about how to just get themselves ready to go out here and live in society and function as a citizen of society, then you’re sending them right back to jail-so we need the programs.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Paul, I think you. Reverend Yvonne Cooper, I’m going to go back to you. All right, we’ve heard what Paul has had to say. It was passionate, he’s been out of the prison system for about three years-he is doing well. By the way, in terms of doing well, the listeners need to understand that we probably have some of the lowers supervision rates in the country, which means we have the lowest ratio of offenders to our community supervision officers or our parole and probation agents which means we watch them a lot more than most parole and probation agencies throughout the country. We drug test individuals in our system a lot more than practically anybody else in the country. We ride heard on offenders when they come out of prison, we can be fairly tough on them. But at the same time, we provide the programs whether its drug treatment or GED programs or other educational programs or job placement programs or mental health programs-we provide those programs as well. We believe in the combination of holding offenders accountable and at the same time providing them with the programs that they need. So having editorialized there, what do you think Paul had to say and how do you think the average person will respond to it?

Yvonne Cooper: Well you know, I’m glad you said what you said, and I’d like to piggyback on what you said and what Paul said-the last bit of his comments. I’d like to commend CSOSA honestly because CSOSA has picked up where the church has dropped the ball. And I’m very critical of the church. I wasn’t always a preacher, as you know; I became a preacher once I came home from prison. But as I try to educate churches, and I commended CSOSA just a couple of weeks ago as a matter of fact when I was a keynote speaker at one of the events. And what I use a resource is the bible, and give me just a few moments-back in the biblical days when God had given Moses the ten commandments and then the laws, the 600 and something laws-one of those laws said that there has to be cities of refuge for those that commit crimes. And they go to those cities of refuge and once they pay their time, they come back and they have full rights and privileges restored. And as you move further down the line, the same thing happened in the Roman church. The Catholics, they had people to pay penitence when they did something wrong, and once they did that, paid penitence-

Leonard Sipes: Their slate was wiped clean.

Yvonne Cooper: It was wiped clean.

Leonard Sipes: But it was wiped clean in terms of your liturgical background, it was wiped clean with God, but it wasn’t wiped with man.

Yvonne Cooper: Well their rights and privileges were restored, that’s the point I’m trying to make, and then finally…

Leonard Sipes: Within the church.

Yvonne Cooper: Within the church. But wait a minute and let me finally say this, I want to get to a point here. It was the Mormon Church that established the very first penitentiary. And so still we’re talking about the church the whole time, so my thing is that the church are the ones that put those things in place and so it is my mind-it is clearly an evonism, it is the church’s responsibility to do what they can to help these people once they come out but they’re not doing it. And so that’s why I’m commending CSOSA for picking up where the church has dropped the ball.

Leonard Sipes: But they’re not doing it because society at large doesn’t do it. If you would go to the average Christian, if you would go to the average member of the Islamic faith, if you would go the average member of the Jewish faith and you would say, -hey, okay we are going to take food to the elderly and we’re going to deal with AIDS patients and we’re going to support a local elementary school-and oh by the way, we’re going to mentor to criminals down at the prison system,’ guess how many people are going to volunteer to mentor the criminals at prison system?

Yvonne Cooper: They’d say, -hold up.’

Leonard Sipes: -Excuse me, what?’

Yvonne Cooper: That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: But that’s a reaction, that’s not just a reaction from the faith-based community, that’s a reaction from practically anybody in society.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s real. That’s real, but the only point I’m trying to make is that because the church has failed-I mean, in my mind’s eye, the church clearly has failed. Because the church has failed, I’m just commending CSOSA-I mean, it’s your job to work with these people, these previously incarcerated people when they come home because that’s your job. But I commend them for having the foresight to put certain things in place so that we can cut down the recidivism rate. Those other programs you mentioned-feeding the elderly and helping out with the kids and AIDS patients, those are what they call sexy type of projects. And dealing with someone who just robbed your house-

Leonard Sipes: Is hard.

Yvonne Cooper: –or murdered someone is a hard pill to swallow, it’s no question. But as you started off the show talking about, in Matthew, the bible says that when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, when I was hungry you gave me something to eat. But when it came to the prisoner, the bible said Jesus said, -you came unto me.’ So to me it means that the prisoner needs more than something to drink, something to eat, or visit, they need a popery of things. And so I think that’s so necessary.

Leonard Sipes: And I hate ending the program this way, one of the things we have to mention-I guess we should have mentioned it at the beginning of the program, is that for an offender to be part of all of this, they don’t have to adhere to Catholicism, they don’t have to adhere to the tenants of the Baptist church or the Islamic religion even though the mentor may be Islamic, even though the church may be Baptist or Catholic or Presbyterian, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to embrace those religious tenants-

Yvonne Cooper: Right.

Leonard Sipes: –it is a faith-based program; you lead through your faith. But if that person wants to not join the church, that’s perfectly okay.

Yvonne Cooper: That’s okay, yeah.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And Yvonne and Paul, thank you. This has been an interesting program. We were talking at the beginning of program, let’s try to keep it to 15 minutes and punchy, but it was so interesting, especially Paul’s testimony and your testimony, Yvonne, that we had to go in the length of time that we did. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, our guests today have been Reverend Yvonne Cooper and our person who she helps who’s out of the prison system is Paul Tranthan. My name is Leonard Sipes; I’m the senior public affairs specialist. Please have yourself a very pleasant day.

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History of Community Corrections – An Interview With McKinley Rush

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[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes. Since July of 1972, McKinley Rush has been involved in the correctional system in the District of Columbia. He is currently the deputy associate director for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He supervises or co-supervises a total staff of about 400 and he basically is in charge along with his associate director Tom Williams-in charge of the community supervision arm of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And we’re here today to talk about what’s happened in the past and what’s happening now and how you can connect the two with somebody who has seen it all, done it all, been there, and probably knows that the criminal justice system better than just about anybody else. McKinley, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

McKinley Rush: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: And McKinley, you started off a long time ago back in 1972, in fact when we were talking, you gave me the exact date. What did you do when you entered the criminal justice system?

McKinley Rush: I began my career in community corrections as a correctional officer at the Lawton Reformatory.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and what was that like?

McKinley Rush: It was an institutional setting where you had a lot of dormitory suites on the compound and there were approximately six institutions that made up the Lawton Reformatory.

Leonard Sipes: I’ve seen correctional officers in action in another job, it is one of the most difficult and tasking jobs I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen a correctional officer in the Maryland prison system get in between two individuals both very big, both very, very, very upset with the actions of the other person, and I saw that person who was half their size get in between the two of them and talk them down and resolve the situation peacefully. That certainly was an inspitation.

McKinley Rush: Well I came into the profession and I had a sense of fear because I was going into an institutional setting. However, the agency provided the training and experience support systems that helped me make it through and begin to develop and understanding of institution corrections.

Leonard Sipes: But that gave you, I would assume, a perfect background, a perfect base to take your career and move it further.

McKinley Rush: Correct. As an officer, you had to be among the population, you’re without any firearms, you only had a telephone and back in that day the telephones were very old rotary type. So you had to establish relationships with inmates in order to get a sense of comfort and understand who you were working with and why you were there.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and you were forced to do it?

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You had no other choice. Either you developed skills to get along inside of the institution, or you left or you got hurt or you didn’t do well.

McKinley Rush: Exactly. Your skills are developed by interacting with people. And you get the support, you get the training, but there’s nothing like actually doing the work.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And in essence of that is the heart and soul of community corrections because we do two things: we supervise offenders in the community and we hold them accountable and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency within the District of Columbia probably has higher contact levels, lower case loads, and more resources than just about any parole and probation organization in the country. But the key to our success is that ability to talk to individuals, that ability to talk to people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, correct?

McKinley Rush: Correct. You have to develop your communication skills and you have to be trustworthy yourself when interacting with any inmate or community corrections offender, you must be truthful, upfront, and explain what your requirements or expectations are.

Leonard Sipes: You and I have had conversations in the past in terms of the fact that we get new bright energetic people from all over the country who want to come here to work for us. But that skill, I mean, they may have a college degree, they may a graduate degree, they may have worked in the system previously. And a lot of people who come to us have good criminal justice experience, but it’s that ability to talk to offenders, holding that individual accountable, making sure he does what he’s supposed to do, making sure that he shows up for his drug testing. And at the same time to talk to him in such a way as to move him along socially in terms of getting that GED or getting that job or completing drug treatment-that’s a skill that is not instantaneous the day that you come onto the job.

McKinley Rush: Oh I agree totally. What is unique about CSOSA, is that they have the resources that can promote through betterment of an offender or enhance their skills and dissipate with their antisocial behaviors. So what we have as a tool are those resources, and those resources are support systems that you use in your communication with the offender so that they understand you’re trying to move them to a better quality of life for them and their significant others and family members.

Leonard Sipes: I was a state trooper very early in my career where you learn how to interact with individuals, and you learn that sometimes you have to get in their face and sometimes you have to ask them how they are as a person. There’s a continuum of interaction with that offender and our job is to hold them accountable and at the same time help them. And that takes a unique set of vocal skills that as I said before, not everybody has, and a lot of times what you’ll do, from what I understand, is take our new recruits or our younger individuals off to the side and personally train them in terms of how to interact with people to again, do that level of accountability and at the same time help the offender that they’re working with.

McKinley Rush: Everyone that comes into this profession must realize that we’re working with human beings, the situation that brought them here is not exactly issues that we’ve been in within our own lives, but our responsibility is to try to improve this human being by providing support, and also correcting them when they’re wrong. So you develop a skill set, and certainly I will pull aside any community supervision officer that I think is speaking inappropriately to an offender or is just too familiar with an offender and we’ll correct them and let them know the reason why I’m discussing it with them and we’ll come back and provide additional training to staff if that’s the requirement for that particular person or group of people.

Leonard Sipes: Everything we do is walking a tight rope whether it’s making decisions about an offender, whether it’s whether to supervise intensely or not , how to talk to an offender, how to hold them accountable, not becoming too familiar, maintaining your professionalism, but at the same time rreaching out-that’s a tight rope that everybody in this agency walks to one degree or another, and everybody throughout the country that deals with offenders has got to walk that tight rope one way or the other, correct?

McKinley Rush: That is correct. You never know what situation you may be in, and ironically after working in this field for such a long time, I see offenders in my personal life because I’m a resident of the city as well.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

McKinley Rush: So I have to communicate effectively with the offender and explain to them what my purpose is. I believe that when you begin working with someone you establish the ground rules at the initial meeting and you discuss what the expectations are-you discuss the goals of what you’re trying to do, you assess where the individual wants to take him or herself, and you communicate that with them, and then you meet their significant others. Basically, when you work with the offender population, you have to work with them as well as their families and significant others in their life. Once you establish that, ‘I’m here to be a support system, but I’m going to hold you accountable,’ you have open discussion and you can begin to engage the offender so that they can look at life from a different perspective and try to become a positive community person while they’re in the community.

Leonard Sipes: You started off as a correctional officer, how many years as a correctional officer?

McKinley Rush: I was a correctional officer for two years.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and from there you went to where?

McKinley Rush: I became a case manager at the youth center which housed youthful offenders under the Federal Youth Corrections Act between the ages of 18 and 27.

Leonard Sipes: Toughest of all populations to work with.

