Archives for October 2009

Identity Theft 2-10 Million Identity Thefts a Year-NOVA-DC Public Safety-177,000 Requests a Month

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– Audio Begins –

Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program will deal with identity theft. It is something that seems to be sweeping the country. Every time you turn around, there are additional articles that say that identity theft is growing throughout the country. Back at our microphones, Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Their website address is, and also, on our microphones today is Robert Wayne Ivey. Robert is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He works out of the Brevard Country Field Office. He is an expert in the investigation of ID theft crimes. Wayne has also been the victim of ID theft and hence has a unique perspective on this kind of victimization. So, we should have a good half hour talking about identification theft.

Ladies and gentlemen, the usual commercial, we want to thank all of you for all of your cards, letters, phone calls and how you get my number, I don’t know, but I don’t give it out, but you seem to be doing an effective enough job getting in touch with me via email. We are now up to 162,000 requests for July of 2009 and July is not over. It’s a record month for us, and we really appreciate the fact that you’re listening and the fact that you’re watching and the fact that you’re reading the blog or the articles on our site. If you need to get in touch with me, it’s, or simply comment in the comment box on the D.C. Public Safety Media site. To Will Marling and to Wayne, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thank you Leonard. Good to be with you.

Wayne Ivey: Thank you Leonard, it’s nice to be with you today.

Leonard Sipes: Well, gentleman, every time I turn around, I am looking at an article that tells me that identity theft is increasing by leaps and bounds. It is the fastest growing crime in America. But I note that there is no central source for identity theft. If you take a look at the uniformed crime reports, the two big national sources of crime information, The Uniform Crime reports of the FBI, and if you take a look at the National Crime Survey, identity theft is not a category that we measure. So, we’ll start off with Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Will, how do we know that this is growing?

Will Marling: The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that has been tasked with some of the issues related to tracking this particular crime; and the evidence so far indicates that we’re looking at least 10 million victims a year. We’ve got an idea that that’s probably fairly low because of the nature of the ability to report, awareness issues, people even understanding certain aspects of the crime. So I’m pretty convinced that right there, we’ve got solid ground to recognize that this is a huge problem and it is growing.

Leonard Sipes: 10 million victims a year.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: Who puts out that figure?

Will Marling: The Federal Trade Commission is tasked with this particular issue. There was a Presidential Commission that was established not too many years ago and so the Federal Trade Commission tracks this and you report. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you’re asked to report that to the Federal Trade Commission. They don’t have an enforcement issue, as such, but they do have a statistical reporting and tracking. The Federal Trade Commission offers information about identity theft and protection and, of course, dealing with the victimization.

Leonard Sipes: Will Marling, again, being the Executive Director with the National Organization for Victim Assistance, ladies and gentleman, if you’re not aware of NOVA, they’ve been around for about 30 years or so, been advocating for victims’ rights that entire time and, Will, ordinarily, the issue is burglary, robbery, rape, a lot of violent crimes. NOVA has been traditionally active, and we did a radio show, ladies and gentlemen, with Will Marling about two months ago. And we’re doing a series of six radio programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. How did NOVA get involved in identity theft?

Will Marling: Well, we were getting some calls on our toll free line (1-800-TRY-NOVA). It’s a victim assistance line and, of course, we do get a lot of violent crime victims that need assistance and support and referrals; but we were getting these identity theft victims and so we started asking some questions about what was going on there, what’s available to them, realized there wasn’t very much. And so we ended up starting to build our own database in terms of our own thinking about this, understanding, getting some training, and we ended up partnering with a company called Life Lock, to understand this issue from both the protection side and also the victim assistance side. And that really propelled us in a very short order and just in even in the past year or so or less, really, to looking at confronting this issue and putting resources toward helping people victimized by identity theft.

Leonard Sipes: Robert Wayne Ivey, again, is resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement working at Brevard County. You were the victim of an ID theft, correct Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right, Leonard. I ran the state-wide Identity Theft Task Force for our agency for a number of years and actually ended up becoming a victim, myself, which when I’m speaking to different groups, civic groups and everything, I always point out to them, I theoretically know what steps to put in place to protect against becoming a victim, and it still happened to me. So, it just goes to demonstrate that anyone can become a victim of this crime that no one is completely insulated from it.

Leonard Sipes: Can you give me a little detail about what happened without getting too personal?

Wayne Ivey: I can give you all the exact detail on it. I stopped to buy a golf bag. I’m a horrible golfer, I thought if I had nicer looking golf bag, it might help my golf game, which it didn’t. I just want to point that out but,

Leonard Sipes: I use that same philosophy, by the way, with tennis.

Wayne Ivey: I used my ATM MasterCard to make the purchase on a Friday and on Monday my bank account was wiped out. It was gone and they had taken all the money out. When I ended up solving it, it was the 19-year-old kid that waited on me at the gold shop and he’d done about $25,000 in credit card fraud with other people’s information and using their identities and victimizing them.

Leonard Sipes: How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening, Wayne? I mean, we all turn our credit card information directly over the telephone to people almost everyday. How do you prevent that sort of thing from happening?

Wayne Ivey: Well there’s some things, as I said, there is no way to absolutely guarantee you’re not going to become the victim of this type of crime. There are certain measures that you can take that are proactive. For example, fraud alerts and doing different things; shredding your documents, not putting your mail in the outgoing mail carrier, or the mailbox and that list goes on and on. So there are certain things you can do that are proactive. But some things you have to be reactive in. What’s real important in identity theft investigations is,I think the last time I looked; the national average was 12.7 months, the average for someone to realize they’ve been the victim of identity theft. That’s an enormous amount of time to be victimized and not know it.

Leonard Sipes: Why so long, Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: A lot of it is, we’re not reactive. We’re not doing the things that we can do. We’re not looking at our credit reports. We’re not monitoring our online transactions. We’re not taking advantage of real time credit histories, and staying up on top of our checking accounts and those things. So, it has a tendency to lengthen the time that we’re unrecognized as victims. And if we become reactive and recognize its happened right away, it gives law enforcement a better chance to make an arrest or actually identify the perpetrator. And it also limits the extent of damage that can be done to you as a victim.

Leonard Sipes: Wayne, I’m going to be asking you this at the end of the show but I want to get in to some of it right now. You’ve just ran through a lot of very important things. You’re supposed to take a good look at your accounts. When your credit accounts come in, you’re supposed to immediately recognize that somebody buying those new golf clubs, by the way, in Nebraska can’t possibly be you.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly. So many people don’t recognize that. Maybe that’s because the volume of expenditures on their credit card invoice is typical. They do a lot of expenditures so they don’t take the time to look at it and see that something’s happened. Other examples may be it’s a dormant credit card that they never look at the bill on because they don’t ever use it, and somebody else is actually using it and taking advantage of that. So there’s many different purposes why someone may not recognize it has happened. Other people, and we’ve become a technology society, if you will, and other people have gone away from getting an actual hard copy or a paper copy of their bill delivered to them and they’ve gone to getting it online. What they see is they see their bill, they don’t review their statements and everything else, and so they’re just paying that bill. Again, there’s a number of reasons. When we talk about identity theft and credit card fraud all put together, it’s amazing the advances that have happened. The technology and the availability of our information are just unintentionally driving this crime to epidemic proportions.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve mentioned two other things; you mentioned shredding your documents before throwing them out in the trash and you’ve mentioned, in terms of what? Getting an application for a credit card and you just toss it in the trash?

Wayne Ivey: We see people that actually have shredders in their house. As one person said, they have a shredder that would shred the carpet in the house but they never use it to shred documents. Sometimes we think we’re outsmarting the thief by ripping it up in little pieces. They’ll get it out of your garbage. They’ll do dumpster diving and piece it back together like a puzzle. Credit applications, we get them, we throw them in the garbage. They’re taking advantage of it. Sometimes, we don’t even get them. They’re mailed to us and the thieves are stealing it out of our mailbox before we ever get our hands on it.

Leonard Sipes: At the end of the program, think about this, I’m going to be asking you for the top five things that people can do. One of the things that people ask me in terms of the show is at the beginning of the show, is summarize what we’re going to cover for the entire show. There is no pre-planning for these radio shows that we do or the television shows that we do, by the way. We just crank up the recorder and crank up the television cameras and let it fly and so there is no way that I can summarize it at the beginning. A lot of people are asking me to do that but we will summarize what the principal issues are at the end.

Where do we go? What does the average person get to do? What are the best steps the person can take to prevent identity theft? It just strikes me that with all of the credit card information that I give out to strangers on 1-800 lines, I think, when I’m dealing with Amazon and I’m dealing with an affiliate, I’m assuming that Amazon has done something to make sure that the folks and their affiliates take care of my personal information.

Wayne Ivey: One thing that everyone has to keep in mind, because we are constantly asked, is it okay to do transactions online? Is it okay to do things over the computer? The answer to that is, regardless of if you walk into a building to pay your bill, or into a building to do a transaction, regardless of what you’re doing, somewhere a human being is processing your information and, if that human being is a responsible individual, an integral individual that is going to protect your information, then it doesn’t matter if its online or not. Conversely, if they’re a person that’s going to be wiling to turn around and use your information, or sell it to someone that’s going to use it illegitimately, then you’re in trouble. Again, it’s the same, whether they get your information because they’re receiving it on the other end of a computer transaction or if they get it because you’ve walked in the door and handed it to them. You’re still equally as vulnerable.

Leonard Sipes: What do we do? What do we as citizens do? Because all the things that you just described in terms of not taking a good look at your statements, and I do rip up the credit card applications before putting them on the trashcan. If they were so desperate to go in my trashcan and piece it back together then God bless them, because I do a good job of ripping those things up. But really, life is busy and you have kids and you have a wife and you have a job and have responsibilities and its run, run, run. I can see, you’re telling me that 12 months, the average time out there is 12 months between the identity theft and by the time the person notices it. I can understand why that happens and how it happens and why it happens.

Wayne Ivey: I think one thing that is just amazing is, we hear and it’s factually based, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. What we need everyone to do; consumers, and everyone to do is to realize that identity theft is not a new crime. I know Will can touch on this as well as I can because we talked about it before; but when you look at identity theft, you can trace identity theft activity back to the Book of Genesis with the story of Esau and Jacob where one brother uses the other brother’s name to get the first born rights. You can find it in the play Othello where Iago talks about, “He who filches my good name, robs me of my riches and indeed makes me poor.” It’s been around forever. What is happening is, it has evolved and technology and the availability of our information has helped it to evolve. Will, will tell you the same thing. We see victims from every walk of life, every economic, social level that become victims of identity theft. It’s really a difficult crime to investigate because generally it’s multi-jurisdictional and it’s a difficult crime to prevent because our information is exposed at so many different levels.

