Archives for June 2009

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Crack Infested Neighborhood to Safe Precient-Red Hook Justice Center-NCJA

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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to our studios in Downtown, DC. This is DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We have another program with the National Criminal Justice Association and we have people who are really going to be having a very interesting discussion about community courts. And I think we have three extraordinarily interesting people at our microphones today. We have Commissioner Denise O’Donnell of the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services. We have Greg Berman, the Director of the Center For Court Innovation. And we have Judge Alex Calabrese, the Presiding Judge of the Red Hook Community Center. We’re here to discuss community courts. I want to read a little description of the program. Red Hook, once cited as one of the ten most crack infested neighborhoods in the country by Life Magazine, is now home to the safest police precinct in Brooklyn, the subject of a PBS documentary, the Justice Center is being replicated in more than six dozen cities around the world. The Justice Center is the product of a BURN JAG, which is basically the U.S. Department of Justice funded private public partnership that includes the Center for Court Innovation, in the New York State Unified Court System, and the King’s County District Attorney’s Office. And I’ll give you their website, which is www.courtinnovation – c-o-u-r-t-i-n-n-o-v-a-t-i-o-n dot org. And with that long introduction, ladies and gentlemen, we have Commissioner Denise O’Donnell, we have Greg Berman and we have his Honor, Judge Alex Calabrese. And did I pronounce that correct, your Honor?
Alex Calabrese: Cal-ah-braz-ee.
Len Sipes: Cal-ah-braz-ee. I screwed it up every time, didn’t I? All right, Greg, you’re going to start off the program and give me an overview of what we have in terms of the Community Court there at Red Hook.
Greg Berman: Well, sure, Len. And I should say thank you for having us. A number of people that I’ve talked to, when I told them that I was going on this show said that they were big fans of yours. So it’s a pleasure to be here.
Len Sipes: Well, they’d be even bigger fans if I can get the pronunciation of names correctly, but please go ahead. (LAUGHTER)>
Greg Berman: I won’t tell your fan base that you struggled with Alex’s name. So the Red Hook Community Justice Center, really as is all too often in the case of the Criminal Justice system, really grew out of a tragedy. In the early 1990s an elementary school principal in Red Hook Brooklyn was shot dead in broad daylight in his car while looking for a truant student. And he was caught in the crossfire between two rival drug dealers. And it was one of those moments that really kind of shocked the conscious of New York City and landed Red Hook in a neighborhood which is all too often forgotten in New York City. It landed Red Hook on the front pages of numerous magazines and newspapers. And in the aftermath of that tragedy the local DA, Charles Hynes(?), which I think is one of the great DAs that we have in this country, said we need to do two things here. We need to, number one aggressively prosecute the people who committed this act. But that’s not enough. And I give him a lot of credit for vision. If we’re going to attack the problems of Red Hook, and Red Hook, as you said, is a neighborhood that was really struggling in the grips of the drug epidemic and it’s always been kind of a working class and a poor neighborhood, but it really had taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the 1980s. DA Hynes said if we’re going to make lasting change in this neighborhood, it’s no enough, we can’t prosecute our way out of this problem. We need to do something different. And from that kind of seed was born the idea of creating a neighborhood based court that would really try to address local crime, improve the local quality of life and crucially, from my perspective, change the dynamic between the residents of Red Hook, many of whom, as I said, are impoverished. Many of whom are members of minority groups and changed the dynamic between them and the justice system. And I could just recount one story from the early days of planning the project and I had the distinct honor of being the lead planner of the project, when it was first conceived we went around and did door to door interviews with local residents. And we asked them, you know, what was their biggest priorities, what where the problems that were plaguing them. And we said, oh, by the way, tell us what you think about local courts. Twelve percent rated local courts favorably. And, you know, I wasn’t so naive to think that, you know, we were going to get a 100 percent favorability rating for local courts, but 12 percent really just felt, to me, like a kick in the head. You know, courts can’t function without being viewed as legitimate by the citizens they’re designed to serve. And so at the end of the day I think what the Justice Center is trying to do is, yes, address the crime and drug problems in Red Hook, but also at the end of the day bolster public confidence and justice. And I’ve already gone on probably too far, but let me just say two things about how the Justice Center was at least designed to go ahead and do that.
Len Sipes: Okay.
Greg Berman: The first part of the Justice Center is a multifaceted courtroom where one judge, the amazing Alex Calabrese hears cases from criminal court, housing court and family court. And Judge Calabrese, the orientation of that courtroom is what I would call a problem solving orientation. Rather than just processing cases, rather than just trying to move through the calendar to get to the end of the day, Judge Calabrese is trying to use the court case a moment to intervene meaningfully in somebody’s life and try to address the underlying problem, whether it be joblessness, whether it be homelessness, whether it be addiction, whether it be mental illness, that we know hard earned experience often underlies criminal behavior. And so part one of the Justice Center, and Alex can speak to it more eloquently than I can, is this problem solving courtroom. Part two of the Justice Center is using the courthouse as a jumping off point for a range of innovative prevention programs. And those include a peer led youth court. Those include an Ameri-Corp Community Service Program. Those include police/teen theater workshops. They include a unique project which Denise helped us put together, an anti-truancy project. On and on and on we’ve taken the opportunity snap different pieces on to the Red Hook Lego kit to orient the justice system, not just to respond when problems occur, but also try to prevent crime before it occurs.
Len Sipes: But isn’t it interesting in this case, Greg, that a court took the lead. In so many instances, I get a newspaper information from around the country in terms of criminal justice or articles, you very rarely ever see a community court, or court of any kind take the lead in terms of a comprehensive approach involving all members of the criminal justice system. You can see community courts, you could drug courts, you can see mental health courts, but in a lot of cases, I mean, what you’re talking about, what I’m hearing you say is that the community court took the lead in reestablishing a sense of justice for the entire community.
Greg Berman: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think that to be fair, a lot of what we tried to do at least in the early conceptualization of this project, we did borrow elements from other disciplines. And we certainly relied on kind of the theory and the nomenclature behind things like community policing, behind problem oriented policing, behind community prosecution and we tried to translate that into the courts. But in some respect the courts are particularly well positioned to play this role. They are viewed notwithstanding the lack of confidence that people express in courts all too often, they are still viewed as a neutral arbiter. And so they have wonderful convening power. And they have the ability to bring to the table not just kind of the traditional justice system actors; the prosecutors, the defense, probation, but our experiences have indicated that courts can actually reach out to non traditional partners and bring in drug treatment providers. And bring in tenant associations. And bring in other community based organizations to essentially co produce justice.
Len Sipes: And I think that’s impressive. I think it’s very impressive indeed. Your Honor, Alex Calabrese. Did I get it right that time?
Alex Calabrese: You did.
Len Sipes: There we go. Now you took the lead in terms of Red Hook? You’ve been there the entire time. You’ve been there recently. Have you – tell me a little bit about your involvement?
Alex Calabrese: Well, the Center for Court Innovation centered up and really worked with the community to even choose the building. And it was an important building for the Red Hook community that they choose. It was a vacant school house that had always been important to the community. And that’s now where we have the Justice Center. And it’s been my privilege to be the Presiding Judge here since April of 2000 when we opened. We, as Greg indicated, we try to solve problems in the courtroom and in the community. And maybe to give you an example of the difference between the justice center approach and maybe the traditional court approach, Len, would be the following. Let’s say you’ve got, you lose your job and you have three kids to feed, or you’ve got a heroin addiction. Okay? Basically you go to your local hardware store, Home Depot or Lowes, you steal a drill, you sell it for $10 dollars on the street so you can eat, or feed your kids, or feed your drug addiction. The traditional court approach is you get arrested, you come in, you’re charged with shoplifting. They look at your record, you either get community service, maybe if it’s the first time, or you get jail time. When you’re done with your offense, whether it was community service or jail time, and you get out and you’re finished with that, you still have three kids to feed or you still have a heroin addition to feed. And then the next thing you do is you go back to the hardware store, steal another drill, and that’s how you end up constantly recycling through the system. Our approach is to look and say, well, wait a second, what brought this person here? And can we solve that underlying problem? Well, if it’s someone who has lost their job, they can maybe pay back the community with community service. And last year we gave over $500,000 dollars worth of free service back to our community. And we can get them training and job placement working with local community groups that do this kind of work. Or if it’s a heroin addiction, and obviously we can get them assessed by social worker professionals that I have onsite, working with local community treatment organizations, monitor them carefully, make sure that they’re doing everything they need to do and only resolve the case when they’re clean for a substantial period of time – again, coming up with a resolution of we really help them to get their lives back on track and not recycle through the system.
Len Sipes: Okay, now I ,
Alex Calabrese: There’s another, there’s a flip side to this, Len, if I may ,
Len Sipes: Please.
Alex Calabrese: The flip side is we take our cases more seriously than the traditional court does, because for us, for example, the maximum cases I have before me are cases with one year in jail, we call them Class A misdemeanors. If you do what you need to do, District Attorney Hynes does understand the value of treatment and often times will actually dismiss the case, so you end up with no criminal record what so ever. But if you don’t do what you need to do and you’re given an opportunity, you’ll face sometimes longer jail time in a community court, you’re not looking at the typical ten days, thirty days of jail. You’re going to face longer jail time here if you don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Now there’s one caveat to that, you have to understand due process comes first and problem solving comes second. And everyone always has an attorney and works with advice of counsel. So we don’t take the problem solving approach unless it’s A) the right kind of case and B) they’ve agreed to do that with their defense counsel. And so if they want to handle a case like a traditional court they can do that. But if they want the problem solved in court and it’s the right kind of case and at any given time, I have about 120 adults and 25 juveniles in treatment, really getting their lives getting back on track. So the bottom line is for those who want their courts to be tough on crime, a community court holds defendants accountable. We don’t just shuffle through the system, we hold them accountable for their behavior. But for those who want justice with compassion, the community court gives people the real opportunity to get their lives back on track. Stop recycling through the court system. And in many of the cases that come through the court system, people deserve a real chance to change their lives before they’re locked up.
Len Sipes: But we have, here’s my issue – we have two people, two types of people who listen to this show or watch our television shows and that is A) the folks in the criminal justice system and we all know what you’re talking about. But for the average person coming in, a Congressional staffer or somebody from Iowa doing a term paper, that’s where I’m struggling with a little bit in terms of conceptualizing all of this. It is, you’ve done, Red Hook has done a variety of things. Brought the entire criminal justice system, the police, corrections, parole and probation, the judiciary, the court system together so that they can look at community problems and renew a sense of justice within that community. And also I would imagine work on crime prevention issues. The second it sounds as if you’re doing is taking lower level offenders and providing alternatives to incarceration. So instead of if a person is urinating in public, if a person is smoking marijuana, if a person is loud and disorderly and the neighbors call the police, what you take is that lower level individual and say I want you to go to drug treatment and I want you to do 500 hours of community service instead of sending you to the local jail for six months. Is that a ballpark , ?
Alex Calabrese: Well, I don’t think that’s accurate because the lower level offender you’re talking about really, the courts should not have the power to send someone to jail for six months for urination. The cases I’m talking about are low level possession of drugs, a couple of glassines of heroin, vials of crack, those kinds of cases. They are Class A misdemeanors, you can go to jail for one year.
Greg Berman: But broadly speaking, Len, I think you’ve ,
Len Sipes: Okay, and this is Greg Berman, right.
Greg Berman: It’s Greg Berman. Broadly speaking you’ve got it. It’s a combination of prevention programs that engage the community in doing justice on the one hand and then number two a courtroom that, you know, with some exceptions, because there are people that do go to jail, is oriented to finding alternatives to incarceration.
Len Sipes: All right.
Denise O’Donnell: It’s Denise O’Donnell.
Len Sipes: Yes, Denise?
Denise O’Donnell: Just to give you my view of the program, because one of our functions at DCJS is to make sure that the BURN money that we have is really given to support innovative programs throughout the state.
Len Sipes: Right.