McKinley Rush: Yes, but the experience was wonderful.

Leonard Sipes: I’ll take an adult offender any day of the week over a younger offender any day of the week.

McKinley Rush: Well I believe at that time that the agency that I was working for felt the same way, so they tied us in to the offenders based on our ages. So I was particularly the same age as many of the offenders while I was in the institution setting. And I would share some of my experiences with them and conduct group and individual counseling sessions and try to discuss with them opportunities that were available within the institutional setting and once their projected release date-what they could do within the community to better themselves and enhance their skill sets.

Leonard Sipes: I did-let’s see-I did gang counseling in Baltimore City when I was on the streets. I did Jail or Job Corp Kids in Job Corps, and I ran a group in the Maryland prison system. Now my work with kids was just amazingly difficult, it was. I mean, it was like sometimes you just wanted to scream, yell, holler. Sometimes you just wanted to hug-if that sounds appropriate in today’s day and age, or counsel, or bring that person along. But there are so many individuals who just seem to be intent on wasting their lives and that’s the tragedy that I take away from it. And you’ve gotta have a sense of armor to work with younger individuals just to protect yourself from what you see and what you experience.

McKinley Rush: Yes, but you can utilize the tools that they gave you. At that time, the Federal Youth Corrections Act was a sentence that could be expunged from the record.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

McKinley Rush: Which was an incentive?

Leonard Sipes: Right.

McKinley Rush: So you needed to use this as a tool to encourage the offenders that you were engaging. You have an opportunity to have this taken off of your record and live a productive and successful life. This is what this act is actually for, is to help you as an individual get back to being whole again. So I used that as my approach to group and individual counseling and I also looked at the competency of the individual, and if they were more structured for a vocational skill or academic skill.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, but both tough jobs-correctional officer and youth counselor. Where did you go from there?

McKinley Rush: Absolutely, I became a parole officer in the District of Columbia meaning that I left the institution setting-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

McKinley Rush: –and came up to Washington D.C. and I still had the Federal Youth Correction Act offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So you were working with younger offenders on a parole basis?

McKinley Rush: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Now were these judged as adults or judged as juveniles?

McKinley Rush: They were judged as adults.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so these were adults committing-these were kids-they were teenagers?

McKinley Rush: They were adults-the age of 18.

Leonard Sipes: Oh, okay that’s right, you’re right. Okay, so the age of 18. So again, you were working with them on a parole basis and you were going out into their communities, into the streets talking to them, doing office visits, that sort of thing?

McKinley Rush: Home visits, office visits, job visits, going out meeting their families, establishing employment opportunities and educational opportunities for them as well.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and how long did you do that?

McKinley Rush: I did that from 1975 until 1988.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And so were you rising in rank or were you still at that point a street personnel aligned person?

McKinley Rush: I was a street parole officer and I didn’t a desire to rise in rank because I enjoy the job so much.

Leonard Sipes: You know, that’s a problem that most people are not going to relate to, but that happens to a lot of us within the criminal justice system. We didn’t get involved in the criminal justice system to sit behind a desk and push paper; we got involved in the criminal justice system to be on the front lines because that was the enjoyable part of the job.

McKinley Rush: Actually, I burned up four Volkswagens within the period of time of being a street officer because I enjoyed going out and visiting and establishing relationships and developing resources for that population.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and it is interesting, interesting work. Now to a lot of people going out into high-crime communities visiting offenders, criminals if you will, and their families is not their idea of enjoyment. It is strange people like you and I who find that sort of thing enjoyable and exciting and work that we look forward to.

McKinley Rush: Yes. I reflect back to the institution and I remember when we were doing a shakedown one day and the inmate said that, ‘you know, we can kill you in here,’ and I said, ‘yes you can, but I’m here to try to help as well.’ And so I’ve carried that with me throughout my career and it has been beneficial for me. I’ve known so many people to come through this system within the 35-year period that I’ve been involved with corrections, and what I’ve found is that you’re known more so than you think you’re known when you go into the community. So establishing good relationships with your communication skills and trying to support the offender population as far as turning them around and getting them on a prosocial(sp?) active path will pay off for not only the community and the offender, but for the officer as well.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve seen the same people time in and time out.

McKinley Rush: Yes I have.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve seen the same offender cycle into the system cycle out of the system, in the system, out of the system, right?

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And you’ve seen this probably thousands of times. You probably know a whole mess of offenders on a first-name-basis.

McKinley Rush: Yes I do.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What’s your conclusion after all those years of watching people-I mean, we do know that-and the research is pretty clear that the more assistance they get, and when I say assistance, we still hold their feet to the fire. This organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we have more accountability with offenders who we supervise than practically and other parole and probation agency in the country. We hold their feet to the fire in more dramatic ways; we drug test the dickens out of them. So a lot of it is accountability but a lot of it is helping. And we know that we have a positive impact on public safety, but consequently you do see a mess of people in the system, out of the system, in the system, out of the system. How do you feel about that personally?

McKinley Rush: Well during these years of service, recently I’ve recognized that they are staying on the street longer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I can now tell them, ‘you do not have a reason to fail. We provide you with whatever assistance that you need, so do not come and give me an excuse-well if you would have provided me with an opportunity for substance abuse treatment, if you could have help assist me for inpatient treatment-‘

Leonard Sipes: Or find their job.

McKinley Rush: ‘-find a job or come and work with me and my family to help enhance the relationship there. You have no excuse not to be a productive person.’

Leonard Sipes: Because of the resources are there and case loads are fairly small, so we say that to our own employees and we say that to the offenders as well.

McKinley Rush: Exactly. And we hold our employees accountable as well as offenders and it’s a performance-based agency so staff have to do certain required activities in order to show that they have made the effort to assist the offender with a positive change.

Leonard Sipes: But you’ve seen-going back to that point, you’ve seen so many people because I’ve talked to you about some offenders, and it’s amazing because you’ll say, ‘yes, I know that case, I’ve known that case for the last 15 years, I know all about him,’ and I’m just drawling up a name and you know that individual. I’ve been with this agency for three and a half years, you’ve been with this agency since its inception and you’ve been around for so long. In a personal sense, I’m going try it again-do you feel discouraged, how do you feel when you see so many people pop in and out of the system?

McKinley Rush: Well they’re still alive, which means we still have an opportunity to help them, to assist them-within just in the criminal justice system people go back and forth to jail. It takes them-they have to come to the realization that they want help; they will come to you when they want help. This organization has provided us with the tools to say, ‘okay, here is the help you’re asking for. I’m going to monitor you through this, I’m going to assist you with it-‘ and on my way here this morning, a guy I know stopped me and he said, ‘well I need some help with my reading and writing.’ Not so much a job right now, reading and writing-he’s in his late forties. I’m going to find something for him in reading and writing. He’s reached out for help.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and we have the tools and the resources within our organization to do that assessment and actually get down and help him learn how to write.

McKinley Rush: He’s going to the Day Reporting Center Agency because I know that they can take him and start working with him.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

McKinley Rush: But he has decided himself that he wants to make positive change.

Leonard Sipes: Well we could go on for the next half hour about that. I did a television show yesterday on the high-risk drug offender, a very interesting topic. And we started off with two offenders who have done well. But I ask all of our offenders the same question on these radio shows and television shows and that is, ‘at what point are you really ready to make that change? I mean, do we have to wait until you’re 35 before you make that change? Is there a way of reaching out to that 20-year old?’ And consistently, the offenders have basically said, ‘look, when you’re ready to make that change, please be ready for us, but you’ve gotta make that change yourself, you’ve gotta have that willingness to change your life around because kicking drugs is one of the hardest things you’re ever going to do in your entire life.’ So is that correct? We have to-it all comes down to a matter of the offender being sick and tired of being sick and tired?

McKinley Rush: Yes and no. There’s also motivational discussions with the offender to try to move them to that position of being tired of being sick and tired.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Helping him or her realize what their state is.

McKinley Rush: The damage that they’re doing to themselves and their significant others and their community-what they need to do to possibly get away from the substance abuse issues and get to arrest that substance abuse habit. And a large portion or our population have a history of substance abuse, but I’ve seen a large portion over the years stop using. Some have stopped using with support systems, support groups, NA AA inpatient-some have actually stopped because they were tired.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Right, they had just had it-they just came to the conclusion that the lifestyle and the drug use was just killing them. And sooner or later, it’s interesting; they all come to that same conclusion.

McKinley Rush: We’re just trying to get them there faster.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs] We’re just trying to get them to understand that faster. One of the things that’s always amazed me about crime and criminality in my 37 years within the criminal justice system is that if it’s so apparent if drug use and drug dealing-I mean, nobody has any money, their houses look like burned out shells, they don’t have any possessions, they’re sick, they’re injured-it’s a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous profession. You would think that people would simply not do it, that the evidence is so overwhelming that the lifestyle leads to nothing else besides sickness and injury and poverty.

McKinley Rush: Well yes, we see the results of the substance abuse after long-term usage, but on the front end, you see the glorifying of having their automobile and the diamonds and gold and everyone thinks this is the way to make a living, and they find out down the road that was the worst choice they could have possibly made.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, well as the both of us know that the diamonds and the gold and the car last about a whole year or two.

McKinley Rush: If that long.

Leonard Sipes: If that long, and then it all disappears. Every drug dealer’s house I’ve ever been in looks terrible.

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: There’s nothing there. All that entire whatever money they made was gone a long time ago.

McKinley Rush: Exactly, but what I like to hear from offenders is in my discussions as I see them in my passing is, ‘I don’t have to look behind myself anymore.’

Leonard Sipes: Right. The freedom of being out of the lifestyle.

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: How do we get them out that lifestyle is the question from criminologists. So let’s go back, so you started off as a correction officer and then you did the years in terms of dealing with younger people and then you worked as a parole officer in the streets of the District of Columbia, and what did you do after that?

McKinley Rush: About 1994 I decided that I needed to begin to help the younger staff that were coming into the organization for the predecessor agency.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

McKinley Rush: And so I applied for a supervisor’s position.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

McKinley Rush: And ironically I got it. [Laughs]

Leonard Sipes: That deadly position behind the desk pushing paperwork. And so why did you take the supervisor’s position? And again, a lot of us like being on the front lines, we hate making that transition to supervisor, but I would imagine there’s a certain point where we need to make more money.

McKinley Rush: As I looked at the staff that were coming into the agency and saw that they did not have some of the skill sets, I thought that I could be an asset to teaching that staff how to work with the population.

Leonard Sipes: And what agency was that?

McKinley Rush: This the D.C. Board of Parole.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so you worked for the D.C. Board of Parole, so this is entirely adult offenders now.

McKinley Rush: Yes, these are adult offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So there’s a certain point where the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency came into being. Now we were declared an independent agency-we’re a federal criminal justice agency, we’re part of the executive branch of government and we were declared independent as of August of 2000 under what is known as the Revitalization Act that tried to lift some of the financial burdens from the city of Washington D.C. that ordinarily would be picked up by state government such as parole and probation. So parole and probation became federalized, it’s a federal agency, and you were there at the very beginning.

McKinley Rush: Well actually, I was there when the decision was made to create a federal agency and dispose of the D.C. Board of Parole.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

McKinley Rush: Around 1975 or ’76, a person was murdered in the District of Columbia by a offender under the D.C. Board of Parole.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

McKinley Rush: And they recognized that the case loads for parole was approximately 175 to 200 per staff person.