Leonard Sipes: I was responding on my internet account where, I won’t give the name of the organization, and I belong to this particular entity and the entity was telling me they needed updated information. And it was so real. They were asking me for my social security number, my credit card number because they already had my credit card number. This is an organization I already gave this information to but when it got down to the social security number, I said, “Why are they asking me for my social security number?” And then it struck me, this is a fraud. Now here I am 40 years in the criminal justice system, four college degrees, you would think that I would be smart enough to recognize that, and I was just one little millisecond from pressing the button and hitting send. So it fools us all and from what I understand, from just reading stuff about identity thefts that ,in many cases, these are so sophisticated that the average person doesn’t recognize that it’s a fraud regardless as to how savvy they are. Correct?

Wayne Ivey: Absolutely, and Will, I don’t know if you want to respond to that, but absolutely, the levels of sophistication have just climbed and climbed. We’ve gone from a crime that was typically committed in person to a crime that is now committed at global levels. Someone in another country is targeting you and with the same type of scams that you’re just talking about, where something pops up on your computer and it appears legitimate. It will have the company logo, an icon of whatever company they’re impersonating and, when it pops up on that screen, your first inclination is to fill it out because it may say that your credit card is going to be shut down. It may say that your bank account is at risk and you’re first thought is to comply with it so that you can get deeper into it and figure exactly what’s going on.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, stay with me on this particular issue. I have to reintroduce both of you because we’re halfway through the program. Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. We’re talking about 10 million victims of identity theft a year, the estimate is. We’re also talking to Robert Wayne Ivey, resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

So the bottom line to me is this is that if this is happening and it strikes me also that the counterfeiters have completely given up on counterfeiting and now going into identity theft, because some of these things that pop up in your internet screen are so vivid that this is not something that law enforcement is going to be able to solve because a lot of these solicitations, as you’ve just said, Wayne, are coming from overseas. And in fact, one of the breakaway Soviet Republics, it originates there, it goes through a computer in Greece, it goes through a computer in the United States and it comes to you. So this strikes me as not a law enforcement initiative, this strikes me as an education initiative that, unless we as citizens, take the proper precautions, there is very little that law enforcement can do to intervene. Am I right or wrong?

Will Marling: There is a number of prongs. This is huge monster, naturally, and with many monsters, you need more than one weapon. And so we looked at it from a law enforcement standpoint and certainly, there are folks doing this locally. Now globally, yeah, the challenge is trying to tract somebody down in another country is difficult, but from the standpoint of what we do here, even, there are some legislative commitments that I think need to be made regarding data breach, a national data breach standard that is being worked on, I know. As well as the awareness piece. And this is why, Leonard, it’s so good to discuss this issue because, as Wayne describes, it can happen to anybody. I want to mention two things, one is that it could truly happen to anybody because anybody’s information makes it possible to be abused, to be misused. The fact is you might say, “Well I have bad credit. Nobody cares about mine.” They don’t care about your credit, they care about the fact that you have a social security number and that social security number can be exploited in many ways.

Wayne Ivey: That’s exactly right.

Will Marling: That’s just to recognize anybody is possible. My kids, I have my kids on a service. I pay a small amount each month for a monitoring service for my children because even as young as they are, they don’t have a work record, but if somebody gets a hold of their social security number, they could actually use it. If I understand correctly from law enforcement, the average social security number that’s abused is abused about 30 times. And many times, it’s people who don’t have social security numbers who are using it for illegal work purposes and this kind of thing. The other piece I want to mention from a victim assistance standpoint is simply that the emotional impact of this is significant. For your law enforcement listeners, all I can say is, try to be sympathetic. You look at it as a property crime, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an identity crime. It’s a slam against who you are. Your personal integrity is in view, it’s challenged. And emotionally, you feel like somebody has gotten into your very,they’ve gotten into your drawers and they’re pulling out your intimate garments. I mean that’s the reality. That’s how people emotionally feel about it.

So, we’re trying to help people recognize, especially those who work with these kinds of victims, that the emotional impact many times looks and feels, in many ways, like violent crime victimization. The outcomes are different in some ways but emotionally, impact is very deep.

Leonard Sipes: The vast majority of property crimes are not reported to law enforcement, we know that from the National Crime Survey. My guess is that the vast majority of these crimes are not reported to law enforcement. If I’m called in to an identity theft crime, and I’m pretty smart guy, and I’m pretty technologically savvy in terms of the average person, I wouldn’t know the first thing to do about investigating this sort of a crime. Wayne?

Wayne Ivey: Before I respond to that one, I just want to follow up on something Will said. From the law enforcement perspective, we have really started to trend that way, but we’ve got to do a better job at helping our victims of this because as Will said, their lives are turned upside down. It’s no longer that this crime just attacks your credit, as it certainly does, but this crime is a attacking your credit, your good name, your abilities to get top secret security clearances, your abilities to get mortgages on a home, on and on. Even to get employment, which we all know is tough in today’s time, you finally get in for that job and then you find out that you’re not getting the job because you’ve got an arrest record or you’ve got a bad credit history, any number of things that can knock you out, even down to a bad driving history that will disqualify people. It is attacking us at all different realms.

And law enforcement, historically, has given victims the runaround. Well it didn’t happen in my area, even though you live in my area, you have to call where it happened at and so forth. I’ll tell you that’s really frustrating for the victim. I hear it every day from them when they’re calling and saying, “I’m getting the runaround. I’m frustrated.” And I’ve actually had one victim that was unfortunately, in her life, she was the victim of a violent crime, and then was later the victim of identity theft. She actually has shared with me that, given the two, the violent crime happened, occurred and was over with and she was able to come to grips with it. The identity theft keeps haunting her over and over again.

Leonard Sipes: And just goes on and on and on and on. And I know from my days as a law enforcement officer, as to how violated the people feel that somebody just was in their garage stealing items out of their garage. It’s a great sense of fear and a great sense of apprehension. I would imagine that it has to be ten times that in terms of somebody coming in and stealing your identity.

Will Marling: There’s no face to that person either. At least, you figure somebody had to breach your own home barrier someway, they broke the lock. But here, you’ve got somebody out there who is after you and you don’t have a clue, probably, who they are and how they got to you.

Leonard Sipes: Or what continent that they’re on.

Will Marling: Yeah, exactly.

Leonard Sipes: This may end up being two shows, gentleman, because I think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg with this. Where do people go for information? Will, on your website, do you have information on identity theft?

Will Marling: Ironically, because we’re so new into this, we want build a good resource there. So we actually don’t have a lot.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so you’re in the process of building it. Where do people go?

Will Marling: The one thing I do want to tell you, at the same time, we were asking people, specifically victims to call us because we are able to offer free resources and free professional remediation resources to help them deal with it.

Leonard Sipes: 1-800-TRY-NOVA.

Will Marling: That’s right. So we actually have things we can do for them and with them and not just referral. We have a process for assigning them a code so that they get into free services regarding identity theft remediation. So that’s the main thing and that’s the starting point, I’ll stop there for now.

Leonard Sipes: At 24 minutes and 31 seconds now, I’ve just decided we need to make this two shows. So we need to bring Wayne back on our air. We don’t have enough time to really give this its full due because the more I’m hearing about this, I guess the more frightened I’m becoming in terms of where do people go to get information on identity theft and what should people do? Wayne, is it a matter of simply not responding to anything on the internet, that no bank, no financial institution is going to send you something via the internet that asks you for personal information?

Wayne Ivey: It’s exactly right because here’s the reality of it, whether it’s your bank or your credit card company, which is generally the two types of phishing schemes we see. And of course that phishing with a “˜P’ – P-H-I-S-H-I-N-G, not like fishing in the lake, but the reality of it is the two concepts are very similar because what happens is the criminals send out on your computer the phishing blast. And they know that there is plenty of fish in that lake that they’re phishing in. And some of them are going to bite. Just like on a regular fishing expedition that’s what we do. We throw our hook in the water and we hope that we get a bite from the many fish that are in the water. The reality of it is, when you get that popup on your computer and it says, “Please enter your account number and your security code so that we can discuss with you a possible compromise,” or whatever the particular scheme is. Ask yourself this, “Why would that bank or credit card company have to ask you for information that you know they already have?” They already have your credit account number or your bank number and they certainly already have your security code. Why would they need to ask you for that?

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so better yet, do not respond to anything on the internet, period, that ask you for any personal information, stop.

Wayne Ivey: Exactly, and if you think that there is something to the thing that has popped up, contact your bank or your credit card company, whichever the scheme is going, at a number you know to be from them, not the number that’s provided in that popup or on that computer message, at a number you know you’ve contacted them at before. And I can guarantee that you’re going to find out that you’re about to fall victim to a scam.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a beautiful point because they do, in some cases, will provide an 800 number and a human being will pick up that phone.

Wayne Ivey: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: And that guy that picks up that phone, that woman, could be part of the fraud. So you better contact your bank directly.

Wayne Ivey: Contact your bank or your credit card company at numbers that you already know, or through avenues that you’ve already known, or go in there in person if that permits. The same thing applies with the phishing scams that come on the telephone. You’ll answer your phone and you get a recording, perhaps, or sometimes it’s a human that says, “Your card has possibly been compromised. Please enter your credit card number so that we can discuss with you what’s occurred.” Why would they need you to do that? They’re the one that motivated the call to you. Why don’t they discuss with you and ask you for some security questions? The answer is, they don’t have the answers to those questions and they’re asking you to give it to them.

Leonard Sipes: Do people do this through the mail?

Wayne Ivey: We see it through the mail. Some of the newer ones are even on Craigslist. We’re seeing things that have been compromised on Craigslist. Maybe its an apartments that’s for rent and somebody has copied that and pasted into their own Craigslist article and now they’re offering this apartment for rent and when you send them the retainer fee or the down payment on it, they cash it, they tell you that you can move in and you show up and so do 20 other people that are moving in to the same place.

Leonard Sipes: I saw that on the FBI scam alert just two days ago. That is amazing to me. Wayne, I hope to get you back. I really do, because we just have about a minute and a half left of the program and I’ve got to do the usual commercials. So I’d love to have you back. A half an hour simply just does not do this issue justice. So let’s do this soon. Will, let’s not do the usual rotation of two months apiece for your shows. Let’s do this as soon as we possibly can as a follow up. I think this is something that is extraordinarily important to bring to the public’s attention and to our friends in law enforcement.