Denise O’Donnell: And one aspect of this program that I see is so phenomenal and really works is the fact that you do have Judge Calabrese sitting, wearing multiple hats, working with the family in a number of different cases. So he will have, perhaps, a case involving the mom who has a minor drug case. He will at the same time a housing court case involving possibly an eviction of the family. He may have a family court case involving a younger member of the family. So he is able to pull together in a way all of the interfaces this family has with the courts. And provide that the service network that is available through the community justice center can focus on their family instead of them dealing with five or six different programs in the community. The community justice center has so many of those resources located right there in the community. So if Judge Calabrese is sending an offender to a community service program, it’s right there in the building and the people that monitor it are right there in the building and the services are performed right there in the community. And there is a daycare center for somebody who needs their kids to come in and be there while they’re in court. There’s house clinics. So all of those resources are really brought together for the community. My other observation, just from listening, is just the verbiage that is being used by Greg and by the Judge to describe this program. It’s, you know, focusing on what’s important to the community. The community chose the location. I know a few years ago when it was clear that there wasn’t a little league in their community that the community justice center served as the focal point to make sure that that kind of a resource was available in the community. So that is something we rarely see and to have all of those resources working together I think it provides a very rich environment for intervening in the lives of families who come into contact with the court.
Len Sipes: I’d like to remind everybody, ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to DC Public Safety. We’re doing another program with the National Criminal Justice Association. One of the things that they wanted to do was bring attention to exemplary programs. And I think we have one here in terms of the community court there in Red Hook, in the Brooklyn area of New York City. You’re speaking with the people, our guests today are Commissioner Denise O’Donnell from the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services. They’re basically the statewide court rating agency and grant funding agency. We have Greg Berman, the Director of the Center for Community, I’m sorry, for Court Innovation. And Judge Alex Calabrese, and he is the Presiding Judge at the Community Court there at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Again, one of the things that impresses me, again, is this write up. One site is one of the ten most crack infested in the country by Life Magazine is now home to the one of the most safest police precinct in Brooklyn. There’s a certain point that we in the criminal justice system, and I’ve spent 40 years in the criminal justice system, we have many victories but at the same time we have many defeats. And this is something we can embrace. This is something we can feel proud of. This is something that you all seem to have found a formula in a tough, tough neighborhood that brings the sense of life and dignity not only to the citizens, but to the criminal justice system.
Alex Calabrese: You know, it absolutely is, Len and you know, there’s two ways you can approach it. You can say and take the compassionate approach in terms of working with families and giving people an opportunity. So you can also take the dollars and sense approach. And so the way that you can do that is, is it more expensive to start up a community court? Absolutely. But what do you get in return? Well, Red Hook is really, it’s like a test tube where you can actually see the difference that it makes. When you get a hold of crime, and when crime drops, you get merchants investing in the community. And so where you had a vacant, abandoned building, we now have a grocery store, Fairway, which employs 250 people. Where we had a toxic abandoned lot, we now have the largest IKEA in the United States. And that employs 660 people. And New York City and New York State are getting sales tax on every sale made at that IKEA. And they’re bringing in a lot of money, that IKEA, that’s for sure. And finally we’re the home port now of the Queen Mary II. And they’re not docking the Queen Mary II here if there’s gunfire in the streets as there was with the murder of Patrick Daley in 1992.
Len Sipes: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And so much of real innovation and improvement in the criminal justice system in delivering crime prevention services to communities means better schools, better jobs. More tax paying dollars.
Alex Calabrese: Absolutely. A lot of job opportunities for people who are living in Red Hook now, but again if you want to just take that dollars and cents approach, the city is making, you know, hand over fist compared to their initial investment here.
Len Sipes: That’s exactly right. Now this is something that is being replicated in more than more than six dozen cities around the world. What do you think was the key ingredient in terms of this reduction in crime? And the improvement of the overall community? Because we’ve talked about a lot of different strategies here. Is there one or two or three must haves? What are the lessons learned?
Greg Berman: Well, you know, I think that we probably, each of the three of us, probably has a different take on that. And I think that, you know, one wants to cast a very skeptical eye on people claiming credit for crime reductions, right? Because I feel like this story of why crime goes up and why crime goes down is a very complicated one that, you know, even however many decades we’re into the New York City miracle now, I still don’t have an adequate, I haven’t seen one piece of research that feels like the definitive story.
Len Sipes: And when you talk about the New York City miracle, you’re talking about the overall reduction in crime in the city of New York.
Greg Berman: I’m talking about the reduction in crime.
Len Sipes: Right.
Greg Berman: Yes.
Len Sipes: Right.
Greg Berman: So I want to put that caveat out there up front in all due humility and modesty.
Len Sipes: Okay.
Greg Berman: I think that the other thing , the other thing to express and I want to also give (chuckle) along this theme of modesty is the person that helped plan this project, I want to give the lion’s share of the credit to Judge Calabrese and the others who actually work in that facility, because the honest to goodness truth is that this project is so much better than anything that we drew up in the early stages of the conception of this project. And the reason it’s better is because of the people, the men and women who work there. And I think that what we, who worked on the planning, that kind of the policy raw nerves who worked on the planning of this process did was kind of set the table. And create an environment that said it was acceptable for the probation officers, the prosecutors, the court officers, the defenders, the judge to think about their jobs a little differently. And having done that, that has unleashed a torrent of creativity. And some of the stuff that the justice center does that I’m proudest of, that I think is the best, for example, the court officers do tutoring with kids after school. You know, I defy you to find any piece of documentation from when we were selling this project or conceiving of it that mentioned that kind of thing. You know, beyond our wildest dreams. And that was generated by the people who are on the ground, that if you kind of tell them it’s okay, we’re going to create this safe space where we understand not everything that the justice center tries is going to be a slam dunk success, we’re going to tolerate a little bit of failure in search of this greater success. And you ask all along who is involved, what’s the key ingredient? I think the key ingredient is unlocking the creativity of the people in the system.
Len Sipes: One of the things ,
Greg Berman: Judge Calabrese, you probably disagree or have a different take, I don’t know.
Alex Calabrese: I would thank you for the way you set it up and to run it and JTCS for the funding and for the project and for all of the other projects that we do here. I mean, we’re just given an opportunity here and we do our best but they just created a great project and a great concept with lots of services to really address the issues. And lots of youth services, it’s difficult to create youth programs that work and then it’s also difficult to see them effective. And if you ever see a youth court in action, it’s just dynamite. And the teenagers here in Red Hook are really doing well. And I’m not so say you can say that before we started.
Len Sipes: One of the things, I think needs to be said is once again, in terms of community courts, in terms of drug courts, in terms of mental health courts is that when the judiciary does take the lead, recidivism does seem to decrease. And it’s firmly established within the research that drug courts do seem to work. We now have early indications that mental health courts work when the judge becomes actively involved in the lives and the well being and at the same time holding defendants accountable. Holding offenders accountable, they seem to do much better. So there seems to be some spark, some sense of life, some sense of ingenuity when the judge gets directly involved in all of these case.
Denise O’Donnell: I really agree with that and I think for people from other states that may be listening in, the Center for Court Innovation, the front for modern courts, the fact that in New York State we have this wonderful entity to really support court based efforts of this type is really part of the great innovation that’s going on in this country. So I really urge people from other states to look at trying to fund court based projects like this which I think are so important. The other thing before we run out of time, I probably don’t have to tell you, but you know that everyone in the criminal justice community fought hard for continuing funding for the BURN JAG program. We had a 69 percent cut in our funding in New York State this year. So the funds from this program are the discretionary funds that we have to invest in innovative programs like the community justice center. And I just want to make another pitch for everyone to support continued funding for that program.
Greg Berman: I want to just add ,
Len Sipes: Let me clarify, wait ,
Greg Berman: Ditto on what she said.
Len Sipes: Okay, but we have to clarify, it is the U.S. Department of Justice funding through the states that provided you all with the money to create this innovation. So it’s U.S. Department of Justice funding that has to be supported, correct?
Greg Berman: Well, you know, we have cobbled together funding from all arms of government, City, State and Federal. We’ve got private dollars here. But there’s no doubt that the BURN dollars, or the dollars through the justice department have just been crucial dollars. Not just for this experiment, for other experiments that we’ve created and they really leverage other dollars. And so I think you can’t overstate the importance of them.
Len Sipes: In the final minutes of the program I want to take one more crack of this in terms of a full understanding of what’s happened there at Red Hook. My guess is that there’s an awful lot of communities throughout the country. We all hear about violence and we have to focus on violence, we have to focus on major crime. But it’s the minor crime that drives communities crazy. And I won’t go into a lot of examples about this, but it’s the litter, it’s the disruption to people’s lives, it’s the vandalism. Those are the things that most people encounter and those are the things that create a sense as to whether the neighborhood is thriving or whether the neighborhood is going down the tubes. My guess is that ,
Alex Calabrese: Absolutely accurate. You’re completely right.
Len Sipes: My guess is that you all got together and through this magical coalition of law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary parole and probation, you all focused on the sort of crimes that drive a community crazy and improved this community to its core.
Greg Berman: I think that that’s true. And to get back to your question of what’s the magic ingredient. You know, I think that you hit on another thing that I would say is one of the core ingredients. Which is this spirit of partnership and collaboration. You know, I mean, it’s a cliché but the criminal justice system really acts as a system. It really tends to act as disparate actors. And what we’ve been able to do in this small community in southwest Brooklyn is get everybody, if not singing the same tune, you know, but from the same hymn though. And that’s been enormously important. And then the second thing is, as you said, to focus in like a laser beam on the kinds of low level criminal misbehavior that drives people crazy and craft a response to that that is a common sense response that combines punishment and help. And that’s a response that resonates with a broad majority of the public.
Len Sipes: When they understand cleaner neighborhood, when they understand neighborhoods that are a lot less noisy and look a lot more orderly. And I think that is something that often times in terms of the continued discussion as it needs to be a continued discussion in terms of violent crime and serious crime is that lower level, those lower level crimes that I think make such a big impact and I think kudos goes to Denise O’Donnell from the state of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services for funding this program. Getting it started through the U.S. Department of Justice funds. Greg Berman, the Director of the Center for Court Innovation. Greg, you were the person, you and many other people were responsible for setting all this up and figuring it out what you were supposed to do. And Judge Alex Calabrese who basically has been there sheparding the whole process. Your Honor do you think you’re the kingpin? Everything’s been flowing around you? Don’t be shy now.
Alex Calabrese: (Laughs) I think there are a lot of judges who would really thrive here and do really well. I don’t think, you know, I don’t think it’s just one person or a couple of people. I think they set up a project that a lot people could do well in. And the only thing that I did want to add is that as Greg was talking about, the survey originally before the justice center was open gave a favorable rating of only 12 percent. Well, recently they did a survey of the Red Hook community and the justice center received a 78 percent favorable rating. So you’ve gone to 12 to 78 percent.
Len Sipes: Amazing, amazing, amazing. Okay, your Honor, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentleman ,
Alex Calabrese: Well, there’s also one other final one that I think is important ,
Len Sipes: Okay.
Alex Calabrese: Our local precinct, the 76 precinct over the last two years had the highest percentage of crime drop in New York City, not just Brooklyn, but in New York City.
Len Sipes: Amazing.
Alex Calabrese: So you really see the benefits of this kind of approach.
Len Sipes: I’m honored to have help bring this to the country. This sounds like it’s such an important project. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety, another program with the National Criminal Justice Association looking at exemplary programs. Again, it’s Commissioner Denise O’Donnell of the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services; Greg Berman, Director of the Center for Court Innovation; and Judge Alex Calabrese, the Judge at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. They’re in Brooklyn in the grand city of New York. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. The producer is Timothy Barnes. Bethany Broida, Communications Manager for the National Criminal Justice Association produced the program for NCJA.