Leonard Sipes: Now, I want to dwell on that for a second because the average person listening to this show is not going to have any idea as to what that means. Our case load on average now, if you exclude the people who are wanted on warrants and if you exclude the people who are unavailable because they’re in a mental institution in Pennsylvania, it is something like 40 to one.

McKinley Rush: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And yours when you first started were like 200 to every agent-parole and probation or parole agent?

McKinley Rush: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And you really can’t do a whole heck of a lot with that offender, that offender’s family, that offender’s community when you have that large of a case load.

McKinley Rush: You’re lucky if you get a chance to see them, more or less interact with them and spend quality time to find out what are some of their concerns and what are some of their barriers that they want to address that can open up some doors so they can be productive.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and I also want to add that if you take a look around at the various states in the United States, that large caseload, whether it’s 100 to one parole and probation agent, whether it’s 150-I mean, those numbers are not unusual even today in various parts of this country, they have very high caseloads. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency within the District of Columbia is very lucky to have the smaller caseloads that we have.

McKinley Rush: Oh we are very fortunate as an agency and that’s why we have certain expectations and performance targets because we have the resources to help the offender engage in change in their behavior.

Leonard Sipes: So bring us up-to-date. So because of this incident with the person murdered, there was a lot of concern and the sense was that we had to improve the resources devoted to this particular task, and the decision was made to us a federal agency.

McKinley Rush: That is correct. And the justice department appointed a trustee and his name was John J. Carver. And he had a vision for an agency to go into a scientific approach to working with the offenders to get them to change. What I really appreciated from him as the trustee was that he provided the staff with an opportunity to express what their views and concerns were and some of the resources that they needed in order to do an effective job. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

Leonard Sipes: And we have the agency that we know today with fairly low caseloads, lots of money to do drug testing. The community supervision officers are out in the community constantly, they’re ordered to be there, every other contact’s gotta be made in the community. And you are leading these 400 people; Tom Williams is the associate director. You’re directly under Tom Williams and you’re seen as the veteran who holds us all together.

McKinley Rush: Well my responsibility is to ensure that the staff are meeting the performance expectations. So when we begin to develop the policies and procedures for this agency, staff had input with the number of contacts that needed to be made under the certain levels of supervision. We needed an assessment tool that would identify the risks and needs of the offenders so that we could manage that person to lower that risk and give them to a support system for their needs. We talked about having vehicles-having federal government access to the vehicle is very important because you need to get out and do a lot of visiting.

Leonard Sipes: We need cars to get out there.

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah.

McKinley Rush: And you don’t want to use your own car and tear your car up.

Leonard Sipes: Right, absolutely not, no.

McKinley Rush: So when they brought these about, I said, ‘this is-‘

Leonard Sipes: Which happens in a lot of states by the way, they use their own vehicles.

McKinley Rush: How often are you going to tear up your own vehicle?

Leonard Sipes: How often are you going to take your vehicle into a high-crime area?

McKinley Rush: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Correct.

McKinley Rush: Especially in the District of Columbia where everybody knows your car basically.

Leonard Sipes: Right. So I mean, you get out there more if you provide them with government vehicles. And we have the resources in terms of drug assistance, in terms of drug treatment, in terms-not all, not everything we want. Probably not everything we need, we’ll never ever reach that point I suppose, but in terms of job placement, in terms of educational assessments, in terms of anger management, in terms of domestic violence, in terms of sex offenders, in terms of drinking and driving, in terms of lots of programs, we have those programs available.

McKinley Rush: We certainly do, and these resources-and our stakeholders also are very supportive of the organization here and they provide us with community places to conduct certain activities with our offender population. The faith community-our law enforcement community also assists us with managing out population.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, a good partnership. We’re constantly doing ride-alongs with the metropolitan police department and they’re partners with us in terms of orienting new offenders.

McKinley Rush: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: So there’s much here and you’re one of the people who put the whole package together-the glue that held the whole thing together as we made the transformation from a D.C. agency to a federal agency.

McKinley Rush: I participated.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs] Indeed you did. All right, the interview has been with McKinley Rush, he is the deputy associate director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Look for us on our website, for additional information. I’m Len Sipes, have yourself a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Trip to China-What Works-Interview With Tom Williams

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[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I am your host Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Thomas H. Williams. Tom has been with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency since March of 2000. He is an associate director; he is in charge of the largest by far part of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. One of the reasons why we have Tom to the microphone is that Tom a little while ago went to China. He went to China to deliver a paper to an international organization that was delving into what works in terms of the criminal justice system. And Tom went to China to deliver a paper in terms of what works in terms of community supervision. Tom Williams, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Thomas H. Williams: Well thank you, Len, glad to be your guest this morning.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Tom, let’s see-you went to China, and I’m not even going to try to pronounce the name of the city that you went to. Where did you go in China?

Thomas H. Williams: It was Punong, China.

Leonard Sipes: Punong, China. Okay. And you went there about a year ago or so?

Thomas H. Williams: In October-the 16th through the 19th of 2006.

Leonard Sipes: All right. That had to be an extraordinarily exciting trip.

Thomas H. Williams: It was a long flight though.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs] How long was it, by the way?

Thomas H. Williams: Oh about 12 hours.

Leonard Sipes: About 12 hours, a long time on the airplane. And you were invited by the University of Maryland to go to China and do what?

Thomas H. Williams: Well actually the University of Maryland has a relationship with Shanghai University in China with regards to how do we identify leaders in the future. The University of Maryland in that program that they have, they have a reciprocal relationship where they will then do training in the classroom setting at the university. And I was asked to come along with a group of other folks to deliver a paper. And it’s interesting about the Chinese in that they are starting to go into the field of community corrections. As some of your listeners know, if you commit an offense in China, there’s only one alternative and that’s prison. And folks go to prison for a very long time, even for minor offenses.

Leonard Sipes: So there is no community supervision-it’s either not guilty or you go to prison?

Thomas H. Williams: Right. And that’s the way the statute is currently. And with the providences they have in China naturally, each local jurisdiction is governed by a province leader and then who gets involved in making the laws for that province. But the Chinese recognize that if they want to get into the issues of the western world, they really do have to change some of their processes. And one of the things that they are looking at very closely is community corrections. Even though they’re starting to get into that right now, they’re not certainly as heavily involved in community corrections as the United States or Canada.

Leonard Sipes: Or not involved at all, you’re being polite. [Laughs] Okay, so the point is that you either are declared not guilty or you go to prison. Now I’ve heard that the-I know that the rates of incarceration in the United States are some of the highest if not the highest within the western industrialized world. But I hear that China is one of the few countries that beats the United States in terms of rates of incarceration. And if you don’t have the opportunity to sentence to community supervision, then I can easily understand why they have such a high rate of incarceration.

Thomas H. Williams: Well they do. I mean, when you look at some of the offenses that are committed there, some of the drug offenses, what we consider very light activity with regard to prostitution, folks are treated very harshly in that environment. That’s not a criticism, that’s just a reality of the situation. And certainly crime is frowned upon because this is a very high social stigma associated with it. But one of the things that China is facing right now with the increase in industrialization and also profits that are coming into that country, certain folks are moving off the farms and then coming to the city looking for work and unfortunately it’s not like it is in the United States. If you and I decide well where we live is not the place where you want to go, you want to go somewhere else to live, we just kind of pack up the family and get in the car then take off. Unfortunately in that jurisdiction-or fortunately in that jurisdiction, however you want to look at it, if you want to go from one location to another, you need permission, you just don’t have the will to get up and then take off. One of the cities that I visited when I was there was Beijing, and as you know, the Olympics are coming, and before you could you could work in that particular section of town in that city, you need to get permission. You need to have a card to work and your family is back where they are and you are in a group of a large tent with other folks, and that’s how the work is being done. It’s a very different environment, very industrious people that are there. But they are looking at some issues right now as crime is starting to increase and folks are coming in. And how do you take care of that from a social standpoint?

Leonard Sipes: Right, if you’re moving people from one section of the country to the other section of the country, you lack all of those informal social controls that existed if you lived, say in a rural area, you’re suddenly coming to the city and things can get out of hand.

Thomas H. Williams: Well they can get out of hand very quickly. And as these things are getting out of hand, the local officials there-and it’s very interesting, you have very conservative folks who say, ‘you forget the crime, forget about it, let’s go to prison and then we hear from you some time down the road.’ But you have another group that’s a little more liberal in their orientation and they think, ‘everyone does not need to go to prison. And because of that we need to have some alternative program or system in place to help a person along similar to what we started in the United States and also I guess, the rest of world. In terms of being a little bit more liberal with certain offenses that people do commit.

Leonard Sipes: Well I would imagine that sort of like the United States, you simply can not afford to send everybody to prison. There is a certain point where the sheer fiscal reality of incarceration starts wearing down on the states-starts wearing down on the United States and starts wearing down on probably China itself.

Thomas H. Williams: Well, and you’re very right about that, even though there’s quite a bit of money that’s coming into that country (inaudible 6:23) an investment that’s coming into that country. I think from a moral standpoint and also from a humanistic standpoint, it’s not good public policy to put everyone in prison. And certainly there are alternatives to incarceration that that country is looking at. And that was one of the reasons I was asked to come to that country to deliver a paper on community corrections.

Leonard Sipes: Now part of your paper was What Works. Was it just the Chinese and the delegation organized by the University of Maryland, or was it a variety of people from a variety of countries?

Thomas H. Williams: There were a variety of folks there both from a speaking standpoint-speakers I should say in terms of presenting.

Leonard Sipes: But the audience itself was Chinese?

Thomas H. Williams: It was primarily Chinese.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: There were a lot of the students there, a lot of the government officials from the provinces.

Leonard Sipes: And how did they take to something to them as foreign as community supervision?

Thomas H. Williams: Well I thought they took it very well. I had several compliments certainly after I delivered my paper.

Leonard Sipes: Nobody booed you, huh?

Thomas H. Williams: No, they’re too polite for that. [Laughs]

Leonard Sipes: They’re too polite for that. [Laughs]

Thomas H. Williams: But one of the things I thought would be important is to give a historical perspective of how community corrections got started in the United States, and that’s what I attempted to do with my paper, is really defining parole and probation. Even in this country folks get parole and probation in terms of its orientation mixed-up or can’t really kind of get that together. So I gave an orientation of how parole and probation got started in this country. From there we went to-and I kind of thought about how do we migrate to the current system that we are on right now? And I thought there were like four different stages for which this country came through of community corrections. One from a humanistic standpoint, two through a therapeutic counseling standpoint, the third point that I tried to make in my paper was the community corrections officer as a broker of services or an advocate. And in the last stage I discussed-I had to do with the community correction officer as risk management. So when you take a probation officer or the strategy or P.O. the humanistic standpoint really came out of the era of 1841 with-in Massachusetts when we had our first person who is really known to be the origin of parole and probation in John Augustus. And John used to go to the court-sit in the courtroom and see defendants being sentenced for public drunkenness and other offenses. And he approached the court one day and said, ‘please, let me take one guy and let me see what I can do.’ Three weeks he came back to court, the court was so impressed, and that was really the origin of probation in the United States. Similar with parole was a gentleman by the name of Zebulon Brockway who was a penologist from Michigan, is really known as the father of penology I guess, or probation services in the United States. And I kind of walked through both of those two individuals through the paper and then kind of give a little synopsis of how we went through various stages of development in the United States again, from a humanistic standpoint. Therapeutic counseling, which came in around the 1920s or the 1950s with psychology as being-a psychologist rather, with the social aspect and the psychologist indicating that those are your major reasons for crime. Broker or advocate stage, which really came around the 1970s particularly with the quote unquote ‘war’ on poverty in the 60s and the 70s where the government really got involved in-I guess in helping folks who were less fortunate than others. So the agents or the probation officer really became an advocate for the offender for housing from an appointment standpoint and so on.