Ladies and gentlemen this is D.C. Pubic Safety our guest today have been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, 1-800-TRY-NOVA. 10 million victims a year of identity theft. Also with us is Robert Wayne Ivey, he’s the resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Again, ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, we are just going like gangbusters 162,000 requests for the month of July 2009 and July is not even over. We have a record month. We appreciate all the contacts, all of the information you’re giving us. You can reach me directly at, or to follow me on Twitter which is Twitter/LenSipes and to other friends, and I really appreciate it, Will, its funny, if you do a program on the victims’ issues so many people do end up listening to it, and we’ve gotten a call from a variety of people, emails, and letters that they also want to do a show on victimization.

We’re going to finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Our listeners tell us that they want a variety of programs. So we try not to do too much of one particular topic. We’ll finish out our series with the National Organization for Victim Assistance and then we will invite you to be on the radio show. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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What Works in Parole and Probation-3-DC Public Safety

Welcome to DC Public Safety-radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts. We now average 177,000 requests per month.

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

This radi0 program is available at

– Audio Begins –

Leonard Sipes: For our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at out microphones for a third time, Bill Burrell. He is an independent Corrections Management consultant. Bill served 19 years as Chief of Adult Probation Services for the New Jersey State Court System and that’s really impressive thing to me, that he has one foot in the practitioner community and yet one foot in the academic community. From 2003-2007, he was a member of the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia. Bill is Chairman of the Editorial Committee for Perspectives, the journal of the American Probation and Parole association and he serves as a member of APPA’s Board of Directors. And Bill currently serves as a member of the Editorial Board for Community Corrections Report.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now up to 177,000 requests during the month of July for DC Public Safety. Once again, we’re profoundly just impressed by all the calls and letters, and emails, and the other communications that you’re providing to us in terms of what you like to see in the show, what you agree with, what you disagree with. Feel free to get back in touch with us. My email is; or get in touch with us through the comments box from the four websites for DC Public Safety, or follow me on Twitter at Twitter/LenSipes.

Bill Burrell, once again, we appreciate you being on the program. You’re the only person who’s ever done DC Public Safety three times.

Bill Burrell: Well, I’m honored to have that distinction. Good to be back with you, Len.

Leonard Sipes: Alright. We’ve been having a lot of fun and been getting a lot of comments as to how interesting the series of shows are as to what works, what works in parole and probation. Because the first show, what we did was we summarized the sense of frustration in the practitioner community as to the lack of specific guidelines as to what it is they could be doing, should be doing. We talked about the National Institute for Drug Abuse and the fact that they have very specific guidelines, they have everything down to a science as to assessment, as to what to do with that particular kind of individual, how long the treatment should be, the kind of treatment that the individual should undergo, what sort of aftercare that person should have. I mean, it’s down to a science and what we basically agreed to was the National Institute of Drug Abuse has been around for decades and the research on community-based corrections and specifically re-entry from prison is just beginning. Correct?

Bill Burrell: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. The second program we talked about a couple programs out there. One from the state of Maryland and one from the state of Oklahoma, as to what it is that they’re doing regarding re-entry and the fact that they have good documentation backing them up, and the fact that the Maryland program is available on our website for DC Public Safety and the link is directly there for that. This year what we wanted to do was to go over related modalities. Now what the heck does that mean? Well, we just talked about drug treatment, the fact that the National Institute of Drug Abuse, they have very specific guidelines as to what to do regarding drug treatment; but there are other modalities such as cognitive therapy that has been around for decades that should be able to guide us and does guide us in terms of the things that parole and probation agencies could be doing regarding parole and probation practices and offender re-entry. And Bill says he wants to discuss this from the standpoint of who, in other words, what kind of offender, what should we do, and finally, how should we do it. So Bill, take it from there.

Bill Burrell: Well, thank you. I want to summarize it and talk a little bit about the research that now falls under the label of evidence-based practices and prior to that was called what works and this is a rich body of research that goes back probably to the 70’s. So there’s a lot of research – part of the challenge is getting that research into the hands of the practitioners. So we’re going to talk about these three areas that you mentioned. Principles that have emerged from the research and the lead researches in this area are people such Don Andrews and Paul Jeandro, Canadians who’ve done some amazing research to refute the idea that there’s nothing you can do with criminal offenders to help them change their behavior.

We really have these three questions that you’ve identified. The first one is, out of these thousands of offenders that we have, and I think it’s important to understand that in most agencies and yours may be the exception, Len. Most agencies, case loads are too large to enable probation and parole officers to do effective supervision. So we need to do some prioritization among the offenders. Look at who’s in this case load and make some decisions about who to work with and then what to do. So the first question is who to work with, and here we’re guided by the risk principle. And this is a fundamental finding from the research that really is the core, the first thing we really need to start to look at. What is the risk level or the probability of a particular offender re-offending while they’re under supervision? And the technology for this is much like what the insurance companies use to determine insurance rates.

Leonard Sipes: Good point.

Bill Burrell: So it’s a sound technology, it’s not smoking mirrors. It’s been around for quite some time. So the first thing we want to look at is the risk level and screen out the low risk offenders. And again, depending on the size of the organization and the composition of the case load, it could be up to a third to a half of the offender population falls into this low risk group. And these have a very low rate of re-offending and trying to work with them will waste a lot of agency and staff time because many of them will be successful on their own. So it’s kind of like the needle in that haystack problem, there are some low risk offenders who will re-offend, but trying to find them will waste a lot of time and resources.

Leonard Sipes: There’s a book I read years ago called Radical Non-Intervention, the premise of the book was regarding low risk offenders – don’t do anything at all with them. The more contact you have with them, the more you’re going to end up violating them. And that’s a document that goes back probably 30 years.

Bill Burrell: Right. And that second point that you mentioned, the fact that we can actually make things worse by supervising and intervening with these offenders, is a critical point as well. So not only is it wasteful of resources, it also can make things worse. So let’s screen those folks out, put them in some sort of program or case load that’s very low in terms of resources, whether it’s automated key outs for reporting or some telephone reporting system, something like that, that gets them out of the regular case loads and devotes as little resources as we can to them. That leaves us with the moderate to high risk offenders and these are the people we really need to focus on, because these are the ones who are committing the crimes, got the longer records, the more intensive problems and really do need our intervention and assistance, and this is where we can really begin to show some results from the work that we’re doing.

Leonard Sipes: People who are the obvious risk to public safety.

Bill Burrell: Exactly. And in my experience in New Jersey, we had a population in the high risk category. They had a 44% failure rate, so 44% of them committed a new crime while they’re under supervision. So it’s kind of the opposite of the needle in haystack situation like shooting fish in a barrel, every other offender, in essence, was going to commit a new crime. So if we were able to target these individuals and be successful, we can have a significant impact on the amount of crime committed by these offenders under supervision. And I think those numbers polled pretty much across jurisdictions. You have a group of people that are pretty active in terms of committing crimes and you can target them and provide them with the right kind of services, you’ll have a significant impact on public safety.

Leonard Sipes: Because even if you can reduce it by 10% or 15%, that’s fairly significant in terms of the cost to the state alone; in terms of the recidivism, the amount of people coming back in the prison system. I mean, beyond sheer public safety and beyond sheer citizen protection, states are also struggling throughout this country, most of the states are struggling with budget. So the fact that fewer people are going to be coming back into the prison system is a huge plus in terms of managing state budgets.

Bill Burrell: Right. And I think that’s one of the factors that’s really driving a lot of the work in the field at the moment is, how can we save some money? How can we get people out of prison and put in them in the community yet keep the community safe? I think that’s where this concept of risk assessment, identifying those moderate to high risk offenders, that’s where you want to ply your resources. That’s the kind of strategy that’s going to produce the results that we’re looking for.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. The next category is what?

Bill Burrell: Well yes, now that we figured out who we’re going to work with, what are we focused on? What parts of their lives, the situations do we focus on? Because there’s lots of things that people assume are related to the re-offending. First thing most people think about is drugs. And the research suggests that there are a number of what are known in the literature as criminogenic needs or criminogenic factors. These are things that drive people to commit crimes. And included in there are substance abuse, but there are others that are higher on the list in terms of their impact. And the first is something we call antisocial attitudes, values, and beliefs; and this is just basically saying that offenders think its okay to commit crimes. So once you’ve taken away this social condemnation, crime is a bad thing, then it becomes the normal and accepted, and easy thing for them to do. So we have to begin to target in on these attitudes and values, and beliefs that they have. They also hang out with other people, pro-criminal associates, so they’re hanging out with people who share that value set so it’s kind of reinforcing.

They have a history antisocial behavior. They’ve committed crimes before. So you have a group of people with this way of looking at the world that says it’s okay to commit crimes. So one of the things that we have to begin to do is to work on that attitude and value set, and find new activities for them to engage in. That’s why employment is so important in our field, giving hopefully six or seven to eight hours a day where they’re engaged in some sort of constructive pro-social activity.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Bill Burrell: Okay. Then you have some of the other criminogenic factors include poor use of leisure time, family home problems, schoolwork problems, those kinds of things all contribute to this. So we need to be looking at the offenders and using these assessment instruments, because in addition to looking at risks, we have good, reliable, valid, user friendly need assessments that will identify the types of criminogenic needs and problems the individuals have, and can also begin to suggest ways to effectively deal with that offender and this particular set of problems that they have.

Leonard Sipes: Now the bottom line is it’s just that the assessment process, we really can – the research, I think, is abundantly clear. We really can assess an individual and we can assess an individual for the level of drug use, the level of antisocial personalities, the level of mental illness because we have a BJS report that suggests that an excess of 15% of offenders self-diagnose themselves as having mental health problems. We can diagnose all that. We can pretty much assess that with a fairly reasonable degree of accuracy and, from that, figure out who that person is, and what their future propensity is for committing other offenses; and create both a treatment and a supervision schedule strategy to meet that individual offender’s needs.

Bill Burrell: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: And we really can do that. I want to emphasize that the state of the research is such that the state of assessment,again, we draw from decades of research in terms of assessing a human person and that yet is another example as to the fact that we have decades of related research that we can draw from to help us come to grips with what we’re going to do with that particular offender.

Bill Burrell: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: And how?

Bill Burrell: Well, one point I want to add to your last comment about decades of research. And the fact is that none of these assessment instruments are beyond the capability of any probation and parole officer to use with the proper training and supervision. This is not – you don’t need a PhD, a MD, or any sort of D after your name to be able to use these instruments effectively, and to integrate them into the ongoing work of the community supervision officers now. So that’s good news. Definitely, we do not need to hire a whole slew of clinical psychologists to do this kind of work.

Leonard Sipes: Just a couple of years ago that’s exactly what we did and now it’s advanced to the point where the average parole and probation agent can effectively do it himself or herself.