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Youthful Offenders and Rehabilitation

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This Radio Program is available at

– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome from our studio in Downtown Washington, DC. This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. I think we have a really interesting show today. The show is going to be dealing with youthful offenders. The guests today are Lavonia Douglas. She is a Community Supervision Officer. Most of you know our people as parole and probation agents in Washington, DC. We call them Community Supervision Officers. We have Eddie Ellis. And Eddie’s been by our microphones before and Eddie is here in his capacity as a mentor to Bob. And we’re not going to be using Bob’s real name. We’re just going to be calling him Bob. Bob is a youthful offender. He is under our supervision at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He’s 19 years old. So we have an array of individuals from the bureaucracy, from Lavonia to former offender Eddie Ellis to Bob, a current offender. And we’re here to discuss all the issues dealing with youthful offenders. And to Lavonia and Bob and Eddie, welcome to DC Public Safety.
Lavonia Douglas: Thank you.
Len Sipes: Okay. I want to remind everybody that we do listen and respond to every request that you make to us. Every comment, every criticism. And we really appreciate the fact that you are following the show. Last month we had 123,000 requests for the show. That is a record and we really are impressed by that and we really do appreciate your input. Continue your input. If you have suggestions for new shows, if you have criticisms, it doesn’t matter. Go ahead and search on your internet search engine for DC Public Safety or simply go to media – m-e-d-i-a dot csosa dot gov and go ahead to the comment box or to my email direct or through Twitter, my twitter address and let us know what we could or should be doing. Lavonia Douglas, you’ve been a Community Supervision Officer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for how long?
Lavonia Douglas: For six years.
Len Sipes: Okay. So you’re a veteran.
Lavonia Douglas: I am, yeah.
Len Sipes: Okay. And so the point is in all of this is that we’re dealing here on the show with youthful offenders. And we have Bob who is going to remain anonymous and Eddie Ellis. Now, the bottom line is this, Lavonia, we have this fear. We have in some cases even revulsion in terms of youthful offenders. You can not pick up the newspaper without a youthful offender, in many cases under the age of 18. You have to be 18 and above to come to CSOSA unless you’re convicted as an adult. But we constantly read about youthful offenders. And if you take a look at the research, people are scared in many cases of youthful offenders. So we have Bob. And Bob’s an example of a young man who has recognized a set of circumstances and reached out and wants to get beyond the chaos that’s happening to so many young men on the streets. And we have Eddie who has been mentoring Bob. He’s a former offender. He’s been by our microphones before. So talk to me about Bob.
Lavonia Douglas: Well, when Bob initially came to the office he came on supervision for an assault. He came to the office and he was really , non responsive. He didn’t want to answer any of the questions, he was mean. You would ask him a question; he would give a smart answer. One of the initial questions he asked us was where’s his juvenile PO. He wanted to talk to a juvenile PO. He didn’t want to talk to us. He didn’t want to answer any of our questions. We asked him where he lived. And he said we should have the information. So he put up a wall that we had to break through to actually get him to talk to us, to get him to give us any information.
Len Sipes: Is that unusual?
Lavonia Douglas: That is not unusual.
Len Sipes: Yes. And people need to understand that many of the people come who are supervised by us or any other parole and probation agency in the country and what I call a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana.
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs). Because they thing we’re out to get them. They think we’re not here to help them. This whole system is against them. And so we have to show them that we really care about them. We have to show them that, you know, each individual person is different and Bob has special talents that he brought to us and he told us about it after we actually got through the wall of him being upset that he was even on supervision. So, you know, after we brought(sic), broke through that wall and how we broke through it, we started talking about his conditions, one of his conditions was that he had to stay away from the high school that he was attending ,
Len Sipes: Okay. And let me , he assaulted somebody in the high school.
Lavonia Douglas: He assaulted somebody in the high school.
Len Sipes: He got involved in a fight in the high school.
Lavonia Douglas: Right. And the boy fell down, you know, fights in school. And the mother pressed charges and he wound up in CSOSA for year probation.
Len Sipes: All right.
Lavonia Douglas: And the stay away was, the stay away was stay away from the boy and also he had to stay away from the school. So he couldn’t attend the school again. So, you know, we told him he couldn’t attend the school. He said, well, no, I’m going to go up there tomorrow, my mom’s going to get me back in school. So the perception was that his mother would be able to help him to get back into school. And in actuality he wouldn’t because the courts said he couldn’t go. So he realized what was really going on. He got really upset and was like, let me just go do my time. I don’t even want to, you know, if I can’t go to school, I’m not going to do supervision. You know, I like school, I’m not going to do ,
Len Sipes: (Chuckle) I’m not going to do supervision. I’m going to call my own show.
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs) Right.
Len Sipes: (Chuckle)
Lavonia Douglas: So it was like he wanted to go do his time, so then we had to then, at that point I realized as his Community Supervision Officer, we had a lot of work to do with him. We had to get him back into school, and ,
Len Sipes: How do you maintain your composure with folks like Bob? Now, I’ve done this before. I’ve done, as the audience knows, I’ve done jail and Job Corps kids, I ran the group in the Maryland prison system. I used to be a street counselor in the City of Baltimore, when I was putting myself through college. Wow. You know, the hardest job on the face of the earth is dealing directly with young individuals who have this chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. I’ve seen so many young individuals, so many young men just throw their lives away. It’s very difficult to be both the enforcer and enforce the rules and be a helper all at the same time. How do you deal with that?
Lavonia Douglas: You kind of have to take yourself out of the situation. You can’t, like, for me, I couldn’t get upset. A lot of times when you’re talking to somebody and they’re not receptive to what you’re saying, you immediately get defensive and you’re like, you’re going to do what I say because A, B, C & D. We’re realizing that we are talking to a youthful offender and we can’t supervise them like we supervise others because they may not understand exactly what we’re saying. I had to just let him talk, get out what he needed to say and then say, okay, Bob, I understand what you’re going through and I understand, but I’m here to help you. And this is what we’re going to do. This is what I’m going to do as your PO, I’m going to help you to get back in school. I’m going to talk to your principal, I’m going to talk to your mother, to show him that I’m here for him. I’m here to help him.
Len Sipes: Is Bob back in school?
Lavonia Douglas: Bob is back. Well, he’s not, Bob did finish school at the school that he had to stay away from.
Len Sipes: Right.
Lavonia Douglas: And we had to do a lot of work to get him back into school. We had to call the school board, the principal at the school, I had to get, talk to the principal, his counselors and I had to give all that information to the judge and convince the judge to actually let him go back to school for the remainder of the year because he only had like a month and a half left. So we couldn’t get him into the other school, so he would have either got an F for the rest of the semester and not been able to become a senior this year or , you know, he would just not go back to school. So we did get him back to school and now he’s going to a different school. He’s doing very well. He’s graduating in June. And so he’s doing what he needs to do.
Len Sipes: When I worked with younger people, I always said they ran on 6 out of every 8 cylinders. Because you would sit there and talk to the person and you’d have to fill out this form to get the person back in school. Because I had a guy in the streets in Baltimore who wanted to escape the streets of Baltimore and we got him back in school and he had to fill out all this paperwork to get back. And so I’d him the next day and say, hey, man, did you fill out the paperwork? He said, what paperwork? (Chuckle).
Lavonia Douglas: That’s true.
Len Sipes: You know, this is , this is hard. This is hard work.
Lavonia Douglas: You have to get the parents involved too.
Len Sipes: Yeah, you do.
Lavonia Douglas: Because from school you have to get the parents involved.
Len Sipes: That’s right.
Lavonia Douglas: You have to get the parents to encourage them. And I would call the school daily and I really couldn’t do it, so I have to stay in contact with his mother, his grandparents, his godparents. So getting involved with the family also was one of the bigger issues too because we had to get them involved and make sure that they knew what they were responsible for because as a PO we can’t necessarily do everything. We can just kind of put some things in place, but the family has to come together and help out our youthful offenders as well.
Len Sipes: Lavonia, next time we talk, I want to go ahead and talk to you about whatever programs we have for younger offenders here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. But now what I want to do is go over to Eddie Ellis. Eddie’s been by our microphones before. In fact, Eddie’s probably been interviewed more on this show than any other human being. I mean, you know, we could have the mayor of the , Eddie’s been on the front page of the Washington Post, by the way. You know, we could have the mayor here, we could have the Chief of Police here, most frequently. But we have Eddie Ellis here (chuckle) and he’s been our most frequent guest. How you doing, Eddie?
Eddie Ellis: Okay, Mr. Sipes. How are you doing?
Len Sipes: I’m all right. How you doing by the way?
Eddie Ellis: I’m doing well.
Len Sipes: How’s it coming?
Eddie Ellis: I think it’s going well for me.
Len Sipes: All right. Eddie is a former offender who used to be under our supervision. He’s now a mentor to Bob, mentoring Bob. Tell me a little bit about your experience in terms of mentoring Bob.
Eddie Ellis: First of all I take from my personal experience the things I went through in my life. And I understood when I first met Bob that we were very similar in a lot of ways. And the thing I really appreciated about him was he wanted to go to school and he wanted to do right. And when I was 16 I really didn’t enjoy school.
Len Sipes: Right. Who did by the way?
Eddie Ellis: I don’t know. But Bob enjoyed going to school.
Len Sipes: Okay, well, there you go. Well, God bless Bob.
Eddie Ellis: Yeah. And that really meant a lot to me.
Len Sipes: By the way, did you ever get into fights in school?
Eddie Ellis: Yes.
Len Sipes: Me too.
Eddie Ellis: Yes.
Len Sipes: So here is Bob sitting here convicted of fighting in school when you and were both not convicted of fighting in school. But I’ve fought in school.
Eddie Ellis: So did I.
Len Sipes: Okay.
Eddie Ellis: So did I.
Len Sipes: All right. Go ahead.
Eddie Ellis: Well, I think , personally I really enjoy talking to him because it really helped me reflect on my life and understand what I still needed to do for myself. But talking to him and seeing that he wanted to do the right thing, he recognized where he went wrong with his life is very important to me.
Len Sipes: All right. How close is Bob to really messing it up? How many young men have both of us been with through my career, throughout your time, how many young men are on that edge? Because when I dealt with the Job Corp kids I discovered this, one third knew they were in a jam and wanted to make their way through life. One third was sitting on that fence, and they could be pushed to either side very easily. And one third was gone. There’s not a dog gone thing in the world you could do for that final third. Where do you think Bob is?
Eddie Ellis: I think he’s in a good position to be successful.
Len Sipes: Good. And how many Bobs are there out there?
Eddie Ellis: There’s a lot of Bob’s out there, but unfortunately news don’t focus on that. You just made a comment about how the media put these things in the newspaper about the youth offenders. Well, it’s no different in the schools. They’re closing all the schools and recreation centers. So that’s more dangerous to me.
Len Sipes: Okay. But I mean we’ve had this discussion before and that’s why I’m really pleased that you’re back at the microphones because when we talk about young offenders, when we talk about offenders in general, you know the news in many cases is not good in terms of the statistics, in terms of the total number of arrests. And there is a dichotomy here. A lot of these people who are picked up, who are rearrested or rearrested for relatively minor crimes, and in some cases relatively stupid crimes. They’re on the corner, they’re making noise, people call the police. The police come by and they arrest – now if the guy is arrested for murder, rape, robbery, theft, I don’t care – well, it’s not that I don’t care, but I can see that – but a lot of guys end up getting back in the criminal justice system for stupid stuff. My guess is, is that a lot of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system don’t necessarily have to be there. They’re not necessarily dangerous to society. And I’m not trying to be a left of center liberal, I’m just stating what I think is just pure fact. That if they had the guidance, that if they had somebody like you to help them. If they had a parole and probation agent like Lavonia who cared about them. If they had structure in their life, parents who intervened with that individual at a young age. If you had this full core press to help this person out, I think a lot of these individuals would escape what we are currently calling a life of crime.
Eddie Ellis: I agree with you somewhat, but I really think that a lot of these young guys, and I could say myself personally, had a lot of structure in their life. But unfortunately we chose to do the wrong thing. And I just feel like it’s very important that you do have a probation office that do care about their job in helping people. You know, but first of all it must start with the person who is on parole or probation.
Len Sipes: Sure, of course.
Eddie Ellis: You need to understand that it’s your responsibility, but you got people whose helping you, or trying to help you, get your life on track.
Len Sipes: What I’m trying to do, Eddie, is put all this in perspective, because if you go and talk radio as I’ve done maybe 100 times, if you talk to citizen groups, which I have done a lot of times, there are just ticked off at Bob. They’re sick and tired of Bob hanging out on the corner. They’re sick and tired of Bob being out there. They’re sick and tired of the marijuana coming up from the corner. They’re sick and tired of the police not doing anything to get Bob off the corner. They’re sick and tired about reading in the newspaper, watching on television every, you know, it’s daily. It’s just incessant. And there are a heck of a lot of other Bobs out there who are a danger. They are. I mean, you know, they’re out there thuggin’ and muggin’.
Eddie Ellis: Well, you’ve got a lot of people ,