Leonard Sipes: And then we got into this whole thing of if nothing works..

Thomas H. Williams: Well it’s two interesting things that’s happened in the 70s which I think were critical during this time period in United States history, one of which is as you indicated, the What Works literature that came out with Martinson and Wilkes(ph) during that time in 1975, the paper was actually developed. But Martinson came up with a preliminary discussion of the study that the three of those gentlemen completed and then in that study what happened was that they looked at close to 231 studies indicated as a result to that when you look at criminal justice involvement with offenders; there was still a very high recidivism rate. So the conclusion was that none of these programs actually worked. But also in addition to that, in 1971 as some of your listeners will remember the Attica riots, up until that point there was a very heavy emphasis on what I call the single community correction strategy on rehabilitation. And the public which is (inaudible 11:20) by what happened in the Attica riots and as you know, several folks lost their lives in that riot. So when you combine those two things of the riots in New York, Attica, and also with the paper that came out-

Leonard Sipes: People simply lost hope.

Thomas H. Williams: They lost hope and the public opinion changed. And it’s almost like the pendulum switched. So you take the 70s where these two events happened that were critical. You have politicians all upset because they were hearing from their constituents about we gotta do something with crime. You had the influx of drugs that came in to the 80s, so then we started seeing a switch from indeterminate sentencing, which really gave the judiciary quite a bit of leverage in terms of how that person’s going to be treated from an institutional standpoint.

Leonard Sipes: And how early he would get out of prison.

Thomas H. Williams: With the parole commissions at the point saying, ‘okay, if you do certain things in prison, then I’m going to let you go earlier than that.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Thomas H. Williams: Or as some folks will say, ‘well there was an agreement when the person came in in terms of release,’ so the judge will sentence from a five to ten – five to twenty in that indeterminate range. And the parole commissions staff will then determine based on what was going on with that person while he’s in the institution, what progress they made could actually have an (inaudible 12:35) into the sentence reduction or sentence release, I should say.

Leonard Sipes: Before getting around to what’s going on today, when you presented this to the Chinese, did they comprehend what it was that you were talking about-because parole and probation was a volunteer movement. Like so many of the early aspects of corrections, it was religious-based.

Thomas H. Williams: True.

Leonard Sipes: Prison system was supposed to be a reformatory.

Thomas H. Williams: Reformatory.

Leonard Sipes: A penitentiary where you do penance.

Thomas H. Williams: Do penance, correct.

Leonard Sipes: It was a religious-based model which quickly changed, I think, after the first couple decades. But again, you have a reformer, Mr. Augustus, who comes in and tries to help somebody reform, and that was the beginning of probation. Did the Chinese understand-because I’m positive that their religious history has some basis in their own reform movements? Did they get it, is the question.

Thomas H. Williams: Well the answer is yes they did get it. I mean, they’re very industrious folks, but they’re also very studios as well so they certainly understood what I was discussing when we go from the history of how community corrections came into the United States. And the various aspects, what I call the various stages, of what this country went through to get to where we are right now. So there was a complete understanding of it even though culturally there’s different in United States and the relationship that the party has in China.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So we finally get around to the history and the development of community corrections and parole and probation, so now you get around to today and in terms of what works. So what works?

Thomas H. Williams: Well before we go into What Works, I think one of the things that was key in the United States in terms of really I guess spearheading the What Works initiative here was in 1997 there was a conference that was held in Seattle, Washington. And in that conference by the International Association of Community Corrections, they brought in some of what I call the heavy hitters: Buck England(ph) from California, Apogent Rowe(ph), (inaudible 15:00) from Canada, and that conference really was designed to look at the What Works literature. It was almost an (inaudible 15:08) of what would happen with the Martinson’s paper in 1975 that indicated nothing works.

Leonard Sipes: Because now they’re saying something does work.

Thomas H. Williams: Something does work. And actually two of the criticisms that you hear often about the Martinson paper is that number one, the studies that they looked at, because there was not, I guess, fidelity in the studies themselves, it was very difficult to determine-well I guess the conclusion, what it would have been because the stories weren’t implemented correctly with the fidelity that’s needed, that you really couldn’t make any conclusions from those studies. And they were poorly designed in terms of its applications, and when you have poorly designed studies you’re going to get pretty negative (inaudible 15:52)

Leonard Sipes: And Martinson backed away from his own statement-

Thomas H. Williams: He has.

Leonard Sipes: -on several occasions and basically said, ‘I did not mean to say nothing at all works.’

Thomas H. Williams: Right.

Leonard Sipes: But it had a huge influence on the field and it had a huge influence on the population, it was quoted endlessly.

Thomas H. Williams: And there’s no question about that. Lipton was also another person that was involved in that study with Wilson and Martins. And I think I was at a conference several years ago where he actually presented a kind of argument to his paper indicating that if programs are completed and designed with fidelity, and then also targeting specific criminal (inaudible 16:28) needs, then you are going to have better results.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and fidelity, you mean done correctly?

Thomas H. Williams: Done correctly with integrity and also targeting the right aspect that you’re trying to correct.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Because-I’m sorry.

Thomas H. Williams: No, go ahead.

Leonard Sipes: There’s this whole controversy of how much emphasis do you place on the lower level offender, and how much emphasis do you place on the high level offender? And the research basically saying that you get your biggest bang for your buck by going after that high-level, high-risk offender.

Thomas H. Williams: Well that’s true, and several points in going back to the 1997 conference that was held in Seattle really looked at five areas in terms of that whole conference and the discussion. One is assessments, you really need to determine who you have before you-and what kind of-through your assessment process, you’re going to determine what the risk level that person has and what that risk is to reoffend.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, well I’m going to stop you there. Can you really figure out, now remember the public doesn’t like this-

Thomas H. Williams: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -because for decades, people were being released from prison with the sense of he’s rehabilitated, and he goes out five weeks later and commits a terrible crime.

Thomas H. Williams: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: So the public doesn’t have a lot of trust with us when we say that we can gain a fairly decent sense as to what the offender is in terms of their level of seriousness, in terms of their future criminality. Have we improved in terms of our ability to assess a person to figure out who he is?

Thomas H. Williams: Well I think we have improved dramatically over the years and I like to look at our process as being one of progression in which we have actually put several building blocks in place to get us to where we are right now. I don’t want to kind of plug certain commercial assessment processes out there, but the LSI is one instrument that a lot of community corrections are using to actually determine the risk level. And we within this agency certainly developed our own instrument, but it’s built on 12 different domains when you look at both those static factors or those factors that don’t change when you look at risk levels of an offender. What I mean, a static factor is like age-

Leonard Sipes: Criminal history.

Thomas H. Williams: Criminal history, those things are not going to change, but also they give you some indication depending on where they are on the scale of this person’s proclivity to commit additional criminal offenses.

Leonard Sipes: We have a computerized scale now.

Thomas H. Williams: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Correct?

Thomas H. Williams: We do.

Leonard Sipes: The auto-screener, which pretty much assesses that individual and lays out how stringently you have to supervise him and what you can do to bring him along in terms of the social skills or employment or drug treatment.

Thomas H. Williams: We’ve been very fortunate within this agency with respect to the money that we receive from Congress. Before we actually implemented our automated version of our assessment process, we looked at the Canadian models. We looked at what they-look at in terms of quote unquote ‘best practices’ when you look at assessments. And we took the good that’s out there and then put it into our system. We looked at 12 different domains, looking at both the static factors and what we call dynamic factors, those things that you can have influence on. And then as a result of that assessment process, we will then have a level of supervision generated by our information system. And more importantly, we have what we call a prescriptive supervision plan. That is-as a result of that assessment process, we will then have goals for supervision written from the standpoint of what the offender has to do, not from the standpoint of what we call in community supervision offices here in the agency (inaudible 20:12) probation officers. But written from the standpoint of what the offender has to do and not from what the staff has to do.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. We’ve got another ten minutes so we’re going to have to hurry it along in terms of what works. So you assess the person-

Thomas H. Williams: Well, we do the assessment, I was talking about that, and we reference to the conference. The conference focuses on five points: assessments, treatment, drug testing or drug monitoring, also folks who (inaudible 20:38) disease, and also relapse. So when you look at those five points that was the basis of the conference.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: How do we actually develop systems around those five things that’s going to help improve success?

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: But the What Works literature looks at several points. And one of the points that’s key to that or one of the factors that may lead up a person to get involved in criminal activity again. What is his attitudes or her attitudes around employment, those things that you can change, education-certainly you can change that, peers association-sometimes we refer to it as criminal associates. That is when you’re grandmother used to say-

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Thomas H. Williams: ‘Watch who you hang with because,’ or you know-

Leonard Sipes: ‘You are who you hang with.’

Thomas H. Williams: You are who you hang with. So if you kind of change that process-and also the thinking processes that a person may get involved with. That is a lot of times the offenders that we have are engaged in what we call criminal thinking, that is their associations will lead to things that will kind of get them into trouble. You and I would walk down the street and see a car door open, package on the car seat-we would probably open the car door, lock the car door so that doesn’t happen. A person that’s more-has a criminal event sees the package on the seat, car door open will actually open that car door and then take that package out.

Leonard Sipes: I remember talking to a person in the Maryland prison system who at one time said to me-who assaulted a woman who made a wrong turn up his street, and the sense was, ‘if she’s stupid enough to come into my street, she deserves to get what she got.’

Thomas H. Williams: Right.

Leonard Sipes: And I’m saying, ‘man,’

Thomas H. Williams: I know.

Leonard Sipes: Talk about somebody who needs to look at life a little bit differently.

Thomas H. Williams: A little bit differently, right.

Leonard Sipes: Yes. And that’s what you’re talking about?

Thomas H. Williams: Well that’s correct. We’re trying to get through the staff that we have and the trainings that they receive-is to try to get our folks that we have charged to supervise to look at life a little bit differently. And not so much look at life a little bit differently-

Leonard Sipes: But think about life differently.

Thomas H. Williams: And they’ll also act on that.

Leonard Sipes: Yes.

Thomas H. Williams: As part of the social learning theory for which all of our staff were trained on has to do with two different aspects, one of which is that people learn by observing. And in addition to that, people learn by the type of reinforcements that they have whether it’s negative or positive reinforcements. So if you can couple the observation and the positive reinforcing for what you want folks to do in terms of behavior change, you have to model that behavior. So if you could model the type of behavior that you want the persons-

Leonard Sipes: What do you mean by that, model the behavior?

Thomas H. Williams: Well for an example, if I’m an example for you in terms of-and sometimes we do this through role play in terms of modeling, if I got a beef with someone in the community and my first reaction (inaudible 23:16) look at that person’s history is to pick up something and knock that person in the head, where is that going to lead you? That’s going to lead you into difficulty.