Bill Burrell: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Cool.

Bill Burrell: So now we’ve identified who we’re going to work with and with those individuals what we’re going to focus on, then the last part of the puzzle here is how to go about dealing. Because once we identify the problem, that’s great, but what do we do with them? And this is where the field of psychology has been so helpful to us. With this concept or this notion of cognitive behavioral interventions or cognitive behavioral therapy, I prefer interventions because our folks are not trained clinicians, so they’re really not doing therapy. But that doesn’t mean they’re on a lot of things that the individual probation and parole officer can do every day in routine context with their case load that can implement cognitive behavioral interventions.

So what we’re looking at – remember we go back to the idea of the offenders having a set of attitude, values, and beliefs, thinking patterns that lead them to criminal behaviors. Some in the field call them criminal thinking errors. So the challenge is for the officer to enter discussions with the offenders, identify these criminal thinking errors and be aware of what they look like and sound like, and identify them, confront the offender about them, talk about their ways of thinking about the world and thinking about individuals and themselves. Show them how these attitudes, values, beliefs and errors lead to them committing crime. Start to generate some possible alternative ways of thinking and acting, and give them some training, some coaching on new skills and behaviors. Give them an opportunity to practice those through role plays and role modeling, and reward them when they begin to talk the right way, to think the right way, to act the right way; because the way human beings change their behavior is they get rewarded. And, unfortunately though, a lot of the folks we had to supervise have been rewarded for the bad thing, they get status in their community for committing crimes, selling drugs, and things like,

Leonard Sipes: Well, violence is good. How many offenders have sat with me and simply said, “Mr. Leonard Sipes, violence is good. Violence is what protects you. It protects your property. It protects your girlfriend. It protects your mother. It protects the mother of your children. It protects your children. I mean, violence is a day-to-day commodity and I understand that you don’t get that but in our world, that’s something that does exist.” Well, that’s not something that you can take through life and do successfully and then expect to be any place else but behind bars.

Bill Burrell: Right. And one of the effective techniques that we have found is to start to talk with offenders about their goals and aspirations and desires for their lives. And interestingly enough, they have some of the same goals and aspirations as normal pro-social citizens. Maybe they want to reconcile with their kids. They want to buy a house. They,

Leonard Sipes: They don’t want to die.

Bill Burrell: Yeah, they want to own their own business, whatever it is. But obviously as you mentioned, someone living a life of violence on the streets is not building the framework or the foundation for being able to open their own business or buy a house or whatever.

Leonard Sipes: But the average person listening to this, who is not part of the parole and probation system, is simply going to say, “That’s ridiculous. Those are values that you’re brought up with in a household. Those are the larger values of society. Those are the larger values of religion. You mean to tell me that there are individuals,” , I’ve had this question lots of times, “,that there are individuals out there who really do not know that theft is bad, that violence is bad and that both are going to be a guaranteed ticket to something along the lines of prison or worse. The average person listening to this program right now is not going to understand why you need to help that person, re-train his thinking process as to the fact that just because you have a perceived insult that does not mean that you strike at another person. They have a hard time understanding why that’s necessary.

Bill Burrell: Well, you’ve really identified the difficulty or the challenge is that a probation or parole officer is working with an individual offender, even if they’re seeing them on an intensive supervision scheme of several times a week – that’s still only a fraction of that person’s waking hours, and they go back to the neighborhood, the community, the house, the apartment where they’re living, and back into that milieu of violence and crime, and drugs, and so on, so that part of the challenge is how to figure out ways to give them more time away from that that is in a positive pro-social type of activity. Work obviously is a big one; school for younger offenders. I’m a big fan of community service as a part of a sentencing scheme because, not only do they pay back, to some extent the damage done to the community at large, it also engages the offender with a group of pro-social people working in some sort of positive contribution, some activity in the community that’s valued. So they get some, again, exposure to other people that are living the kind of life we want them to be able to be living and keeps them away from the bad influences. I mean, it’s a challenge to try to talk to an offender and say, “Alright, all the people you’re hanging out with, you shouldn’t be hanging out with them anymore because they’re bad for you.” So this is a long process that a probation or parole officer has to engage in to begin to tap into the offender’s internal motivations, show how their thinking and behavior patterns are leading them to continued involvement with the court, and with the justice system, and preventing them from achieving the things that they individually have identified that they would like to be able to have in the future.

Leonard Sipes: And the bottom line in all of this is that cognitive behavioral therapy or thinking for a change, as it’s called in some places or just rearranging the thinking patterns of a criminal offender is possible, is doable, happens every day, and it happens in terms of the relationship between the parole and probation agent and the offender that he or she is supervising. It happens every single day and there’s decades of research that backs up the concept.

Bill Burrell: Yes, and you used the critical term somewhere there, Len, relationship. We need to focus on the relationship between the offender and the officer. The old kind of supervision where people came into the office, it was a five minute perfunctory contact. “Do you live in the same place?” “Yeah.” “Are you still working?” “Yeah.” “Been arrested?” “No.” “Okay, done. Go on the hall. Make a payment on your supervision fees and give me a drug test. See you in two weeks.” That’s not supervision. So we’re talking about changing the way the officers conceive of their role, one, as helping offenders to change and engaging them in a relationship, a trusting interpersonal relationship, and sometimes this is a hard concept for officers to swallow. But when you think about your own life experiences, the people that were influential in your life, that encouraged you to learn and grow and change were people that you trusted. An officer sitting there telling an offender, just lecturing them, wagging their finger at them, telling them, “Do this. Do that,” so on. We know that the offenders are not listening because they don’t believe that this person has their interests at heart.

When an officer can begin to build a solid, trusting relationship that tells the offender through deeds and actions, not so much as words, that the officers are interested in helping this person achieve some of these things that they’ve identified, and helping them change their behavior, then there’s some hope that the offender will listen and will actually act on the suggestions and the recommendations of the officer. But until we get to the point where we build these working relationship, working alliances, therapeutic alliances; they go under a lot of different terms in different literatures. But the fundamental thing is we need to begin to build that solid relationship so that we have a chance of influencing the offender’s behavior.

Leonard Sipes: I’ve spoken to more than just a couple of parole and probation agents in my career and my response to their negative reaction to this concept was, “Does this stop you from doing the enforcement actions?” You can do whatever enforcement actions you feel a need to do to protect public safety. That doesn’t stop any of that but at the same time if you’re going to talk to them, trying to gain their trust, try to depend upon research that’s been around for decades to help you reach him. You want him to go to drug treatment. We all want him to go to drug treatment. He, in fact, would probably like to go to drug treatment. His family wants him to go to drug treatment. But just really reading him the riot act is not gonna get him into drug treatment.

Bill Burrell: Exactly right. And again, the last point is critical to the role and responsibilities of the probation and parole officer. It’s not just monitoring contacts, monitoring compliance with condition that they’re enforcing it. They have what we call “Trail “˜em, nail “˜em, and jail “˜em.” But the job entails, in addition to monitoring, which is part of what we have to do, is helping the offenders to change; because if we don’t undertake some type of effort to get the offenders to change, then we’re literally just chasing our tails. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 30, 35 years, just chasing our tails, locking people up, they get back out. It’s a huge catch and release system.

They waste the money, waste lives, and I think from my background in the field, I think it’s a much more rewarding type of work to do. It’s harder, there’s no doubt about it. You have to think more. But I think that most people that I’ve met in the system have a basic desire to help offenders do better. What they’re wondering is, “How do I do that?” They’re not sure how to go about accomplishing that but they’re in the business because they do have some level of commitment to making the community safer, helping offenders change their behaviors so they’re just not caught up in this endless cycle of incarceration and supervision.

Leonard Sipes: And there’s really good research out there that basically says exactly what you’re suggesting, and that is it has to be a dual approach. It cannot be simply supervision. Supervision just produces more failure. That it has to be a combination of supervision and programs, and that if you dealt with the programmatic needs of the offender. In other words, if the person is mentally ill, for the love of good graciousness, please get the offender involved in a program that addresses his mental illness. Nobody is going to disagree with that. If a person has a long history of drugs and a long history of the drugs getting him involved in problems, get him involved in drug treatment. That seems to be a universal consensus of the research.

Bill Burrell: Yes. I mean, it is as simple yet complex as the statement. If these are the factors, these criminogenic factors, if these are the factors that lead people to commit crime, what we want to do is to mitigate, reduce, eliminate those factors so there’s reduced chance of people committing crimes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. We’re in the final four minutes of the program with Bill Burrell. Bill, the bottom line in all of this is that none of this, however, is neatly packaged in one particular place. Now, I can think of three or four research examples that basically say it’s got to be a combination of programs and supervision. And to those friends of mine in parole and probation agencies throughout the country who carry guns, who have law enforcement authority, and who believe that you really have to ride hard on the offender, I don’t disagree with that and I don’t think Bill Burrell disagrees with that and I don’t think the criminological community disagrees with that; but putting them in programs, getting them in programs is obviously best for all of us. But that’s not explained simply, quickly, neatly in a particular document to guide parole and probation people. It comes from a piece here, a piece there. It’s not explained in non-technical terms, in non-research terms. It’s not easily, neatly laid out for the practitioner. And do you ever see the point where we get to that document that provides a quick and easy access to the research and says, “Okay. In terms of lower risk offenders, here’s what we mean by lower risk. Here’s how you choose your lower risk offender, and here are the modalities that we suggest that you use. And here is the research that backs that up.” Are we ever going to get to that point?

Bill Burrell: Oh, I sure hope so, and I think at some point someone, some enterprising author will pull all that together into one place. I think that probably the closest thing to that we have at the moment is the Tools of the Trade documented and I see published in collaboration with the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation,

Leonard Sipes: And will be so cited in the show notes for this program.

Bill Burrell: Right. And I don’t think that the fact that it doesn’t all exist in one short, easily digestible document should deter people. I don’t think it takes a lot of work to find the materials that you need; and I would encourage people at the line level, the supervisory, managerial, level to spend a little time with the research, and particularly the work that the National Institute of Corrections has put out under their evidence-based practices and initiatives. There’s lots of good stuff, it’s all available for free on the web. It takes a little bit of thinking and such to integrate it, but again, as I mentioned earlier, none of this stuff is beyond the capabilities of all the staff. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a probation officer who couldn’t do this.