Len Sipes: I’m trying to put this into perspective. I’m trying to say what is real. That we’ve got a certain amount of people out there who seem to be, for whatever reason, really involved in the criminal lifestyle. And we’ve got, I think – what I’m trying to do is break down the stereotype – I think that a lot of these individuals wouldn’t be in the criminal justice system if they had a caring parole and probation agent. If they had a mentor who can guide them. If they had a parent who are actively involved. That’s all I’m trying to say.
Eddie Ellis: I understand what you’re trying to say and I respect that, but at the same time I think the government is at fault in a lot of ways. A lot of these faith based organizations are at fault in a lot of ways. Because they’re not doing what they say , they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do as far as the mentoring and stuff. And I think ,
Len Sipes: They’re not doing enough of it?
Eddie Ellis: They’re not doing enough. I don’t think they have enough of the right people there to really do it.
Len Sipes: All right. All right. Who’s the right person, by the way?
Eddie Ellis: I don’t know, you got to find them. I don’t know. I know some of these faith based organizations, some of these governments, they don’t have a lot of right people there.
Len Sipes: MM-hmm. You know what? They said the same thing.
Eddie Ellis: Well, why aren’t they changing then?
Len Sipes: Well, you know, people really do a lot of things in life in terms of volunteer. My wife is deeply involved in a lot of organizations, the PTAs and that sort of stuff. I help her out with it because I work these ridiculously long hours. And people say I want to work with kids or I want to work with the elderly, or I want to work with people who are out of work. When you put on that label of criminal, or offender, suddenly there’s a lot of people who back away.
Eddie Ellis: Yeah, because I think that image, you know, once again, there’s like, there’s a lot of Bob’s, there’s also a lot of Billy’s too that drink and drive and kill people in the suburbs, but that stuff don’t be talked about as much as it happens in the city. And that’s the problem with me, that image. Because you could show, I lived in the suburbs and a lot of the same things happened when I lived in the suburbs in the city. So, but the image is different. And I think image plays a big role in making people back up.
Len Sipes: Well, so do I. And this is one of the reasons why we’re going to go to Bob. It’s going to be Bob’s turn. Because, Bob, you’re the person who everybody is talking about. The youthful offender. And I find it interesting and ironic because you’re sitting here as a person being supervised by my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and I’ve done the same thing you’ve done. Only nobody prosecuted me. They dealt with it in the school. But I not only was involved in a fight, I was involved in several fights. And, you know, it was, I had my own stupid phase. And I think a lot of us have our own stupid phase. So, Bob, who are you? Are you a person who went through a stupid phase? Or are you a person who , what are you? Who are you?
Bob: Me? I’m like, I’m a person that takes, like, back then I took a lot of chances. Like I wasn’t thinking for myself. But now, like, I could say now I changed because I took the time out for that. People helped me. As far as people like my PO, her supervisor and Mr. Ellis.
Len Sipes: And PO meaning Parole Officer.
Bob: Parole Officer.
Len Sipes: Okay, yeah.
Bob: Like me, I grew up in not a big household, but a small household, like a compact. And I never had like that male influence. And it affected me as I grew up. It affected me hot. I mean, instead of me like talking about it, I just took my anger out on other people.
Len Sipes: Where was your dad?
Bob: My father was locked up.
Len Sipes: Okay. And you grew up without the influence of your dad, that is so, that’s very typical of so many of the people, the offenders that I’ve talked to. Now Eddie would shake his head because he didn’t. But so many of the individuals that I’ve talked to, in fact the great majority, grew up without dad. So I think that that’s a difficult thing to overcome. So what happened? Did you start getting involved in stupid stuff at an early age? Or you didn’t do it at all? Tell me about it.
Bob: Like it was a certain point of time where as though I look at the streets as my second home ’cause I felt that like male influence was like love. And what this love and attention that I wasn’t getting at home, I was getting it from outside as far as money, clothes, girls , and I was, I never had to work for nothing because mostly all the people who I grew up look to my father, so they had so much respect for my father and they couldn’t give it to him, so they gave it to me.
Len Sipes: Yep. And so what we call the lifestyle, you’re part of it, it was seductive. It was easy. It got you lots of good things. And what I’ve been talking to individuals about crime and the criminal justice system for years, I tell them that, that it’s not a dumb decision in the minds of many of the individuals. Violence is seen as something that’s good. It keeps people away from you. It protects you. You know, there’s all sorts of benefits that people see as being involved in the criminal lifestyle. And so what you’re saying is that it sort of applied to you.
Bob: Yeah, like basically I’m saying like I was judged and brought up off my father’s image.
Len Sipes: Right.
Bob: Who was like a legacy to be continued.
Len Sipes: Right.
Bob: So basically now I’m just trying to change and I don’t want to be my father, I mean, I want to be my own man.
Len Sipes: But you saw the benefits of your father’s legacy in your mind. You saw that there was benefits.
Bob: Yeah.
Len Sipes: And a lot of people on the street see this lifestyle stuff as something that’s in their best interest, correct?
Bob: Yeah.
Len Sipes: All right. And that’s the thing that kills me, because Eddie and I have had this conversation. Lots of people and I have had this conversation. The overwhelming majority of the individuals I know who have dealt drugs, who have been involved in the lifestyle, at a certain point they ain’t got nothing. They don’t have a thing. They don’t have a car, they don’t have a house, they don’t have , it’s people are so often time without money they are either dead or they are shot or they are shot at. I mean, you know, there’s also that side of it that says, you know, there are extreme disadvantages, like going to prison for the rest of your life. Or going to prison for five years or going to prison for ten years. There are extreme disadvantages in terms of being caught up in the lifestyle. So talk to me about that dichotomy. On one hand you get involved in it because things look really good. Then on the other hand there’s the possibility of all these bad things.
Bob: A the time, like I didn’t have, I didn’t have to hustle, but at the time I wanted more for myself and as one to be like the man of the house. Like I couldn’t come home and look at another man with his foot up on my mother’s table when I know my father’s locked up.
Len Sipes: Yeah.
Bob: And I was telling, I always told my mother, when I used to be young and getting in trouble and all that, I used to tell my mother that I wasn’t going to be like my father. But she used to always tell me, well, you acting like him. You followin’ his footsteps. So nowadays it’s like I take more stuff for granted. Like I take my life for granted, but at the same time I love my life. I’d do anything to be out here. Back then I ain’t care. Like now I use like, looking now from back then, I used to have dreams like me getting killed and stuff like that. But now it’s all positive.
Len Sipes: Now, how many , I want to ask you two questions, the second question we’ll get to in a minute; what do you think allowed you to break from that? Was it religion? Was it a girlfriend? Was it your own sense of who you wanted to be in life? But my first question is how many of the guys who you hung out with , emulated, had the same life as you did? How many guys were involved in the lifestyle?
Bob: Mostly all of my friends was involved with the lifestyle.
Len Sipes: Yeah, that’s what I figured. What’s keeping you out of it, Bob? I mean, everybody right now is riveted to their radios, to their iPod players, to their computers. Here’s Bob. Bob’s from the street. Bob’s father went to prison. Bob’s friends were involved in the lifestyle. Bob’s making a conscious decision to do what’s best for Bob. What happened?
Bob: When I was in the streets I used to always get on my friends because like they was more talented than me. But at the same token I knew how to do so much things I was like , I was like real good at sports. I was real good at school. And all the people in my neighborhood used to be like, man, just stay in school, man. We don’t need you out here. And the same thing they used to tell me, I never took it into consideration, but I always told my friends to go to school. And then once me, it took me getting incarcerated and to come home to find out that all my friends either was dead or either locked up. And I just took it like, man, if you took someone , like, when I was locked up, my celly told me, if you took a 50 year old man who looked at the world as if he was 20, there’s only one thing that he forgot that he missed out on 30 years of his life. And I told him that that I wouldn’t let that be me. And I promised him that.
Len Sipes: Okay. So right now we have, what, 123,000 people on a monthly basis to come into view the radio and television programs. Most of the people are coming into the radio programs. And so you have right now tens of thousands of people who are listening to you and going, man, that is wonderful. That is just absolutely incredible. Why can’t we have all of them, the people who are caught up in the lifestyle, be like Bob? What’s the magic formula? What’s , how , we can have cleaner cities, we can have more jobs where our school systems would be a 1,000 percent better. The life of our urban areas would be so much better if everybody caught up in the lifestyle was you.
Bob: Nah, I wouldn’t say that ’cause the way I changed, like it took time. It ain’t change over night. I didn’t happen to wake up one morning and I was like, I’m going to do this, I’m going to get my life together. Nah, it took time. Like my parole officer said, I ain’t want to do this, but my best thinking got me here. So I got to let somebody else think for me till I’m able to think for myself.
Len Sipes: Yeah, but 19? You know how many people that I talked to at the microphones throughout the years who are doing really good. Who are 35, 42, you know, sitting there going, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. You know, and I always said, why can’t we do this with the 17 year olds or the 16 year olds, the 19 year olds? What’s the magic formula to reach the Bob’s of the world. You know? There’s a certain point where people just get sick and tired of all the heroin, they get sick and tired of all the crack, they get sick and tired of not being employed, they get sick and tired of going to jail. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. But that’s like 35, 37, 42. You’re 19. How did you come to this conclusion that it takes other people decades to come to?
Bob: Change. That’s all I can say. If nothing changes, nothing changed. So that’s the only way you can better yourself for the future is change.
Len Sipes: And there wasn’t anything that you could think of, because you said it was gradual change, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but is there anything that you can think of that was, because different people come to me at 37 and said it was religion. Different people have come to me at 35 and said it was my mother. Different people have come to me and said it was my wife or my girlfriend or my kids. (Chuckle) You’re 19, man. You know? What , what ,
Bob: Like, if , like not for , like, you got to want to change. Can’t nobody make you change.
Len Sipes: Everybody says that, yeah.
Bob: You know, by making change you got to want to change for yourself.
Len Sipes: But what made you want to change it, man?
Bob: Me seeing all my friends leaving this world at a young age.
Len Sipes: And that’s so incredibly tragic.
Bob: And there have been plenty of times where I was just like, without my friends there’s no me. But now I’m , I got to think for myself. I got, it’s only me, I came into this world by myself.
Len Sipes: I just realized that this is going to be an every six month show. I want to know where Bob is. What Bob’s doing. I want to, this is a show that we’re going to continue to do. Lavonia, we’re going to go back to you. Bob just , very few times people that I interview put shivers down my spine. Bob just did it. Even Eddie, I mean, Eddie and I would sit here and have our disagreements at these microphones, but Eddie is – how old are you, Eddie? Thirty what?
Eddie Ellis: Thirty-three.
Len Sipes: Okay. Bob’s 19.
Lavonia Douglas: Yes.
Len Sipes: Is this inspiring or what?
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs). It definitely is!
Len Sipes: How did you reach Bob?
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs). Well, you know, I’m going to say I had case of pride in Bob. And I’ve bent over backwards. He was 17 years old, kind of a similar situation, and I did everything I could possibly think of. I put him in all the programs he’s supposed to have.
Len Sipes: Like what programs? Tell me about the programs.
Lavonia Douglas: We have Halfway Back. We tried to get him in the VOTE program.
Len Sipes: Okay. Halfway Back is when you ,
Lavonia Douglas: Halfway Back is more of a sanction based program.
Len Sipes: Right. When you’re messing up and it’s like if you don’t straighten your butt out we’re going to put you in prison.
Lavonia Douglas: Right.
Len Sipes: So the Halfway Back program of counseling and intervention.
Lavonia Douglas: Exactly. Drug treatment.
Len Sipes: Drug treatment and VOTE is vocational and educational opportunities.
Lavonia Douglas: Right. To help you get your GED, a job, different things like that. And then with him, he had a whole lot of , he was 17 but he was on a seventh grade education level. So trying to get him the different services that he was supposed to be provided couldn’t reach him. And so, you know, I worked with him for almost a year and a half and we went back and forth to court about four or five times. And the fifth time the judge was like, we’ve done all we can do, there’s nothing else, so they stepped him back. About a week later (chuckle), I get Bob.
Len Sipes: Yes?
Lavonia Douglas: And I was just like, oh, Lord, again. So I really felt like this was my second chance to really, okay, now I know the mistakes I made with the previous one, let me see what I can do to help Bob. And so I just went full force with, you know, trying to get him back into the school and talking to his parents and his counselors. You really have to get involved with everybody that’s involved with the individual person.
Len Sipes: Yeah.
Lavonia Douglas: So everybody that Bob knew I wanted to know. His godmother, where he was staying, the people that he was staying with. We , he came to the office and we met him, I hooked him up with Eddie because we knew they had some similarities and we thought that Bob really needed a mentor, somebody he could look up to because his father was in prison. So we had to, we brought in like so many different people and we had to meet with so many different people and, you know, we tried, some of those services for Bob. We did have to back up Bob too because really there was nothing else that CSOSA provided for the youth offenders. And knowing that we can’t necessarily supervise like the offenders, the programs are geared towards adults as well. So even though he’s successfully completed Halfway Back, you know, we got him in a school when he was in Halfway Back, they monitored that. You know, it was the best that we could do at the time. So now seeing that we needed more programs, my team has come up with the program, it’s called the EYES(?) program that specifically deals with this age group.
Len Sipes: What is it?