Leonard Sipes: Obviously.

Thomas H. Williams: Right. So what you try to do is try to model-how do you deal with that anger? How do you deal with that aggression?

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: So let’s do a little role play and say well okay the guy comes down the street, he says something to you, and your first reaction is to get a pipe and knock him in the head. Well let’s try to think about that a different way.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s what we call cognitive reconditioning.

Thomas H. Williams: Well restructuring is a term that is-

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: But there’s a lot to cognitive restructuring, and it has to really deal with the way that the person thinks so that he doesn’t think in a way that’s going to get them into difficulty.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: In a very simplistic way of trying to explain this to your listeners there.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Thomas H. Williams: But those are some of the basic tenants that we in the United States and also with this agency, that we’ve been going through for the past couple years. Our What Works transition really has been in place for -I guess we’ve been on a four or five-year trek with this in terms of we brought in from the University of Cincinnati one of the top persons in the field to come in to talk with us, that’s the management staff in terms of the whole philosophy.

Leonard Sipes: Management staff here at Court Services.

Thomas H. Williams: At Court Services, correct. And then we went through a process where we had our line workers, another associate of (inaudible 24:38) came in and talked with us in terms of just the philosophy of it. Then we brought in another group that actually helped us through the day-to-day applications.

Leonard Sipes: The bottom line in all of this is that we’ve got to do two things and this is incredibly difficult to do. I’m not quite sure the public will ever understand how incredibly difficult it is to do. We’ve got to A: supervise, we’ve got to hold offenders accountable. We do that with lots of contact, we do that by enforcing the special conditions of the parole commission or the court. We have very good supervision ratios, in other words, we have where in many parts of the country, it’s a 150 parole and probation offenders to one parole and probation agent.

Thomas H. Williams: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Here we have 50 or less in terms of the ratio with our community supervision officers. So we drug test the dickens out of our offenders and we have lots of contact with them. And we’re pretty-we hold them accountable for their behavior and to enforce the special conditions. Consequently, at the same time, we know that the research, and tell me if I’m wrong, that you can not simply supervise them. The more you supervise them, the more you recidivate them, the more you put them back in prison, it’s like why have community supervision at all? So services have got to be their drug treatment, mental health treatment, anger management, day reporting-and there’s a lot more that I haven’t even touched that this agency offers. So it’s gotta be that combination of accountability and treatment, correct or incorrect?

Thomas H. Williams: Well you’re correct in that, and what you just referenced are some of the early intensive supervision studies. And part of the problem with some of the early intensive supervision studies was that they target the wrong folks in terms of they had lower case loads, they had a high level of contacts with the offenders. And then what we saw was a lot of folks get revoked and then go to prison.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Thomas H. Williams: The difference between that and I guess the process that we’re trying to implement here with Evans(ph) based practices is that you have to target the right folks. You have to target the right persons and you have to give the doses of treatment or program correct at the time that the person needs it, and you have to also remember that everyone doesn’t learn at the same level. So your programming that you’re trying to impart or the instructions that you try to impart has to be done at a level that a person can understand it and be receptive to it and then apply that. So that’s the difference between the early intensive supervision studies that were done by the Rand Corporation-well most of the studies were in California, but Rand was the group that actually looked at that, and for what we’re actually doing now. And that’s the market difference. And you’re right in what you’re saying, we as a community correction agency, the bottom line is can we slow the rate of return to folks going to prison? Because that’s eventually how we’re going to be-

Leonard Sipes: Right, and thereby protect the public.

Thomas H. Williams: Right. And I think from our standpoint, we’re making some very good headway in that process of really slowing the rate of return to prison for folks that we have under supervision. Still high in terms of revocation rate, but not as high as it really could be.

Leonard Sipes: And quite frankly, the evidence has been difficult throughout the country in terms of a variety of research that suggests that they still continue to go back to prison in high numbers. But we do have research on a part of the state of Washington that took a look at research across the country and throughout the world and come to find that quite a few of the programs that they looked at, including the model that we say that we employ, have some-can reduce recidivism.

Thomas H. Williams: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Can reduce rearrests, can protect the public.

Thomas H. Williams: But you know Len, that’s right in terms of the Washington state study, and I would urge your listeners if they do have an opportunity to get on the website and then look at those studies, they’re very interesting. That doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the staff who can actually put the application in. And I would say from where I sit within this agency, you couldn’t ask for a better group of personnel to work for, they’re very dedicated, very intelligent, they know the information, they know the literature and they can apply it. And that’s why we’re seeing the level of success that we are right now.

Leonard Sipes: Well we have some of the best paid, literally best trained parole and probation agents slash community supervision officers anywhere in the country.

Thomas H. Williams: Well that’s true, they get paid well, but they also put out a lot too. And we’re very proud of the fact of the quality of the folks that we have within the agency and we’re also really proud of the fact that we are able to recruit from all over the country to come to work for us.

Leonard Sipes: Thomas H. Williams. Tom Williams, a true veteran of community corrections. Ladies and gentlemen, this D.C. Public Safety, I’m glad that you were with us today. My name is Len Sipes, watch us next time for another exciting podcast or video cast as we discuss important issues within the criminal justice system. Have yourself a great day.

[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


Un podcast en Espanol sobre los requisitos para supervision de Libertad Condicional y Probacion en DC: Parole and Probation in DC-Supervision Requirements-Spanish Language Podcast

This Radio Program is available at

[Programa de radio disponible en]

[La grabación comienza]


Alex Durán: Hola y bienvenidos a DC Public Safety.  Este es su huéspede Alex Durán.  Ahora tenemos un podcast muy especial dedicado a la población que habla el idioma de español.  Este programa proveerá una sinopsis de Court Services and Offenders Survision Agency, también referido a CSOSA. CSOSA es una agencia federal de la rama de gobierno ejecutiva, cual provee servicios de libertad condicional y probación a la capital de Washington, D.C.  Mis invitados son Alex Fernándes, un oficial de supervisión y Reyna Cartagena, una supervisora en la Oficina de Probación.  Alex y Reyna, bienvenidos a DC Public Safety.

Reyna Cartagena: Gracias, Alex.

Alex Fernándes:  Gracias, Alex.

Alex Durán: Díganme un poco -vamos a empezar con Alex.  Este es el show de Alex y Alex (risas).  Dime un poco de tu pasado, Alex.  ¿De dónde tú eres?

Alex Fernándes: Yo nació aquí en D.C. en North West.  Mi mamá es de Nicaragua, mi papá de Brasil.

Alex Durán: Que bien dice Brasil, ¿verdad? Se nota que tienes un acento como brasileño,.

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto.

Alex Fernández:   Brasileño.

Alex Durán: ,hablando el español.  De tu mamá y tu papá, ¿cuál de los dos tuvo más influencia en el idioma, mejor dicho, en tu vida?

Alex Fernándes: Mi mamá.

Alex Durán: Tu mamá.

Alex Fernándes: Uh-Hunh (afirmativo).

Alex Durán: Entonces, ¿se hablaba más el español en el hogar?

Alex Fernándes: Yeah (risas).

Alex Durán: Interesante, interesante.  Pero, ¿no perdiste el portugués?

Alex Fernándes: No.

Alex Durán: Siempre, todavía se habla.

Alex Fernándes:  Yo tengo mi papá ahí hablando portugués solo ese.

Alex Durán: Que bueno, y me imagino que les encanta mucho el fútbol.

Alex Fernándes: El fútbol también (risas).

Alex Durán:  Interesante, ahora tú, Reyna.  ¿De dónde tú eres?

Reyna Cartagena: Yo nací aquí también como Alex y mi mamá también es nicaragüense, no sé si somos familiares (risas).  Hay que investigar eso (risas).  Mi papá es cubano y he estado aquí toda mi vida.

Alex Durán: Que interesante.  En tu hogar es obvio que se hablaba solo el español, pero, detecto un poquito también del cubano ahí, ¿aprendiste un poco de?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, me crié con mi mamá y me casé con un puertorriqueño, pues, por eso, tal vez, notas un poco de la isla, pero no es la isla cubana, es la isla puertorriqueña que notas ahí mismo (risas).  Después de 11 años de casada ya me dejó algo en el idioma (risas).

Alex Durán: Bien interesante.  La opinión de los 2, ¿ustedes creen que esta agencia es multicultural?

Reyna Cartagena: Yo creo que si y también en estos años recién pasados, la agencia ha tenido eso como una meta y yo creo, yo creo que está cumpliendo, la agencia si está cumpliendo con esa meta.

Alex Durán: Entonces, el plan de esta agencia es de atraer gente de varias, varias experiencias de otras culturas, idiomas.  Tenemos aquí a alguien con tanta experiencia, por ejemplo, como Alex que habla no solo español, habla portugués, también habla el inglés perfectamente, una persona que habla 3 idiomas trabajando en esta agencia.  Obviamente esta agencia tiene mucho deseo de mejorar la calidad de servicio que provee y de eso es de lo que vamos a hablar un poco ahora, de los servicios que se le proveen a la comunidad hispana.  Afuera de los 3 idiomas que hablas, Alex, dinos un poco más de tu pasado, tu experiencia, ¿dónde has trabajado anteriormente?

Alex Fernándes: Bueno, antes yo estuve trabajando en el military, estuve en el ARMY para 3 años cuando termino la escuela de High School y por eso yo fui a University of Maryland para 4 años y cogió mi bachelor’s degree de Criminal Justice, y pues yo entro aquí en 2007, no [fue] 2006.

Alex Durán: En -como aproximadamente en septiembre me dijiste.

Alex Fernándes: Aja.

Alex Durán: En septiembre.

Alex Fernándes: Tengo aquí como más de 6 a, 6 meses.

Alex Durán: Y, en esos 6 meses, Alex, ¿puedes decir que tu experiencia ha sido buena?

Alex Fernándes: Sí, puedo decir eso.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿era lo que esperabas?

Alex Fernándes: Bueno, cuando yo entro no tenía una, ¿cómo decirlo?, experience, yo no sabía que voy a hacer aquí, pero después de mi training y todo eso, yo sabía más de probation y también de parole.

Alex Durán: Okay.  Y, tú Reyna, ¿cuánto tiempo has trabajado en esta agencia?

Reyna Cartagena: En esta agencia yo he trabajado de que, desde que lo crearon.  O sea, la agencia se creo en el ’97 y yo entré en el ’98.  Era parte de la primera clase, pero no pude asistir la primera clase porque quedé embarazada con mi hijo ahí (risas), eso es otra historia para otro podcast (risas).  Pues, y he trabajado en este sistema desde el ’95.

Alex Durán: Desde el ’95, increíble.  Y, ¿cómo ha sido tu experiencia, Reyna, en esta agencia?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, he -ha sido una experiencia tremenda, algo que cada día es diferente, interesante, y es una carrera que nunca me imaginaba tener, pero estoy bien agradecida porque es algo que, que -o sea, todos los días yo llego al trabajo esperando algo diferente y siempre me deja, siempre dejo los días, o sea, satisfecha, o sea, contenta.

Alex Durán: Contenta.  Y, Alex, en -¿tú trabajas directamente con, con los clientes, es así?

Alex Fernándes: Sí.

Alex Durán: Okay.  Me imagino que Reyna como supervisora no los ve tan seguido como tú los ves diaria.

Alex Fernándes: Todos los días.