Now they may have a philosophical objection to it, they may feel that “Trail “˜em, nail “˜em, and jail em” is the way to go. So that’s a bigger question. How do you debunk some of those beliefs and those myths to show that if we’re really going to be effective, and effective meaning reducing offender failure, reducing new crimes, improving public safety, we have to go after the factors that produce the crime in a way that is likely to be effective. We can target people, let’s say we have a substance abuse problem, we can put them through a very rigorous drug testing regimen so we know exactly what they’re taking, when they’re taking, and how much they’re taking. But, that doesn’t help us because we’re not dealing with the underlying addiction problem and trying to change that. So I can’t envision a scheme where somebody would say to me, “Well, you know we’re not supposed to deal with these problems. That’s not the issue.” Yes it is the issue because that’s what’s causing crime and, if we’re in the business of improving public safety and reducing offender crime, we have to deal with those things.

Leonard Sipes: And it’s interesting that it’s taken on a greater emphasis, Bill, now that the states have run into the budget problems that they have and they simply cannot afford to revoke everybody that they have and they need to have alternatives or the states are simply going to go broke. That’s not from me. That’s not my observation. That’s the observation of budget directors in states throughout the country.

Bill Burrell: And if you look at the cost of incarceration versus the cost of community supervision, even if you took 30% of the savings that you would get by not sending somebody back to prison. So I think its averaging $75 dollars a day, something like that I think it was the latest Pew report and average for probation and parole is about $5 dollars a day. So let’s say you saved one year in prison, so there’s,let’s say do it on daily basis, $75 dollars a day, and it only costs $5 dollars a day to put that person on good quality supervision. Increase that by $25 dollars, only going to be a third of the savings from prison. You can imagine how much treatment, how much intervention, how much training, how much we could reduce case loads with that redirect and reinvestment of prison savings. That’s where,

Leonard Sipes: For the love of evidence, send some of the money back for programs, is the bottom line.

Bill Burrell: And the states would still save money. Here in New Jersey, the Parole Board just won an award from the Kennedy School of Government, the Innovations in American Government, for a program that reduces the numbers of parolees sent back to prison; and we are in this state, in the process of closing one of our prisons. The Riverfront State Prison in Camden is being closed and I’ll say this isn’t entirely the result of the parole board’s program, but I think it has a significant impact on the prison population. So when you close a prison, now you’re talking about significant savings.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, hundreds of millions of dollars every,

Bill Burrell: Exactly, yup.

Leonard Sipes: Because the average prison, when I was with the Maryland system, I think the average budget was about a $125 million dollars a year for the average prison, let alone the construction costs. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to continue this conversation with a variety of other people, in terms of what works with parole and probation, what works in terms of offender re-entry throughout this summer. We’re going to be talking to folks down at the Travis County, Texas, a probation program that Bill Burrell brought to my attention. They have a ton of documents that they have to offer to everybody and when we do that show we’ll put those documents up on the site. I hope to get in touch with the Oklahoma people and do a show with them, and talk to (again through Bill Burrell),and talk to them about their innovative program. We have a judge who wrote a piece for the Pew Foundation in terms of what works from his particular point of view, and what are the key ingredients in terms of any successful parole and probation program. And we’ll end this series on what works with a conversation with Associate Director, Thomas William of my agency, The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

I know that Tom Williams was invited to go to China and deliver the major address just last year in terms of what works in community supervision. We’ve been discussing this concept, what works with Bill Burrell. Bill is currently a consultant. He served for 19 years as Chief of Adult Probation Services for the state of New Jersey Court System. From 2003 to 2007, he was a member of the faculty at the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia. Bill is currently the Chair of the Editorial Committee for Perspectives Magazine, the journal of the American Probation and Parole Association. He serves as a member of APPA’s board of directors. And he currently serves as member of the Editorial Board of Community Corrections Report. Bill’s email is

Bill, I just want to thank you profusely for coming on in this series of programs about what works. I find your point of view fascinating and very informed. So, I think you’ve really done a service to the community in terms of providing that overview as to what works. So I really want to thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank everybody out there for supporting DC Public Safety, up to 177,000 requests for the month of July. Get in touch with me at ,or comment in DC Public Safety in terms of the four websites that operate on to the banner of DC Public Safety. And please, everybody have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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Victim Services-An Academic Approach-DC Public Safety

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Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We’re going to talk today about the collegiate approach to victim assistance ;back at our microphone is Bill Sondervan, the Executive Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Administration, University of Maryland, University College where 95,000 students all throughout the world attend online collegiate instruction and truth in advertising; I teach for Bill. I’m an associate professor of Criminal Justice at University of Maryland, University College, and we have Roberta Roper.

Roberta is somebody who’s a sheer joy to talk to. I’ve talked to her lots of times in the past but the first time on this air. She is the Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and she is, again, a passionate, passionate advocate for victim assistance. And again, the whole idea is how can a college, how can a university system take victims’ issues and incorporate them fully into the instruction of criminal justice personnel? What can we do regarding criminal justice personnel and sensitize them to not only the rights but obligations of the criminal justice system towards crime victims?

Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin, let’s share our usual commercial. We are up to 177,000 requests for DC Public Safety for the month of July. We are really appreciative of all the emails that you’re sending us, all the comments on the program and the fact that you’re following us by Twitter. If you want to get in touch with me directly its And with that out of the way, Roberta Roper and Bill Sondervan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Sondervan, Roberta Roper: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Bill, you’ve been at this air a couple of times now. The last program that you did was really interesting. We did a program of how the university is incorporating instruction with the Baltimore City Police Department, how they’re using, I guess, Tools of the Trade to improve public safety for the city of Baltimore. And now, I would imagine that, in essence, is what you’re doing here. You’re taking a collegiate approach to victim assistance in conjunction with the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center. In essence, not just for the state of Maryland, but for the entire world considering your population goes throughout the world – trying to do what you can to incorporate a victim’s approach to criminal justice instruction.

Bill Sondervan: Yeah. That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re trying to use all the tools available to us to do that. And as you know, UMUC has classes all through Maryland and we teach in 26 countries around the world on the ground but we also are the online arm of the university System of Maryland. And about 50% of our students are military and others and they’re all over the world, and in foreign countries. So how we got into this with Roberta Roper was, well, first of all, my background, I’ve been retired, I was a Chief of Police in the Army, I was a Provo Marshall, and then I was the State Corrections Commissioner. So I’m very, very aware and very sensitive to the issues of victims.

And I taught part-time as a way of giving back in the classroom for years, and I always thought,victimology is one of the courses that I taught. And victimology is really important but you have to get students involved in it, and you have to make them interested in it. I was having trouble getting students to see this is more than just a college class. And so what I did was ask Roberta Roper if she would come to my class and be a guest speaker. We did this about the third class into it. And Roberta came to that first class and she talked about what happened in her life, the personal tragedy that happened to her daughter and her family. And then she talked about what happened when she went into the criminal justice system, this was 25 years ago, and how poorly they were treated and how little that they were – had rights and how little they could talk about their daughter.

Then she talked about what happened over the years and how things had changed, and when she got done talking for about an hour and a half and interacting with the class, victimology became a very important topic and the students had tears rolling down their eyes and it went from being a college elective to be something very important to them. And a lot of our students over the years then went and volunteered and got involved in helping victims, and got involved in victim rights issues. And to take another step farther, when I became the director of the program three years ago, I thought, what a great way to be able to reach people worldwide and get this very important message out and make victimology important to our students all over the world.

So what we did was we asked Roberta Roper to come to our studios and we interviewed her in the studio, and the interview and the conversation was along the same line. Roberta talked about what happened to her daughter and her family, and she talked about what’s happened in the victim’s rights area over the last 25 or so years; and we put that in our classes. So now when a students takes a class with us they go online and they log on to a learning management system and they have a textbook and they have discussions every week but a part of that we have built-in modules. And, in one of our modules, right in the beginning to get people really interested in the topic, you click on the module and Roberta comes on, and Roberta talks about her experiences and, along the way, the film stops and there’s discussion questions. So then they have a discussion about the issues and we play it through like that. And so what a great start to get students interested in the topic of victimology and it’s really, I think, turned people’s thoughts and views about the whole subject around from just being a college course and just an elective they’re taking, to something that they’re very passionate about and something that’s very important to them.

Roberta Roper: Bill is absolutely correct. Changing attitudes and creating an atmosphere in which people can identify with others is critical to getting and making any progress. And that’s what’s so extraordinary about this whole series and the University College’s efforts in our collaboration. It’s nothing short revolutionary from it was 27 years ago.

Leonard Sipes: The whole idea I think of this larger issue of victim assistance, We have done, by the way, a series of programs and we’re going to continue to do a series of programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance, NOVA. And this whole concept of victims’ issues, victims’ rights, for those of us who have been in the criminal justice system, it is – we saw first hand how victims were victimized not only by their attacker but the criminal justice system. The fact that we did not provide everything to that victim that we could do, should do, and the fact that it’s now we have a national constitutional amendment and there are state amendments in most of the states, constitutional amendments in most of the states, not only suggesting that the criminal justice system do the right thing but compelling the criminal justice,

Roberta Roper: Requiring, yes,

Leonard Sipes: ,requiring the criminal justice system to do the right thing in terms of crime victims. And Roberta, you’ve been there from the very beginning. Bill, you have been there from the very beginning. I’ve been there from the very beginning. I used to be the Subject Level Specialist for Crime Prevention and Victims for the Department of Justice’s clearing house. So all of us were there from the very beginning; we saw what happened, we saw how terrible it was. Roberta, I never know how to summarize your particular set of circumstances, but your daughter was murdered viciously and your process through the criminal justice system was not pleasant.

Roberta Roper: Well, you said it earlier; the secondary victimization was in many ways worse than the horrific crimes committed against our daughter, very destructive. One year parents and you try to raise children properly. It almost destroyed our family because unlike our daughter’s killers, we had no right to information, no right to observe the trial, no right to be heard and a victim impact statement before sentencing. And fundamentally, being treated with dignity and respect, that’s critical. Though Americans are a caring people, we tend to think that crime happens to other people, it can certainly happen to us.

We live good lives and so this way to create identification is key to any progress, and certainly from our experience in 1982 – today things are vastly different. You mentioned state constitutional amendments, 33 states now have state constitutional amendments. We have not yet succeeded on the federal level, however, we do have one of the strongest pieces of federal legislation that was passed in 2004, the Justice For All Act – Crime Victims Rights, in which again, there is not only a requirement but there’s the ability to have an attorney represent the interest of victims when those rights are not enforced. And so we’ve made extraordinary progress.

But I think the real extraordinary thing for me is this, what’s happening on the educational level because, obviously, we have to look to the next generation to maintain and continue to expand – but to keep the promise, because laws are wonderful, but laws that are ignored are meaningless. And so we need to have people in the field who understand their obligations under the law. And more importantly, can see through the eyes of a crime victim and how important it is that they’re treated with dignity and respect, and that to the extent that they are able to participate and choose to participate, that they be given those rights.