Lavonia Douglas: It’s a five week program. We have different sessions. We have sessions twice a week for about an hour, two hours, we talk about different things like the police. We talk about family, we talk about children, we talk about girlfriend, we talk about goals. We talk about if they want to get their GED, the steps that they need to take. Job training. We hook them up at the end of the program with a program that has job training and different things. So they have the wraparound services that they have all the services at the end because we know that necessarily sending them to a program or just going down the street with these youthful offenders is not going to work. We need something different than just the regular you tested positively, I’m going to verbally reprimand you.
Len Sipes: I totally agree that the usual sanctions process is not going to work with the youthful offenders. I keep saying that the younger folks have a way running on, you know, six out of eight cylinders and people, it shows you how old I am, what do you mean eight cylinders? Whose got eight cylinders nowadays? Okay, four out of six cylinders.
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: You know, they just don’t run on all cylinders.
Lavonia Douglas: Yes.
Len Sipes: And I mean even my own kids don’t run on all cylinders. I’m amazed that there’s just something about younger individuals. And where my kids can screw up and they’ve got dad to pull them out or dad to push them back in just to prove a point, so many individuals like Bob don’t have that person to rescue them. Don’t have that person to help him. So then it becomes an issue of this. If we had, and this is a question that I ask Eddie all the time, and Eddie can get to it when it’s his turn. If we had all the resources that were necessary, how many Bobs can we reach? Because the public is saying, you know, Leonard, you know, give me a break. We have crippled individuals, elderly people and people out of jobs and people who are hungry. How many people do I have to care about and invest in?
Lavonia Douglas: All of them.
Len Sipes: And you’re going to ask me to invest time in Bob?
Lavonia Douglas: Yes.
Len Sipes: (Laughs).
Lavonia Douglas: Every last one of them.
Len Sipes: Okay, fine. So what do we tell the public then will happen if that time is invested in Bob? Do we have less crime? Do we have fewer people involved in the criminal justice system. If we have Bob with comprehensive services, will there be more Bobs in high school coming to the conclusion that Bob came to? Or is it just going to be a waste of money and time?
Lavonia Douglas: It may. And it may not. Bob is very intelligent. He comes up with – when he talks, we’re like, wow. You know, that was good for somebody that’s 19 years old. He made the decision that he wants to change. Now you may get a 17, 16, 18 year old that gets all these services, that has a mentor, you have a PO that really cares, and the person has not made up their mind that they want to change, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t succeed because maybe in two or three years they’ll realize, oh, all that stuff that they were trying to do for me back then, it made a difference. I realize what they were trying to do now. And now I’m going to change, which means I’m not committing crimes for 20 years, I’ve only committed crimes for two years. Even though you didn’t see that immediate change like we did in Bob, but down the line you’ll see, there will be that change. So you can’t say that because I didn’t see a change, like with the guy that got back when I supervised, I did a lot with him. Just because he got revoked didn’t mean that I wasn’t successful in trying to work with him. And maybe in five years when he gets out he’ll think back to everything that we did and he’ll be successful and won’t be in the ,
Len Sipes: All right, so you’re saying you’re setting the table, you’re seeing the seeds for an eventual change?
Lavonia Douglas: Exactly.
Len Sipes: Wow, that’s asking a lot from the public.
Lavonia Douglas: Well, that’s why we have to help the people. That’s why we’re here, right?
Len Sipes: When I say that you look away in disgust, what is the reality of what it is that I’m dealing with here? What is – I mean, you know, what is my reality? What is our reality in the criminal justice system? Rather than what could be or what should be, what are we dealing with that’s real?
Bob: People are going to make bad choices, but at the same time you talk about the public, the public, the public. There’s $700 billion dollars they just cleared ,
Len Sipes: They’re the ones who fund us. They’re the ones who give us the money to do what we do.
Bob: But everybody wants them to pass that $700 billion dollars they just passed.
Len Sipes: Well.
Bob: And that could help the elderly, the crippled and ex-offenders if you ask me.
Len Sipes: All I’m saying is that the public are the people who pretty much decide in terms of through their politicians what it is that we’re going to end up with in terms of resources.
Bob: I understand that.
Len Sipes: And to convince the public that what we do is worthy enough for their consideration, we got to talk to people like you, we got to talk to the Bob’s of the world. We’ve got to talk to the Lavonia’s. And we got to be able to be able to say that your money is well invested.
Bob: I understand that, but all the public don’t believe their money invested in the Iraq War. But they doing it.
Len Sipes: Yeah, but they got the money. We don’t.
Bob: But the public. Everybody don’t agree with it. A lot of people tax money’s is being put into that war that don’t agree with that. But what I’m saying is this ,
Len Sipes: I’m not going to argue the war. I’m simply saying that they have the money to do what it is that they need to do, we don’t.
Bob: That’s what I’m saying. But if you want these people to do right, we need to have programs and people that help these people. Other than that I don’t think you deserve, you know, to be able to complain if you don’t want these people to get any help.
Len Sipes:Okay.
Bob: That’s my opinion. I’m the public too. So I want to be helped.
Len Sipes: No, it’s not that I disagree with you. It’s just we all got to deal with the reality of competing for dollars.
Bob: That’s true.
Len Sipes: And we’ve all got to be able to say to the public, you do this, you get that. And I think, here’s my opinion, and I’ve been in the system for 40 years and you’ve been in the system for a long time on the opposite end of the continuum. I’m going to put, here’s my opinion for whatever it’s worth, I think that the Bob’s of the world will increase dramatically. I think crime will go down. I think our cities will improve. Our metropolitan areas will improve if we bring more programs to the table. How much will it improve? I think that if you take a look at research, it could go 20 to 30 percent reduction. Now, 20 to 30 percent reduction, considering how much they’re involved in, how many crimes that they’re involved in, what they cost us, how much it costs to incarcerate them, how much it costs to track them down and prosecute them, we’re talking about literally billions of dollars throughout this country saved by a 20 to 30 percent reduction.
Bob: And that would be good. But the people in the public need to understand this. And these negative images that’s being put out here by people that’s coming home, it’s not helping at all. So if we could show the Bob’s of the world to the public in certain forms and fashion, it will allow people to see that people are doing right. They’re money not being spent on just nothing.
Len Sipes: Right.
Bob: But when they don’t know that, of course they don’t think negative about people that’s coming home from prison, because the only thing they see is negative images from the public.
Len Sipes: Right.
Bob: So the positive stuff is not being seen. So I see why a lot of them feel that way.
Len Sipes: Right. That’s why we’re here.
Bob: Right. So we need to explain where their money is being spent the right way.
Len Sipes: And that’s why we’re here to have a very honest discussion.
Bob: Yeah.
Len Sipes: I mean we’re not here to convince people to give money.
Bob: No.
Len Sipes: That’s not our job. In government, I mean, that may be your job, but if Bob can say that, if government, I got to cut it straight down the middle. And I think I am cutting it straight down the middle. I’m taking a look at hard research that basically says that you could reduce people being involved in the criminal justice system by 20 to 30 percent. That 20 to 30 percent may not be overwhelming to some people, but you’re talking about literally hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, in savings. We’re talking about, you know, tens of thousands of people not being victimized by a crime. And we’re talking about a much better system and more money available to do the different things we want to do with the elderly and with kids and with youthful offenders. So I think it’s a payoff for everybody. And that’s essentially what the research has to say. It’s not so much opinion, but the research has to say that you will save money and you will lower rates of recidivism if, this is nationa research now, if you invest in people like Bob. I simply think that, as you said, the public needs to hear it from the Bob’s and the Eddie Ellis’s and the Lavonia Douglas’s, the people who work with them, that it is possible to have change.
Bob: I agree. I totally agree. And I just hope that the image can start changing in certain ways to allow people to see that, you know, your money is being spent the right way. But they also need to understand that the government are locking people who up have drug problems and it costs more to incarcerate them then it is to put them in drug programs. So that’s also another problem where a lot of unnecessary money is being spent. So, you know, you got to get the money to get these people some help. If you don’t you’re going to continue to have a lot of the same problems.
Len Sipes: Your relationship with Bob. So , one of the things that bugged me deeply when I was involved directly with trying to help young individuals was when they screwed up. Was when they relapsed. Was when they were on the verge of throwing their life away. If Bob reaches that point, what do you say to Bob?
Eddie Ellis: I’m not looking for him to reach that point. But my thing is he need to know that he can still stand up and move forward. It’s not over. You know? And the problem is when people do make some bad choices, people come down on them so hard and make them feel like they can’t recover. We need to let him know and whoever else that you can recover from bad choices. You know? And that’s the thing that needs to be pushed. You can overcome. But I’m not looking forward to him to see him digress so. I mean, regress.
Len Sipes: Neither am I and I’m not suggesting he will, but I’m simply, both of us understand that that is a possibility.
Eddie Ellis: Yeah, it is a possibility.
Len Sipes: And I’m not saying Bob’s going to fail, I’m simply saying what tactics would you put in place to make sure that he doesn’t fail if Bob’s on the edge?
Eddie Ellis: Well, just stay on top of Bob. Don’t be hard on him. Make sure, let him know that he got people that he can talk to. There’s places he can go to receive anything he needs to receive. And that’s it. I don’t think you need to be hard on him, put your foot on his neck. But, you know, just be there and support him, encourage him and let him know it’s a better time.
Len Sipes: Lavonia, we’ve gone way beyond the 30 minutes we usually do for this program and to the listeners, I apologize, but I think that this conversation has been so interesting that I decided not to split it into two shows and just keep it as one show. I know it’s a lot longer than what you’re used to and I apologize for that. But I think you’re going to agree with me that this is really interesting. Lavonia Douglas, final comments?
Lavonia Douglas: Just for all the people out there in the world, the Bob’s in the world are not bad people. They are people just like we are. Everyone in the world makes bad decisions. Like you said earlier you got, you didn’t get call ,
Len Sipes: No, I got the call, I just didn’t go to them.
Lavonia Douglas: Right. You were a citizen placed on probation, but Bob did. And so he did make bad choices. And we have to wrap our, the services that we do have, we have to care about these people. We have to care about keeping them on supervision, the younger guys who come in with their macho attitudes, getting smart with you. You have to let them. And then once they finish then you get into the issues that they have and start talking to them about the issues about their parents, about school, about what they want to do. Because they want to get it out, they want, you know, to say what they want to say, but we have to, as a community, as citizens, as whoever, we have to care about these people who are on supervision.
Len Sipes: I found, by the way, that the toughest guys on the street that I dealt with were the most insecure. The guys with the muscle shirts and the hair and the cigarette and the attitude.
Lavonia Douglas: Because they have to look good on the outside.
Len Sipes: And that projection of violence, you know, these were the most insecure people out there.
Lavonia Douglas: Very true. That’s very true. They want to appear, it’s the appearance that they want to give off like this is who I am. But on the inside it’s completely different. So let them get that off, they want it, go ahead, you can have it. And when you’re finished talking in the next ten minutes we’re going to get into the issues that you have.
Len Sipes: That’s what I always, when you’re done, come talk to me.
Lavonia Douglas: Yeah, let them do it. ‘Cause if you cut them off they’re going to feel like you’ve cut them off ,
Len Sipes: Then you get disrespected and the whole ,
Lavonia Douglas: Yeah, right. Do your thing.
Len Sipes: That’s what I do. I say, are you done?
Lavonia Douglas: Yeah.
Len Sipes: Okay, you ready to talk now?
Lavonia Douglas: (Laughs). Exactly.
Len Sipes: Yeah, I’m afraid of you, man. Okay. That’s cool. Okay, can we talk now?
Lavonia Douglas: Exactly. That’s what Bob did.
Len Sipes: Is that what Bob did?
Lavonia Douglas: That’s what Bob did.
Len Sipes: Bob objected. He was hard.
Lavonia Douglas: He was hard.
Len Sipes: He was hard. Bob, you’re the last person up at the microphone you’re going to have the final word. I am now invested in you. I want you back. I want all three of you back by these microphones, I want to look you up and check you out every six months or so to find out what’s going on in your life. Do you have any final words?
Bob: No, not really. I just want to thank my , parole officer and her supervisor and Mr. Ellis for taking this time of their busy schedule to come bring me down here.
Len Sipes: Just think about it for next time because I want to check in on you on a regular basis. The story that you told, I’ll say it again, is inspiring to those of us who have been in the criminal justice system for a long time who have tried to, who have had a career of trying to assist you guys. And to try to do something else with you and who felt, quite frankly, that it’s all been a personal tragedy to see so many of you crawl up in the criminal justice system. So I think you give a piece of hope to an awful lot of people who are listening to this program, not just in this country but from around the world. Any other thing you want to add?
Bob: No, I just want to let the people know that’s out there that it’s like, that like got criminal charges pending or whatever, I just want to say it’s never too late to change, man. Always think about whatever you got, is it the worst consequence? Make the best out of it because it’s there for a reason. You got to make the best.
Len Sipes: You’ve got the final word, Bob. And ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Lavonia Douglas, the Community Supervision Officer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Eddie Ellis who has been to this microphones more than the Pope and we really appreciate Eddie’s insights and Eddie’s honesty. And we have Bob. A youthful offender, 19 years old, not his real name, who is under our supervision and you’ve heard from Bob today. And hopefully you were inspired as I was by Bob’s comments. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Please we need your comments. We respond individually to all of your comments. So you can reach us at Thanks. And have yourself a great day.