Alex Durán: Todos los días, ¿como cuántos clientes aproximadamente te toca supervisar?

Alex Fernándes: Yo tengo como 30 gente ahora.

Alex Durán: Treinta personas.  Y, estamos hablando de no solo hispanos, sino que de las 2 comunidades.

Alex Fernándes: Los 2, que hablan español y también inglés.

Alex Durán:   Okay.  Y, estas personas que supervisas, más que todo, ¿qué tipos de problemas es lo que por cual tú tienes que resolver?

Alex Fernándes: ¿De cuál?

Alex Durán: ¿Qué clase de problemas tienen estas personas, principalmente?

Alex Fernándes: De drogas.

Alex Durán: De drogas.  ¿Hay servicios en la comunidad para estos hispanos?

Alex Fernándes: Pues, tenemos servicios en CSOSA y también in the community para eso, tenemos lo -tenemos meetings, tenemos, tenemos mucho, muchas cosas y que ha ayudado para eso.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿qué es lo que tú haces para, para determinar que servicios necesitan?

Alex Fernándes: Hablamos con la gente, mirando que tipo de servicio que necesita, you know, sabiendo que pasó en la vida, solamente hablando con la gente quiero saber, you know, ¿qué pasó antes? ¿Qué necesitan ahora?

Alex Durán: Es -si es que también te toca, me imagino tener buenas relaciones con los familiares y otras personas en la comunidad.

Alex Fernándes: Sí, necesito hablar con la familia, you know, quiero saber más de que está diciendo los clientes que yo tengo.  Hablar con la familia, con la otra gente en la community, you know, quiero saber más de que está diciendo mis clientes para yo poder ayudarlos más, you know, que puedo.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿tú los visitas a estos clientes en la casa, o?

Alex Fernándes: En la casa, donde trabajando, en la calle, y también los otros lados de los servicios que tenemos.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿cuáles son los servicios más grandes o más importantes que necesitan los hispanos en esta comunidad de Washington?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, los clientes hispanos son bastante diferente de los clientes americanos.  Tenemos otros problemas que -culturales, ay, Dios mío, también (risas), pero, primero el alcoholismo es algo bastante grave en la comunidad hispana y eso es algo que tratamos de atacar cuando vemos la primera instancia de uso excesivo de alcohol.  Hay violencia doméstica, desafortunadamente, en nuestra comunidad, algo muy al, -es un problema bastante grave que toca nuestro público, nuestros latinos bastante, y pues ese tema hay que hablar, y, y, y identificarlo al principio para poder ayudar a nuestros clientes que están sufriendo en ese, con ese asunto.  También las drogas en la ciudad, en el Distrito de Columbia, el abuso de drogas es un fenómeno, es algo que afecta bastantes familia, bastantes personas, y en nuestra -con nuestros clientes a veces es el problema principal que ha traído a esta gente en el sistema criminal y también el entender para los latinos ¿qué es supervisión?, o sea , en nuestros países es aceptable, se acepta caminar en las calles con un machete, y en la ciudad, aquí en los Estados Unidos y también mucho menos en el distrito federal de los Estados Unidos, no se puede caminar en la calle con un cuchillo o con un machete.  También en nuestros países puede ser que se acepta beber alcohol en las calles, con los amigos.  Aquí es contra la ley, pues, es un entendimiento básico que necesita nuestra gente.  También, lo que yo he encontrado con los clientes latinos, es que muchas veces no saben escribir ni leer en su propio idioma, pues, estamos trabajando con, con una persona que ni puede, no puede hablar inglés, primero, y hay que manipular o manejar entre una sistema que está escrito en inglés, basado en otro idioma, pero también, no pueden ni hablar o, o escribir el nombre propio de ellos en españ, -el nombre o decir, o leer algo en español, pues, nos hace doble la dificultad de trabajar con esta, con este tipo de clientes.  Y, como le digo, entendiendo el sistema y tratando de llegar a un punto que ellos pueden seguir las leyes y cumplir con estas obligaciones.

Alex Durán: Alex, ¿qué tú haces normalmente en, en el día?  Cuando estos clientes te llegan, ¿qué responsabilidades tiene el cliente? ¿Qué tiene que hacer cuando llega a tu oficina y se encuentra contigo?

Alex Fernándes: Yo quiero verificar, you know, si está trabajando, mirando si no está usando drogas.  Si está usando drogas tenemos, no tenemos violations para eso, si tenemos un papel que -tenemos,.

Reyna Cartagena: Un proceso de, de castigo, mejor dicho.

Alex Fernándes: ,sanciones para eso.

Alex Durán: Sanciones.  Y, cuando un cliente te llega por ejemplo, y tú descubres que esa persona te está mintiendo, que tal vez se está reportando, pero tal vez no está cumpliendo en otras condiciones, tal vez está fuera de cumplimiento, será que no está reportándose a un programa, será que está usando drogas otra vez, ¿qué tú haces? ¿Qué es lo primero que tú haces con esa persona?  ¿Lo llevas esposado pa’ la cárcel inmediato? O, ¿qué haces primero? ¿Cuál es la primer sanción?

Alex Fernándes: Tratar de ayudarlo primero.  Mi primera cosa que quiero hacer es ayudarlo.  Después de eso, you know, si esta usando drogas más veces, después de eso, you know, vamos a escribir un violation report a Court, también a parole comission para ponerlo, para terminar el probation o terminar el parole.

Alex Durán: Si la violación, me imagino, es muy, muy grave, entonces lo tienes que llevar a ese punto que tienen que regresarlo a la cárcel o castigarlo, pero, me imagino que nuestra comunidad hispana, de por sí, ya viene con otros problemas.  Por ejemplo, inmigración, asuntos de migración y todo eso, por cual tal vez no se quieran reportar, entonces, ¿qué tú haces para que esos clientes no te tengan miedo y no se alejen de ti y puedan confiar un poco en ti?

Alex Fernándes: La primera cosa, you know, lo dice todo mi gente, sino tiene papeles de immigration, decidme antes de que yo sabe, yo quiero saber, you know, sino tiene papeles, yo puedo ayudarte con immigration.  Tenemos servicio de eso en la community también y,

Alex Durán: Es un problema, pienso yo, porque los hispanos que vienen a este país y están ilegalmente, no saben el idioma, tal vez apenas tienen un trabajo, y de por sí si se meten en problemas con la ley por falta de entendimiento, como dijo, mencionó Reyna hoy temprano, que si andan en la calle con un machete, tal vez solo lo iban a usar para partir un coco, pero los arrestan y los llevan, los mantienen un tiempo presos, de ahí se los mandan a ustedes que los supervisen, y, ¿cómo hacen? ¿Qué es lo que ustedes hacen para prevenir que este mismo problema -no vuelva este cliente al sistema?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, también lo que tenemos -bueno, hay que convencer al cliente, hay que llegar como un punto que ellos tienen confianza en el sistema y en nosotros y estamos trabajando con una -unos clientes que la idea de autoridad, o sea, de la policía, de la Corte, de la cárcel, es algo muy diferente en, en el país de uno que acá, y es algo que tenemos que explicarle y enseñarle, y para convencerlos que no estamos contra ellos, hay -es algo que tenemos que todos los días, todos los días que hablamos con estos clientes, y hablando con la familia, hablando con los padres, los hijos, los primos, los hermanos, y para llegar a un acuerdo que no estamos contra ellos, que queremos ayudarlos y asegurarnos que pueden cumplir con este período de supervisión, y terminar con esto y seguir con sus vidas.

Alex Durán: Es decir, sino cumplen, obviamente los tienen que llevar ante el juez otra vez para que den contabilidad por su comportamiento, mal comportamiento, pero, lo que quiero saber es, si una persona les llega y tiene problemas con asuntos de violencia doméstica, gol, -el esposo está golpeando a la esposa o los hijos, lo que sea, ¿hay servicios para una persona así?

Alex Fernándes: Sí tenemos eso también.  Tenemos servicios de domestic violence, que puede ayudarlo con eso, con cosa de médico, de servicios para hablar de, you know, de que pasó, y,

Alex Durán: Y, ¿hay servicios para alguien que quiere aprender el idioma?  Tal vez parte del problema es porque no habla el idioma.  ¿Hay esos servicios también en su agencia?

Alex Fernándes: Tenemos servicios como esos también en Taylor Street, hay otro lado con CSOSA para aprender inglés, para saber como usar el computador,  cosas, you know, cosas que puede usar para coger un trabajo, te puedes,

Reyna Cartagena: También el servicio más importante que ofrecemos es oficinas que están en la comunidad con nuestros clientes, pues, no hay que caminar hasta un punto de la ciudad a la otra para ver a su oficial.  También, nuestros oficiales trabajan en la comunidad, o sea, fuera de la oficina ellos van y visitan, como mencionaste antes, a los clientes en sus casas, también en las estaciones de policía, en un parque pueden encontrarse con los clientes para poder, para poder hacerlo más fácil para los clientes, en el trabajo, verlos ahí.  Los servicios que tenemos son para empleo, tenemos una unidad que se llama VOTEE, que ayuda a los clientes con el empleo, también con la educación, también con el aprender el inglés. Tenemos servicios para tratamiento de drogas, tenemos contratos con otros programas que ofrecen tratamiento para drogas, residenciales.  También tenemos programas de grupo en la comunidad, si hay un problema, tal vez, con salud mental, hay una unidad que especializa en ese problema, o sea, con esos clientes.  También mencionaste violencia doméstica, hay una unidad que especializa en la supervisión de clientes de violencia doméstica.  También tenemos una unidad que ayuda a las víctimas, porque a veces las víctimas son los propios clientes y tenemos una unidad alcohol y tráfico, o sea, si alguien comete una ofensa que tiene que ver con alcohol y está manejando, o sino tiene que ver con alcohol solo, pues, puede ser que lo supervisan en esa unidad.  Tenemos también una unidad especial pa’ los que tienen crímenes sexuales.  Tenemos servicios para manejar las emociones, o sea, si alguien se enoja demasiado, hay consejería, hay clases que ofrecemos para, para ayudar a esa persona a manejar las emociones mejor, y también tenemos servicios de horas de comunitaria, una unidad que es súper,. -supervisa esa, o sea, no se supervisa, pero ayuda a nuestros clientes a cumplir con esas hora.  Pues, cualquier cosa que el juez ordena o cualquier cosa que la comisión de parole espera, tenemos una unidad o un servicio para cumplir con eso.  Pues, no hay excusa.

Alex Durán: Alex, normalmente cuando tú estás supervisando un cliente, ¿puedes decir que tus clientes hispanos cooperan con las condiciones o son -será los que menos cooperan? En tu opinión, ¿qué puedes decir acerca de eso?

Alex Fernándes: Yo puedo decir, que es la misma cosa, la gente que hablan español o gente hablan inglés, hacen mismo cosa, vaya usar drogas, no va a hacer otros crimes, cosas como así, pienso mismo.

Alex Durán: Es decir, la gente es gente.  Eso, son seres humanos, cometen errores, tienen problemas.

Alex Fernándes: Hacen mismo cosa.