Leonard Sipes: But,

Roberta Roper: I personally dream of a day when crime victims’ rights and services are part of the fabric of our whole criminal justice system, just as the rights of someone accused or convicted of a crime are. But we’re not there yet.

Leonard Sipes: Bill Sondervan, University of Maryland , University College, you’re incorporating this whole concept of victimology into all the different courses that you offer there through the University of Maryland, University College. My sense is, and I think the sense of an awful lot of people who have been in the criminal justice system is that even though we have, I think, 33 constitutional amendments and we have national legislation, a lot of us in the criminal justice system still do not fully understand victimology. And I don’t think it’s because we’re bad people, I don’t think it’s because we don’t sympathize greatly with victims. I think all of us are running at a 500 miles an hour, we’re handling hundreds of cases. We’re doing an awful lot of stuff and the real effort that it takes and it takes, I think, a good amount of effort to service victims properly. I think that gets tossed to the wayside because we’re just running so hard on so many different things. Am I right or wrong?

Bill Sondervan: Yeah, I think so, Len. And I think that victimology in academia is really like a secondary subject. It’s not one of the primary courses you have to take to get your degree. So our approach to this is to make it part of the degree and make it really an exciting, hard-hitting course that has a big impact on people and just really, really grab their attention, get them into it and make it important to them. And that was what our whole goal was in this class and I think we’ve done that.

Leonard Sipes: But I mean, is it one class? Is it a variety of classes?

Bill Sondervan: Well, no, it’s one class and it’s a 15-week class. It’s very in-depth and it’s very thorough but it leads students into understanding other things in the criminal justice as well. But what it really gives them is just the real appreciation of the plight of victims and the importance of this whole victims’ rights movement.

Leonard Sipes: Is it a required class or an option?

Bill Sondervan: It’s an option, but it’s one of the ones that everybody takes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And everybody should take because, again, I get back to this larger issue. When I was a police officer decades ago, I would see the impact of what crime meant to individual human beings. I would imagine all of us fully understand that if there’s a violent assault or a rape, or a homicide, obviously, the family and the larger community is going to be impacted by that. But the whole concept of victimology extends to somebody breaking into your garage. I’ve seen people move out of communities because their garage was broken into twice. It goes way beyond violent crime in terms of our perceptions of our own personal safety, the safety of our family, which is fundamental to all of us. But, again, we run hard within the criminal justice system and I think sometimes we see these issues as just getting in the way. Roberta mentioned she wants to see these institutionalized as much as protecting the rights of the perpetrator and that does require legislation, I think, Roberta.

Roberta Roper: Well that’s why we have states to pass state constitutional amendments and efforts continue on the national level, as well, and the Justice for All Act was one piece of that, and that we’re now in the process of testing this. But without a mechanism to seek enforcement and a remedy, when those rights are not enforced, they’re just simply paper promises. So we have to not only pass legislation, we have to change attitudes; we have to provide training and the support services that are needed. And you’re right, nobody intentionally seeks to harm another person who suffers the consequences of crime but it does take training and it takes a shift in attitudes, understanding that, in fact, without the respect and cooperation of crime victims the system would cease to exist.

Leonard Sipes: Yesterday, Bill Sondervan, the Executive Director for the Center for Criminal Justice Administration. You can reach Bill at University of Maryland, University College has 95,000 students throughout the world. Roberta Roper is just not the Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, she is a national figure on the issue of crime victimization. You can reach her directly at or the website is or the 800 number, the toll free number is 1877-VICTIM-1. Roberta, one of the things that you wanted to bring up was the National Day of Remembrance, which is this September 25th in Washington D.C. And there is a national toll free telephone number for that, 180-0438-6233 and we’ll be putting that into the show notes as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Roberta Roper: Yes, thank you. Yes. This will also represents the collaboration between the Parents of Murdered Children, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, and our audiences are the families of homicide victims but also stakeholders and legislatures, and others who work in the field. And it includes a day-long symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building during the daytime and an evening ceremony and reception at the Press Club, and we’re certainly trying to, again, raise awareness. Congress, at the urging of Parents of Murdered Children several years ago, established this National Day of Remembrance, and it’s a bipartisan effort, and it’s the first of its kind and so we’re really pleased to be part of it and working together with POMC and MADD.

Leonard Sipes: The concept, getting back to the criminal justice system, and its approach to victims issues, I talked to, interviewed people who were directly involved in providing victim services to individuals and my question at one point was, “How many times do you have to remind your hierarchy?” Now these are individuals within bureaucracies and they’re the ones who are charged with helping victims out and cutting through the clutter, cutting through the disarray within the criminal justice system and helping these individuals wherever the law allows. And so they are passionate representatives of victims’ rights but the question was, how often do you have to go to your hierarchy and remind them that there is federal legislation or a constitutional amendment to help victims and this is not an option, this is something that you’re legally obligated to do? And they looked at me through the microphones, if you will, and in essence said, “Well, it happens quite a few times.” I know you think that’s,

Roberta Roper: It’s an ongoing effort. Yes.

Leonard Sipes: That’s the heart and soul of this whole concept, Bill Sondervan, and I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Bill Sondervan: Yeah. When I was a States Corrections Commissioner it was really important to me and I saw this as well. I mean, like you said earlier, everybody gets caught up in the day-to-day operations. There’s so much concern about the perpetrator and about the inmate that sometimes the victims are forgotten. So we set up a Victim Services coordinator and a Victim Services officer and this person’s full time job was to keep the victims’ issues at the forefront to do a variety of things, to commemorate, to remind people, working on programs where we could advise victims when an inmate was going to come up for parole, when an inmate was going to be released, to take requests from victims, victim’s families and coordinate those requests and make things happen. We would take victim’s families on tours of prisons. We did everything we could to keep this in the forefront.

Leonard Sipes: And again, within a very a busy criminal justice system, that could be problematic. I think the newspapers – we violated individual’s constitutional rights, a person accused of a crime, or the person convicted of a crime, I think – very quickly be on the front page, yet I don’t see a lot of newspaper coverage of us violating the rights of crime victims, Roberta.

Roberta Roper: No, you don’t because number one, most crime victims don’t know that they have a right to do anything about it. That’s an inherent problem. Making certain that every crime victim knows that they have certain constitutional rights within their state, and then providing them legal assistance to seek enforcement if those rights are endangered or denied, and then taking further action. The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center actually has one of the nation’s first legal clinics to provide free legal assistance because the crime victims shouldn’t have to pay for – most of them can’t afford to do that. And the purpose of the attorney is not to interfere with the prosecution in any way, but simply to ensure that the rights that the crime victim has under their state’s laws are enforced and, if they’re not enforced, that there’s some action to remedy that.

An example of another collaboration that we are working on here in Maryland is with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Again, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service is trying to make that agency more victim-friendly to ensure that victims who desperately need compensation, perhaps to bury a child, to seek counseling for a family member, or lost wages when a crime has occurred or the principal bread winner has been murdered. And it’s been very rewarding to see some progress, though slow, on that effort and, as you say, all of us have the demands of our daily lives but again, this is a topic that the criminal justice system has only in recent years has really begun to address. If we had a timeline we would be on the very first little couple of dots in terms of criminal justice system in progress, and in relation to how victims are treated. And again, victims simply deserve certain fundamental support services, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Leonard Sipes: No argument there. I remember as a police officer years ago where a burglary victim wanted me to stop by the house and talk to that individual about what I was doing regarding their particular burglary. And I said to myself, “I’ve got five calls scheduled, there’s no way that I can go back and talk to that individual. What I will do is get back to that individual at the first available opportunity, but it’s not gonna be tonight,” and it turned out not to be next night and it turned out not to be the next night after that. When I finally got back to him, his complaint was that obviously I wasn’t taking his burglary seriously if I couldn’t get back to him as quickly as I wanted to. This was before the days of cell phones.

Roberta Roper: Well, then that’s why today law enforcement agency – many seek to have a victim assistance unit, so that the police officer can focus on the apprehension, the arrest and all of that of the person who should be charged with the crime, and in fact, the victim can have the communication and referrals, perhaps, to other support services in their community through a non-enforcement person (a law enforcement person) but someone who is in the victim assistance unit. And that’s one of the things we’re encouraging in every law enforcement community to do today.

Leonard Sipes: All three of us have been discussing this concept of victimology for three decades now and in some cases it’s longer than three decades. Are we ever going to get to the point where a program like this becomes a moot point? Again, I emphasize that if we violate the rights of a perpetrator, we are immediately – that case is dismissed. We are held to disciplinary review. Are we are ever going to get to the day where this conversation is not necessary?

Roberta Roper: That’s my vision. That’s my dream. And I would encourage any of your listeners to call us on the toll free number. If we can’t provide the direct assistance, we could certainly make the proper and appropriate referral. But most people don’t know that they have that right to seek a remedy and that’s where we have to fill that gap.

Bill Sondervan: That’s my goal as well, Len. I’ve promoted the victims’ rights and victims’ issues as a Chief of Police, as a Corrections’ Commissioner. Now I have the opportunity to do it in academia and UMUC has given me the tools to do this worldwide. So, all I can say then is I’m going to do everything in my power to do it and people like Roberta Roper are just an absolute inspiration to me and if we keep doing this, I think we will get there one day.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to follow up with the contact numbers one more time and these contact numbers will be in the show notes. Bill Sondervan is Executive Director for the Center for Criminal Justice Administration. He’s email is, University of Maryland, University College, is what Bill is in charge of in terms of the criminal justice program. Roberta Roper is Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and Roberta is shy. She is a national figure in terms of this concept of victims’ rights. So it’s just not Maryland, it is throughout the country and Roberta’s had an impact throughout the world, I do believe, on criminal justice issues – is the email address, Again, I emphasize that they are willing to help anybody; it’s just not Maryland, 1877-VICTIM-1.

It goes beyond Maryland, you can always try the National Organization for Victim Assistance which is, and I remember that from my programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. I want to remind everybody the National Day of Remembrance, September 25th 2009. I know these programs live way beyond 2009 but for this case it’s September 25th 2009 in Washington D.C. The 800 number is 1-800-4386-233. Again, we’ll have this information within the show notes. Any final words Roberta or Bill? Did we cover everything?

Roberta Roper: Well, we never cover everything. I just wanted to remind your listeners that this Day of Remembrance is an annual event, always on September 25th. You gave the information for 2009 event, it will occur every year.

Leonard Sipes: Excellent point. Bill, wrap up.