– Audio Ends –

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. The producer is Timothy Barnes.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders, DWI and youthful offenders.


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The Pew Public Safety Performance Project

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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones today is Adam Gelb. And Adam directs the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States. Adam’s been around for quite some time. Adam was the Vice President for Programs at the Georgia Counseling Substance Abuse. He was the Director of the Georgia’s Governor’s Commission on Certainty and Sentencing. I met Adam, in terms of full disclosure, I met Adam when he was a Policy Director for Maryland, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townson and from 1995 to 2000 Adam and I worked together. And he was on the staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and he’s a former Reporter for the Atlanta Constitution. And a graduate of Harvard’s University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Adam Gelb, welcome to DC Public Safety.
Adam Gelb: Hi, Len. It’s great to be talking with you.
Len Sipes: All right, one of the things that we want to do in terms of discussing not just Pew, and first of all, why Pew got involved in this issue, the Pew Center for the States. And I’ll give out the contact in terms of the website a couple of times; www.pew – p-e-w centeronthestates – one, basically one word dot org. And before we get into the full program I want to thank everybody Adam Gelbain for listening to DC Public Safety, per Google we are now the number one criminal justice podcast on the Internet. We do radio and television as you well know. We respond to all of your comments individually and we greatly appreciate your comments. So you can either log on to the program or contact me at Or email me directly at Leonard – l-e-o-n-a-r-d dot sipes – s-i-p-e-s at csosa dot gov. And, Adam Gelbain, we really appreciate the fact that you continue to set records on a regular basis. We are up to 130,000 requests on monthly basis and we appreciate your comments and we appreciate your attendance and your participation in the show. Back to you, Adam. Now, Adam Gelbain you’ve had a very interesting background. I must tell the audience that when you worked for the State of Maryland, when you worked for Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townson we, within the bureaucracy, I was Director of Public Affairs for the Maryland Department of Public Safety. We would joke about Adam, we called him the Eveready Bunny of the criminal justice system because we, within the bureaucracy, were stoic and we were careful and we were cautious and Adam had a 1,000 ideas he wanted us to consider and discuss. So Adam is just filled with energy, filled with enthusiasm, filled with innovation and I think that’s one of the reasons why Adam ended up at Pew. So welcome back to the microphones Adam.
Adam Gelb: Well, thank you Len and I guess everybody’s probably heard the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over Adam Gelbain to get a different result, but here we are many years later and in fact a lot of the ideas that we talked about 10, 12 years Adam Gelbo have greened great currency. As you see all across the country, states are taking a different look at these issues than they were in the mid 90s when really massive prison growth and very little attention being paid to the costs of the growth, or for that matter, the impact on public safety. And now we’re really seeing sort of this approach change. Right? The old approach in the 80s and 90s was from state policy makers was how do I demonstrate I’m tough on crime? More and more, not everyone certainly, but more and more we see the question being reframed as; how do I get taxpayers a better return on their investment in corrections and public safety? So I would argue that we’ve reached a tipping point on this in venues all over across the country and in actions that legislatures are taking. They are starting to ask much tougher and much more relevant questions.
Len Sipes: Well, and I think that’s probably driven, Adam, I’m not quite sure it’s driven by ideology so much as it is simply driven by the fact the states could no longer afford the level of incarceration that they have that people in Maryland and throughout the country are basically complaining that they want to give money to infrastructure, to roads, to schools, to the elderly, to medical care. And they’re not terribly happy with the money that is spent on corrections or what they consider to be enormous money spent on corrections. So I’m not quite sure it’s ideology that’s driving this so much as the states themselves are basically saying there’s got to be a different way of approaching this problem. Am I right or wrong?
Adam Gelb: Well, you’re right. There is no question that budget difficulties bring people to the table in a way that they wouldn’t be otherwise. No question about it. And we certainly see that the current economic downturn is really accelerating discussions around the sort of three pools of reform, sort of an operating efficiency doing the things that are just good government things that ought to be happening in any environment. Using videoconferencing for example so you don’t have to pay for gas or transportation to get inmates from one location to another. Then you sort of have the middle of the pool where there are certain things that can be done, maybe by policy, maybe by internal action that can, for instance, reduce recidivism. And I’m going to talk about some of those a little bit later. Sort of medium impact, medium controversy kind of measures. And the more and more states taking on the deep end of the pool which is the sentencing and releasing policy. And states doing things that, you know, ten years Adam Gelbo would have seemed very unlikely. And that’s just a reason. But I don’t think you want to underestimate the importance of the improvement in the community corrections field, particularly the research about what works. And I think Adam Gelbencies like yourself and programs like this are both reflecting the reality of better programming, better researched based programming actually taking place and getting better results. And some Adam Gelbencies are doing a better job of communicating what they do, who they are, what their role is in the state’s crime fighting strategy. You know, it’s very difficult in many states to get governors or legislatures to think of parole and probation Adam Gelbencies as, you know, part of the state’s crime fighting apparatus.
Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things that Pew did, Adam, under your leadership. I do believe what Pew did was essentially come out with one of their first documents in this series. And, Adam Gelbain, I refer everybody to their website or to the Pew website. And we still haven’t gotten around to the question of Pew, who is a huge name in terms of the foundation field, how Pew got involved in this; But one of the first document’s y’all came out with was a sense that what parole and probation Adam Gelbencies should be doing is measuring everything it is that they do and hold themselves to a high standard in terms of actually reducing recidivism, actually reducing crime. Actually reducing the amount of people who are returning into the criminal justice system.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. Well, this criminal justice is a relatively new area for Pew. This project started just about two years Adam Gelbo now. And Pew has a long history of working in the environment of health and human services, in public opinion, through the Pew research center and other areas, but this was a new area and maybe to you and listeners here, it’s not all that surprising to take that on given that the institution’s criteria for taking on an issue is when the facts are clear and the evidence is in and there’s sort of a compelling case that can be made for action. And this is one of those. We were just talking about just a minute Adam Gelbo there has developed over the past 20 years a really solid research base about what works in corrections. And , as well as these sort of ripe political environment for pushing forward these ideas. So that’s how Pew got into it, along with, of course, a very foresighted leadership from folks at Pew. My boss, Sudi(?) Ram and the creator of this project, Lori Grange, you know they’re able to sort of see this happening and realize that an institution like Pew could make a difference here.
Len Sipes: The bottom line behind all of this, Adam, is what? I mean, we’re going to be discussing policy, we’re going to be discussing documents that you all have put out. And there are two new ones, putting public safety first, which is a summary and a larger piece, putting public safety first by the Urban Institute, Adam Gelbain, trying to take all of this complexity and summarize it. But for the averAdam Gelbe person listening to this program today, summarize where we are. You and I have always talked about there’s got to be a better way of doing it. Even before the economic crisis hit the states, we’ve always said there’s got to be a better way of protecting the public and reducing the amount of people coming back into the prison system and reducing the fiscal burden on states. So I mean is, what is the nutshell? What is the takeaway to the averAdam Gelbe person listening to this program?
Adam Gelb: Yeah. Easy question, Len.
Len Sipes: Yep. Yes, it is.
Adam Gelb: (Laughs). No, it’s not, it’s a very complicated issue. But the bottom line is that we are at a point now where there are one in 100 adults in this country behind bars, something that we announced in a report earlier this year.
Len Sipes: But all throughout the country, all throughout the world, by the way, for the listeners, had a report from Pew that had an immense impact.
Adam Gelb: Well, it did. And it was surprising what it did. I mean, folks like us who were sort of following this for a while, you know, knew that this has been proven and I forgot what the rate was. But the reaction to that was really stunning. And, you know it just points out to people that, you know, fundamentally and to answer your question, the bottom line here is that each state needs to look at who its got behind the walls. And, you know, as a project we don’t have any position on where, you know, any particular state is on that, right? I mean, maybe a number of states don’t have enough people in prison. Maybe others that have some, you know, small chunk or even some large chunk of the prison population that could be safely and effectively handled in the community. And what this has helped do, along certainly with a lot of other efforts by other private foundations and the Federal government and the whole reentry movement and everything is to really say here, look, you know, we have got to subject corrections and prisons in particular to the same kind of cost benefit analysis that we subject education and health programs to and any other government programs. We got to see that we’re getting our money’s worth in terms of public safety. And that’s the bottom line. That’s what this issue is.
Len Sipes: You mean we should be measuring what we do?
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: (Laughs).
Adam Gelb: That’s not such a normal concept anymore, right?
Len Sipes: It’s not, it really isn’t. I Adam Gelbree. I Adam Gelbree. But I think for those of in the criminal justice system, a bit of history, I mean, we had crime stats that was initiated in the New York City Police Department about what, ten years Adam Gelbo or so? And they credited that whole sense of comstat to an overall reduction and a rather continuous reduction in crime within New York City. And I think, Adam, what you’re advocating is the fact that through Pew is that we within the criminal justice system, we within parole and probation, measure what it is that we do and be held accountable for those measurements.
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And Len, if I can, just use that as an excuse to talk for a minute about the policy framework, the strength in community corrections that we have just put together with the help of a lot of the top thinkers and practitioners in this field. It is a framework that includes five provisions; it could be legislation, some of them could be done in an executive order of a court rule, but there are provisions that particularly in tight budget times can be very important to Adam Gelbencies that are trying to stay afloat in terms of their budget. So if I could I just want to take a second to outline them, Len.
Len Sipes: Sure. Of course.
Adam Gelb: Because performance measures is one of them. And let me just start with that. I mean, we , as a thrust of this packAdam Gelbe, are really trying to focus on state legislature and Adam Gelbencies on outcomes, not that many of them are already, of course, but really here getting legislature an opportunity to say, you know, we understand the role of community corrections in public safety. We want to firmly establish the mission of these Adam Gelbencies as crime prevention and recidivism reduction. And so it’s one thing for an Adam Gelbency to develop an annual report and provide the numbers to the public and maybe specifically to the legislature. It’s a very different situation when you have a legislature saying; you know, here’s what we would like. You know, we’re going to pass a bill but we’d like an annual report, or more frequently even, reports about recidivism, about employment rates, about victim restitution, collections aids, about drug test positive rates. And so that provision in our packAdam Gelbe sets those out and uses the American Correctional Association definitions for those measures. So these can be really important in terms of helping, you know, define what the mission of these Adam Gelbencies are and get us past these sort of dichotomy of where we are in law enforcement, the social work, but what we are is about moving those four needles, moving those numbers, that’s the mission.
Len Sipes: And the numbers we’re talking about are a continuous set of numbers. We’re not talking about a yearly release of numbers. We’re not talking about a release every six months. We’re talking about a continuous collection and a continuous analysis of numbers to see whether or not, whatever strategies we put in place actually work to A) protect the public; B) reduce recidivism; C) reduce expenditures.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. I think in terms of legislation we try to be very sensitive to this and certainly the folks in the field worked with us on an advisory role, but we’re very sensitive to what’s appropriate for legislation order versus what should be done at the Adam Gelbency level and certainly the frequency within in which the data is collected and presented and whether that’s presented on paper format or whether Adam Gelbencies really do move towards those types of model where on a monthly basis you know senior manAdam Gelbers meet with supervisors and go over their numbers. These numbers and obviously any number of other measures that are important to effective performance manAdam Gelbement. So that’s ,
Len Sipes: I’m sorry, Adam, we’re half way through the program, believe it or not, our half an hour is going extraordinarily quickly. I want to remind everybody that we’re talking with Adam Gelb. He directs the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. The web address is www.pewcenteronthestates – one word dot org. Adam, please continue.
Adam Gelb: Sure. But another thing I want to highlight in this packAdam Gelbe that we’ve put together, our pieces that are important, when we started the process a year Adam Gelbo working with the experts in their field to put this together that even more so now given the economic downturn and there are three provisions that effectively create resources or can effectively create resources for Community Supervision Adam Gelbencies without new appropriations. And there’s three of them. One is earned compliance credits, one is administrative sanctions and another is performance incentive funding. So the first one, compliance credits, is essentially just taking the concept of earned time from behind the walls and putting it out in the community. Now, what our provision proposes, and it’s based on the law that’s just passed several months Adam Gelbo is essentially a day for a day credit. If you are compliant with all your conditions and supervisions for a month, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to treatment, you’re not testing positive, you’re paying your victim restitution, you’re current on those monthly payments, then you would get 15 days off the back of your sentence. So a three year probation sentence could turn into an 18 month sentence and ,
Len Sipes: You could cut, we’re talking about probation, we’re not talking about prison now, correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s correct. It’s taking ,
Len Sipes: Community ,
Adam Gelb: Yes. Life behind the walls and putting it to the community. And, you know, so we the folks in the field can recognize immediately that this is a powerful incentive to offenders on the one hand and on the other really will help Adam Gelbencies concentrate their resources on the high risk offenders, these low risk folks who are complying, doing what they’re supposed to do, proving that they’re a low risk can move into either non active supervision status at that halfway mark if they still owe restitution and other things and to be terminated if they’ve completed their payments. And that effectively creates resources, right? I mean, it’s going to reduce, that kind of provision will reduce case loads. And the only other way to really do it is to hire more probation officers which is not likely in this environment.
Len Sipes: Let’s dwell upon that for a second, Adam. We have to. I mean, in essence what we’re saying is that out of a hundred people that you have on a parole and probation case load, there are a certain number, probably the top third, that really need supervision right out of the box, right out of prison, when they come out of the prison system, when they start probation, when they really need, because of their criminal records, because of their propensity towards violence, their propensity towards substance abuse, that these individuals need both supervision and services right out of the gate. But there are people out of that one hundred on the lower end, there’s one third that may not need any real supervision at all. The focus of the field, the state of the art, as articulated in your documents and other documents, seem to be that individuals at the higher end of the risk of public safety let’s really provides services and supervision to these people. And let’s do as little as possible with people at the far end of the continuum. Correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And there’s no question that some Adam Gelbencies already do this, of course, right? And have some discretion to move people onto administrative case loads, or to bank cases and things like this. You know, the advantAdam Gelbe of a provision like this is that it, you know, it ,
Len Sipes: Protects the public and saves money.
Adam Gelb: Well, it certainly does. I was thinking obviously things in legislature, you know, into those, you know, this is going to be the policy of the state. It does not have to be something that’s sort of swept under the rug. And it’s , it’s very exciting where we’re really looking forward to seeing how this is interpreted and we frankly expect, based on conversations with some victims’ representatives that victims would be excited about this. They’re looking for restitution to be paid and see this kind of provision as an incentive for offenders to get that restitution paid up.
Len Sipes: And I think this is one of the things were states have a hard time doing it. I represent the parole and probation Adam Gelbency, Federal parole and probation Adam Gelbency in Washington, DC, all of us within the criminal justice system have a hard time doing this where this should be done through policy and this is one of the things that Pew is doing in what, 13 states? How many states are you working with directly?
Adam Gelb: Well, we’re working now with 15 states and some of them more directly in various levels of intensity, but this is, these provisions will be available on the website, as you’ve indicated, early next week. So right the week before Christmas.
Len Sipes: Right. So I didn’t mean to take you off track, but I think that that focus, right there, that people are wondering how can we do things differently? The research seems to be clear. Pew and many other Adam Gelbencies are proponents of this. Focus your attention on the people who really are a risk to public safety and to the others, you may want to put them on administrative caseload, you may want to supervise them via kiosk, you may want to do ‘something else’ because they really don’t pose a danger to society.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. Len, the next provision I want to mention is what we’re calling performance incentive funding and Adam Gelbain this is something that we didn’t dream up but is based on some work going on in some states, in particular Arizona here, and that is that, you know, when Adam Gelbencies perform, they do what they’re supposed to do, they reduce their recidivism rates and they reduce their revocation to prison rates, particularly for technical violations, they ought to share in some of the savings that the state achieves by not having to lock up those recidivists or technical violators. And so this is, the languAdam Gelbe is complicated but the concept is simple, which is that in our proposed provision, state or local Adam Gelbencies and probation or parole Adam Gelbencies would receive 45 percent of the calculated savings from the reduction in their revocation rates. They would not get any funding if their rate of new felon convictions went up, right? You don’t want a situation where people would just keep violators on the street in order to reduce their rates and get incentive funding, but then we’re causing more crime, so there would be measurement of new felon conviction and convictions of people on supervision. And if that was headed in the right direction, it was heading down, then the savings that were achieved by not having as many violators go back into the system would send money back to those Adam Gelbencies for coming back into supervision services, their reporting centers, there are other things of course, and victim services. That’s the way we have it drafted, those incentive funds could be used for supervision services or victim services.
Len Sipes: And I think the bottom line in all of this is the research that basically says you just can’t supervise them. It has to be a combination of supervision and treatment. The example that I give all the time, and we just produced a television show on mental health treatment, and I’m real happy with the way the television show turned out and it will be on DC Public Safety in about two weeks up on the website. The problem, though, is that if you come out of the prison system, and if you have a mental health issue, I’m not quite sure where regardless as to where you are in a political spectrum, whether you’re far right or far left, I think all of us Adam Gelbree that that individual is probably going to commit another crime, probably going to be a nuisance, probably going to be a detriment to society unless or she gets treatment. So I think that’s something that all of us can Adam Gelbree on out of the box. So there has to be a combination of both supervision and treatment and it really does depend upon the level of the social problems the person brings with them in terms of how much money we spend on treatment. There’s research now on terms of self analysis, not necessarily a formal diAdam Gelbnosis, which ever is around 16 percent, but self analysis from the, or self diAdam Gelbnosis from the U.S. Department of Justice that indicate that 50 percent, five zero percent of the offenders coming out of the prison system have problems in terms of emotional or mental health issues. I think that that is profound and at the same time shows indeed that there has to be programs, drug treatment comes to mind, helping find jobs I think comes to mind. I think all of these things are necessary, as necessary as drug testing them, as necessary as putting on GPS electronic or satellite tracking system, as necessary as low caseloads so you can keep a strong eye on them. And as necessary as if you’re involved in a violent crime we take you off the street as quickly as possible. So I think the dichotomy on all of this is that it has to be both and I think that’s what Pew and others are saying.
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And actually it would, the way you described that, gives (chuckle), you said it so nicely, the last two provisions of this policy framework, so I’ll just describe them quickly. One is the administrative sanctions provision that would allow judges to say that in particular cases the offenders could be sanctioned by probation or parole without having to go back to the board or to the court and create certain levels of authority that would be allowed to be imposed certain sanctions with the incarceration sanctions obviously needing a higher level of scrutiny and review by an administrative peer officer. This is yet another way to essentially create resources for probation without requiring new appropriations, right? Because a significant amount of officer time is spent in a courthouse , awaiting hearings and certainly preparing the paperwork required for this judicial proceedings. This gets rid of that. And it also shrinks pretty substantially the amount of time that violators are held in jail awaiting violation probation hearings.
Len Sipes: As an example the person is forced, in terms of administrative problems, the person is forced to report to a day reporting center every day for two weeks.
Adam Gelb: That’s correct and that would be something that the probation could do in a lot of states. IN most states you can’t do that without going back to the court and get that kind of authorization and there’s a feeling now that moving offenders up and down the staircase and the latter of sanctions is something that ought to be able to be done through an administrative process. So that’s a significant piece, Adam Gelbain, it takes on added importance in times of tight resources. But the last piece, Len, speaking a little bit more to what you were describing in terms of the treatment aspect, because obviously it’s not just about sanctions or incentives, but about what types of services. And I know you didn’t mean to imply this at all, but all treatment programs are not created equal. And obviously the research has identified that specific approaches that work better than others. And so our fifth provision is called simply evidence based practices and borrowing from an Oregon statute it says that within four years 75 percent of offenders should be supervised in accordance with evidence based practices and also that within four years 75 percent of programs shall be evidence based programs. And so, you know, this is absolutely key to gaining confidence in community corrections and to having programs be actually programs that target criminal factors and do the things that they’re going to actually make it less likely that offender’s recidivate.
Len Sipes: Adam, we’re just about out of time. The bottom line in all of this is that we can, we are convinced Pew and lots of other organizations out there are convinced that we can make society safer, provide services to offenders and at the same time reduce the burden on states and states are crying bloody murder as to the fact that they don’t have the money to do, to build the roads, to put up the senior centers, to do all the different things that they want to do, so this is pretty much a win/win situation for everybody. We’re talking about, we’re not talking anti incarceration, we’re simply talking about making sure that the right person is behind bars, correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And it is not as if, Len, that there is not a fairly significant political consensus on this. I’m not going to argue that we’re in some kind of post partisan area on criminal justice policy in the way other people would like to argue about this and other areas now. But it is absolutely striking, not just within the criminal justice profession, but even at the political level. We have republicans and democrats leading these reform efforts in the states. We’re working together across party lines. And, you know, when you approach it from the perspective of, you know, what can we do to get taxpayers a better return on their investment, you know, lots of things become possible that weren’t otherwise possible. Now, I’m not going to be naive here, there is still plenty of political points to be scored on these issues and no doubt that the best laid plans and programs and best of the systems and risk assessments are not going to always protect or inculcate releases from states or governments or legislatures from when something goes wrong. And something well go wrong. But ,
Len Sipes: I sort of think that that’s inevitable, don’t you?
Adam Gelb: It is, but what’s not inevitable is when those things happen that the programs fall apart and the heads roll. And we really see this policy framework as a way for, you know, Adam Gelbencies to put themselves out on the map, to create more resources, to ratchet up their activities and in a way that builds more public awareness in support of what Community Supervision, what community corrections is, what it can do and the vital role that it plays in the public safety machinery of states.
Len Sipes: And at Public Safety we’re talking specifically Adam Gelbain about making citizens safer. And I think that you, it’s possible, I think what Pew is doing and a lot of organizations are doing as well as my Adam Gelbency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Adam Gelbency, what is what we’re doing, I think, is trying to create a framework where citizens are safer. And I think that’s the bottom line in all of this, do you Adam Gelbree?
Adam Gelb: Absolutely, Len. You are always right.
Len Sipes: (Laughs).
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: Tell my wife that.
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: Adam Gelb, you’ve got the final word on the program. Adam is the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States. You can get to the Pew Center on the States by visiting www.pewcenteronthestates – one word dot org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. Adam Gelbain, we really appreciate your comments. We really appreciate all of the feedback that you’re giving. Continue to give us that feedback at Or Leonard dot sipes at csosa dot gov. Thank you and have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. The producer is Timothy Barnes.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders, DWI and youthful offenders.