Alex Durán: Y, como tienen estos mismos problemas en la comunidad hispana que cualquier otra comunidad en los Estados Unidos, el papel que ustedes juegan es tan importantísimo, porque como dijo Reyna, ustedes tienen que estar ahí en la comunidad.  Es decir, ya no son una oficina tradicionalmente donde el cliente viene solo a la oficina y los regañan, y los castigan, y los echan presos, sino que los llevan, o mejor dicho, ustedes van directo a la comunidad y les ayudan a encontrar servicios.  Pero, ¿qué hacen – y esta pregunta es para los dos- qué hacen cuando no existen los servicios en la comunidad para ese cliente?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, siempre hay algo que podemos encontrar en la comunidad y lo que hacemos es, buscamos, con la ayuda de nuestra representante comunitaria, la señora González, que para buscar que es lo que se necesita.  Y, hay a veces, hay esperanzas que tiene la Corte, digamos, que en sí no se puede encontrar, pues, lo que pasa en esas instancias, hay que escribirle al juez y pedirle, enseñarle documentación y todo que como hemos tratado de cumplir con este servicio y que no existe.  Hay, hay veces que eso pasa, pero no muchas, no muchas veces.  Siempre si hay algo en la comunidad lo vamos a encontrar, porque ese es el papel que tenemos.

Alex Durán: Es un trabajo me imagino, bien difícil.  Es un trabajo donde ustedes son los que nos protegen en la comunidad.  Estas personas están bajo su cargo mientras están libres y yo no sé como ustedes duermen (risas).  Sinceramente les digo.

Reyna Cartagena: Le digo Alex,.

Alex Durán: Es bien interesante.

Reyna Cartagena: ,no puedo ver las noticias a las 10.  Yo apago el televisión o el televisor en cuanto llego a la casa, porque si veo las noticias no duermo (risas).

Alex Durán: Y, Alex, tú como sos un oficial nuevo, mejor dicho, recién, ¿te gusta el trabajo que tú haces?

Alex Fernándes: Sí, mucho.  Me gusta ayudar a la gente, you know, con los servicios, de terminando y usando drogas, de tomando.

Alex Durán: Bueno, les agradezco mucho.  Ustedes son unas personas, mejor dicho, unos héroes en la comunidad que están combatiendo todos estos problemas y están remendando vidas.  Les agradezco mucho por estar aquí a estas 2 personas tan bellísimas, Alex y Reyna, que están haciendo un gran servicio en la comunidad.  Y, damas y caballeros, oyentes, si ustedes quieren saber un poco más acerca de esta agencia de CSOSA, Court Services and Offerders Survision Agency, pueden ir directamente a nuestro website que es W-W-W dot C-S-O-S-A dot G-O-V (spelled in English).  Y, en el español W-W-W punto C-S-O-S-A punto G-O-V (spelled in Spanish).  Les agradecemos mucho y este ha sido un anuncio de DC Public Safety.  Muchas gracias, Reyna y Alex.  Sigan adelante en su carrera.

Reyna Cartagena: Gracias, Alex.


[Extremos de la grabación]

Welcome to “DC Public Safety”- podcasts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

[Bienvenidos a “DC Public Safety” -podcasts sobre el crimen, ofensores criminales y el systema de justicia criminal.]

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

[Meta terms: crimen, criminales, justicia criminal, parole, libertad condicional, prisión, tratamiento de la droga, reingreso, delincuentes del sexo]


Un podcast en Espanol sobre los servicios de tratamiento que se ofrece atraves de la Libertad Condicional y Probacion en DC: Parole and Probation in DC-Treatment Services-Spanish Language Podcast

This Radio Program is available at

[Programa de radio disponible en]

[La grabación comienza]


Alex Durán: Hola y bienvenidos a DC Public Safety. Soy Alex Durán, su huéspede. Ahora tenemos un podcast muy especial dedicado a la población del idioma que habla español. Este programa proveerá una sinopsis de Court Services and Offenders Surpevision Agency, también referido a CSOSA, no Samy Sosa, sino que CSOSA. CSOSA es una agencia federal de la rama de gobierno ejecutiva, cual provee servicios de libertad condicional y probación a la capital de Washington, D.C. Mi invitada es Reyna Cartagena, quien es una supervisora en la rama de supervisión de servicios en esta agencia. Reyna, bienvenida a DC Public Safety.

Reyna Cartagena: Gracias, Alex. Y, ¿cómo estás?

Alex Durán: Muy bien. Dime, Reyna, en tu papel como supervisora, explícanos un poco de cómo llegaste a esta posición, mejor dicho.

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, empecé primero, después de la universidad, empecé trabajando donde la cárcel y trabajé ahí casi un año con los presos, y después de ese año apliqué para ser oficial de probatoria en la unidad de abuso de niño, aquí en el Distrito de Columbia, y trabajé ahí un par de años. Después, apliqué para hacer el mismo papel, pero, trabajando con jóvenes y trabajé ahí un par de años, y después llegué a CSOSA. Trabajé en la Unidad de Diagnóstico, o sea, escribir repor, -investigaciones, reportes, sobre los que estaban esperando sentencia en el Distrito de Columbia, en la Corte del Superior del Distrito de Columbia, y ya me promovieron de esa posición, y he sido supervisora de una unidad de supervisión general desde el 2002.

Alex Durán: Antes de trabajar para CSOSA, mencionaste que trabajaste en la cárcel y también con abuso.

Reyna Cartagena: Sí.

Alex Durán: De, de,

Reyna Cartagena: De los niños, aja.

Alex Durán: ,es, es, me imagino que fue una tarea bien difícil. Dime, cuando trabajaste con los jóvenes, esos casos, así. ¿Cuántos casos aproximadamente te tocaba por mes o?

Reyna Cartagena:Bueno, los jóvenes, ¿de los niños abusados o qué? Bueno, yo tenía un caso, deja ver, bueno, casos como 30, digamos 30-35 niños. A veces habían 5 niños en la misma familia, pues, un caso podía contener o tener varios niños. Eso si era difícil, súper difícil.

Alex Durán: Y me imagino que no solo niños, ¿verdad? hispanos, pero de,

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto. La mayoría de mis casos si eran niños de familia hispana, pero también tenía niños americanos y era algo bastante difícil, pero, ahora yo aprendí bastante de esa experiencia. De cada de mi experiencia aprendí bastante y eso me ha ayudado mucho en lo que estoy haciendo ahora.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿cuál fue lo que te motivó para agarrar un trabajo así? Porque ese es un trabajo donde lleva, no solo mucha responsabilidad en la comunidad, de proteger esos niños, pero de por sí, es, es un trabajo bien difícil.

Reyna Cartagena: Es difícil el trabajo solo, pero también las emociones es algo que tienes -tiene uno que separarse psicológicamente varias veces de lo que está pasando en el caso, porque sino eso tiene la capacidad de afectar a uno bien profundamente, personalmente. So, eso era difícil.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿hubo algún caso sin mencionar, verdad, los particulares, pero hubo algún caso que en realidad si te impactó?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, cada uno de mis casos si me dejó impactada, eso era todos los días. Yo no sabía que era que me iban a dar, pero, había un caso de una niña que fue abusada sexualmente, desafortunadamente, pero ella era muy joven para, para dar más información de, de quien la asalto.

Alex Durán: Sí, comprendo.

Reyna Cartagena: Y, pues había varios -varias personas en su vida que sospechaban, incluyendo el hermano y el papá, y eso fue bastante difícil para mí, porque el papá y los hermanos tenía derecho de visitarla y yo todavía tenía que ayudarlo sostener esa familia, en vez de separarlo. Pues, eso fue bastante difícil y viendo a esos niños crecer, a ser jóvenes, después adultos, como estos problemas empezaron en su niñez, eso fue difícil también, pero,

Alex Durán: ¿Qué -mejor dicho, en tu vida, qué fue lo que te llevó a este tipo de trabajo? Me parece que todos estos trabajos que has tenido han sido relacionados.

Reyna Cartagena: Sí.

Alex Durán: Y, ¿cómo es que llegaste a esta disciplina o esta profesión? Es algo en tu niñez que tal vez te dio esta motivación para buscar un trabajo así, o ¿qué en particular?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, en la universidad estudié Sociología y eso me fascinaba y todavía me fascina, y pues eso, me trajo al sistema, you know, justicia criminal, porque ese sistema, hay varios -hay varias situaciones, hay diferentes personas, personalidades, diferentes cosas que hacen, que no hacen, y es algo que siempre cambia. O sea, yo sabía que teniendo una carrera en este sistema, en esta área, nunca iba a tener un día igual que el otro, y eso fue lo que me -todavía lo que me atrae, eso es lo que me encanta de este tipo de trabajo.

Alex Durán: Un poquito de ti personalmente de, ¿de dónde tú eres?

Reyna Cartagena: Yo nací aquí en Washington, D.C. Mi papá es cubano, mi mamá es de Nicaragua, y me casé con un puertorriqueño, pues, (risas) estoy bastante mezclada, y nada, y he estado aquí toda mi vida. Tengo 2 hijos, un hijastro.

Alex Durán: Okay.

Reyna Cartagena: Y, ya vivimos aquí cerca en Washington, cerca de Washington, D.C., y he trabajado aquí desde que me gradué de la universidad.

Alex Durán: Y, en tu carrera, en tus experiencias, ¿qué obstáculos te han llegado en tu camino, digamos, para llegar hasta donde has llegado hoy día?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, primero, saliendo de la universidad nadie me quería dar una oportunidad, porque no tenía la experiencia, y por eso apliqué para ser oficial en la cárcel, porque en esa época había muchas posiciones, porque nadie quería trabajar en una cárcel, yo no creo que ni ahora es una posición que es muy popular. Pero, cuando cons, -cuando me dieron ese trabajo, eso me abrió las puertas, pero profundamente, porque conocía otra gente, fui a conferencias, llegué a conocer a otras personas en el Distrito de Columbia que trabajaba para la Corte, y sino era por eso, sino fue por eso, yo no creo que estuviera aquí ahora, trabajando por CSOSA. Eso sí me ayudó bastante.

Alex Durán: Y, esa experiencia me imagino que te sirvió hasta aún lo que estás haciendo ahora. Después que te saliste de ese trabajo y llegaste a trabajar con los jóvenes, ¿qué fue lo que te hizo cambiar ahora de población, de dejar de trabajar con jóvenes y ahora cambiar manos, mejor dicho, y trabajar con adultos? Me imagino que los problemas son un poco más complicados todavía.

Reyna Cartagena: Más complicados, pero también algunos son más fácil, porque trabajando con los jóvenes también es difícil, es difícil trabajar con un joven y esperar que ellos entiendan las responsabilidades, y también en cualquier sistema judicial van a dar más oportunidades, más chance a los jóvenes, y el, digamos, la responsabilidad era más mía para asegurar que esos jóvenes siguieran las leyes, y siguieran las -cumplieran con las obligaciones, y por eso yo quería trabajar con los adultos, porque de verdad me cansó un poco de tener tanta responsabilidad sobre estos jóvenes, y cada vez que llegaba a la Corte para decirle al juez, mira, tal y tal, fulano de tal no está haciendo esto, no está haciendo lo otro, la Corte varias veces le daban más chance porque la edad y la falta de -o sea, no eran muy maduros para entender las obligaciones. Para los adultos, todavía la responsabilidad la tengo yo, pero también los adultos tienen más que ver con su supervisión que los jóvenes, es mi opinión, por eso quise cambiar.