Bill Sondervan: I think that this show is an excellent idea to do just like we talked about, to keep victims’ rights and victims’ issues in the forefront of everybody’s mind and have people think about them and not just let it be an afterthought.

Leonard Sipes: Amen. Amen to both. And ladies and gentlemen, we really appreciate you listening in to this program. This is DC Public Safety; we are on 177,000 times a month, according to statistics for the month of July. You can reach me at I work for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington DC. You can follow me on twitter at or comment in the comment box on any of the 4 websites that we have for D. C. Public Safety and I want everyone to have themselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones is Diane Kincaid, she is an information specialist, or the information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association. What we’re doing, ladies and gentlemen, is celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision week, which is exactly the day that we’re recording this, July 19th, it lasts from July 19th to July 25th, and we are here to talk about, not only the materiaLen Sipes available from the American Parole, Probation and Parole association, but this larger concept of what it means to be a Parole and Probation Officer, to be a Community Supervision Officer, as we call them here in Washington D.C., but before we do that, we get to our usual commercial thanking you, the listener and thanking you, the viewer, to our T.V. side, and the people who come in and take a look at our blogs and transcripts. We are beyond 140,000 requests on a monthly basis, and on a monthly basis, we get an additional 50,000 pages downloaded, that’s a record for us. We really appreciate everything that you have to say in terms of suggestions, even criticisms, you can reach me directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – and people say, “Leonard, that’s “˜T,’ it sounds like “˜T,'” no it’s ‘P’ as in “peculiar, pumpernickel,” S-I-P-E-S –, or you can comment directly on the blog itself in the comments section, or you can follow me via Twitter at twitter/lensipes. So with that long introduction, back at our microphones, Diane Kincaid, information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Diane Kincaid: Thanks, Len, it’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.

Len Sipes: Now what we did, ladies and gentlemen, this is our second recording that Diane has done. We tried a new mixer to improve the show a little bit, and it shows you what happens when you combine technology with criminologists, we messed it up, and we tried spending a good part of the day on Thursday editing the show. We gave up and asked Diane if she would be kind enough to come back in and re-record the entire program. It was a wonderful program the first time around. I think we started off with the concept that people simply do not understand the contributions a parole and probation agents, of community supervision personnel, whether they’re on the adult side or the juvenile side. We talked about that there are approximately 100,000 individuaLen Sipes who do parole and probation work throughout the country, adult parole and probation, there’s many more who do juvenile parole and probation, and that these individuaLen Sipes are out every day in high crime communities, generally speaking, unarmed, and they are interacting with criminal offenders, they’re trying to do two things, they’re trying to get them in programs, get them involved in issues and programs that are going to lessen their rates of recidivism, and at the same time, take action to return them to the criminal justice system if they do not behave properly, and that’s an extraordinarily difficult job, Diane, correct?

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you consider that there are over 5 million adults somehow involved in the community supervision aspect of corrections, you have to think that these officers and agents, they’re incredibly busy. They do not have stress free professions by any means, and you know, you mentioned a lot of the things about going into dangerous areas, and the thing about probation, parole, and community supervision is that there is such a varied work, the work is so different for each officer. There are many who do these home contacts, or they go out to see if an offender is working where he or she says he’s working, but there are others who do simply things like – not simply, but who only do, perhaps pre-sentence investigation. The work is incredibly varied, and I think that’s one of the difficult things to explain to people who don’t know anything about the system, and for the general public, they may know someone who works in probation or parole, and they say, “Well he just sits at a desk and he writes a report.” That report is part of an entire system, and that’s a very important part, so everything works together to keep our community safer.

Len Sipes: The amazing thing is that, now again, I’m coming from the side of law enforcement, I’ve spent six years as a law enforcement officer, and so I’m not putting down police officers by any stretch of the imagination. I have a huge degree, or a huge sense, we all do, a huge admiration for our folks on the law enforcement side, but I do feel, I guess, somewhat ill at ease that our people on the parole and probation side simply do not get the recognition. There are no television shows out there talking about the exploits of parole and probation officers, there are very few radio shows that look at what it is that they do. I mean, these people really do put their lives on the line day in day out in terms of what it is they do. Yes, there are some people, a few, that sit behind desks and write reports, but you know, we did a television show the other day about what we call accountability tours where our people, community supervision officers, go out with the Metropolitan Police Department, and they do that about 8,000 times a year. But without that police officer, in terms of doing home verifications, and in terms of going out into the field and supervising individuaLen Sipes in the field, that’s an additional 60,000 times every year. 60,000 individual contacts, and they’re by themselves. I think that people simply don’t recognize the complexity of the work, the danger of the work, the large caseloads that many of our parole and probation agents have throughout the country. This is an extraordinarily complex and difficult job.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and you mentioned law enforcement, and of course, law enforcement has a very important place in our society, and one of the things that occurred to us as we began looking at some branding initiatives for the field is that, when you see a police officer on duty, that officer has a uniform. They have a badge. You see their weapon. You see, you know, you have an image in your mind of what a police officer looks like, whether he or she is in a squad car, they’re on a motorcycle, they’re out in the community walking the beat, but probation and parole officers, most of the time, do not have uniforms. Many of them aren’t armed. There are a lot of departments who are arming their officers, and that’s something eLen Sipese to take into consideration, all of the training that’s necessary, many officers are trained equally as well as law enforcement, as police officers are, if they are issued a weapon. So you know, the training that goes into it, and the knowledge, and the expertise that goes into it is incredible.

Len Sipes: We are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, probation, parole, and community supervision week, which happens to be this week, the day that we’re recording this program, July 19th through the 25th. There are materiaLen Sipes available on the website of the American Probation and Parole Association. The website is,, O-R-G, Diane Kincaid, her email is diane – K-I-N-C-A-I-D – Diane, one of the things that I think that the field owes the American Probation and Parole Association, and you in particular, a huge vote of thanks. Whenever we within the field need to come to grips with a particular topic, whenever we in the field need to ascertain what other states are doing and what other jurisdictions are doing, we go through the American Probation and Parole Association, specifically we go through you. You’ve been in this job for 10 years.

Diane Kincaid: Yes, and it has been a tremendous learning experience for me, having come in, certainly knowing the difference between probation and parole, but really not understanding the detailed work that these professionaLen Sipes do, and one of the things about working with APPA is that I have access to some of the best in the field. You know, people that are on the cutting edge of research and technology, and that is what makes my job doable is that I can email people like you, I need to find out about what’s going on in D.C., or I need to find out about a program that you all have going on, so just being able to email or call people up like you, or anyone across the country who I think, wow, that would be somebody who has some information that I can get to someone eLen Sipese, and that’s really a good part of my job.

Len Sipes: One of the things that the Association has done is doing a media campaign, or a public relations campaign, with a concept of a force for positive change, something that can galvanize the entire parole and probation industry, community corrections industry, around a particular brand, that brand called a force for positive change, that is aLen Sipeso on our website, talking about the brand and talking about the week, so it’s just not only this particular week, you’re trying to do something throughout the course of the year.

Diane Kincaid: We are, and we worked this logo and tagline into the Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week celebration this year, because we really wanted to launch that, and we wanted to work those two ideas together. There are aLen Sipeso other items available through that branding initiative, so there’s a separate page that has more detailed information about that and about some of the other resources you can use for that in your agency.

Len Sipes: And again – I’m sorry, go ahead, please.

Diane Kincaid: No, go.

Len Sipes: is where those materiaLen Sipes lie. Now Diane, we’ve scratched the surface just a tad in terms of the Parole and Probation Agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. Again, a good part of my life was law enforcement and law enforcement support. When I started getting involved in the correctional part of it, spending time when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, spending time in the prison systems, I mean we had the state police, we had other law enforcement agencies, but there on the corrections side, I spent a lot of time with correctional officers, I spent a lot of time with people who are doing community corrections, I spent a lot of time with parole and probation agents to learn their job, to understand their job, and I came away with it with an amazing appreciation for our Parole and Probation Agents, and I think that that was sort of, I said, gee, why didn’t I know this before? Why wasn’t I really appreciative of their work before? I would read their pre-sentence reports, and some of these are some of the most amazing criminological overviews of a person, of an individual, and I came away with this saying, “My heavens, these people really probably know crime and criminaLen Sipes better than any other professional that we have!” Police officers, when I was a police officer, I would roll into a scene, and 15 minutes later, I would roll out. The parole and probation agents have these individuaLen Sipes for years!

Diane Kincaid: Oftentimes, they do, and they, more often than not, really get to know this person, and when you are supervising an offender who perhaps has done something that they may well have committed a violent act, if it’s tremendously violent, they’re probably going to be in prison, but you know, depending on what they’ve done, a probation and parole officer can get to know this person and can see cues if there is something going wrong, if an offender has a job, loses it, seems to be struggling with substance abuse, you can see these warning signaLen Sipes coming up, and you can help divert the offender away from those things. You know, we’re talking about people who are adept at motivational interviewing, cognitive development, change, behavior change, so they really are, often times, are very well versed in counseling, and just really getting to know people and helping them.

Len Sipes: And picking up those cues, I think, is the most important thing, getting to know the family, getting to know the mother, getting to know the children, getting to know the wife, getting to know the neighbors, getting to know the employers. It’s just not supervising an offender. It is coming into contact with just about every aspect of his life, where he lives, how he conducts himself, is he standing on the corner at night bothering people, is he violating the law, is he going to drug treatment, is he completing his community service work, that’s an immense challenge, especially considering the fact that many parole and probation people throughout the country have very large caseloads, and when I say very large, 100, 150, 200 cases are not unusual.

Diane Kincaid: That’s not unusual at all, and when you consider all of the talent that goes into it and the professionalism, and the strength that they bring to their job, you aLen Sipeso have to think about how the funding stream has, you know, in our economy right now, many agencies are looking at serious cuts to their budgets. All the while, we are expecting these people to protect the public safety, so the economic times are always difficult for probation and parole, but even now, more than ever, it’s become even more serious.