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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome from our studio in Downtown Washington, DC. This is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, is I think, one of the more important programs that we’ve done. We’re are going to be dealing with Internet predators. There is a coalition out there with a large number of people involved, but in this particular case it’s the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and we have Marsali Hancock who is the President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition at our microphones. And we’re going to talk about the Department of Justice and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and their web address by the way is And we’ll repeat that several times throughout the program. Ladies and gentlemen, again, we really appreciate the fact that you’re listening and commenting as much as you are and watching us on the video side. We respond to all of your comments. We are now up to 1.5 million requests since the inception of the program. And we are very grateful for all of the information that you provide and all the suggestions that you provide. Feel free to either Twitter me or to go to the website and email me at That’s Leonard dot sipes – s-i-p-e-s at csosa dot gov or comment through the program. And, again, we always appreciate all the things that you are suggesting in terms of improving the program. And with that long convoluted introduction, Marsali Hancock, President of the Internet Safe Coalition, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Marsali Hancock: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Len Sipes: Did I get the name right?

Marsali Hancock: It’s so close, it’s Internet Keep Safe Coalition, but the name was right on. Marsali Hancock.

Len Sipes: Marsali. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I was struggling. She told me Parsley and it was Marsali. Marsali Hancock, President of the Internet Safe Coalition.

Marsali Hancock: Keep Safe.

Len Sipes: Keep Safe Coalition. Okay, I need to write that down.

Marsali Hancock: There you go.

Len Sipes: Tell me the whole issue of predators, online predators. Now, this is a sticky issue, I think, because we all know that there are sex offenders out there.

Marsali Hancock: Yes.

Len Sipes: And we read about sex offenders just about every single day in the newspaper. But my contention is this, and the contention I think of research is this, is that the majority of the people who we call sex offenders are not known to the criminal justice system. And they have a sexual predisposition towards children. They’re going to gravitate, they’re going to go to where kids are. Where minors are. They’re either going to go to a playground, they’re going to go to a ballgame, they’re going to go a library, or they’re going to go to the Internet, correct?

Marsali Hancock: Correct. Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay. And tell me about that. Why go to the Internet?

Marsali Hancock: Well, the Internet is a place where children spend time. And a predator who is looking to engage in a child’s relationship, they look to the Internet to be able to groom them. So it’s incredibly rare that someone would be connected to a predator and then by deceit they would meet them because you pretended to be a young child and they’re the very same age. Usually when you look at the cases of children who have been victimized, it’s someone who has groomed them, talked to them, built a relationship and by the time the child is victimized, they may even know they’re a much older adult. So being able to take the time with your children to be sure that you are aware of the people that they’re conversing with is really critical.

Len Sipes: And that becomes a basic issue of protecting your children. You know, you and I were talking before the program when I would go and try to deal with my daughters in terms of their Internet use. And it was like, you know, dad, I already know about that. When I started talking about sexual predators out there, and the fact that they use the Internet, and there is a high probability that sooner or later, depending upon your time online, you’re going to come into contact with one. And, you know, at the end they were just looking at me like I had 53 heads ,

Marsali Hancock: Eye rolling. It’s the eye rolling.

Len Sipes: Oh, it was like, oh, dad, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard anybody say in my entire life. Would you please stop that? Give me my space. Don’t you trust me? And you, as a parent, you really have to fight hard, don’t you, in terms of making sure your kids are being safe on the Internet?

Marsali Hancock: You know, as parents, we have to work hard to be sure that our child is safe about everything in their environment. And that includes the Internet. And we didn’t have people modeled to us. My parents didn’t model to me how to be a parent in the digital environment. So we’re the first generation that has to do it. And for many children, and I’ve had that eye rolling at my house, it’s like, oh, mom, why do you have to be an Internet safety person.

Len Sipes: There you go, I like that, say that again. Oh, mom! (Laughs).

Marsali Hancock: It’s the eye rolling.

Len Sipes: Oh, dad!

Marsali Hancock: But something that can be reassuring is that research shows that parents who have a conversation with their child about online risks, those children are six times less likely to be victimized online. So conversations ,

Len Sipes: Well, that’s what the research says I think generally , what we’ve been saying, we in the criminal justice community have been saying in the crime prevention community have been saying for years, is that you need to have age appropriate conversations with your children.

Marsali Hancock: All the way from the beginning.

Len Sipes: All the way from the beginning, in terms of the realities that they are going to face. Not to frighten them, but to simply inform them. They’ve got to know that if something happens to them that makes them either feel uncomfortable or somebody victimizes them that you are going to be wide open to them coming to you and something that makes them fearful, something that makes them suspicious or, my God, an actual victimization that you will always be there for them, there’s nothing that they can say, nothing that they can do to scare you as a child away from that communication with the parents. And that’s what we were told to say when we were discussing this issue, to be sure that parents had that age appropriate conversation and that they, and be sure the child fully understands that it doesn’t matter what happens, they come to the parents.

Marsali Hancock: Well, that brings up some very important and critical points. And one is that the child sees you as a resource for help and support. And statistics show that kids don’t talk about it when something goes wrong. Because they’re afraid that their parents would unplug them from the Internet. And their emotional connection ,

Len Sipes: Oh, wow.

Marsali Hancock: , to the Internet so big that they would rather suffer alone ,

Len Sipes: I just realized that. I just realized that. I mean, it’s one thing simply saying that the coach of the football team put their hand where it shouldn’t. Maybe it was accidental. Maybe it’s not. But there’s, well, maybe he loses access to the ball team and maybe that’s a big concern to him. But that just struck me. You’ve said something that I never quite understood before that, I mean, look at my allegiance to the Internet. I’m an Internet junkie.

Marsali Hancock: (Laughs). So am I.

Len Sipes: You know? Between the Internet and between iPods and having mobile access to the Internet through your Blackberry or through your iPhone. You know, we love the Internet. We’re wired to the Internet. So are our kids. And so yeah, I would say that that’s probably an amazingly insightful point of view that if the child says, if I say something about this event that was, that causes me a certain amount of discomfort they’re going to stop me from using the Internet.

Marsali Hancock: Right. Well, kids are absolutely emotionally connected to their friends through the digital environment. So it’s no just the Internet, it can be also through their cell phones, through text messaging. And when you pull a child offline, you basically pull them off of their culture, their friends. So it’s not like the old days were you just got grounded for a day. It means that all communication between teens sometimes shuts down if they don’t have access to the digital environment. So what happens with this environment is if children feel like they’re going to lose access to their friends and their emotional support that they get through the Internet through their friends, then they’re not going to come to you when they have something that’s gone wrong. So the goal of the parent is to be a springboard of support, which means you start conversations early, help them recognize the true nature of the Internet. So the Internet is never private. And the children who get into the biggest trouble online are already the kids who are at risk offline. So it’s the kids whose parents ,

Len Sipes: Wait a minute ,

Marsali Hancock: , don’t communicate with them ,

Len Sipes: Ah.

Marsali Hancock: , are the greatest risk.

Len Sipes: Ah.

Marsali Hancock: So if you can be a parent who gets activated and engaged in your child’s digital life, you reduce their odds of being victimized exponentially.

Len Sipes: Well, that always seems to be the key issue here. Having that frank age appropriate non fearful conversation starting off at what age? Three?

Marsali Hancock: As they learn ,

Len Sipes: Four?

Marsali Hancock: , use technology, that’s when you start conversations.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: And the more you talk to your child, the better your conversations will be. And they’re not just those one little random conversations every now and then of so, what are you doing online? But kids talk to each other about digital technology all the time in overlapping conversations. So they’re tutoring each other about digital conversations.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: So as parents we have to learn a few new things. So we’ve got a few of the right nouns that set a little bit of context so we can actually carry on a conversation. And this is one area where parents need to remember they’ll never have to be as technically savvy to help protect their child online. Parents have what children don’t, which is an activated frontal lobe. Children’s brain, the CEO of their brain, their frontal lobe, is not fully developed, sometimes until they’re 22. So just because you have a teenager who can write code and is terrific with technology, it doesn’t mean you step away and you let them travel alone without any adult interaction.

Len Sipes: And I’m going to suggest something. I think, quite frankly, this sense of the kids – this is just a personal opinion, but the kids coming up really know a lot about technology. I don’t think they do. I think they know how to use the Internet. I think they know how to text message. But I, as an old fogy parent of two daughters know a thousand times more about the Internet and technology than they do. But, yes, they know how to work the Internet, they know how to search the Internet, they know how to use email, they know how to text message, but, you know, that’s pretty much the extent. So I think a lot of parents say to themselves, I’m not match for my child regarding this particular venue. I could deal with, you know, the stranger at the playground. I could deal with the coach of the little league team, but I can’t deal with the Internet. Yes you can. Because your kids really don’t know that much more than you do. That’s my personal opinion of parents getting over their fear of the Internet.

Marsali Hancock: Well, it’s important to get over the fears of the Internet. Absolutely. But as a parent of boys who write code and match together files ,

Len Sipes: Really? They write code?

Marsali Hancock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Oh, jeez. Okay.

Marsali Hancock: You know, so every parent ,

Len Sipes: My kids don’t write code.

Marsali Hancock: They have to overcome their own, their own set of challenges. And mostly it’s mental inside because we don’t feel necessarily comfortable about technology and the terms about it, then we might not feel that comfortable jumping in. But here’s the reality. There are very few children who are victimized by sexual predators. But when they are it is almost always because they are a child without an adult looking over and looking after them. And that child is talking to people online about sex. That’s the big predisposer. So if you have a child who is talking to someone online about sex, that’s like a big red flag, just put a flag on top of their head that says this is a person who could be open.

Len Sipes: But the principle issue here, and we’ve been saying this long before there was Internet access, that the principle issue here is needing to have those channels of communication open with a child and at three and four and five and six it’s not a problem. Seven, eight, nine, but boy, when they get into adolescence, when they become older, it does become difficult to manage that whole process, but manage you must. And that level of conversation and that openness and that plea, that promise that regardless of whatever happens to you, daughter, or whatever happens to you, son, come to me. I don’t care what it is. You come to me and tell me about it. I will never turn you away. I will never push you away. I will always embrace you and I will always protect you. And to say that what, once a month?

Marsali Hancock: Well, I wish we had a magic number. And we knew what each child needed always. But for a child to recognize that their parents care about them and care about what they post online helps to set the framework for a dialogue that will help lifelong relationships.

Len Sipes: In drug use, in terms of sexual encounters, in terms of homework. That does seem to be the key. And, you know, there’s not a lot of magic in life. Not a lot of magic formulas. That does seem to be one, keeping that open line of communication with your children. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to Marsali. Sort of like Parsley. I have to say that every time now.

Marsali Hancock: (Laughs).

Len Sipes: Marsali Hancock. The President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. One of the things that you want to do is go to their website, which is Marsali is operating under a Department of Justice grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. There are wonderful people over there who are working hard on a wide variety of fronts in terms of getting the word out about not just Internet safety but child safety across the board. Now the I Keep Safe Coalition, how did the I Keep Safe Coalition become involved in all of this?

Marsali Hancock: Well, in the Internet Keep Safe Coalition was started primarily to help provide tools and resources for parents and educators to help children use the Internet in a safe and healthy manner. So being able to help young children, particularly the early users, so the time to talk to children about Internet safety, security and ethics is as they use the technology. So you don’t want to put a child on the Internet, wait for five or six or seven years and then when they’re in middle school or high school say, oh, by the way ,

Len Sipes: Oh, by the way ,

Marsali Hancock: , there’s security risks.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: And there’s ethic risks. And now we have to talk about technology and it’s a public forum. You start these conversations very early. One of the most effective ways to do that is to help your child learn that everything done on the Internet leaves a permanent digital record. It is a public forum. And there are many children and parents who don’t recognize that everything you post online creates a digital footprint, a reputation. And that’s going to be an asset for you or a liability for you in future academic and employment opportunities. But in specific relationship to predators, what you post about yourself and about the conversations you have, if you have a child talking about sexual oriented information that is a huge red flag. And predators are looking for that. They troll for that.

Len Sipes: Yeah. They troll for that. They specifically , let’s talk about how they troll for that. What do we mean? So are they going on to MySpace? Are they going on to FaceBook? Are they going on to Twitter? Are they going on to message boards where kids congregate? What are they doing and where are they looking and what are they doing?

Marsali Hancock: They look where they have easy access to children. So any ,

Len Sipes: Any child related site.

Marsali Hancock: Right. Anywhere where they can become a virtual friend, where they can build ,

Len Sipes: Anywhere were you can have ,

Marsali Hancock: , emotional ,

Len Sipes: , conversation with a younger individual on the Internet. So it doesn’t matter where it is.

Marsali Hancock: No. That’s right.

Len Sipes: It could be anyplace. It could be church site for all we know.

Marsali Hancock: Especially a church site because anything that allows you to quickly develop trust would be something that would be a priority for a predator. But here’s some information that I thought was interesting. This week Cosmo launched, did some, did a study that one out of five girls has posted a sexy photo of themselves, either through their cell phone or through the Internet.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Marsali Hancock: One in five. I know, I have daughters. I was really shocked.

Len Sipes: That’s inviting hundreds of thousands ,

Marsali Hancock: That’s a red flag.

Len Sipes: , of individuals to comment. That’s a very, that is a red flag.

Marsali Hancock: Well, it’s a red flag not only because of the potential predator, but because those images are child porn. I had a great conversation with the District Attorney in a state where he had multiple cases. So there were something close to 60 families, over 20 arrests, of children who had created their own child porn. So images of themselves. And there’s mandatory sentencing. And mandatory procedures when you’re dealing with online sexual victimization of a child. So even if a child takes a nude photo of themselves, it doesn’t mean they’re exempt from mandatory pieces from the law.

Len Sipes: Correct. Correct.

