Archives for 2007

UK Criminal Justice Professionals Visit CSOSA

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[Audio Begins]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neal Parnell: Most definitely.

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

[Audio Ends]

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

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DC and National Sex Offender Registries

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[Audio Begins]

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

Stephanie Gray: Good morning.

Robert Panizari: Good morning.

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

Robert Panizari: Yes you did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Panizari: The website is at

Leonard Sipes: Okay, one more time, www-

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

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

Stephanie Gray: That is correct.

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie Gray: Yeah.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Gray: Or offenders who are in shelters.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

Stephanie Gray: We have 600 plus.

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

Leonard Sipes: That’s a lot.

Robert Panizari: That’s a lot.

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

Robert Panizari: Okay.

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

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

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

Stephanie Gray: It’s the class B.

Leonard Sipes: And who are the class Bs?

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

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

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

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

Stephanie Gray: Exactly.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

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

Leonard Sipes: All right, go ahead.

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Robert Panizari: Things of that nature.

Leonard Sipes: Understood.

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

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

Robert Panizari: Okay.

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

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

Robert Panizari: Right.

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

Robert Panizari: Somewhere in ballpark, yeah.

Leonard Sipes: [Laughs]

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

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

Robert Panizari: Right.

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

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

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

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes we do.

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

Stephanie Gray: Right, that is correct.

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

Stephanie Gray: Yes.

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

Robert Panizari: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

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

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, please.

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

Leonard Sipes: Right.

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Oh sure.

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Yep.

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

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

Robert Panizari: That’s right.

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

[Audio Ends]

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Previously Incarcerated Persons (PIPS)-An Interview

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[Audio Begins]

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

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

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

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

Darnell Bradford El: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yvonne Cooper: That’s correct.

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

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

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

Yvonne Cooper: That’s correct.

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

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

Leonard Sipes: I’m going to interrupt you-

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

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

Yvonne Cooper: [Laughs] That’s true.

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

Yvonne Cooper: That’s true.

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

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

Leonard Sipes: So they’re going to say-

Yvonne Cooper: Well I didn’t either.

Leonard Sipes: I know.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay. [Laughs]

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

Yvonne Cooper: Sure.

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

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

Yvonne Cooper: No, but they could.

Leonard Sipes: But they’re not.

Yvonne Cooper: No, they’re not-

Leonard Sipes: Not in our criminal justice system.

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

Leonard Sipes: Theoretically.

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

Leonard Sipes: Theoretically.

Yvonne Cooper: Right, theoretically you could.

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

Yvonne Cooper: True.

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

Yvonne Cooper: That’s true.

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

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

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

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

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

Yvonne Cooper: Right.

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

Yvonne Cooper: That’s right.

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

Yvonne Cooper: Let me say-

Leonard Sipes: Okay, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Please continue.

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

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

Darnell Bradford El: The PIPS.

Leonard Sipes: And the Previously Incarcerated Persons.

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard Sipes: We only have a couple minutes left.

Yvonne Cooper: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Audio Ends]

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Mentoring Offenders Released From Prison: A Faith-Based Program

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

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.

[Audio Ends]

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

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History of Community Corrections – An Interview With McKinley Rush

This Radio Program is available at

[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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