Len Sipes: But there seems to be a paradox, Diane, because both of us read the newspapers throughout the country through various electronic services, and we see that many jurisdictions are saying, okay, we’re going to depend – and this is all due to the crisis, budget crisis that is affecting most states throughout the country, and what they’re saying is that we want parole and probation to do more. We want to incarcerate fewer people, not from a philosophical point of view, simply from a budget point of view, we want to incarcerate less and depend more on community supervision. Wow! That’s, we’re struggling to do what we do within the confines of our current budgets, let alone taking on significant additional people. California at one time was talking about releasing upwards of 30,000 offenders from their prison system, and that would be absorbed by their parole and probation system, so in essence, I hear more calLen Sipes for parole and probation to do more and a greater emphasis for parole and probation to do more, but some states are calling the parole and probation.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s part of the reason why we sort of initiated this branding project, because probation and parole is such a difficult field to understand, not only for the public, but for the policy makers. You know, when they’re going to make their budget decisions, when they’re initiating legislation, when they are proposing bilLen Sipes that are going to affect corrections in general, they don’t see far down the road to see what it’s going to do to probation and parole, but part of what we’ve done is put together these resources that will allow agencies to go out and project that positive image –

Len Sipes: And I think most of us within the field think that that is crucial. We’re halfway through the program already. Diane Kincaid, information specialist with the American Probation and Parole Association. We’re talking about Probation/Parole and Community Supervision week, which is this week of July 19th through July 25th, our programs seem to live years afterwards, so we do do these things, and we do celebrate this around this time of year, celebrate parole and probation agents, people who work in community supervision, the address is appa-net – dash net – .org, for information on this week, probation and parole, and community supervision week, and materiaLen Sipes to help promote the week. Diane, one of the reasons, one of the things I think there’s a problem in terms of understanding what it is that we do, that one side of us are law enforcement officers, we carry badges, we are very well trained, in many cases, some of us do carry firearms, some of us across the country do have arrest authority, but I think that’s only a minority of people in parole and probation, but we’re tasked to do two different things. We’re tasked to a) enforce the law, ensure public safety, that means that the person is posing a threat to public safety, if the local law enforcement telLen Sipes us that he’s out in the corner bothering people, and that he’s doing things he should not be doing, or violating drug tests or not going to drug treatment, we have the option, and in many cases exercise that option of putting that person back in prison, either through the parole commission, or through the courts. The other seems to be our dedication to getting the person into drug treatment, getting the person into mental health treatment, getting the person into employment services, and that these are things that are clearly in the best interests of society. I know of nobody out there who would object to an offender who was a mental health problem of getting mental health treatment, so we have two roles. One is an enforcement role, and one, to try to help this individual achieve what this individual needs to achieve to lower the rate of recidivism, to protect public safety, and at the same time, to help him live a life where he can pay taxes and take care of his kids.

Diane Kincaid: True, and you have to weigh public safety. Obviously, someone who is violent should not be out in the community. Someone who is known, who has those tendencies, and assessment tooLen Sipes are of great use to probation and parole, because they give those cues to the officer, or they let that person know that this offender, they might be having a problem here. They might be going back into these problem behaviors, and you know, knowing all that and doing all that is just amazing to me. You know, learning more, I’ve learned something new every day about the field, even after having worked here for several years, and you know, part of what we really want people to understand is that the work these professionaLen Sipes do cannot be done away with. Our society cannot live without these people, so we really do need to thank them whenever we meet one of these.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I make it a personal point of telling everybody that I meet in community supervision how I feel they’ve contributed to public safety. I mean, we do that for police officers, we do it for firefighters. Obviously, we do it for our military, but in terms of parole and probation people, an extraordinarily difficult job. I was at a conference one time where, dealing with women offenders in the District of Columbia, and a woman offender got up and addressed the entire conference and basically said, “Last night, my roommate, and I have my two children and I living in this person’s house, and this person pulled a knife on me, so I grabbed a knife back to protect myself and my children. Now, what are you going to do for me? I no longer have a place to live.” So in the context of all of the complexities of dealing with a large caseload and all of the complexities of dealing with offenders and the issues that they bring to the table, there is a parole and probation agent who has to spend a good part of the day finding housing for this mother and two kids. That is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of parole and probation work.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you think about the kinds of lives that many offenders have lived, and perhaps difficult childhoods, getting to the root of that, we talked about how probation and parole officers can make recommendations to have supervision revoked, but if someone is a substance abuser, and they’re put back in jail or prison, that’s not treating the root of the problem. You’re treating a symptom, but you’re not treating the actual problem, so probation and parole officers are trained to, you know, as much as they can, as much as their budgets and resources in their community will allow, is to treat that root problem.

Len Sipes: And everybody needs to understand, who is listening to this program who is not part of the parole and probation system, that every offender, virtually every offender brings these sorts of problems to the table. It’s not unusual for the person to be working, it’s not unusual for the person to be going to drug treatment, and who, for all intents and purposes, is doing well in every aspect of their community supervision, to pull drug positives. If we put everybody in prison that pulled those drug positives, we would double the capacity of prisons overnight. It’s our job to see if we can manage this individual, assess this individual, discuss this individual with our fellow parole and probation agents, and to see what we can do to get this person to stop pulling drug positives and continue, in essence, a reasonable readjustment after prison with everything eLen Sipese. That’s hard to do, because the question becomes, at what point do you violate the person and send the person back to prison, or at what point do you try to maintain the person in the community, and with the budget cuts all throughout the country, governor’s offices more and more and more are asking us to do whatever we can not to violate a person unless they pose a clear and present danger to public safety.

Diane Kincaid: That’s true, and when you weigh the cost and benefit, there’s no question that when community supervision is done correctly with sufficient resources, it can absolutely reduce recidivism, and it can create citizens who are paying their taxes, they’re paying their child support, they are working in the community. Oftentimes, offenders before citizens just like people who have never committed a crime, and probation and parole is not easy for offenders. People seem to think, oh, it’s just a slap on the wrist. Well, oftentimes, it’s not. It’s very difficult. You’re talking about people who, if they have some sort of conviction, it’s difficult for them to find a job. It’s oftentimes difficult to find someone to rent an apartment to them. So they’re struggling with that as well as perhaps a substance abuse problem, you know, their schedules are crazy where they have to perhaps meet with an officer twice a week, they are struggling to get a job, they’re trying to find someplace to live, they might be taking care of the children, so their lives are very complex, and just because they’re wrapped up with this supervision.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and on top of it, they really don’t trust us, so they don’t trust anybody within the criminal justice system, so to get them to open up, when I do ride-alongs with community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, and I did them in the state of Maryland, I’m amazed when that parole and probation person goes into the home, talks to the family, and they’re talking back, and they’re having a good solid conversation in terms of how do we get 19 year old Johnny back into the programs that he needs to be in, and this parole and probation agent is enlisting the entire family’s assistance, so they tackle this issue as a family. Now considering that people really don’t trust us within the criminal justice system, the offender really doesn’t trust us, to see the offender and the parole and probation person having, what I consider to be a meaningful conversation. I’m sitting back and saying, wow, now that takes a lot of talent and a lot of perseverance, and a lot of talent, let me say that word twice, to be able to get the family to be allies and be able to really communicate on a personal basis with that offender, considering very few of them, especially the offender, trust us at the beginning. It takes time to build that trust, and it takes time to convince that individual to do what they should be doing.

Diane Kincaid: It does, and we’ve talked a little bit about partnerships with law enforcement. Probation and parole officers must work with partnerships with all leveLen Sipes of the community. They oftentimes have good working relationships with law enforcement, oftentimes in some agencies, when an officer goes out for a home contact or for any type of contact with an offender, that they might take a law enforcement officer with them, knowing how to get resources to an offender, how to, where do you go to find a job, who do you talk to about getting substance abuse treatment, knowing those things about the community makes them a tremendous resource for offenders.

Len Sipes: And aLen Sipeso at the same time to providing the wherewithal of basically saying, look, you’ve got a court order, this is not an option. You have to go to drug treatment, you have to repay your victim, you have to do community service work, and by the way, John, we feel that you have a bit of a mental health problem through your assessment, and we now need to get mental health treatment. That’s a big plate of things to do, especially with a person who is resisting your efforts to do it.

Diane Kincaid: A lot of times, they are, and when you talk about mental illness, that is just a whole nother tremendous issue faced by these officers, just realizing that someone does have that problem, and you know, you can’t really express how important assessment tooLen Sipes are to a probation and parole officer.

Len Sipes: Yeah, the fact that we, again, know these individuaLen Sipes, in many cases, better than they know themselves, and we uncover issues, I mean, a lot of these offenders, and people always send me emaiLen Sipes, or tell me that I’m making excuses for offenders, and it’s really not, it really is just basically stating the facts as they are, they’re coming from very difficult backgrounds, many offenders have raised themselves since the age of 8, they have dropped out of school, they don’t know who the father is, they’ve had a bad relationship with their mother, they feel abandoned, and in many cases, they have what I call a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. We’re not talking about people who are easily drawn into these services, and breaking through that barrier to get that offender, and the entire family, for that matter, to become allies. That is a skill that we should be celebrating.

Diane Kincaid: Right, and just as you said, a difficult childhood or a difficult life is no excuse for breaking the law, but we have to, as a society, recognize that there are some things that are difficult for people, and we’re talking about individual psyches and individual brains, and we all react differently to things that we encounter. Some people can sort of get over things, and others can’t, and we have to accommodate them.

Len Sipes: And to do that with large caseloads, to do that with limited resources, I know of parole and probation agents who give a lot of evening time, who give a lot of weekend time to both enforcing the roles of parole or probation, and at the same time, trying to help these offenders cross that bridge into a tax paying lifestyle instead of a tax burden, and they do that on weekends and the evenings. I think, once again, we as a society owe a debt of gratitude, and we should be expressing that freely in terms, I think all of us feel that way, that we owe a debt of gratitude towards our people who are parole and probation agents, who are, generally speaking, carry bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees, and generally speaking very dedicated to what they do.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s, the emphasis behind this week, and we celebrate this week, and we do a website every year. It’s always the third week in July. We have a new poster design, there are brochures, there’s the new PowerPoint presentation on our resource kit that you can take into a school or take into a community group and do a presentation about your job and what it means and how it’s important, and then on another aspect of what we’re trying to branch out into is some of these newer technologies to keep informed and to reach out into the field is we have a facebook page now, and we’ll be launching a twitter page in the next few weeks, so we’re really excited about that.

Len Sipes: Getting involved in social media to do a better job of informing everybody what it is that the Parole and Probation Agents do. Our guest today has been Diane Kincaid. She is an information specialist for 10 years, for a full decade with the Parole and Probation Association. We’re celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week, as of today, July 19th through July 25th, you can go to the website of the American Probation and Parole Association, appa-net – appa-net – N-E-T – .org, Diane Kincaid, her email is D-K-I-N-C-A-I-D – Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, once again, we really thank you profusely for all the letters, phone calLen Sipes, emaiLen Sipes, and you can again follow me on twitter at twitter/lensipes, or via email, which seems to be popular, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – not “˜T’ – E-S –, or you can simply comment within the show notes, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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