Alex Durán: Y, cuando ya empezaste a trabajar con CSOSA, dime un poco de tu experiencia cuando encontraste, tropezaste con los mismos obstáculos que viste anteriormente en tu carrera, o ¿fue algo diferente?

Reyna Cartagena: Fue algo diferente, porque cuando empecé a trabajar con CSOSA, empecé en la Unidad de Investigaciones y eso me encantaba, porque yo pude investigar, entrevistar, hablar con familiares, hablar con los clientes, hablar con las víctimas, con los abogados, y el papel mío era para crear como una historia, y tenerla, escribirla para que el juez sepa o conozca esta persona, para que la cárcel si fue que el cliente iba a tener que servir tiempo, para que en la cárcel conozcan a esta persona. Pues, eso, era como un documento que yo estaba creando, que iba hacia ir esa persona desde el primer día hasta el último, y eso me dio bastante, como satisfacción, que yo estaba dándole ese servicio, cumpliendo con ese servicio para la ciudad.

Alex Durán: Entonces, ¿era como evaluaciones que hacías de esos clientes?

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto.

Alex Durán: Un papel muy grande, me imagino que jugabas, porque tus reportes decidía si el juez les daba libertad a estos clientes, ¿eso es lo que me quieres decir?

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto, sí.

Alex Durán: ¡Wow!

Reyna Cartagena: Sí, y también servicios, las recomendaciones que yo daba, eso le ayudaba al juez decidir, o que si los vamos a dejar libres, pues, en la comunidad, ¿qué es lo que esta persona va a tener que hacer o cumplir? Y, eso fue un papel muy grande para mí.

Alex Durán: Me imagino que cada cliente, ¿verdad?, cada caso es diferente.

Reyna Cartagena: Sí.

Alex Durán: Pero, ¿hubo algún caso en particular que algún cliente te provocó y te (risas) -¿cómo puedo decirte?- te causó tomarlo un poco más serio?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, yo tuve un -varios, varios, pero sí, uno que todavía tengo una copia de ese reporte, porque eso me sirve como un recordatorio, o sea, algo que yo puedo mirar y cuando tengo duda de ¿por qué estoy aquí? Pero, este cliente que era latino, no hablaba inglés, él violó a una amiga, y era un ataque bien grave, y ella le dio con un sartén, y por eso después que él la atacó, cuando la estaba atacando, que fue a la cocina, ella no sé como logró hacerlo, pero cogió el sartén y le dio por la cabeza, y eso él se fue, pero antes que se fue le dio, la peleó como un hombre. Y, cuando yo vi las fotos de esa mujer y yo vi cuanto sufrió ella y la familia, eso me impactó bastante. Cuando yo lo entrevisté en la cárcel, él lo negó todo, bueno, ¿quién lo va a admitir? (Risas) Pero, con toda la evidencia y con todo lo que pasó él todavía lo estaba negando y quería crear una historia que ella era loca, o sea, que estaba sufriendo de problemas psicológicos, y eso sí me afectó bastante. En ese caso yo trabajé, pero, fuerte, para asegurarme que ese señor quedaba, quedara preso, y todavía está preso, y va a seguir preso bastante tiempo (risas).

Alex Durán: Pero, ¿hubo algún caso de todos los que has tenido, en cual te dejó un impacto tal vez positivo, es mejor dicho, donde ese cliente logró cambiar su comportamiento o algo? Danos algo.
Reyna Cartagena: Sí. Algo positivo, okay. (Risas) Había un cliente que le escribí el reporte, él entró con una -un crimen de asalto también, pero asalto contra otro hombre, y me dijo que él había peleado con este otro hombre por la hermana, algo pasó entre el hombre y la víctima y la hermana. Él se sintió -él quería ayudarle a la hermana y pues empezó a pelear con el señor, y yo vi en los pocos, era como 3 meses que yo estaba, que yo estaba trabajando con él, y terminando el reporte que él consiguió su propio negocio, un taller, y yo lo vi como crecer, como hombre, desde cuando lo conocí, hasta que entregué ese reporte, y le dieron -el juez le dio proba, probation, probatoria, y él me dijo que él -la experiencia que él tuvo en esos 3 meses lo ayudó y él en esos 3 meses decidió que quería hacer en su vida. La primera vez que él tenía que sentarse para decidir como iba a manejar su vida. Pues, por eso, me imagino que él está bien ahora, siguiendo con su negocio, y tal vez yo lo ayudé un poco para, para llegar a un plan para el resto de su vida.

Alex Durán: Me imagino que no, esta carrera no te atrayó por dinero, sino por la motivación de hacer un impacto en la vida de otros seres humanos, de cambiar vidas, y, yo lo que quiero saber ahora es, ¿cómo o cómo es que decidiste de dejar de trabajar en esa capacidad y después aplicar para supervisora o llegar a ese nivel

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto.

Alex Durán: ¿A -en qué punto de tu vida hubo alguna voz que te dijo, Reyna, ya es tiempo? ¿Qué pasó?
Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, era, yo creo que era una voz, yo no sé, eso era algo que no, no lo estaba pensando mucho, pero cuando me llegó la oportunidad, yo dije, bueno, vamos a ver. Voy a aplicar, porque ya en esa, en esa época ya me sentí muy -con mucha confianza, o sea, ya tenía muchos, varios años en diagnóstico, y ya tenía la experiencia de supervisar los jóvenes, también trabajé en la cárcel, pues, ya tenía la experiencia que yo pensé era suficiente para poder probar ser supervisora. Y, yo de verdad, llené la aplicación y lo, lo entregué pensando que esta vez no lo iba a hacer, o sea, no me iban a escoger. Pero, primera vez que apliqué y me dieron la promoción, pues, alguien allá arriba pensó que era el tiempo adecuada, pero,

Alex Durán: Sos bien modesta. ¿Cuáles han sido los obstáculos que has encontrado como supervisora y como una mujer hispana?

Reyna Cartagena: Sí. Bueno, manejando las personalidades de otra gente, o sea, aprendiendo como trabajan un equipo, la diferente, como le digo, las diferentes personalidades.

Alex Durán: ¿Cuántas personas tienes?

Reyna Cartagena: Yo tengo 8, 8 personas, 8 oficiales, también una asistente, no tengo esa posición ahora llenada, pero ojalá pronto me dan otra asistente, y eso fue un poco difícil porque trabajando como una oficial uno se encarga solo en su trabajo, en lo que le espera bajo su caso. Pero, como supervisora, hay que manejar los casos de 8 personas y los horarios, y los clientes, y yo soy una que -una supervisora que soy bien interesada en lo que está pasando en mi equipo, siempre estoy habando con los clientes, quiero saber como las cosas se están manejando, y es algo que todos los días hay mucho trabajo que hacer, mucho trabajo que hacer.

Alex Durán: Normalmente, ¿cómo es tu rutina en el día? Explícame un poquito, sin darnos muchos detalles, pero, explícanos, ¿cómo es un día típico para ti?

Reyna Cartagena: Un día típico, tengo que tratar de tener como un plan para el día, pero, la mayoría de las veces, ese plan ni lo veo, porque hay un crisis, siempre hay crisis con los clientes que tenemos, y a veces yo tengo que, que ayudar a manejar ese crisis y ayudar a ese cliente. Tengo que chequear en como están mis empleados, tengo que cumplir con lo que pide mi jefe, si hay reportes, si hay estatística, si hay un proyecto, tengo que asegurarme que eso está ya entregado, y también hablar con los clientes que tienen violaciones, o sea, que no están cumpliendo con sus obligaciones bajo supervisión, tengo que tener tiempo para ellos, para ver que va a pasar con los casos. Y, también muchos, muchos reportes y muchos casos que tengo que revisar, ¡todos los días! Para estar segura que todo está bien.

Alex Durán: Normalmente, ¿cuántos ofensores supervisas tu equipo, en totalidad?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, tenemos 400 clientes, pero, no todos son activos.

Alex Durán: Y, de esos, ¿como cuántos son hispanos?

Reyna Cartagena: Bueno, yo tengo como 2 hispanos cada mes, que son nuevos, nuevos clientes. Yo tengo 3 oficiales que hablan español, pues, entre los 3 divido, hay que dividir los casos de hispanos. No tengo muchos hispanos ahora, y yo superviso la mayoría de las áreas en el tercer distrito aquí en Washington, D.C. y la mayoría de los latinos viven en el cuarto distrito, puede haber una diferencia en los números, pero tengo como 2 o 3 que me tocan cada mes y ellos los divido.

Alex Durán: Y, me -en lo que estuve hablando contigo hoy temprano o anteriormente, me mencionaste que también trabajaste en una capacidad donde te tocó en un comité de la ciudad, de combatir el problema de las Maras.

Reyna Cartagena: Exacto, exacto. En el 2003 las Maras, bueno, tenía un impacto bien fuerte aquí en la ciudad con -ahí en la calle de Mount Pleasant, ahí en esa área, Adams Morgan, y en el 2003 el jefe de la Policía Metropolitana aquí en el distrito, creó un grupo específicamente para combatir las pandillas o las Maras, y CSOSA fue invitado a ser parte de ese grupo, y desde el 2003 tenemos representación en ese grupo. Uno de los oficiales míos, Dan Spatafora, él es el miembro de ese grupo, y cada semana nos reunimos para hablar de como están las cosas de la Mara, y con la ayuda de CSOSA, el grupo ha podido combatir bastante las actividades criminales de las pandillas en esta ciudad.

Alex Durán: Están jugando un papel muy importante en combatir este problema o reducir la violencia, mejor dicho, en la ciudad y el crimen en general.

Reyna Cartagena: Sí.

Alex Durán: Y, en una palabra, Reyna, ¿cómo puedes -en una sola palabra- cómo puedes describir tu experiencia con CSOSA?

Reyna Cartagena: En una sola palabra, ¡wow!

Alex Durán: En una sola palabra.

Reyna Cartagena: ¡Wow! Esa es la palabra (risas). No, bueno, es difícil, eso es difícil, porque he tenido tanta experiencia aquí, tal vez, interesante. Aunque tal vez es una palabra no adecuada, pero, de verdad, cada día que vengo a trabajar, es un día interesante. Cada cosa que me ha pasado aquí en esta agencia, súper interesante, y es algo que no estoy lista ahora de dejarlo. Estoy lista a seguir pa’alante, como dicen los puertorriqueños (risas).

Alex Durán: Tienes un papel inmenso y te agradecemos mucho por estar aquí con nosotros este día. Damas y caballeros si ustedes quieren oír un poquito más, tal vez entrevistas de otras personas y sus experiencias en esta agencia, pueden hacerlo a través de este programa de DC Public Safety, y también les quiero invitar que vayan al website W-W-W dot C-S-O-S-A dot G-O-V (spelled in English). That’s W-W-W dot C-SOSA dot GOV (Spelled in English). Y, les agradecemos mucho. Este ha sido una presentación de DC Public Safety. Reyna, muchas gracias por estar con nosotros, te deseo lo mejor en tu carrera.


[Extremos de la grabación]

Welcome to “DC Public Safety”- podcasts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

[Bienvenidos a “DC Public Safety” -podcasts sobre el crimen, ofensores criminales y el systema de justicia criminal.]

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

[Meta terms: crimen, criminales, justicia criminal, parole, libertad condicional, prisión, tratamiento de la droga, reingreso, delincuentes del sexo]