Marsali Hancock: So for parents who have not talked to their child exactly what they mean by good use of their cell phone and digital images put up on the Internet, those kids are at risk. And the kids that are at risk are the ones who feel like, this is my private world, with just my friends, or it’s just people that I want to have contact with. And forgetting that mom ,

Len Sipes: Right. Right. I control this.

Marsali Hancock: , and grandma and my teachers and police and others have access to things that I put up on the Internet.

Len Sipes: It’s like my daughter, an ice storm, when she was driving a whole two weeks and I told her that I would come down and get her. And she responded, why?

Marsali Hancock: Right? (Laughs).

Len Sipes: Why? You know, she’s ..

Marsali Hancock: No frontal lobe on that one. No frontal lobe on that one.

Len Sipes: Two weeks driving. And it’s an ice storm. And she’s, why are you coming? This is embarrassing. I’m not a baby anymore. This is two weeks driving in an ice storm, well, I don’t have to explain it. And so kids have this inflated, unrealistic sense of their own sense of danger. They really do.

Marsali Hancock: Well, that’s the frontal lobe. So they actually physically can not process risk. They don’t have the capacity. And that’s why parents must be engaged with their child’s digital life. If you don’t know what your child is posting and if you don’t know with whom they’re communicating, that child is at risk.

Len Sipes: The partnership, again, how many people are involved in the partnership? It’s the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and I’ve got some real good friends over there. Very wonderful people. It’s the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, there’s lots of other people involved in this, correct?

Marsali Hancock: Yes. There’s I Know Better from St. Louis, and there’s also the Hispanic Communication Network that have all participated ,

Len Sipes: Right. And you guys have put out some great public service announcements. I’ve seen them. Extremely impressive. I’m going to start using them in the television shows that we will do this year.

Marsali Hancock: Great! Thank you.

Len Sipes: But I mean it is just a wonderful place to go and give additional information at In terms of reading from the press release issued by the Department of Justice of the Internet crimes against children taskforce says, since the program’s inception in 1998, the taskforces have reviewed nearly 200,000 complaints resulting in the arrest of almost 11,000 individuals across the country intent on sexually abusing children. In fiscal year 2007 alone the investigations led to more than 2,350 arrests and more than 10,500 forensic examinations. And I have no idea as to the different people who are listening to those numbers right now, but that’s an extreme undercount. That is not even the tip of the iceberg. Because the great majority of individuals known to be victimizing children are not known to the criminal justice system.

Marsali Hancock: That’s true. That’s correct.

Len Sipes: We don’t know who they are. And in some cases it takes decades for them to surface if it does at all. How many times have we had teachers who, you know, great honorable teachers, loved by the community and certainly something happens and the flood gates open and suddenly 20 or 30 people come forward to provide additional information.

Marsali Hancock: Well, that brings up a very good point that many times a child has been victimized online actually knows the perpetrator offline.

Len Sipes: Ah. So now that’s something else I’ve never heard of. You’re a wonderful interview. This ,

Marsali Hancock: And that’s a much more, that’s a much more realistic scenario.

Len Sipes: Ah.

Marsali Hancock: It’s very rare. Incredibly rare that someone actually reaches out, creates a false identity and then tricks the child into meeting him.

Len Sipes: So they’re using the Internet as ,

Marsali Hancock: As another form of abuse.

Len Sipes: , a method of additional confidential so the child thinks.

Marsali Hancock: That’s right.

Len Sipes: Form of contact.

Marsali Hancock: So here’s an example. There’s a case in Virginia, the predator was actually a teacher in a school.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: And he had some, he had a fake profile on a social networking site where he lured young boys that he knew offline. So he knew these kids.

Len Sipes: Mmm?

Marsali Hancock: So he could entrap them. They, he says, well, and now the boys think this is a very attractive girl.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: And because he knows enough about them, he can create the sense of trust.

Len Sipes: Oh, so he doesn’t necessarily have to identify himself, he knows these kids and creates ,

Marsali Hancock: He gets them to do something stupid and then he can blackmail them.

Len Sipes: Ah!

Marsali Hancock: So he gets them to send inappropriate images of themselves doing activities that would be, you know, put up as child porn. And then once he has those images then he blackmails them.

Len Sipes: But he presents himself as a girl. He knows their circumstances but he masks who he is but he knows enough. He knows that this is a potentially vulnerable individual, so this will give you the opportunity of going after him or her.

Marsali Hancock: So if a lovely girl that they think is a girl say to them; if you do A, B, C and send me a webcam image of it, then I will send back to you a picture of me and , you know, X, Y, Z. So boys without a frontal lobe in this area would be entrapped. And rather than tell, rather than tell, they would be victimized. But here’s the tragedy, because it had been multiple victims of kids right in the very own same school, they didn’t find him because of one of the children. They found him on a sting operation just trolling, looking.

Len Sipes: You know, again, when I was working for the State of Maryland and when we were putting up a sex offender database and I sat down with people who are experts in this field, and that’s one of the things that they told me, that they, the trick here is to get the child, is to entrap the child.

Marsali Hancock: Right.

Len Sipes: And to create some sort of scenario that where the offender says to the child, you know, now your parents are going to find you disgusting. They’re never going to trust you again. You have really done something terrible. Where that adult suddenly becomes the keeper of the secret and the only person that the child can, in a sick sort of way, sort of trust because the two of them share this secret.

Marsali Hancock: They have a dark secret, that’s right. It’s a tragic, tragic ,

Len Sipes: And they were telling me about, as far as they were concerned, tens of thousands of kids, we’re not talking about a hard count here, it’s nothing more than a guess, but certainly thousands of kids being held in psychological bondage by individuals who are child sex offenders. Child sex predators. And where a child would go through years, from age five to age nine, to age ten, held in this unbelievable psychological entrapment. And at the same time being victimized by this individual. That is a burden, to say that no child should bear is today’s understatement, but that is such a profound set of circumstances for that child to be in. And everything you’re saying is that the Internet is the new ay of accomplishing that.

Marsali Hancock: It’s just the same. It’s the new vehicle for the very same type of horrible things that have gone on with children in the past. It just provides another vehicle of entrapment for the child, particularly when the threat is well, I’ll make these videos public or I’ll make these images public and I’ll ruin your life and all of your friends will know what type of person you are and that you sent these to me.

Len Sipes: Right. And you would rather die,

Marsali Hancock: They would , they choose to be ,

Len Sipes: , than to ,

Marsali Hancock: , victimized rather than to tell.

Len Sipes: , go through that level of humiliation.

Marsali Hancock: Right. So this is where it comes to the parent. So what could you actually do to help catch that? Or to intervene, or to be able to step in and be a support, especially something like that scenario with the Virginia students. So you know you have a healthy teenage boy and he’s going to do something stupid, so how as a parent can you intervene at the right time?

Len Sipes: Okay. Tell me.

Marsali Hancock: So here’s a few statistics. There are, there is – over 60 percent of the mothers worry more about what their kids do online than they do about when their child walks out the door. So it’s this overall anxiety. But only 48 percent say they have no clue what their child does online and only 15 percent of them actually use software tools to help them. So here’s the missing link. Parents have anxiety about what their child does online, but they haven’t taken the time or the resources to invest a little bit of energy to find out how can I work with my child to monitor what they do.

Len Sipes: Okay. How could they do that?

Marsali Hancock: They can buy software that will allow this.

Len Sipes: Now, you’re saying buy software and there’s a whole bunch of people out there going, oh, my God, no, don’t tell me to buy software!

Marsali Hancock: Well, there’s also free pieces of software.

Len Sipes: No, no, no, I meant … I was simply saying that there is an intimidation factor here. Tell me about that.

Marsali Hancock: I know. Right. So parents can be intimidated by technology. But if you have children on technology, knock, knock, knock, someone has to be the parent. And you have to assume ,

Len Sipes: So you can always get a friend to install the thing if you have an issue with that.

Marsali Hancock: And how you learn to manage it.

Len Sipes: What will that give you?

Marsali Hancock: It will give you a vehicle of communication to let your child know that you’re checking what they are posting online. And the reason is that you want that child to recognize everything they post is public. And it will effect their future academic and employment and you want that child to recognize that you care enough about them to help them make wise choices.

Len Sipes: And to recognize that they have the frontal lobe, you know, issue.

Marsali Hancock: Yes, they do have their frontal conversation.

Len Sipes: And sometimes you have to step in and help them regardless of whether they want to be helped or not.

Marsali Hancock: No. Children never want to be interrupted. And particularly if they feel like the Internet is their private world.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marsali Hancock: So if they feel that their chat logs are private, or their instant messages are private, or their text messages are private, they’re completely confused. So a parent has over empowered that child to have them think that something done digitally is their own private communication.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Marsali Hancock: It isn’t.

Len Sipes: They can buy the software. What else can they do?

Marsali Hancock: They can look.

Len Sipes: They can look.

Marsali Hancock: So checking. There’s three ,

Len Sipes: Can they do that?

Marsali Hancock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: As a parent can you walk into a child’s room and look at what they’re looking at.

Marsali Hancock: Good grief, you mean a real parent?

Len Sipes: (Laughs).

Marsali Hancock: (Laughs). Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes: Really? Okay.

Marsali Hancock: There’s three good concepts that every parent needs to just settle into, take a little quiet time and figure out how to do it within your own value system.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Marsali Hancock: The first is to keep current with the technology your child uses. You don’t have to be a techno wiz. You just have to be current with the technology your child is actually using.

Len Sipes: In other words if they’re texting on a cell phone then you got to ,

Marsali Hancock: Then look at it.

Len Sipes: Look at it.

Marsali Hancock: Yes. I was at Washington State, not too long ago, and the U.S. Attorney had intervened, one of his law officers had intervened, a mother had just happened to be reviewing the text log from her daughter’s phone and it turns out a predator had been sending nude images of himself and he had been developing this relationship with the young teenage daughter, a very young teen. Early, early. And if the mother had not taken the time to review the images or the text, the daughter would have voluntarily met with this adult. So meanwhile the mother looks at the phone, she calls the police, the police assume the , the identity of the daughter. Now that predator is behind bars.

Len Sipes: Good.

Marsali Hancock: And a mother was doing what mothers do which is checking in ,

Len Sipes: Good. Good.

Marsali Hancock: You know, I look in the backyard if my kids are playing in the yard. You know, it’s part of the culture of what do as parents.

Len Sipes: Well, we’ll do it, you know, we know how to ask about our kids’ friends. We know about asking where they are. What they’re doing. And those sort of bullheaded stubborn parents who get in there and fight for their kids, again, the clear research is that they generally save the kids from doing a lot of silly and stupid things.

Marsali Hancock: Yes. It helps.

Len Sipes: It helps tremendously.

Marsali Hancock: So communicating is that first key.

Len Sipes: Communicating. Right.

Marsali Hancock: Now keeping current is the first key. So the first is to keep current with the technology. Then it’s communicating. So second is communicating. But you can’t really communicate until you are current with the technology. So you have to do a little bit of homework yourself. Talk to other moms. You know, it’s okay to say I’m not all that confident.

Len Sipes: Or go to

Marsali Hancock: Absolutely go to And the third is to keep checking. You check so your kids have this engraved in their brain that everything on the Internet leaves a public record. You can never erase anything.

Len Sipes: If you post that racy photo of yourself ,

Marsali Hancock: It will be somewhere in the cache world forever.

Len Sipes: For the rest of your life.

Marsali Hancock: As long as there is electricity on the planet.

Len Sipes: (Laughs) As long as there is electricity on the planet. That is, that’s a profound thought, isn’t it?

Marsali Hancock: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: That what you post at 15 will be there when you talk to your daughters (chuckle) at age 35 to, you know ..

Marsali Hancock: Your reputation will follow you everywhere you go. Every job application. All of ,

Len Sipes: That’s a great way of putting it. Boy, you have ten tons of good points.

Marsali Hancock: I have children.

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Marsali Hancock: I’ve been practicing.

Len Sipes: That’s great. That’s great. That’s great. No, but I think there’s a lot of things that you have brought up today that are powerful. And that’s one of them. You know, that image, whatever it is, it’s not like they go out and do something goofy with their friends and that’s it. It’s done and over with and it’s a simply housed in the memories of those individuals. With the Internet it’s not. It’s a permanent record that’s going to stay with you for the rest of your life.

Marsali Hancock: So here’s how this plays out.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Marsali Hancock: So this is a true story. A young college freshman got the big baseball scholarship that he had been wanting all of his life. He won it.

Len Sipes: Oh, lord.

Marsali Hancock: It was his first year, he was playing on the team, he was doing great. He went to a party, he was drinking a beer at this party like a lot of freshmen do at college, which is actually underage drinking, which is actually illegal, but someone posted his picture with his beer in his hand in a social networking site. The University was made aware of it, he’d lost the scholarship and dropped off the team. He was kicked off the team and lost the scholarship his freshman year.

Len Sipes: So there are profound implications for stupidity.

Marsali Hancock: Well, but, your teenager is ,

Len Sipes: You’re looking at me, the wrong word? The wrong word?

Marsali Hancock: No.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Marsali Hancock: But you’re right. Kids do stupid stuff. But they need to learn really quickly from someone they know and trust, their parents. Or someone else that has access to them that what they post is going to affect them with future opportunities.

Len Sipes: You know, Marcella , Parsley. Parsley.

Marsali Hancock: (Laughs).

Len Sipes: Boy, I keep blowin’ that. Marsali, this is a fantastic conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, I really want everybody to go to their website. And that is

Marsali Hancock:

Len Sipes: And, you know, this is a profoundly interesting conversation. I want you to come back at our microphones. And, you know, ikeepsafe, and you’re the President of the organization. You’re in league with lots of other organizations, with the U.S. Department of Justice, with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in terms of an ongoing effort, wonderful PSA’s, public service announcements in terms of just doing something useful in the lives of kids and parents to keep them save. And you’ve told me three or four things, me being in the criminal justice system for 40 years, you’ve told me three or four things today that I never realized.

Marsali Hancock: Well, very good. Very good. Well, the goal is to help parents engage and know where their child goes online. So the website that has those PSA’s is

Len Sipes: Marsali Hancock, the President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Again, we really appreciate all of the letters. We really appreciate all of the emails, we appreciate all of the suggestions. And keep them coming and please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. The producer is Timothy Barnes. Lou Ann Holland produced the show for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention.

Meta terms: Internet crime, minors, child safety, crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison.