Archives for May 17, 2010

Offenders Assigned to Day Reporting-DC Public Safety-228,000 Requests a Month

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See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/11/offenders-assigned-to-day-reporting-dc-public-safety-228000-requests-a-month/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have, I think, a really interesting program today. Day reporting: These are individuals who come to my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They go to Day Reporting when they haven’t done all that well and there are problems in their supervision or they’re not getting jobs and what we do is we say, well, you’re going to have to go to the Day Reporting Center on a day-to-day basis and you’re going to be talking with Mr. Walter Hagins. He is the program manager of the Day Reporting Center and we’ll also have two folks who are currently under our supervision. Again, we are a federal agency providing parole and probation services in Washington, D.C. and I’m not going to use their real names. I’m going to refer to them as Pookie as the first person and Cool as the second person. Ladies and gentlemen, before we get into the gist of our show, want to remind everybody that we are again very, very pleased with the amount of people who are listening to the show. We are up to close to 200,000 individuals, 200,000 requests I should say, for D.C. Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts at media M-E-D-I-A.csosa C-S-O-S-A.gov. Really interested in your comments in the show, suggestions, criticisms; feel free to give them. You can either comment in the comment box at D.C. Public safety; again, media.csosa.gov or you can get to me directly by email, which is Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not T, P-E-S@csosa.gov or you can follow me by Twitter. It’s Twitter.com or Twitter.com/lensipes (without any separation). So, back to our program. Walter Hagins, the program manager of the Day Reporting Center. How ya doing, Walter?

Walter Hagins: Good morning, Len. How are you today?

Len Sipes: I’m all right. You know, Walter, I’ve been to the Day Reporting Center maybe three, four times in the past and I remember we were doing fugitive safe surrender, which was a program designed to get people who are wanted on criminal warrants to voluntarily surrender. So, I did a couple focus groups with the folks at Day Reporting and, boy, were they an interesting bunch of folk. You really got the sense that a lot of these individuals were on the edge that they’re in the community today but they may go back to prison the following day. And I just did not get the sense that these were the most disciplined bunch of folks on the face of the earth. Walter?

Walter Hagins: Well, Len, part of that is partially true and the reason I say that because at the Day Reporting Center it is sort of a one-stop shop to try to get folks back into compliance as well as to try to get individuals to become more employable and that can range from anything from dealing with issues of substance abuse, dealing with issues of homelessness, dealing with issues of literacy, dealing with issues of mental health, dealing with a lot of host of things; personal problems. And so that can trigger one’s supervision that causes them to make decisions that places them at risk. So, the Day Reporting Center, so you do get those folks and it’s our job to kind of mow them back and get them refocused in order to be productive, not only in their lives but in the community.

Len Sipes: But they’re close to going back to prison.

Walter Hagins: Well, yeah, a lot of them because if you don’t follow conditions of supervision, you will go back to prison if you don’t follow those conditions.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. If you keep pulling positive drug tests, if you don’t show up for drug testing, if the neighbors keep complaining that you’re out on the corner at 1:00 in the morning smoking reefer and raising hell, you’re close to going back to prison.

Walter Hagins: And that’s correct and, fortunately, for us, CSOSA understands that there is a way to kind of intercede, to give another opportunity, another resource, and still hold accountability to try to avoid that going back to prison.

Len Sipes: The bottom line in all of this, and this is the larger question for parole and probation agencies throughout the country, Walter, is the whole concept of maintaining individuals in the community as long as they are not a threat to public safety. So, if the person is arrested for a violent crime, he goes. Nobody’s questioning that. If he’s arrested for a burglary, he goes. But the point is that there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the middle, in between, and the larger sense for all of us in parole and probation in Canada, in England, and, believe it or not, in China because we’ve provided technical assistance to China on this very issue, is how you maintain folks in the community safely, not threatening public safety, and help them basically stop the drug positives, get the job, clean up the attitude. Am I right or am I wrong? Am I in the ballpark?

Walter Hagins: You are right on point and I think CSOSA is unique because I believe that we are on the right path because what you’re talking about is in a time of financial constraints. Roughly we have anywhere from 40 to 50 that’s always in the Day Reporting Center. Now, to house a federal prisoner, it’s $22,000. So, if you take our 50 guys, that’s roughly over $1,100,000 and my math might be a little bit off but it’s roughly over $1 million. So, what CSOSA has done with this Day Reporting Center is offer a one-stop shop, a place where folks on probation can come and (1) can get structure, can get programming, and can get discipline as well as get the resources from our community partnerships, from what we have in-house to kind of try to combat that so you don’t have to deal with folks returning to prisons and giving them an opportunity. So, that’s been the dilemma and CSOSA’s answer is to let’s not bring folks in who may be drifting and bring them, if it’s substance abuse, bring them substance abuse education. If it’s dealing with structure, have a place where these individuals can come in and they report in for five to six hours, but make that time constructive, make that time where they can receive positive information as well as have a positive support system.

Len Sipes: Okay. Got it. And, just for the record, I want to tell the listeners that there are a variety of programs here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency where it is, oh, I don’t know what we call all of the different programs that we have, but they are designed to provide a variety of activities, a variety of, I don’t know what the word is, opportunity, a variety of modalities based upon the offender’s unique individual needs all the way to a 30 day placement in a treatment center to deal with either mental health or substance abuse or other problems. So, this is just one of a variety of programs where we try to do the best to protect public safety and, at the same time, try to get that individual to understand that he’s got to work every day, he’s got to stop pulling drug positives, he’s got to cooperate, and he’s got to lose the attitude.

Walter Hagins: You’re right on point.

Len Sipes: All right. Cool. Pookie, we’re going to go over to you now. Really appreciate your being here. Now, you are part of the Day Reporting structure now?

Pookie: That’s correct. How ya doing, Lenny? You doing good?

Len Sipes: I’m doing good. The interesting thing, Pookie, is that, boy, you don’t fit the stereotype. Last time I was at Day Reporting, everybody was young and dressed young and looked young. You’re an older gentleman.

Pookie: Well, consider old

Len Sipes: Well, in a suit and tie, you look good. You look like you’re president of a bank.

Pookie: Well, half my battle has been because of my appearance.

Len Sipes: You know what? Who said that? Somebody said, oh, I forget who said it, some famous celebrity, Woody Allen, I think it was, who said that 80 percent of life and life’s battle’s just showing up. And then somebody came along and said, well, it’s 80 percent just showing up and dressed in a suit or dressed appropriately and that’s 80 percent of life, 80 percent of the success in life is just showing up and looking good. And that’s, you figured that out.

Pookie: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: All right. How’d you get into the Day Reporting program?

Pookie: Well, I got into Day Reporting program because I violated conditions of parole. I came home, I tried unsuccessfully to get a job and it’s been, like, four months. Me and my parole officer decided to try something new, which was he referred me to the Day Reporting Center. I’m not there because of sanction because my urine is positive. I’m not there because I failed to report to his office and I’m not there because I failed to be at my home when he had a home visit. So, I’m basically there to try something new, to try another avenue, to try to get myself back in the mainstream of a job.

Len Sipes: What’s your background, by the way? Somebody listening can, hopefully, get you a job today.

Pookie: Well, my background is being raised in a juvenile institution from the time I was 8 up until, let’s say, 47, I’ve always been a leader, even in prison. I’ve always been able to motivate. So, I say, okay, I’m going to try to use these skills when I get into the community. I got a job cleaning the streets. Made me feel good. The pay wasn’t that great, but I felt good about making an honest dollar. I advanced from team leader to supervisor to senior supervisor to acting project manager. Right? And I normally motivate and I talk to my co-workers.

Len Sipes: What happened? Something happened.

Pookie: However, I did come up with a dirty urine.

Len Sipes: Ah! Okay.

Pookie: Over a 5-year period in the community; first I’ve ever had in my life.

Len Sipes: First dirty urine under supervision?

Pookie: Not my first dirty urine.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pookie: But what I’m saying is that my first dirty urine, kind of, it had a conflict between me and my parole officer because my dirty urine was alcohol and, see under conditions of parole, you can’t drink alcohol but in moderation, not in excess.

Len Sipes: So, but you’re out of work now, right?

Pookie: I’m out of work now.

Len Sipes: And why’s that?

Pookie: I’m out of work now because I just came home last year in November.

Len Sipes: From prison.

Pookie: From prison.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pookie: Right? I had to go through the Reentry Center program.

Len Sipes: Right, which is another of our alternative programs.

Pookie: Correct.

Len Sipes: Or not in the case, not an alternative program, but a mode of transitioning being back into the community through intensive drug treatment, mental health; that sort of stuff.

Pookie: In-patient. I also went through drug treatment, which is Second Genesis.

Len Sipes: Cool. Okay. So, you went through the whole she-bang.

Pookie: The whole she-bang.

Len Sipes: Our drug treatment, by the way, ladies and gentlemen, is not what most people think of drug treatment. It’s not twice a week for an hour in a group setting. It is pretty intensive.

Pookie: And it’s all day.

Len Sipes: A thorough analysis of the individual and then placing this person into a residential group setting and a plan for follow-up, relapse prevention for when the person gets out. Correct?

Pookie: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. Did it work?

Pookie: It worked. I successfully completed each and every component of the Reentry Program.

Len Sipes: All right. So, you’re not doing drugs?

Pookie: I’m not doing drugs. Matter of fact, I haven’t been home since November 28 of last year and all my urines are negative.

Len Sipes: Okay. So, you’re one of our success stories. So, instead of throwing you back in prison, you’re back in the community and you’re trying to make it.

Pookie: I’m trying to make it. I’m not asking for welfare. I’m not asking for a hand-out. I’m just asking for an extended hand, you know?

Len Sipes: Uh-huh.

Pookie: I’m asking for, give me an opportunity, because my last job, I was given an opportunity.

Len Sipes: But why’d you lose the last job?

Pookie: Because I was violated, not because of anything on the job.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you went back to prison.

Pookie: I went back to prison.

Len Sipes: What’s your skill set? What do you do? What are you good at?

Pookie: Well, I’m good at scrubbing floors. I’m good at carpentry. I’m good at motivating. I’m good at supervising. I’m good at fixing small equipment; lawn mowers, weed whackers. I’ve been able to use

Len Sipes: So, you’re a “hands on” sort of guy?

Pookie: Because I learned each and every phase of my job; that’s why I got to the point of acting supervisor.

Len Sipes: Okay. Cool. And you were working for the city at the time?

Pookie: Well, I was working for a private company but it does work for the city.

Len Sipes: A private company that works for the city. Okay. Anybody out there that’s got a job for Pookie, let me tell you, he looks like a bank president sitting here. I mean, he just looks like a bank president. We’re going to go over to another gentleman who came in today. He’s currently under supervision and we’re just going to call him Cool. I’ve heard the name 40 years in the criminal justice system; Cool Breeze, Cool Man, Cool Kid. I’ve heard about every variation of Cool on the face of the earth. How ya doing, Cool?

Cool: I’m doing good. How ya doing?

Len Sipes: All right. Now, you look like a rock star. You look like you’re just fresh off of MTV doing something or other. You’ve got this fresh face, young man look going about you. And tell me a little bit about your involvement in the Day Reporting system, Cool.

Cool: Well, the Day Reporting Center has done very good for me. Instead of my CSO sending me back to jail, she send me to the Day Reporting Center, which is good.

Len Sipes: Right. And the CSO’s the Community Supervision Officer, what most people would call a parole and probation agent throughout the rest of the country. So, what did you do that got you instead of going back to prison you went here?

Cool: Well, I participated. I mean, I could have said, no.

Len Sipes: Now, what did you do? What was your violation?

Cool: Oh, I didn’t catch any violations. I had no violations. It was because I didn’t obtain employment.

Len Sipes: All right. So, you’re not out there finding work.

Cool: Yes.

Len Sipes: Do you have work now?

Cool: No, not at all, sir.

Len Sipes: All right. But you’re getting work?

Cool: Yes.

Len Sipes: Cool. All right. What’s your impression about the Day Reporting Center? Is it a huge pain in the rear? Is it helpful? Is it, what’s your gut perception of this?

Cool: Well, the Day Reporting Center to me, it offers a lot of good programs. I mean, everyone has their own opinion, but for me, I think, the Day Reporting Center is a good program. I can relate to, I’m down at the Day Reporting Center five days a week, so out of those five days a week, I can relate to at least about 4 1/2 classes out of there. I say 4 1/2 because at one point in time it’s from 1:00 to 3:00. So, it’s a certain speaking at 1:00 till 2:00 and then from 2:00 till 3:00.

Len Sipes: I’m going to reintroduce all three of you because, believe it or not, we’re halfway through the half hour program. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Walter Hagins is the program manager of the Day Reporting Center for our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Walter brought in a couple gentlemen with him today who are part of the process of the Day Reporting Center and we’re not using their real names. We’re calling just one, Pookie, the bank manager, and Cool, the gentleman from MTV, and that’s how I’ve got them all figured out in my mind. Let’s have a larger discussion for the last 15 minutes and I’m going to go back to you, Cool, because I didn’t give you a lot of time. What society is saying and the emails I get and the communications that I get from people who hear these shows and I’m also teaching a class at the University of Maryland right now and I’m giving sort of, like, half down the middle where half the folks are saying, you know, these individuals try to do what you can to keep them in the community. If they don’t have to go back to prison, I really don’t want to pay all the money to send them back to prison, but I want to be protected. That’s the bottom line. So, if you can figure out, Mr. Sipes, you and your agency, if you can figure out who’s going to do well in community supervision and who needs to go back to prison, well, then cool, but I’m not really quite sure I trust your judgment. Pookie and Cool, Cool, we’ll go with you. How do you respond to people on the outside who basically said, look, my man, you’ve been in prison. We expect you to work and pay your taxes and don’t have any dirty urines. We don’t want you doing drugs. We want you to be a model citizen and that’s what we want out of you. How do you respond to that?

Cool: I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a model citizen. It’s harder for certain people. They do say most of the time a person that’s been convicted, go to jail for five years and come back home and stay on the streets for six months and then go right back to jail for another 5 to 10 years.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. Prison on the installment plan.

Cool: Yes. When I’ve totally went over that opinion, like, I’ve been out on the streets longer than I’ve been in prison.

Len Sipes: Okay. And how long you been out on the streets?

Cool: About two years now and I was locked up for about 20 months.

Len Sipes: All right. Why aren’t you employed?

Cool: Well, because, I mean, I’m not going to say because people aren’t hiring. Maybe it’s because I’m not doing my best, to be honest with you. I’m trying, but I’m not doing my best. There’s a lot of other things on the outside world as far as financially, other things.

Len Sipes: See, the thing that blows me away and this is something that deals with some stereotypes and I apologize for those stereotypes, nevertheless, they are there. When the public out there hears the word, “criminal,” somebody’s caught up in the criminal justice system, they have a prearranged vision in their minds as to who that individual is. I’m looking at both of you and both of you look and sound like anybody else that you’re going to find on the street. I mean, there’s not an ounce of stereotype in either one of your presentations. So, the public is now sitting back and going, okay, well, I’m not quite sure what Len Sipes is looking at and I’m not there so I can’t make my own judgments, but, daggone it, I want people who come out of prison to toe the line and not go back and to be responsible. So, that’s their emphasis. Now, is it that we don’t provide enough programs, society provides too many temptations, you don’t have enough self-discipline. I mean, speaking for yourself and people who you’ve been in contact with out on the street, what’s up with the folks who go back? Because there’s no hope for them? What’s the issue?

Walter Hagins: Let me jump in for a second because you talked about, and I liked what you said, but keep in mind, these two gentlemen have had a place to practice. Okay? You have the DRC. You have this haven where, we have this saying, the lion’s den, where you can have a place where you can bring up those issues into this forum and we discuss it and

Len Sipes: As a group.

Walter Hagins: As a group or individually. We do some things individually. Part of that is when society is talking about the whole rehabilitation and we want you to get a job and things like that. I think enough attention is not paid to the steps to get a job. Do I have the sort of skills as far as my dress, communication? Can I deal with conflict? When my boss says something or my supervisor says something I don’t like, do I go off the handle like I’ve seen growing up if I didn’t have structure and role modeling? Or do I go and deal with that person and use some of the skills; conflict resolution, pull my supervisor to the side and do the things that we’re talking about in group. See, I think a lot of that stereotype is because not everybody has had the benefit, maybe not everybody has had a positive role model, maybe there’s not been that type of intervention like the DRC. So, to stick someone into a job and say, be successful. What does that mean? If I’ve never been successful and never had that type of training, then what are we talking about?

Len Sipes: And that’s something the public struggles with because our reality is that recovery, let’s just say drug treatment, an addict wants that drug, an alcoholic wants that drink every single day of their lives. How they cope with that every single day becomes a learning process. And they’ve got to be taught how to do that, but relapse, which means positive urines, is a daily reality for us because it’s part of the addictions process and it’s part of the recovery process, where the average person says, man, he’s out of prison. He’s got three positives for cocaine. Please send him back to prison. And that’s what we have to struggle with every single day. And the other part of it is what we call, cognitive therapy, where it’s thinking through stuff and thinking in a different way. And you’re right. How many people have been fired because they simply mouthed off to the boss?

Walter Hagins: That’s right.

Len Sipes: I mean, how many times do I want to tell bosses, not my current boss certainly, but in the past, how many times did I want to tell him or her to go do something? And I came close more than a couple occasions, but that’s in me; that’s in everybody. That’s in these gentlemen, that’s in you, that’s in me, that’s in everybody listening to the program, but how you respond to that provocation is what makes the difference and, within your program, what I hear is you teach them how to respond.

Walter Hagins: And we role model. I mean, and these gentlemen will attest, we actually do scenarios where we may do mock interviews or we may role-play that we’re on a job and someone might make an inappropriate response when advanced and you’re under the microscope or understudy and how do you respond? And then we’ll stop it and we’ll get critiqued. So, now that becomes a part of your muscle memory or your experience. So, if I’m ever placed in that situation before, at least I have a frame of reference.

Len Sipes: It’s automatic in terms of how you respond. Instead of responding with a mouth, you respond appropriately.

Walter Hagins: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Because, Lord knows, we all have difficult bosses.

Walter Hagins: Including myself.

Len Sipes: Everybody on the face of the earth has a difficult boss. Why is that? Pookie or Cool, either one of you, I mean, what we’re saying is that a lot of folks under supervision. You don’t have to talk specifically for yourself but talk specifically or generally in terms of the people that you’ve been in contact with. What we’re saying is we’ve got to retrain a lot of human beings that may not have been brought up correctly, I don’t know if that’s an appropriate term to say, but people get my drift, and people have got to learn basic skills in terms of how to work with other human beings throughout life. I mean, how many people in the domestic violence unit, which is another one of our programs, I mean, you can’t hit your wife. You can’t even raise your fist to your wife and that is something that they didn’t know. Now, people sitting there are going, well, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that folks don’t know this. There are a lot of folks that we supervise who don’t know this stuff. Cool, you’re trying to say something and say it into the microphone.

Cool: Okay. Well, as you all were just saying, I mean, there’s some people who were brought up with different views. If someone grows up as a child seeing their mother being hit on all day or seeing someone selling drugs around them their whole life being brought up, they think that’s the right thing to do to make money or the right way to treat a female. I mean, in this program, in the DRC, they get to know you. You have open discussions, scenarios that other people can relate to. I mean, I think with your CSO, my CSO, she gave me a chance. She introduced me to the DRC and it’s helped me a whole lot. It’s motivated me to go on job interviews and go seek out employment because I’ve never really had a job so coming here gave me the skills to know what I needed to do to obtain the job. And, if you don’t know a person, if you don’t know why they’re acting the way they’re acting or why they speak the way they speak or their behavior, I mean, you can’t really help them unless you get to know them. You’ve got people out here who are on drugs their whole life, who are abused their whole life and certain people don’t know that so, of course, you’re going to have people going back to jail and violating probation because after awhile they’re going to say, I don’t care anymore. But with the DRC, man, you get see that the stereotype isn’t always right. Like, as you said about me, most people look at me on the street and say, hey, there’s this young looking guy. He’s probably out here selling drugs. He’s probably, I’m not doing any of that.

Len Sipes: But your presentation is somebody that has a college degree. I mean, the way you present yourself is pretty daggone impressive. So, I’m sitting here going, okay, if you’ve got the look. If you’ve got the whole thing down in terms of how to interact with people, why can’t you get a job.

Cool: Good point. That is a good point. That is a good point. Well, to be honest with you, I mean, maybe, like, the stereotype. They look at me, they see me, and they’re, like, unh-huh, and they look at my past, my criminal record and they’re, like, I’m not going to hire this guy before they sit down and have a conversation with me. I think if someone was to actually sit down and interview and have actual conversation with me, I think I’d have 100 percent shot at getting the job.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh. Pookie, one of the things that always astounded me is two things. I understand that there is discrimination. In some cases, when I’m talking about discrimination, I’m talking about law, saying that you can’t hire a person with a particular background. So, if you’re going to go into a day care center, you can’t hire somebody who’s a sex offender. I mean, that’s pretty obvious. But the overwhelming majority of people under supervision are employed at a certain point in their lives. I mean, guys with criminal records get jobs all the time. So, how do you frame this to the American public and 20 percent of our audience is beyond the shores of the United States, so what do you say to the folks in China and France? And what do you say to folks about this whole sense of succeeding?

Pookie: Well, I can only look at myself. It seems like most employers now are asking for resumes. It’s not like a personal, you go in the office and you have an interview, and you sit down with somebody and you explain and you tell them your story about why you need the job. It’s about resume. Resumes are just basically built on what is your criteria for this job. What else do you have to offer? Because you are looked at as commodity.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pookie: So, if you don’t have that experience or that knowledge of, let’s say, working or that work ethic or that motivation, you’re not going to get the job. I mean, you can write anything on a piece of paper, but they can always just put that piece of paper on the side. I have walked these pavements for the last four months each and every day. I had to bring my parole officer verification that I went to this business, to the point where I had blisters on my feet

Len Sipes: And basically nobody hired you is what you’re saying.

Pookie: Nobody has hired me, but that hasn’t really folded up or thought about using drugs or thought about committing a crime; all I need is a job.

Len Sipes: I hear you.

Pookie: That’s all I need is a job. Now, because I’m in the DRC program, that program is another avenue into maybe, let’s say, training me in various apprenticeship programs. As a matter of fact, I’ve been referred to CDL, the greater Washington, is a component of CSOSA community.

Len Sipes: Are you talking about commercial drivers licenses?

Pookie: Oh, yeah.

Len Sipes: Because there are a lot of guys who have served heavy-duty time in prison who are now out there driving trucks and there are some of them out there hiring other truck drivers. They’re doing extraordinarily well. The half hour has gone by way too fast, but what I’d like to do is invite you all back, the three of you, come on back in three months and give me a progress report and I’d love to have you back on the radio because we really haven’t gotten enough time to discuss all the different things I wanted to discuss. Our participants today: Walter Hagins, program manager of the Day Reporting Center for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have Pookie, not his real name obviously, but the gentlemen looks like a bank manager. He’s looking for work, has lots of skills, hard skills. And Cool is somebody who you would upfront impress everybody because he’s got that look going on. And, gentlemen, I wish the best of luck. Anybody out there looking for what seems to be wonderful individuals to hire, we’ve got them right here. Contact me, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov. Ladies and gentlemen, I really appreciate everything that you’ve done for the show, 196,000 requests last month. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

Walter Hagins: Thank you, Len.

– Audio ends –

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Leadership Development in Criminal Justice Agencies

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/02/leadership-development-in-criminal-justice-agencies/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We have and I think an extraordinarily interesting program today; Leadership in Criminal Justice. I’ve been in the Criminal Justice system for almost 40 years. And I can tell you that there’s no issue more contentious than this concept of leadership within the criminal justice system. Do we really breed free thinking people who are going to attack crime problems or correctional problems or court related problems through innovation, through interesting concepts. Through exploration, through research. It’s difficult within a bureaucracy and there is probably no bureaucracy more stodgy than the criminal justice system. So we have two, I think really interesting people to talk to today. One is Debbie Owens. She is the Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. And I’m going to give out her email address in a little while. And the other interesting person we have is Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan is a Professor and Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland University College. And again I’ll give out his email address and his website afterwards. The interesting thing about the University of Maryland, the University College, 94,000 students throughout the country and throughout the world. They have a European division, they have an Asian division. So we’re talking about a major administrative academic effort coming together with mainstream criminal justice to develop this concept called Leadership in Criminal Justice. Debbie Owns and Doctor Sondervan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

William Sondervan: Thanks, Len.

Debbie Owens: Thanks, Len.

Len Sipes: All right, I want to start off a little bit with you, Bill; 94,000 students, the University of Maryland, the University College, the whole concept, I mean, is this the normal college? Or is this something that brings a new and innovative way of offering higher level academic programs to students?

William Sondervan: Well, we’re actually quite unusual. A very interesting university. We’re part of the University system of Maryland. And there’s 11 colleges and universities in this system. And our distinct mission is the adult part time learner. And working with the professional in the field. And I’ve been a practitioner my whole life. I’ve had 23 years in the Military Police retiring and Lt. Colonel and then the States Correction Commissioner. I was asked to come in and create a program specifically for practitioners to help the people in the field to better be able to do their job. And that’s what makes us a little bit different.

Len Sipes: Debbie, first of all, congratulations to you all in Baltimore City, you’ve reduced the homicide rate to its lowest point in many years. You’ve also recorded recently a 2 percent reduction in violent crime. Debbie Owens is Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. Debbie, why did you get involved with the University of Maryland, the University College? What advantages do they bring to the folks at the Baltimore City Police Department?

Debbie Owens: You know, actually it’s Commissioner Deerfeld’s(?) idea. I know that he’s worked with Bill before and we have done some things with universities and toyed around with various types of leadership development. And we just were taken aback by the effectiveness and the accomplishments that the University of Maryland, University College has made. And so we sat around, I remember Bill one morning at breakfast talking about this whole subject of leadership and Bill and his cohorts just brought years and years of knowledge and experience to the table. And we just felt comfortable and it has ended up being a great partnership.

Len Sipes: All right. Now we’ve got the easy questions out of the way, the introductions out of the way. Debbie Owens can be reached at debra.owens@baltimorepolice.org. debra.owens – o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. Bill Sondervan can be reached at wssondervan@umuc.edu, the website is www.umuc.edu. Okay. The niceties are out of the way. Now let’s have the fun part of the conversation. Again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 40 years. It is a stodgy, bureaucratic system, whether we’re talking about corrections, whether we’re talking about the judiciary, whether we’re talking about pre-trail, it doesn’t matter. Parole and probation, it’s a system of hierarchies. It’s a leader at the top setting the tone for everybody else in law enforcement. In some cases it’s very paramilitary. In corrections it’s very paramilitary. Is this a structure, I’m talking specifically about the criminal justice system, not IBM or not Google or not, you now, the big automotive companies. Is the criminal justice system conducive to creating people who are going to think for themselves, create for themselves, try things for themselves and take risks?

William Sondervan: Well, Len, if I may, that’s what this program is all about. And the way we kicked it off and the way we got started was sitting around the table with Commissioner Fred Deerfeld and some colleagues and this is all about relationships and friendships that go back years. And as a new Police Commissioner for the Department, Fred Deerfeld sincerely wanted to make a better, a safer city and create a better police department by giving his mid level managers and his officers the tools to do that. And we kicked around a lot of different ideas and by going back and forth we came up with a model which is really unique. It was new to Baltimore City police and it was new to the university. He had some selling to do on his end, I had some selling to do on our end. The people at University of Maryland, University College were skeptical at first, but then became very agreeable. And now they really love the program, our Dean, our Provost, our President are all involved in it. And Fred wanted something where the mid level managers in this program could actually help solve problems. Well, we’re teaching them leadership skills and problem solving skills for them to go into the city and to tackle some problems and to come up with solutions to problems is part of the learning process. And I think that’s really neat and that’s really kind of what we did. And I’m going to ask the Deputy Commissioner to talk about that a little bit. But what we did in our format is we started out with, we have four credit classes that lead to a 16 credit criminal justice leadership certificate. And all those credits apply to a Bachelor of Science degree. And a part of this whole thing is the Commissioner wants to encourage these people to get their Bachelor’s degrees. But the way we have it set up is we have a week in the classroom, which is intensive, in classroom learning, and then we follow that with six weeks of online environment. And in the online environment the students have to do a journal, they have to do pape
rs, they have to do research. But really what’s unique about this is our faculty working with the Police Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner and your senior staff is that they come up with projects. And they basically give our faculty the projects. The projects are then assigned to the students who are broken down into teams and the teams go and they actually research those projects, they come up with solutions. And at the end of each class those students have to brief the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner and other members of the command staff on their solution to problems. And I think this is really remarkable. And I think a lot of the things that the students were able to do, the Commissioner adopted them for actual implementation. And another part of this thing, as I think for the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, they really got to see their people. Some of those folks in the class they didn’t know that well because it’s a huge police department. But they got to watch their people in action and they really learned a lot about them and they really saw who has leadership ability, who doesn’t and who’s going to come to the top.

Len Sipes: Okay, well, Bill, I think we answered the question in a roundabout way. Debbie, I’m going to put the question to you, now, what Bill just said makes sense. I mean, within an academic setting, you’re allowed to do lots of different things. You’re allowed to explore. What about people when they get beyond the academic setting? Is the Baltimore Police Department, and I would, I’m going to venture and say most criminal justice bureaucracies are pretty stodgy. They want leadership from the top and not leadership from mid level, street level management. Am I right or wrong?

Debbie Owens: No, you’re absolutely right, Len. And your earlier comment about law enforcement agencies and paramilitary organizations that are somewhat single minded, you’re right from the top down where we’ll give you the directions, we’ll give you the orders, we’ll tell you how to think, we’ll tell you what to do.

Len Sipes: Right.

Debbie Owens: That’s the way it’s always been in law enforcement. But this new Commissioner, this new command staff, this new mayor and regime in this city, we’re looking for more creative ways to have leaders, the new young future leaders of this police department and law enforcement in general, to begin to be creative and to think for themselves and to step outside of this whole paramilitary thing, concept. And be able to come up with, be able to analyze problems, situations, issues in their communities and develop programs or processes or better ways to manage those issues rather than the top forcing thoughts and movements downward.

Len Sipes: Can either one of you give me some examples as to how ideas came up from street level managers to improve the situation in the City of Baltimore?

Debbie Owens: You know, essentially we sat down with several different groups of people. And once again this was sergeants, lieutenants up to deputy majors, which are similar to a captain’s rank in the military.

Len Sipes: Right.

Debbie Owens: We looked at some of the issues that we were facing or had been facing over the last several years in the City of Baltimore and issues that we thought is corrected or altered would help with the reduction of crime and the improvement in the quality of life for the citizens of Baltimore. And we looked at things like foot patrol. Many, many, many years ago, as both of you well know, you’ve been around for a long time, foot patrols, that’s the way cops got around. They were on foot and they were in neighborhoods. And neighborhoods felt good about knowing the name of their cop. And as years have gone on we’ve gotten away from that. So we talked about things like our foot patrol project. We talked about recruitment. Recruitment is a huge issue in law enforcement and the criminal justice ,

Len Sipes: Law enforcement agencies were at least having a tough time recruiting people before the recession.

Debbie Owens: Correct.

Len Sipes: I don’t know if that’s, I don’t know where we are now, but at one point some law enforcement leaders described it as being a bit of a crisis.

Debbie Owens: It was. And everybody was fighting for the same pool of candidates. And so one of the groups in this class actually had concerns about what the advertising, the types of advertising the locations that we were advertising for recruitment. So they took it upon themselves to work with one of the local TV stations and developed probably one of the most successful recruitment videos that we’ve ever had. So literally everybody sat down and looked at issues that we thought that people could analyze and make an impact on. And that’s pretty much how we decided on what projects or what groups the groups will get.

Len Sipes: Now, the whole idea of exporting this, now, again both of us, all three of us have been in the criminal justice system a long time. We’ve talked about similar issues decades ago in terms of taking line managers and providing the opportunities for a college education, more and more people coming to law enforcement, by the way, as you all know in corrections have Bachelor’s degrees, have advanced degrees. But the rank and file ordinarily most of the people in law enforcement do not. We’ve talked about developing leadership throughout the years in terms of college courses, but the thing that’s intriguing me is this concept of leadership. A sergeant basically saying, you know what? I think what the hierarchy is doing in the City of Baltimore, or a correctional sergeant in a prison saying I think what the hierarchy is doing is wrong. I think there’s a better way of approaching this. And I’m going to use it from a research point of view, a best evidence point of view. And present my ideas to these individuals. Are those ideas going to receive a welcome reception? And I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say for a lot of criminal justice agencies the answer is no.

William Sondervan: Well, I think the answer is no. And I think there’s a big leadership gap in police departments and juvenile justice across the whole system. And I think that’s something that really needs to be addressed. There’s a rapid turnover of senior leaders and mid level managers and these are the kinds of things that have to be explored. And that’s exactly what’s going on in this particular program. We’re encouraging the mid level managers in this class to think for themselves and to come up with ideas. And the police commissioner, the deputy commissioner have welcomed this and their open. And they’re sitting down and they’re talking, you know, with the people in the class about their ideas. They’re getting it from the line people out in the field and they’re learning a lot by talking to the people and they’re actually taking what they’re telling them and they’re putting it into action. I think this is what really makes it remarkable.

Len Sipes: I think from a , go ahead, Debbie.

Debbie Owens: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.

Len Sipes: No, please.

Debbie Owens: One of the most, probably one of the most interesting things about the program and one of the most successful things about the program, if you could go back and speak to those that went through the original, the first program was that they had an opportunity for their voice to be heard and their thoughts and concerns about issues that are going on, not only in this police department, but that are going on in concert with other law enforcement agencies or other partners, whether it be parole and probation, whether it be corrections. Those folks are out and about day in and day out working on the street and they have concerns. And they felt like their voice wasn’t being heard. But in this case I think that they have now realized that it’s very open minded at the top of the police department and that their voice can be heard and that they had some great ideas and that they were able to be very successful in not only looking at these projects but putting together finished products that they could carry away with them and actually implement. That was actually one of the biggest things, Bill, that we talked about was them being able to not only devise programs, but literally go back and implement them into their own districts or divisions or sections and then go back several months later and evaluate how it worked. So I think that’s been a huge success.

William Sondervan: And let me add to what the Deputy Commissioner just said, one of the things that was really unique that came out of this was, you know, sometimes universities are like criminal justice agencies. They don’t listen either.

Len Sipes: Sure.

William Sondervan: But in this case they did. One of the things that came out of this class was a need for a graduate program for criminal justice practitioners. So we’ve sat down with the class and we did some brainstorming and said, okay, if we’re going to create a masters program for mid level police officers or mid level correctional officers to prepare them to go up to senior leadership, what should be in this masters program? What should it look like? What are the skills that you need to have. And by going to that process, we listed all these things out. And we went back to the university administration. We took the Dean, the Provost and the President of the university and we said, hey, these police officers in Baltimore City wants to do a masters program. And here’s the kinds of skills that we need. And we went round and round and we came up with a couple of models. But what we settled on was a Master of Science in management that has leadership management, communications, skills for strategic planning, all those kinds of things plus a core of real solid criminal justice courses that would create just a perfect degree for them. And then what we did with it is we set it up as a dual degree program so that if they finished this and they wanted to go on by taking three more six credit classes, they can get an MBA. Well, we took what the officers told us, we put it together in a packet and it went all the way up to the President of the university and got approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission and by our Criminal Justice Advisory Board. And we now have a masters program that’s coming, that’s going to be avaiable in the Fall online and in the classroom and it’s exactly designed to take this group of mid level managers and prepare them to be senior leaders. And I think this is great.

Len Sipes: Well, my guess is that the combination of criminal justice in leadership and business is exactly what’s needed instead of a straight criminal justice degree. Ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to DC Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. Debbie Owens is the Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. You can reach Debra at debra – d-e-b-o-r-a-h dot owens – o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. Also at our microphone is Doctor William Sondervan, Professor and Director of Criminal Justice for the University of Maryland, University College. It’s a sort of a non traditional college. It’s been around for a long time. I, as a budding police officer, close to 40 years ago took courses from the University of Maryland, University College, so I have a direct connection with UMUC; 94,000 students throughout the world, www.umuc.edu. Okay, so we have, again, this idea of leadership. We have, what we’re saying is that we all admit that the criminal justice system is a bit stodgy. And really doesn’t jump up for joy when that sergeant comes up and says, you know, I’ve done a little bit of research. In fact I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve checked with this organization and that organization. And one of the things that they suggest is we do whatever it is, blah, blah, blah. And now, possibly, some of the criminal justice agencies throughout the country are embracing that concept. Now, I’ll direct the listeners and I can’t remember the names of the television shows, I’m sorry, movies that were about say 30 years ago, about the rogue cop in Los Angeles. In other words cops who were not listened to. Cops who were just part of the system, they were just pawns in the system, if you will. And they took it out against themselves through drugs and alcohol and to the larger society. It was this whole concept of the rogue cop. And there were some textbooks devoted to the whole concept of – one textbook called the Ambivalent Force back from the 1970s. So this concept of cops not being listened to, developing a subculture amongst themselves because they were isolated from the command structure, isolated from the ability to provide the information directly. That’s part of the folklore of policing. You know, it’s top down and we’re being ignored, so if we’re being ignored, we’re going to act out. Am I making any sense?

Debbie Owens: Lots of sense.

Len Sipes: Okay.

William Sondervan: Yeah. I think you are.

Len Sipes: And doesn’t that apply to the entire criminal justice system? And won’t this concept not only improve the keeping of good personnel within the criminal justice system because they have a way of getting directly involved in the policy process. It’s going to recruit people into the criminal justice system. I think this is a win/win situation for everybody. But I’m not quite sure how people outside the criminal justice system have a good understanding of what it is that we’re talking about. So that’s why I go back to those movies in the 70s and the book, the Ambivalent Force, and I think the author was Joseph Wambaugh(?) who did a series of books about dysfunctional police.

William Sondervan: Well, Len, this is what it’s all about. It’s all about good leadership. It’s about good management. It’s about strategic planning. It’s having good quality communication up and down the line where people feel empowered. That the officers are a part of the solution where they’re contributing their ideas, they’re contributing their knowledge, they’re being listened to carefully and there’s ownership and there’s buy in and there’s communication and you get the whole department, you know, going in one direction and feeling good about their leadership and what they’re doing and feeling good about contributing, to making their city or their state a better place. And, you know, anybody who works in policing or in corrections or in juvenile justice has to be that kind of person because those kinds of jobs are more than just the money. You know, there’s got to be that kind of character about a person to do well in those jobs.

Len Sipes: Well, we have a high , go ahead, Deb. Please.

Debbie Owens: Go ahead, Len. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Len Sipes: We have a high turnover in law enforcement. We have a high turnover in corrections. And I understand that depends upon the economy and that depends upon what law enforcement agency throughout the country we’re talking about or what correctional agency we’re talking about. But the turnover problem is there. And it just seemed to me that other people would say, you know, this is not only a career with a future, this is an opportunity, this is a career that treats me not as an equal, I understand that, but it allows me to give input as to what the burning issues are.

Debbie Owens: Exactly. I mean, I think that Bill hit on it perfectly and you have as well, Len. One of the things that this program has also done, you know, these guys and girls that have attended this, they’re going home and talking to their wives and their girlfriends and their parents and their friends and they’re talking about their involvement in the University of Maryland Leadership program. But it also has given the everyday street cop, detectives, those folks that are out on the front line day in and day out, it also has given them the hope and the opportunity that their voices can be heard as well. So that it’s not just for the mid level supervisors, but once again this is an open minded police department and an era in law enforcement and juvenile justice where everybody’s voice is able to be heard. It’s not just one person who is saying this is the way things are going to be handled here. But everybody, you know, as many ideas as you can get involved in, solving, whether it be juvenile crime or social issues or partnering with the various agencies in cities. Everybody now understands that they have an opportunity to be heard and that their suggestions will be accepted.

Len Sipes: And that’s the heart and soul behind problem oriented policing. The concept that, you know, you have an issue, I think the most frequent example problem oriented policing is a commercial environment. It could be a bar, it could be a restaurant, it could be, oh, who knows? But the bulk of the calls for that particular police district are from that location. And from areas directly related to that location. So there’s a problem. How, instead of endlessly running to calls for service at that locations, the officers and the sergeants and the lieutenants figure out what it is about that location that is necessary and how can we solve that problem in that particular location. In the case of problem bars it’s taking their liquor license away from them. But problem oriented policing is designed to take just about any criminal justice problem and to analyze it, not necessarily by the hierarchy but more by the people who are at that line level. So there is a bit of a tradition in law enforcement, at least. And I think a merge in tradition in corrections to look at things from a problem solving point of view, that requires the rank and file.

William Sondervan: Absolutely, Len. And part of doing leader development is preparing those mid level leaders and managers to listen to the people below them as well. It’s not just from them up, it’s from them down. It’s teaching them how to do those very things you talked about.

Debbie Owens: And Len, we’ve also involved the, I know wherever I go the Commissioner goes. The other senior command members. And I’m sure the folks that have gone through this class. But wherever we go, whoever we’re involved with, especially in the community, we’re talking about programs like this and specifically about this program and how we’re developing leaders and police officers and folks to analyze problems. And their involvement and their suggestions on what they see and what they would like to see.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s part of ,

Debbie Owens: This goes out further than just the police department itself.

Len Sipes: That’s the other part of it, Debbie, with the whole concept of community oriented policing. Now, there is, nobody has a clear definition as to what community oriented policing is. It is principally a concept, a philosophy. But the bottom line is that not only is rank and file involved in solving problems, and when I say rank and file, I’m talking about the officers, sergeants, lieutenants, people directly involved in that particular district, but community members themselves. And that’s very difficult for us. I mean, what we’re talking about throughout this entire program is that the concept is difficult from the part of the criminal justice system, the bureaucracy, difficult concepts to implement. Number one, listening to rank and file, number two, listening to community people giving them an opportunity to have direct input into and how a law enforcement agency or for that matter a corrections agency or judicial agency how they conduct business. Again, that’s , it’s tough for the bureaucracy to embrace both, but this embraces all of that, correct?

Debbie Owens: Correct.

William Sondervan: Absolutely, Len.

Len Sipes: You know, I can remember being a part of the community crime prevention movement a couple of decades ago for the two Department of Justice Clearinghouses and (chuckle) and I ended up going around the country talking to law enforcement folks and they were looking at me like I was crazy in terms of, you know, just forming that bond with the community, in terms of empowering the community folks to come along and solve that problem. You know, the bottom line is that unless we get the community involved, unless they own the problem, the problem is never going to go away. Unless rank and file owns the file, the problem is never going to go away. I think that’s what we’re basically admitting to, so we’re not talking so much of an educational program, we’re talking about a different way of looking at crime and criminal justice issues.

William Sondervan: And the same concepts apply in running a prison system, inside of a prison, when you do, when people leave and you do their exit interviews and ask them why they’re leaving, you know, a lot of times they’re leaving because they feel like they’re not empowered, that they’re not able to solve problems. That they’re afraid in their work environment. And that they just basically are going to have a low morale. And a lot of people under good leadership will grow and prosper. And if they’re not listened to and if they’re involved, if they’re not empowered, they’re going to not be motivated and you’re going to tend to lose them.

Len Sipes: Well, Bill, a direct example of that is that you, when you ran the Maryland Prison System, implemented in the most dangerous prisons we had this problem oriented approach and got the rank and file involved and let them make decisions for that particular pod in terms of how they handle violence, how they handle interactions between very, very disruptive and in some cases, dangerous inmates and correctional folks, violence went down and violence went down dramatically in those areas.

William Sondervan: Well, it’s very similar to policing, only in a different environment. You know, for example, we took the – Maryland has a correction annex which was just full of the most violent maximum security prisoners we had in the state. And the violence there was just through the roof. And what we did is we implemented unit management. It’s almost kind of like community policing where we put a lieutenant in charge of each housing unit, we put the same people assigned to that housing unit on a constant basis and they worked together as a team and they engaged in problem solving and they came up with their own solutions in how to reduce violence. And it worked. It worked very, very well. And it got to the point where this very dangerous prison where nobody wanted to go to became a very nice place to work and people were happy to be there. And the concepts are similar.

Len Sipes: And you know it’s interesting you can go into a prison and feel the energy and feel the emotion as soon as you walk into the institution. And you can go into other prisons and you feel the lack of the tension immediately upon entering into the institution, so it’s amazing what philosophy or what change in philosophy would do just in terms of managing a prison. And I would imagine Debbie Owens, just in terms of managing crime within a neighborhood.

Debbie Owens: Yeah. You’re exactly right, Len. I’ve noticed a huge change in the areas where these participants in this course are now working, whether it be in a district or in a detective unit, you could just sense that there is some renewed motivation on their part and they’re eager to take everything they’ve learned. You know, one of the issues that I thought we would have problems with was how the course was set up and that they would be gone. Because we had to take different things into consideration, one being deployment. This is a very long program over the course of weeks and to have 25 people, especially mid level managers missing from your day to day crime fight would be tough. And you know we toyed back and forth with time frames and the fact that they are there for a week in class working together as teams, tossing around ideas is great. But what was even more encouraging to us is when they came back to their own environment for six weeks and did everything online, you could see that the things that they had learned and discussed and the topics that they had talked about in the week that they were all together that they were already implementing. So it wasn’t like we had to wait to the end of a semester or wait until class was finished and they got a certificate to see any results, we saw results every six weeks. They’d go away for a week and they’d come back for six weeks and they just had this energy about them. And once again they’ve encouraged others, whether it be a street cop or a detective or others that they’ve worked with, the community member, they’ve convinced them now that it’s okay to talk about together how we can fix these problems and how we can be creative and think in different ways that we’ve never thought before.

Len Sipes: Debbie, you’ve got the final word. Debbie Owens, Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. Again, congratulations in the huge reductions in homicide in the City of Baltimore as well as the two percent reduction in violent crime over the course of the last year. It’s Debra, d-e-b-o-r-a-h dot owens, o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. And Doctor William Sondervan, Professor and Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, University College. William Sondervan, I’m sorry, wsondervan, w-s-o-n-d-e-r-v-a-n at umuc dot edu. Or the website for the University of Maryland, University College, www.umuc.edu. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I really want to thank all of you for the comments we’re getting, a ton of them now that I’m on Twitter and the other social networking site such as FaceBook and MySpace. And as well through the email in this show and through the comment section in this show. Keep your comments coming in. We really are listening to them. We really do examine them all, discuss them all and we respond to every comment. We appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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President’s Stimulus Package-What It Means to the Criminal Justice System-NCJA

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/02/presidents-stimulus-package-what-it-means-to-the-criminal-justice-system-ncja/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. A lot of reporters have been calling lately about the stimulus package and what it means to the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system will be receiving approximately $4 billion dollars to the system to improve the system, to improve law enforcement, to improve the entire criminal justice system, to improve the research package. So what I thought I’d do today is to bring on some people who really deal with the criminal justice system authorities, one from the National Criminal Justice Association and we have Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. We also have back at our microphones, we have Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. And we also have Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director for the Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. To come to grips with the $4 billion dollar, approximately $4 billion dollars that we’re getting, the criminal justice system is getting, and what does it mean in terms of crime control? What does it mean in terms of improved public safety? So Executive Director Cropper, I can not pronounce your first name correctly. I’m just going to go ahead and use that. What does it mean? Sum up the whole thing for us, Cabell.

Cabell Cropper: Well, I think the funding that is coming through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the criminal justice system is intended to support the overall purpose of that bill. And that’s to retain jobs or expand jobs that will allow all components of the criminal justice system to retain programs that could have been lost because of the lack of funding at the state and local level as well as create and expand already existing programs. And that’s really what Kristen and Pat are here to talk about.

Len Sipes: Because they control that money at the state level, and an awful lot of that money is coming to the state level in terms of the discretionary spending, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Right. A large portion, not all of the $4 billion goes to the states, but a large portion of it does.

Len Sipes: Cabell, can you summarize what we’re getting? We’re getting money to hire new police officers. We’re getting money to improve the criminal justice system at the state level. We are getting money for research. Now, again, ladies and gentlemen, it goes way beyond our discussion today. I urge everybody who is interested because there’s a nice list on the website of the National Criminal Justice Association at www.ncja.org and I will be repeating that throughout the program, www.ncja.org because there’s money going for victims’ issues, there is money going for women victimization, victimization issues. There is money there for tribal issues. But we’re going to be talking broadly about all the money that’s coming down the pike today, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Correct. I think the two major programs within the $4 billion dollars are the cops hiring program which is being funded at $1 billion dollars. And the burn JAG program administrator at the state level that’s being funded at the $2 billion portion which is administered by the Criminal State Justice Agencies and a portion of it goes directly to localities. Kristen heads up offices that administer the portion that goes to state agencies to work within the criminal justice system within their states.

Len Sipes: Now, any one of you can come in and basically answer this question, so we’ve had a deficit in terms of spending out of Washington that’s going to the criminal justice agencies at the state level, correct? There’s been a problem. It’s been reduced and reduced dramatically in the last couple of years, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Yes, it was the burn JAG program was set by 67 percent in fiscal year 2008. So the state agencies are really struggling to maintain the programs that they already had underway as well as to implement new programs.

Len Sipes: Okay. And the heart and soul, what I have found in the 40 years that I have been in the criminal justice system, is that money drives everything. Now, feel free to disagree with me, anyone of you, Pat or Kristen, money drives the criminal justice system. It’s not so much, I mean we all went to school, we all studied sociology, or law or criminology and we’re all taught and we all read the research and we all have a pretty good understanding as to what works, what doesn’t work. But if you don’t have the money it doesn’t matter what works. And I get newspaper clippings every day, here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and what I hear is this steady, steady drumbeat of states laying off people, closing prisons, eliminating parole and probation agents, the states are in a dire fiscal situation all throughout this country. So it seems to me two things; A) money drives everything, regardless as to what works, and B) the states are already suffering tremendously.

Kristen Mahoney: Go ahead, Pat.

Pat Dishman: Well, you’re exactly right, Len. You know, we have been struggling at the national level with the BURN program as Cabell talked about and literally that has been going on for seven or eight years, up and down that funding. So it’s very hard to maintain programs or start new programs if you’re in a retrenchment mode or you don’t exactly know where you’re going to be. In the last year, year and a half, the deficits facing the states have really become a problem. And much of that is driven, of course, by the economy and states are different in the way they raise revenue, but I know in our state, Tennessee, because we rely on sales tax revenue for much of the revenue we used to fund our programs and services, because of the sharp decline there, we are looking at a horrible deficit situation.

Len Sipes: And Maryland’s basically the same, Kristen.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. For Maryland, I mean BURN and JAG, BURN JAG is driven innovation and collaboration and in places like Baltimore City where that’s a big old city that has a police department annual technology budget of only $80,000 dollars. You know, they rely on this type of discretionary funding to help them keep up with technology. You know, over the last eight years technology has moved forward, CSI, you know, expected and gotten juries to expect better and better technology, but the discretionary fund for local law enforcement has just not kept up.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s funny that you mentioned that because I can’t stand to watch those shows because the reality and what people see on TV are so far apart. It’s silly.

Kristen Mahoney: Right. I mean, generally the locals are good at hiring and retaining but during a depression or a recession like right now, we’re not even so good at hiring and retaining public safety folks. And you can forget overtime. You know, the officers, we’re not having additional presence on the street and we’re actually not filling the vacancies that we have. So all of this kind of comes together for us at the best possible time.

Len Sipes: So, again, to summarize, we have money and I think it’s Cabell, what? Two billion dollars going to the cops program which is to hire new police officers?

Cabell Cropper: One billion to the cops program.

Len Sipes: One billion.

Cabell Cropper: And $2 billion to the BURN JAG.

Len Sipes: Two billion. Okay. And , that’s basically going to put literally thousands upon thousands of police officers on the streets in the various cities throughout the country. From what I understand in the past, under the old cops program, there was a match, a 25 percent match. In this case there is no match, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. So that is a huge plus. What we’re talking about are literally tens of thousands of police officers going into the cities throughout the country, going into the Metropolitan area, I should say throughout the country. So I think people are going to appreciate that. The other $2 billion dollars, we say the BURN program, in essence that’s money that’s going to go to the states. The states will, in essence, decide what their priorities are. And if those priorities are prosecutorial, if those priorities are corrections, if they’re parole and probation, the states are probably in the best position to decide for themselves what it is that they want to do. And the third would be basically research but the research money is coming out, when I say research, help me and feel free to disagree with me, anybody, that the bulk of the innovation that comes from the criminal justice system comes from the state level in terms of localities trying new and unique and innovative things with partial funding
or full funding from the Federal government. Am I right or wrong?

Pat Dishman: Well, I certainly think that’s a piece of it. And also to echo what you are talking about as far as these different pots of money, the states are really in a position to look at everything whether that’s coming directly from the Federal government through the COPS program or the BURN funds that will come through the states and then be past down to state agencies and locals. One of the things that I think will be the most difficult for us is to balance all of this in. We want to make sure that we don’t, we spread the money out as far as it would go because in this tight budget situation that we’ve been in for the last year and a half, every part of this system is hurting.

Len Sipes: And people need to understand that. I’m not quite sure that everybody fully understands the fact that the criminal justice system in this country is hurting. And hurting badly from not just a couple of years. I mean, people see this as a recession within the last year and a half. Most of the states that I’ve encountered through newspapers reports, through either state line or other sources, this has been going on not just for one or two years in terms of this recessionary period, but four or five or six years and longer that states have been struggling to meet their own budgets. So when that happens that means the criminal justice system does not expand, it actually shrinks. And that means innovation doesn’t take place, correct?

Kristen Mahoney: Right. The BURN JAG money and the Federal support can test specific drug, gun task forces. And those task forces, when those officers come to those task forces, they generally can’t bring their equipment from home. That equipment, you know, needs to stay with their home police department and they’ve got it, something’s got to motivate that collaboration and the location and the equipment that’s needed to go out and serve, you know, 10,000 violent offender warrants. For example, you know, that just doesn’t happen by people coming together and saying we ought to do it. I mean, there’s got to be, there is some real equipment needed.

Pat Dishman: Exactly. And I think back about the program that we did on drug courts, Len. That’s a very good example. We used the BURN JAG money and also some other drug court money that was made available by the Department of Justice, to pile that type of improvement inside Tennessee as we did in lots of states. And it was so successful here that it convinced our legislature to appropriate $3.5 million recurring dollars for drug courts across the state. And we now have 45. So in my mind that worked exactly the way that the BURN JAG can when you’re trying to look at new innovative programs and see whether or not you want to expand them.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s my point in all of this is that I think the bottom line for anybody looking into the stimulus package and anybody looking into the approximately $4 billion dollars that the states are going to get through the federal government is that it is an opportunity to once again develop drug courts. And there’s a uniform research that says that drug courts all over the country are reducing crime. They’re reducing recidivism, they’re making our society safer. So either through innovative police strategies, innovative court strategies, either parole and probation joining with law enforcement or reentry programs to be sure that there is sufficient resources to provide for reentry programs and we can tell through a variety of research that those lower recidivism approximately 20 percent. Now 20 percent doesn’t sound huge, but that, in terms of the fiscal realities for a state, can forestall the building of a prison or two. And more, that means more money going into the elderly, more money going into education and more money going into colleges. If you’re going to look at it from a fiscal reality point of view that this money is the seed money that creates all of that. And I think that that, and feel free to agree or disagree, I think that’s the heart and soul. That this money, the $4 billion stimulus dollars, allows these states to once again become innovators in terms of what’s good for that particular state.

Pat Dishman: I think you’re exactly right and I would another piece to that. Our governor’s office is very interested in looking at all the different pots of stimulus money and the different areas that are going to be covered. For example; education. And how collaborations can happen between those pots. There’s a lot of money there for improvements in education. And, you know, we do innovative things with education. Kris and I think of our school resource officer program. I think everybody is convinced that that’s sound and solid and where we can have it, it helps.

Len Sipes: Right. And you can’t , go ahead, please.

Kristen Mahoney: Another great program that we’ve been able to deal with the BURN JAG money is to fund crime analysts, to assign them to police departments because that’s not something that you learn in the police academy. And rather than take a police officer the street and stick him in front of a computer to map crimes, you know, there are GIS mapping majors coming out of major universities that are in positions to assist law enforcement agencies. And this funding can get us started with a lot of those programs with agencies that want to go in that direction.

Len Sipes: We’re half way through our program and we’re doing this through the osmosis of the National Criminal Justice Association, our fifth program in a series. You can find a full list of all of the stimulus money, the $4 billion dollars broken down piece by piece at www.ncja.org. www.ncja.org, the website of the National Criminal Justice System. The National Criminal Justice Association. Now, Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association is here with us today. Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director of the Maryland’s Governor’s office of Crime Control and Prevention and Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Cabell, I’m going to ask this question to you, because it’s a bit dicey and a bit political, there are people out there who would simply say it’s not the role of the federal government to fund local criminal justice agencies that the overwhelming majority of what we call the criminal justice system in this country is a state function, is a local function. And they’re saying to themselves; A) why is the Federal government giving, you know, supplementing what is in essence a local and state function? Why is my tax paid dollar going to say Baltimore to do crime analysis or to provide a crime analyst or provide innovative policing. And B) what does all this have to do with the stimulus package?

Cabell Cropper: Well, I think that the way that we would answer that is what we’ve said for years about the BURN JAG program, what both Kristen and Pat have said is that it supports innovation. It allows the states to experiment with programs to see what works and then to continue them. The BURN JAG program is structured so that the funding is available for three years for a particular program and by the third year either the federal funding is no longer available for the state, it either picks it up or makes a decision not to because it hasn’t shown its effectiveness. So I think the role of the federal government, in terms of state and local criminal justice, is that of providing you might call a venture capital to try new things, to try new solutions, see what works, to do the research, to provide training. In addition a lot of states are facing criminal justice issues that cross jurisdictions. And so that also invokes the federal role. So I think that, yes, generally crime is, as the saying goes, all crime is local. That there is a definite constructive role for the Federal government and Federal assistance with state and local criminal justice.

Len Sipes: Okay. And ,

Kristen Mahoney: To a degree. I couldn’t agree more with that, Len. There’s no point in all of the states reinventing the wheel. If something works someplace then we certainly need to use what’s already been found out about that and not have to sit down and put time and effort into finding out ourselves.

Cabell Cropper: A prime example of this, Len, is that the drug courts. Drug courts were funded by BURN JAG back in Miami years ago. And proved to be very effective. And now they’re a national, it’s a national program supported by federal assistance, but states and localities have invested a lot of money in the drug court programs and are now branching out into other problem solving type courts. So I think that’s a really good example about federal assistance, a lot of local jurisdiction will experiment with something that became a national model.

Kristen Mahoney: I think one of the emerging trends in policing right now is this concept of intelligence based policing and probably the people that own the most intelligence or data that local law enforcement need to do their job are the states. So, for example, in Maryland, you know, we have the mug shots of everyone that’s gone through prison. We know who are gang members in prisons. We know whose on parole or probation, whether they’re in compliance. We know whether they have children that are in the juvenile justice system. And all of this stuff is data that is not generally accessible at the lower level and using BURN JAG money we’re able to create ways to knock down silos in information and make sure that we get that information to the local level so that they can start targeting offenders who are causing problems in neighborhoods.

Len Sipes: And Cabell, I’m sorry, Cabell, the concept of this being part of the stimulus package. Somebody would come along and say, and I’ve heard this, somebody would come along and say, well, all this is wonderful, you know, I have no disagreement with it. Why is it a part of the stimulus package? We’re trying to revive the economy, not improve criminal justice agencies.

Cabell Cropper: But the response to that is these programs are people based. And so if we can expand or create new programs or retain programs for retaining people on the payroll.

Len Sipes: So what we’re saying is that the quality of the criminal justice system has a direct relationship to the economy?

Cabell Cropper: Correct. Because the criminal justice system is very people dependent.

Len Sipes: Right. And say for cities, it seems very clear to me that as a citizen of the Baltimore Metropolitan area and as a person who grew up and was born and raised in Baltimore City, Kristen, that the health of Baltimore City, the economic vitality of Baltimore City is tied into citizen perceptions as to how safe the city is and tied into investor’s perceptions as to how the safe the city is. To me that’s a pretty straight forward analysis, correct?

Kristen Mahoney: Correct. And when Governor O’Malley was mayor of the city that was how he ran the city and as the Governor of the State of Maryland, he has us committing as many resources as possible to grow the health and safety of the City of Baltimore.

Pat Dishman: Exactly. It’s actually infrastructure capacity building. And when you talk about, you know, whether that is in the form of bridges or roads, Cabell, I agree with you completely, the criminal justice system is very personnel driven and personnel based.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. The police have to be able to be responsive to emerging trends, and sometimes those trends happen in hour ten or eleven of their shift. And cities have to be able to keep them on the scene at a homicide or on a scene during an event to protect us. And when we’re in the middle of a depression or a recession, those overtime funds at the local level are not there. So, you know, that’s going to impact, you know, they’re going to have to pay the overtime somehow, so where are they going to take that from within the city budget if we can allocate some of these JAG BURN funds to directed overtime violent initiatives, the violent prevention initiatives, then we’re going to help offset some of the costs within the local government and we’re not going to have to worry about closing recreation centers and offsetting other important city services.

Len Sipes: The bottom line I think, but I’m preaching the choir here, I’m not quite sure that I’m going to appease the critics, is that unless you have say cities, unless you have sufficient money to pay overtime, unless you have sufficient numbers of police officers, unless you have money to try new things to deal with new sets of circumstances, this system is not going to be able to say to anybody in any particular area come invest with us. Come invest your money here. We’re looking forward to the jobs. We’re looking forward to everything that you can bring to our community or to a company that is in a particular city. Look, please expand. I would imagine once again that that person is going to say to himself or herself, you know, this city is just too out of control. I don’t want to do this, I’m going to go to Georgia, I’m going to go to the suburbs, I’m going to go overseas because I just don’t believe that my employees like working here because their afraid to do that, to deal with that. You need sufficient person power. You need sufficient police officers. You need the intelligence. You need the drug courts. You need the parole and probation police cooperative endeavors. You need the reentry programs which cuts recidivism considerably. I’m preaching to the choir here, correct?

Pat Dishman: Well, I think Len, also and Cabell, you can speak to this more than I, there is an accountability piece to this for critics who are looking at, you know, is this a good investment for us and for our tax dollars? And I think we’ve obviously learned some lessons as a system over the last, the country has over the last six months, and we feel and know that the Department of Justice will be making it very clear to us what types of outcome measurement they want and what types of accountability they want for this money that’s going to be passed down in the stimulus bill.

Len Sipes: Cabell, has there been talk about accountability in terms of the follow up to that. Is there urban talk about accountability to make sure the people understand that their tax paid dollars are being spent wisely?

Cabell Cropper: Very definitely. There’s provisions in the bill as Pat said that offsets management and budget that’s established to metrics to measure what’s happening with this money and how it’s contributing to the economic recovery of the country. Now the government’s also setting up a website, www.recovery.gov that will show how the money is being spent and what the results of that funding is.

Kristen Mahoney: And beyond that I think this morning we heard from a number of states where governors in our state, Maryland Governor O’Malley has established the office of recovery stat where we are managing the entire stimulus recovery package, you know, to make sure that we are being held accountable and the funds that are coming to Maryland. We’re getting as much funding as we can to support the state. And the funds that we’re getting re going to justifiable uses that are going to support the initiative of the President.

Pat Dishman: Kristen, that’s great. And, you know, Len, we’ve talked about this before. We don’t ever, as public servants, do a good enough job to let the public know the good things. They only hear about the bad things. And this is going to help, quite frankly, I think this is a really good part of saying what this money is going to be able to do and how it’s going to be able to help the country.

Len Sipes: Well, I think that’s part of this whole series with the National Criminal Justice Association, they are doing their best to basically say this to the public, that there are successful programs. We have measures in place to check out their success. And there are programs that have been extraordinarily successful. We did a program with NCJA a couple of weeks ago dealing with a community in Brooklyn where the courts actually took the lead on the program and they went from one of the highest crime precincts in New York City to one of the lowest crime precincts. That, to me, is a statement that we can make to the citizens of this country, in essence saying that, you know, give us the funding. Let us try different things, let us take a look at what works throughout the country. And we can do, we can provide a certain level of safety. Now, that, on my part, sounds like boosterism. I guess it’s a bit disingenuous because I am part of the criminal justice system, but I personally believe that there
are innovative programs out there that need to be brought in to Baltimore, need to be brought into Portland, need to be brought into Detroit. And this is the money that possibly can do that.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. And beyond that, like I’ve mentioned before, Baltimore is poor and there are other poor cities out there. And, you know, the cost of a police radio, $5,000 dollars. The most important piece of equipment a police officer uses every day. And as cities and counties work together to create interoperable systems and build these enormous $700 megahertz systems where everybody could talk to each other seamlessly, those old 450 megahertz radios and 800 megahertz radios don’t’ work anymore. So you’ve got this little baby town that suddenly has found itself, that it’s got to buy 15 new radios. How do you come up with that kind of money? Right? This is a basic reality of running a police department, $5,000 dollars a radio.

Len Sipes: I couldn’t agree with you more. And it’s, again, it’s like reentry programs. They cost money. If you’re going to treat a person, if you’re going to take a person from, whose coming out of the prison system, he or she has a mental health problem. And God forbid a mental health diagnosis for the 16 percent of offenders throughout the country who were coming back, you know, that needs to be treated or the odds are that that person is going to go out and harm another person or will certainly create a problem for citizens and for the criminal justice system. We know through research that you could dramatically reduce recidivism if that individual is treated, but that costs money.

Pat Dishman: Exactly.

Kristen Mahoney: And people, you know, and we’ve got this great technology that can help us figure out stolen cars through license plate recognition. But, you know, do you think that, you know, not to pick on Akron or Toledo or Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, I mean, do you think any of these places have the funds in their budget to do license plate recognition? But their cars, people are getting their cars stolen there. And we have the technology that exists to help find those cars and pay the overtime to use the technology.

Len Sipes: Right. And just think about that for a second. We have, as you just mentioned, it’s a wonderful example, the technology to just set up in any particular section of the city, to run the license plates through a computer and pull the people over with stolen cars. And we can recover a gazillion stolen cars in a very short amount of time. That’s a big bang for technology, but the question is can the individual jurisdictions and individual states afford it? And everything that I’ve been reading over the past, over the course of the past five years, is not acquiring that technology, but it’s simply holding on to what you have.

Pat Dishman: Right. Installing it and maintaining it. So any kind of technology purchase is going to have an economic impact in a locality because somebody’s got to get up on a light post and hang that camera. And somebody’s going to have to maintain it. And those are generally not police officers. It goes back to your point, Len, of what it looks on CSI, it’s not what it’s really like.

Len Sipes: Oh, I can’t stand CSI. I can’t stand those shows.

Pat Dishman: They’re fake.

Len Sipes: I know and it drives me absolutely crazy because people say, is real life anything at all like that? And my response is, my heavens no. Not even close. No, we have wonderful technology in terms of criminalities. Again, the question becomes how many people do you have, how well are they trained, how well can you maintain that crime lab? Do you have 24 hours coverage? Do you have the vans? Do you have – you know, it goes on and on and on. These sort of things cause money, enormous sums of money as somebody just said. And without the money you can’t do it. It’s just as simple as that. So if anybody wants to get a full blow by blow description of the entire, approximately $4 billion dollar stimulus package again, our friends at the National Criminal Justice Association, www.ncja.org has the complete list and Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice system has been by our microphones today. Back at our microphones. And it’s really a pleasure to have her back,

Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. And Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director of the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention who helps keep me safe as a citizen of Baltimore County. I thank you all. Any final words that we need to say to finally summarize this whole concept besides sending people to the website at the National Criminal Justice Association?

Cabell Cropper: That’s what were there for, to provide whatever information we can direct people to where the resources are.

Len Sipes: And you guys, quite frankly, have been the leader at the national level in terms of being sure that there is money for the state and local criminal justice systems, Cabell. And so you all can feel very good about quite a victory in terms of convincing the new administration and the members of Congress who support this. So congratulations to you guys.

Cabell Cropper: Well, thank you. I’ll take some of the credit but not all of it. Members like Kristen and Pat are really the ones that get the job done with their delegations here in Washington.

Len Sipes: And they’re the ones ,

Pat Dishman: And that’s an issue there, Cabell. (Laughs).

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And they’re the ones who also at the same time lobby their own members of the Senate and the House in terms of what it is they could do if they had money. So we’re appreciative to all the directors of the criminal justice programs, office of crime controls throughout the entire country. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Feel free to give suggestions and input as you’re doing on a constant basis. We respond to all of your suggestions, to all of your input in terms of how to make the program better. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: Stimulus, COPS, police, law enforcement, criminal justice, leadership, professional development, crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison

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Offender Reentry-Second Chance Act-USDOJ-DC Public Safety

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/03/offender-reentry-second-chance-act-usdoj-dc-public-safety/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studios in downtown Washington D.C, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s guest is Dr. Gary Dennis. Gary is the senior policy advisor for corrections bureau of justice assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, and if you think that title was long enough, wait until you hear what Gary does! He is the administrator for the Second Chance Act. What is the Second Chance Act? Well, I’m going to let him explain that, but in essence, it is new federal funding coming down for re-entry programs, and people from throughout the country can apply for these new monies. Before we get to Dr. Dennis, always, thank you for the comments that you have provided us. We respond to every comment, feel free to get in touch with us. My email address, which is leonardsipes – Leonard dot S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can follow me on twitter/lensipes, and with that introduction, Dr. Gary Dennis.

Gary Dennis: Well, Len, I’m glad that you had the opportunity to talk about the Second Chance Act. This is something that is particularly exciting to those of us who are in the corrections field, and I should say that I work now, as you indicated, for the bureau of justice assistance, but prior to that, I worked for 34 years in the Department of Corrections in Kentucky, and had a really –

Len Sipes: You’re the real deal then!

Gary Dennis: Well, you know, I had a little experience, I started as a correctional officer and retired as a deputy commissioner in my first career, and my wife refers to what I’m doing now as re-launching! [laughter] But I always said that corrections was a very good business to be in, it was a growth industry, there was a lot of job security. I never thought I’d see the day when we would be closing prisons and laying off correctional officers –

Len Sipes: Which is happening throughout the country.

Gary Dennis: It’s an effect of the current recession, and so, yeah, I think that puts responsibility on us as corrections professionals to find alternate ways of dealing with folks who are offenders. The Second Chance Act, which was signed into law in April of 2008, I think, is a cultural marker. It’s an indication that the Congress and the policy makers in the Executive Branch are aware that we need to move away from this policy of mass incarceration, that we can’t build enough prisons to house all the folks that are committing offenses, many of whom don’t need to be in prison. Substance abuse offenders who need treatment, they don’t need to be locked up. You know, for instance, of the 23,000 inmates in my state of Kentucky where I worked, 1,000 of those inmates are serving time in prison simply because they aren’t able to pay child support. So what the Second Chance Act does is create the opportunity for people to design comprehensive re-entry programs, it has actually 11 sections that were authorized by the Congress. Only two of those sections received appropriations in the Omnibus FY2009 budget. Section 101, which is the demonstration grant section, was authorized at $55 million, and we received an appropriation of $15 million, and Section 211, which is mentoring grants to non-profits, was authorized in the original legislation at $15 million, and we have received an appropriation of $10 million. The demonstration grants portion of Second Chance, we currently have a solicitation that was posted February 27th, it is due to close on April 20th, people can get a copy of that by going to the bureau of justice assistance website or a governmental website called grants.gov –

Len Sipes: And what we’re going to do is we’re going to put the links to all of these websites up, so we’ll make it easy, if you go to D.C. Public Safety, if you go to media.csosa.gov and find this program under the radio section, we’ll have links to everything that Dr. Dennis is talking about today.

Gary Dennis: Very good. So I’m going to talk primarily about the section 101, the demonstration grants. The solicitation that is on the street allows for grants of up to $750,000 of federal money. Unfortunately, this particular section of the act has a relatively onerous match requirement. There is a 50% matching requirement of which 25% has to be hard cash put up by the applicant, but this will fund roughly a $1.5 million dollar project, and what –

Len Sipes: Whoa, wait a minute, back up. Now, it’s $750,000 over the course of how many years? Is that each year for several years?

Gary Dennis: Actually, very good question. The, this particular section of the act allows for 12-month grants. So the $750,000 federal and the additional matching money would be to fund a project for 12 months.

Len Sipes: For 12 months.

Gary Dennis: Now, what we anticipate, the act allows for up to 2 years or two additional funding periods, so for people who are awarded funding projects, and by the way, we really hope to have decisions made in the late summer so we can have these awards made by the end of the federal fiscal year, September 30, 2009. But, so if people get one of these grants and the project is meeting its goals and being successful, they could expect supplemental awards for two additional grant periods, so we’re –

Len Sipes: Two additional grant periods meaning two additional years?

Gary Dennis: Pretty much, so we’re looking at 36-month, 3-year projects.

Len Sipes: So there is the possibility, if they handle this well, and if they show an impact, because I would imagine you’re going to request an evaluation as to whether recidivism is lowered –

Gary Dennis: And the interesting thing about the Second Chance Act, one of several interesting things is, there is a requirement that the people who are given demonstration grants money are able to reduce recidivism for their target population by 50% in 5 years.

Len Sipes: In 5 years, okay. Wow.

Gary Dennis: And that’s a really ambitious goal –

Len Sipes: Extremely! Now wait a minute, wait a minute, 50% is unheard of!

Gary Dennis: Well, it really is unheard of, and actually, the folks in Congress, the folks who wrote this bill have made it clear that this is a goal, so what we are anticipating is, if people are making satisfactory progress, defined somewhere around 10% a year reduction, then that’s going to be enough to consider –

Len Sipes: But that’s reductions that I’ve seen from research that, and I apologize to the audience for being a little high-fallutin’ here, that is methodologically correct, is 20%, and that comes from the Washington State Public Policy Institute, which seems to be the de facto leaders in terms of providing stats, unfortunately, in terms of recidivism, so the 50% is, I don’t want to scare people off, because if people hear 50%, they’re going to go, nah, excuse me, that’s just undoable.

Gary Dennis: Well, I think what we’ve tried to do, first of all, the definition that you’ll see in the solicitation for recidivism is a person who does not return to prison or jail as the result of committing a new offense or a violation of conditions of supervision within 1 year.

Len Sipes: And in terms of jail, you’re talking about, not pre-trial, but you’re talking about an incarcerative sentence.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct –

Len Sipes: Persons found guilty.

Gary Dennis: One of the good things about the Second Chance Act, under the previous administration, we had a prisoner re-entry initiative, where the Justice Department partnered with the Department of Labor, and these grants were primarily focused on allowing people to come out of prison and get some type of job placement and job readiness skills, but Second Chance provides a full wraparound –

Len Sipes: And I want to get to that, but let’s summarize again, we’re talking about $750,000 per entity. They have to provide a 50% match, so we’re talking about a $1.5 million investment per year from the Department of Justice and this local entity with the idea that it could extend up to 3 years.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, and what part of the grant is this under?

Gary Dennis: This is under section 101, which is demonstration, adult and juvenile demonstration –

Len Sipes: Okay, demonstration.

Gary Dennis: Right.

Len Sipes: All right, and what pot of money is this?

Gary Dennis: This is actually an appropriation that we received, the department of justice, office of justice programs in our FY2009 –

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, let me back you up, is it the $15 million pot, or the $10 million pot?

Gary Dennis: Yes, the $15 million.

Len Sipes: So this is $15 million, this is not going to go very far at $750,000 per. How many are we talking about?

Gary Dennis: Well, the, you can probably do the math, we’re probably not talking more than 18-20 awards nationally, if everyone comes in for the full amount.

Len Sipes: Right.

Gary Dennis: And the kicker here is that this particular piece of federal legislation, unlike the prisoner re-entry initiative, which had to go to a state department of corrections, a city, or a county, or a state can apply directly for this money.

Len Sipes: Okay, so 20 jurisdictions throughout the United States are going to get $750,000, and they have to do it with a 50% match, $1.5 million over the course of 3 years. And they have to be able to show a reduction in recidivism.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, and again, ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you, all the links, in terms of applying for this money, are going to be at D.C. Public Safety, if you go to the main page, go to radio, and you will find the links there. Again, that’s D.C. Public Safety, or it is media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, our guest today is Dr. Gary Dennis from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, and go ahead, Gary, so I interrupted you, so that’s the demonstration grant, and you’re saying that those grants need to be in by when? April?

Gary Dennis: April 20th, and they have to be submitted electronically through grants.gov.

Len Sipes: grants.gov.

Gary Dennis: www.grants.gov.

Len Sipes: Okay. www.grants.gov. Okay, so those are the demonstration grants, so that’s a $15 million pot. What’s the $10 million pot?

Gary Dennis: The $10 million pot is for section 211 of the act, and this is mentoring grants to non-profits. Section 101, the applicants have to be a unit of state or local government, but Section 211 is exclusively targeted to non-profits, and it allows for projects, we have not published the solicitation yet, it’s in the final stages of preparation, but –

Len Sipes: And the solicitation, you mean basically the language that enables you to give out the money.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right. This is what will be posted which is online now for the 101 grants, but this will probably be posted in the next 2-3 weeks, and right now, it looks like it’s going to allow for grants of up to $300,000. These grants can be made for up to 24 months as opposed to 12, there is the possibility of supplemental awards for an additional 2 award periods.

Len Sipes: Is there a match?

Gary Dennis: There is no match!

Len Sipes: No match!?

Gary Dennis: That’s what I was getting to –

Len Sipes: Wow!

Gary Dennis: Non-profits, no match!

Len Sipes: Boy, you’re going to be the most popular person in town, let me tell you!

Gary Dennis: Well, and what you hear what these grants can be used for, they can be used to provide mentoring services, they can also be used in conjunction with mentoring to provide a whole variety of transitional services like supportive housing, employment, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, as well as treatment and training on victims issues. So this is going to be a very broad solicitation, and we’re anticipating a lot of applications from the non-profit sector.

Len Sipes: When do you expect the application process to begin?

Gary Dennis: Well, probably within the next 3 weeks, it will be posted, and we’re hoping to allow people at least 45 days to respond to those.

Len Sipes: Okay, and will they be as well as www.grants.com[sic]?

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, and then their solicitation will also be posted for informational purposes on the BJS website.

Len Sipes: Okay, for the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Office of Justice Programs of the Office of the United States Department of Justice – boy we just love our titles here in D.C.!

Gary Dennis: Yes we do! And actually, if you just Google BJA, you’re going to be led to our website or –

Len Sipes: BJA, Bureau of Justice Assistance? Not the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Assistance! There you go, there we go. But that’s interesting, because I did not know that there was a centralized point, www.grants.com? c-o-m?

Gary Dennis: dot-gov.

Len Sipes: dot-gov! I thought so! Okay, now wait a minute, everybody. www. – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov. Not dot-com, dot-gov. All right, so we’re going to repeat that several times throughout the programs, and again, in the show notes, I’ll do the links. Dr. Dennis will give me the links, and I’ll put them in the show notes to make it as easy as possible for you to pull this off. And so, wow, this is interesting, so we’re talking about a total of $25 million.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, but keep in mind that the act, when it was written, was authorized at a level of roughly $170 million –

Len Sipes: Yeah, but authorized and funded are two different things.

Gary Dennis: Two different things. One of the things I learned very quickly when I started working for the federal government is the difference between an authorization and an appropriation, but let me say that, you know, these are tough economic times, and we are very, very pleased that Congress gave us the $25 million, we are anticipating in 2010, the budget that will be coming up soon, that we’ll have additional funding, and Pres. Obama is requesting in his budget upwards to $75 million to support Second Chance re-entry efforts.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s $75 million that the President is proposing, comes when, so we’re talking about next federal fiscal year.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct. The federal fiscal year that would start October 1, 2009.

Len Sipes: October 1, so this October 9, there is the possibility of an additional $75 million more.

Gary Dennis: That’s right, we are cautiously optimistic and confident that there will be additional funding for Second Chance, and we’re also hopeful that some of the other nine sections of the act will be able to be funded in addition to these demonstration acts.

Len Sipes: So at least what we have now is $25 million on the table that we know we have, the possibility of $75 million in terms of the President’s proposal for the next federal fiscal year, October 1, 2009, and we’re talking about other aspects of the Second Chance Act if Congress decides to fund them, there would be even more money, but at the moment, we’re talking about $25 million on the table with a possibility of $75 million more.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: That’s $100 million.

Gary Dennis: Well, it is, and it’s enough money to make a significant impact, particularly if you look at focusing that on particular counties or states where, and one thing I didn’t mention when, the projects, in terms of the recidivism rate, the general universe of people who are eligible are any who is 18 years of age or older who’s currently incarcerated in a prison or a jail, but we’re asking people to narrow down a target population. For instance, they might say all female offenders who are coming back into the District of Columbia, or all female offenders who might be coming back into a particular county –

Len Sipes: Bear with me for a second, because now that we have the basics of the program down, I’m going to repeat your name for the people out there, they can copy down your telephone number. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to Dr. Gary Dennis. He is a senior policy advisor for corrections, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, this will be in our show notes, so don’t worry if you can’t get all that down. His telephone number: (202)305-9059. I’m going to repeat that now and at the end of the program: (202)305-9059, and his email address is gary – G-A-R-Y – .dennis – D-E-N-N-I-S – @usdoj.gov, and we’re going to be putting the links into the show notes at media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa.gov, or D.C. Public Safety, look at the radio programs. Okay, Dr. Gary Dennis. Now we have the outline in terms of the funding, and you started getting into the particulars in terms of what it is that you’re looking for, so second half of the show, let’s do that. 15 minutes. What are the particulars of what it is that organizations can do with all this money?

Gary Dennis: Well the, the allowable uses for the money are very broad. In the 101 demonstration grants project proposals, we are asking that they have a strategic plan which talks about their, how they plan to affect a re-entry program, we also are requiring, or the act requires that they establish a re-entry task force comprised of people who have a stake in the community, this could be people from non-profits who are providing services, it could be people from the law enforcement community, someone representing victims, so they need to have been thinking about an effective strategy to help people transition from prison and jail and back to the community.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there’s going to be collaborative efforts on the part of the larger community, but you were just talking before about women offenders, there’s no way that this money can encompass every offender coming out of the prison system.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct. That’s why we’re, these projects need to target specific subsets of the population.

Len Sipes: What could those subsets be? You’ve mentioned women offenders –

Gary Dennis: Women offenders, it could be, it could be violent offenders, or people who have committed a violent offense, it could be sex offenders, for instance, who have committed a sex offense –

Len Sipes: Is this a reflection of the research that basically says that whatever moneys you have should be focusing on the higher risk offenders and not so much on the lower risk offenders?

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right. In other words, we’ve made efforts to divert the lower end offenders out of the system. One of the problems that correctional systems has, primarily state prison systems, is now they have a whole lot of very serious offenders there, and I mentioned sex offenders. We all know from reading the paper and watching TV that everyone that’s convicted of a sex offense probably is going to have to register under Megan’s Law, they’re very seriously stereotyped, and it’s almost impossible for them to find places to live, and so they are very difficult to place, and we’re hoping that this money can be targeted, in some cases, to help folks like sex offenders provide a transition back into the community, and let me say that we look at re-entry, offender re-entry as an evidence based process. In other words, some folks would say that re-entry actually starts on the very first day that a person comes into prison or jail, and what second chance requires in the proposals is that once a applicant has identified the target population, and let’s just simply say it’s female offenders that are coming back into the District of Columbia, that they use a validated assessment instrument to determine what the individual needs of these women might be when they come back into the community.

Len Sipes: Okay, let me stop you right there. What it is that you’re saying is that, at this moment, and we can agree to disagree in terms of how strong the evidence is, and how precise the evidence is, but there is enough evidence out there from good solid research that indicates that you can take individuals coming out of prison, providing them with comprehensive services, and by that, we’re talking about drug, substance abuse, mental health, job, finding a place to live, those sort of things, interacting with the family, and you can lower the rate of recidivism according to the Washington State Public Policy Institute, which seems to be the leader in terms of providing these stats for recidivism and re-entry. You can lower the rates of recidivism 10-20%, possibly even more, so when you’re talking about evidence base, you’re saying that there’s enough there that leads us to believe that these programs will reduce recidivism.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right! I think I need to take you back to the office to be my spokesperson here! But you’ve summed it all up in a nutshell! That’s exactly right!

Len Sipes: But people hear evidence base, and they say, what does that mean? But, at the same time, you know, in terms of areas of substance abuse, it’s laid out from point A to point Z! It is very comprehensive, we know exactly what to do in terms of substance abuse, but in other areas of re-entry, we’re not quite sure as to what the ratios of the parole and probation agents should be to be effective, we’re not quite sure when you begin the re-entry process, when it ends, how much of an intervention is necessary, I mean all of that is still a great unknown. We know that the projects reduce recidivism, but we’re still struggling with the particulars.

Gary Dennis: That’s right, there are some things that we know, from history, do work, and I think one of the benefits of the Second Chance act, with these demonstration projects, it’s going to allow us to continue to accumulate that research and that evidence to support those particular interventions that really do have an impact on recidivism.

Len Sipes: And that’s the exciting thing, Gary, because we need more data. We need more precision in terms of what it is that we do, and in what methods and how, what case loads and when do you start mental health treatment, and is medication, or does it have to be medication as well as therapy, depending upon the diagnosis, I mean there’s a whole lot, I mean job treatment, or job placement, you can find a person a job, but do you expect, like substance abuse, problems along the way with this individual that you may have to re-place this person 2-3 times, do you fund it 2-3 times, or do you basically say, eh, we gave you your chance, sorry it didn’t work out for you, we’re going to move on to the next person. I mean, all of those things are, in essence, unknowns when it comes to dealing with offenders and re-entry, so I’m very excited to hear that for many of us, this is a great learning opportunity in terms of how to do re-entry right.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly correct, and one of the things that we’re going to require the applicants to do, is there’s a list of performance measures, and they will be asked to keep particular metric data about what happens to the people that are involved in the project, and what we anticipate at the end of probably two years is selecting various sites and asking the National Institute of Justice to come in and do in depth evaluations –

Len Sipes: Which is yet another organization under the Office of Justice [overlapping voices] U.S. Department of Justice, and they do the research –

Gary Dennis: Another part of the alphabet soup –

Len Sipes: Another part of the alphabet soup.

Gary Dennis: But they’ll come in and take a really researched look at using control groups to determine again, and document through evidence, well through research what these practices are so we can have a little bit better idea when we say evidence based, that we have actually a body of evidence.

Len Sipes: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. www.grants – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov – G-O-V – not .com, as I said before, .gov, and we have Gary Dennis contact points, and I’ll mention them right at the end of the show, (202)305-9059, that’s Gary’s telephone number. Boy, I’ll tell you, I’d be scared to death to give out my cell phone number to the re-entry community of the United States, or my desk number! Your phone must be ringing non-stop. His email is garydennis – D-E-N-N-I-S – @usdoj.gov. Now Gary, you’re not getting a lot of additional staff to pull this off, I mean, we’ve been struggling, when I say we, in terms of the Office of Justice Programs community, and they have all these agencies under the Office of Justice Programs, they haven’t been getting, OJP has not been getting a lot of money, and now OJP is getting scads of money, and this is just one piece of the pie. Did a radio show a little while ago about the stuff that’s coming down in terms of, which also could be applied to re-entry, as far as I know, in terms of grants coming out of certain, a million dollars to hire more police officers, and $2 million going to the states to plan criminal justice programs, so there are other pots of money, but you’re just dealing with the re-entry part of it, thank god, as far as you’re concerned.

Gary Dennis: Well, that’s going to be true until a couple more days, and I’ll be the lead person on some corrections elements of solicitations that’ll be going out with the new Recovery Act monies, there will be, there is the allowance in some of those for additional staff to be hired, obviously the aim of the recovery act is to create jobs and preserve jobs, but we’re going to be able to hire additional probation and parole officers, community corrections staff, jurisdictions will be able to hire additional jail and detention officers to support increased law enforcement efforts as a result of the recovery act, so yes, and you mentioned $2 billion, the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance administers burn money, this is money that comes through the Edward Burn Memorial Program, and there are two parts of that. There is some discretionary money, but the largest portion of that are formula grants to the states, and we have roughly $2 billion under the Recovery Act – I guess I shouldn’t say this, but I guess pushing out to the states, but grants are being made to states, 60% of which they have to pass through to locals, and that’s based on crime statistics, UCR statistics that they report, metropolitan, size of population –

Len Sipes: Are they on www.grants.gov as well?

Gary Dennis: Actually, the formula grants are not, they go directly to the states –

Len Sipes: The state agencies.

Gary Dennis: And 40% will go to specific units of government, so that portion of it, the formula grants, we refer to those as JAG grants, Justice Assistance Grants –

Len Sipes: Okay, and they go, and 60% is reserved for pass-through monies to in terms of state and local entities, so you would have to go to your governor’s office of criminal justice services and apply through there, but again, that’s additional possibilities in terms of re-entry dollars, but that would be discretionary on the part of the state criminal justice planning agencies.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, and in the state authorizing agency, it could be a crime commission, it could be an office –

Len Sipes: But if you go to the website of the National Criminal Justice Association, because I did a radio show with them on that part of it, www.ncja.org – I hope it’s dot-org! – www.ncja.org, I’m pretty sure you can get information about those grants. All right, so Gary, we’re going to summarize, because we only have a couple minutes left in the program. Gary Dennis, Dr. Gary Dennis, and oh, by the way, I want to say something that Gary probably wouldn’t say, being, he’s taking on so much of this, and being, I’ve worked for this structure in my past, the grant applications that you use, please make them as good as humanly possible, because that’ll make you shine, and it’ll be easy to give you the money if you present a really good grant application, so do the very best you can on that, his telephone number, (202)305-9059, (202)305-9059, email gary-dot – D-E-N-N-I-S – @usdoj.gov, the monies in terms of the $25 million for the demonstration grants and the other grants that I can’t remember the name of them, they will be at www.grants – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov – G-O-V, so we have, I think, a unique opportunity everybody in terms of the re-entry folks out there to get money to do these demonstrations, there’s a possibility of an additional $75 million coming through the Obama administration that possibly could be here, that’s what he’s asking for, that possibly could be here at the beginning of the federal fiscal year, October 1, 2009. Did I summarize it?

Gary Dennis: You did quite a good job.

Len Sipes: All right. Final words, you have one minute.

Gary Dennis: Well, I just appreciate the opportunity to share this information. As I said earlier, those of us in the field who’ve worked in corrections know that re-entry is absolutely critical, and the people that are in our prisons and jails are our mothers and brothers and fathers and relatives, and they’re just like us, they’ve just, unfortunately, gotten on the wrong side of the law, and if we’re going to help them become productive citizens and taxpaying citizens and back to their families, we’ve got to provide them with the resources in the community to support that, whether it’s employment or housing, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, family reunification, and Second Chance provides money to do that.

Len Sipes: Dr. Gary Dennis of the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us at D.C. public safety. Again, we take all of your comments, all of your concerns, feel free to get in touch with us, my direct email address is Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – .sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa or follow me on Twitter at twitter/lensipes, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: Second Chance Act, Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance, reentry, criminal justice, leadership, crime, criminals, criminal justice

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Crime Victim Rights-DC Public Safety-NOVA

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/06/crime-victim-rights-dc-public-safety-nova/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in Washington, D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones today is Will Marling. He is the executive director for the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Also along with him is Janette Atkins. She is the administrator of the Green County Prosecutor’s Office in Xenia, Ohio, and to Will and to Janette, welcome to D.C. public safety.

Will Marling: Thank you, Len.

Janette Atkins: Thank you, Len.

Len Sipes: I think the big thing that is on everybody’s minds is this sense of victimization, victims’ issues. We promise, we say that we’re improving, we say that we’re going to be better in terms of victims of crime, and the average person listening to this program will declare that to be, oh, I don’t know, bureaucratic speak from a bureaucrat of all people, and I certainly am one, and I think there’s a basic mistrust that people have of the criminal justice system in terms of its ability to be sensitive to victims of crime. Will, you want to start with that?

Will Marling: Yeah, I can speak to that a little bit, and let me give a little bit of history just for your listeners, so we understand maybe the big picture first historically. I won’t go back too far, but you know, ultimately, the justice system is the state vs. the perpetrator, and when you have that kind of context, you immediately discover that, historically anyway, there is no place for the victim, unless that victim is a witness in the process of the state vs. the perpetrator. Well, we didn’t realize the implications of that, I think, in many ways, you don’t realize it until you become a victim and find yourself actually on the outside of the system looking in, you know, in a group of people who are discussing your victimization or the murder of your loved one, so it’s a strange perspective that people discover historically where victims actually aren’t technically a part of that system even though, really, justice is about victims. So we’ve been working for the past 25 years directly and officially, and far longer than that unofficially in some ways, to change that perspective, so that involves victims’ rights, for instance, and 33 out of 50 states now have a constitutional statement regarding the rights of victims, and those revolve around, you know, similar things to any proceedings, the right to information, the right to a speedy trial, and this kind of thing.

Len Sipes: And there’s also federal legislation, right Will?

Will Marling: That is Federal. That’s exactly right, through the victims of crime act, 1984, and then crime victims rights that came after that. We’ve had other legislation at a federal level. So that’s kind of the big picture, and we’ve been working at that, and even issues like the victim impact statement, which some people now are aware of where a victim in the course of proceedings, particularly in the aftermath of a judgment can state the impact of this crime upon their lives or their loved ones’ lives. All of that is relatively recent in terms of the justice system. So the justice system actually was never designed to be sensitive to anybody. It’s a system of laws, the rule of law, and unfortunately, victims who are impacted by this stuff significantly, physically, emotionally, financially, they discover that it’s not sensitive to them, and it sometimes create secondary victimization.

Len Sipes: Janette Atkins, I had occasion to assist, unfortunately, a neighbor who, their home had been broken into, and weeks had gone by without being contacted, and that person was about to engage the criminal justice system, and did so with this abiding dread. They were saying, “Leonard, can you help me figure all this out?” And I said, “Why don’t you contact the victims’ advocate at the county police department and discuss it with him or her? That would be a good place to start.” And his response was, “Well, that’s just going to tick off the cops, and nobody’s going to take it seriously if I’m complaining about not being contacted.” Again, this immediate sense of fear of working with the criminal justice system, that even though the victims’ movement, I think it’s been around for 30 or 40 years, there’s still this overall sense of reluctance of contacting us within the criminal justice system? Do you think it’s right or wrong?

Janette Atkins: I think that that perception that people have, Leonard, is absolutely true, particularly if people have not had a friend or a loved one or themselves been a victim of crime, and they’re finding themselves in that position for the first time, particularly in the larger, more urban areas, I believe that there is a general distrust, and an idea that nobody’s really going to help me, or I’m going to upset someone in the system, when in fact, I was listening to what Will was saying, I was thinking back to being in this business since 1982, and Will’s absolutely right. 25-30 years have passed, and even further back for some of the grassroots crisis centers and domestic violence shelters that were put into place before many of the system-based victims’ assistance programs like you just mentioned, police-based victims’ assistance programs, and back then, I think, it is absolutely true. Your neighbor’s perception was I will anger the police if I make a complaint to anybody that no one has contacted me about the burglary of my home, and I do think that things have changed dramatically, even since I’ve been in this business for about 27 years now, and the unfortunate thing is, for a burglary victim in a very large urban area, they are not going to get the same service than someone who has had a loved one murdered or may have been sexually assaulted, or their child abducted, they’re not going to get the same type of service that they would if they were in a smaller, rural area where there’s a little bit more hands-on victims’ assistance for all types.

Len Sipes: There’s a profound difference in terms of how an urban criminal justice system responds to individuals and how a suburban or rural criminal justice system responds to victims, but before we get into that, let me give out a couple contact numbers. The number for the National Organization for Victim Assistance is 1-800-TRY-NOVA, the website is www.trynova.org. Let me re-introduce the participants, Will Marling, the director of NOVA, and Janette Atkins, she’s an administrator with the Green County Prosecutor’s office in Xenia, Ohio, and before getting further into the program, I’d like to thank everybody for listening to D.C. Public Safety, we are now over 2 million requests for the program, very close to 150,000 requests on a monthly basis. We appreciate all of your letters, all of your phone calls, all of your emails, and all of your twitters. So you can contact me directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D, dot-sipes, S-I-P-E-S, @csosa.gov. I work for the Criminal Justice system in Washington, D.C. for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal criminal justice agency, or get in touch with me by twitter, and that is http://www.twitter.com/lensipes. So we go back to that larger issue of fear, Will Marling, in terms of contacting those of us in the criminal justice system. When I started off as a Maryland State Trooper decades and decades ago when I was first introduced to the criminal justice system, I was formally trained that the victim and the witness were supposed to be left out of the criminal justice system to ensure the impartiality of the process, that if the victim and the witness was specifically designed to be a cog that you would insert into the process as needed, nothing more.

Will Marling: Right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the problem is that people still treat victims that way, even though with law enforcement, we’re constantly doing training with law enforcement to remind them that a cooperative witness is a good witness. It’s a much better witness than an uncooperative one, and just the process of, while some people might not feel compassion, even for victims, they should, even with that, just from a practical standpoint, working with these folks who are providing evidence for the case they were trying to prosecute, it’s just crucial, and recognizing the traumatic situation they’re in can be significant to helping them provide the evidence that you need. So it’s really important to recognize the role of victims, either as just the victim, or as a victim witness.

Len Sipes: The time as a police officer, and I spent a total of 6 years in law enforcement. You can’t come across a rape victim, you can’t come across somebody who is assaulted and somebody badly beaten, you can’t come across people who suffer through that victimization with their child or suffer through the victimization with a loved one without feeling a profound sense of attachment to that individual. They are going through one of the worst moments of their lives, and all they’re looking for, I think, is a little bit of common decency and respect from those of us in the criminal justice system, and Janette, I tell people all the time, we’re not that distant as you think we are, it’s simply a matter of contacting the right person in the right organization if you feel that you’re getting the runaround, if you feel that you’re not getting the cooperation that you need, that there are victims’ advocates, and prosecutors’ offices, there are victims’ advocates, and my organization, which is a parole and probation agency, there are victims’ advocates at the law enforcement level, that we exist to serve your needs, but still, people have this abiding fear of dealing with any bureaucracy. Janette?

Janette Atkins: That is very true, and I think that’s one of the ways that NOVA comes into play, because when I worked there, and as a volunteer for them for years, one of the things that we found, and I’m sure Will still finds today, is that people call NOVA who are at the end of their rope. They are the very people you’re describing that are feeling like no one is listening, they don’t know who to call or talk to, and everybody that they talk to puts them off to someone else or tells them, I’m sorry, we can’t help you, and NOVA’s role is to hook them up with the exact people you’re describing: the victim advocates, the people with knowledge about the criminal justice system, it could be a detective that’s investigating the case, or a uniformed officer, or a local victim advocate that can answer all their questions for what’s happening with their case and why. And I think the unfortunate thing we see is that, because, as I mentioned earlier, in the urban areas, they are so overwhelmed with their case loads, they are not doing the proactive approach of outreach to people, they’re waiting for those people to call them, if they can find them.

Len Sipes: When you’re running from call to call to call, and you just don’t have the time to take to sit down and deal with the family.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Janette Atkins: Unfortunately. And that comes with financial constraints, as you know, working in a city that is experiencing the same thing I am here in a more rural area in Ohio. Budget cuts are happening, staff layoffs occur, that’s where I think volunteers come in, and a lot of programs aren’t using volunteers effectively to do that outreach, or to provide that actual person that can call and talk to someone, or to give them information, and that’s where the disconnect happens, and then an organization like NOVA steps in, or someone can call an 800 number and be connected, many of the people that, I’m sure Will and the staff take calls from don’t even know a victims’ assistance program exists in their community.

Len Sipes: Will, I want to clarify something. Now is there federal legislation for federal crimes, and 35 out of the 50 states have constitutional amendments that protect victims’ rights? Do I have that correct, or do I have that wrong?

Will Marling: That’s right. There is federal legislation that addresses federal victims’ rights specifically, and then 33 out of 50 states to date have constitutional amendments that include victims’ rights.

Len Sipes: So the people hearing this throughout the country, or for that matter, throughout the world, because 20% of our audience is international, but people hearing this throughout the country as well as the District of Columbia metropolitan area, they probably have a better than even shot of being lawfully protected by their own state’s constitution as to basic rights, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. And of course, there’s legislation, even in the other states that would affirm services for victims and other things, so even without the constitutional amendment issue, they still could have accessibility to services and also advocacy. One of the challenges we face is the issue of enforcement, and if I could just give you an example, we had a call recently, a woman who had basically been raped, and she was looking forward to her day in court, they had caught the perpetrator, they accused, she received her subpoena, and the subpoena said, you’re to show up at 9:00 at the court, you’re going to be a victim witness, basically, because it’s basically her statement against the perpetrator, the evidence. Her, she showed up at 10 to 9 at the courtroom, and nobody was there, and this is just recent, and so she started inquiring what’s going on. “Well, the trial was at 8:30, and you weren’t here, so basically, we had to dismiss the case.” You see, everybody else had a subpoena for 8:30, she had a 9:00 subpoena.

Len Sipes: And that would make me so outrageously angry, and so mistrustful of the entire criminal justice system, that is almost inexcusable. We in the bureaucracy are so used to saying, “Look, it’s a big bureaucracy, it’s bustling, we handle hundreds of thousands of cases every year, mistakes are going to be made,” and they are. Within any bureaucracy, those sorts of mistakes are going to be made. But, if I’m that victim, and if I’m a family member of that victim, or if I’m the husband of that victim, or if I’m the brother of that victim, I’m going to be outraged by what happened.

Will Marling: Here’s what she said, and I quote, she said, “Emotionally and physically, I’m drained. Every time I even think about this tragedy, it sends me into a seizure. So I’m willing to put it behind me and go on with my life, what I have left, but I’m basically giving up. I can’t deal with this any longer,” so that’s a miscarriage of justice, in my view.

Len Sipes: Either one of you can comment on this one. When we, I’m looking at close to 40 years perspective of being in the criminal justice system, and I remember so vividly, I was a police officer working directly with individuals who were victimized, and understanding fully that this is not what we read in the paper. This is not what we brush off in the morning, this is a huge event in the lives of that individual, a huge event in the lives of the family, a huge event in the lives of everybody associated with that individual, and you know, the taste that leaves in your mouth forevermore is one of mistrust of the criminal justice system, you’re not willing to interact with the criminal justice system, and in many cases, the fear and the anger that goes along with that victimization, and it doesn’t have to be a violent victimization for that to happen, the fear and the anger lingers for the people directly connected to that individual, not for days, not for months, but for years. Without the criminal justice system coming to the aid of those individuals, that sends a fear and a mistrust lingers, it’s what causes people to move from urban areas, it’s what causes people not to invest in urban areas, it causes our schools to suffer, our businesses to suffer, so this is just not one individual fighting the bureaucracy, this is what happens when you’re victimized by crime, that’s bad enough, but especially when the criminal justice system doesn’t come to your emotional and factual aid, and I think that has a huge and devastating impact on our larger society.

Will Marling: There’s no question, and I would say this is the beauty of the victim advocacy network that we do have in our country. It’s why I myself am proud to be aligned with these folks, because they have obviously a difficult job, because they’re dealing with people traumatized continually, they’re dealing continually with people traumatized by crime, but also they provide that buffer, because if you can actually interface with the justice system with somebody who understands you and can get information and help for you, that can recalibrate your expectations, which sometimes is the issue. People think the justice system is out for them. Victims do. The justice system is only out for the rule of law. That’s all it’s there for, and that’s what frustrates people. It makes perfectly good sense that somebody should be convicted of a crime, in their mind, because they were violated. But there are, there’s a bigger picture to that, and we respect that. At the same time, if they can interface with a victim advocate who can assist them, that can change everything, because that can get them to resources and help they need, help them understand what’s transpired. Many times, we take our expectations into something, and those expectations were never accurate in the first place. They’re formed by TV and other things.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s just it, that’s part of the problem, because individuals see CSI on television, and they watch the endless number of crime related shows on television, and what happens on television, ladies and gentlemen, is not even close to being reality. This is why I cannot watch these shows, I cannot watch CSI, because the reality and what happens on television are two different things entirely, but I think managing expectations on the part of individuals, because the criminal justice system is a system of due process. That due process is not the victim’s due process, that due process is the accused due process, and that’s the backbone of our criminal justice system, so I would imagine, when I was trained by the Maryland State Police, decades and decades ago, that sense of the victim as being somebody that you simply plug in as necessary almost makes sense. I mean, due process is due process. 90%, 95% of what’s been written about our criminal justice system in terms of trying individuals accused of crime is due process and how you apply due process.

Will Marling: Well, and if you think about the big picture, if you violate due process working in law enforcement, and I worked in law enforcement in a previous life, and if you violate that against an accused, you basically wreck that case. If you violate due process against the victim, there’s significant harm done, but not necessary to the case.

Len Sipes: Well, nobody is going to, I suppose, theoretically at least, nobody is going to endanger your job by violating the victim’s due process, although now that we have a constitutional amendment in 33 of the 50 states and a federal constitutional amendment, that has changed, but it just strikes me that the emphasis still, to this day, is on the rights of the accused, and if you do not follow due process, if you screw up in terms of the application of the search warrant, or how you talk to that individual, whether or not it’s an in-custodial interrogation, or just a street interrogation, and whether or not you read his Miranda rights or not read his Miranda rights, whether or not you provide an attorney or not provide an attorney, those are all questions that we within the criminal justice system have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. So even today, 90% of our discussion is based upon that, and 10% of the discussion probably is, oh, we should do right by the victim. We should do right by the witness.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Janette Atkins: Leonard, I think there’s a phenomenon though, that I’ve watched evolve in the years that I’ve been doing this work as a victim advocate with television, and I agree with you, absolutely, that what people are watching on television in the CSI shows and those type of criminal justice related programs is not accurate. However, we’re seeing a phenomenon in cases like Caley Anthony, Natalie Holloway, Jessica Lunsford, I’m thinking of these children who were kidnapped, raped, the attention goes to them from the media from these tabloid shows, from the Court TV shows, and suddenly, the nation is now watching cases that you, back as a Maryland State Trooper dealt with isolated within your jurisdiction, and maybe the people in the local area heard about it in the newspaper and the television news, but the world didn’t, and now the world is watching.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s a good point.

Janette Atkins: Jessica Lunsford, in a little trailer park in Florida.

Len Sipes: That’s a good point, that more and more these national, especially the cable shows, are taking on cases of interest from the victim’s perspective and pursuing it from the victim’s perspective. I agree. I’m not quite sure that I’m all that happy about the fact that they seem to be focusing on specific people, or every day, day-in day-out in our cities throughout this country, specifically African American, especially lower income African Americans are not paid any attention to, because the great bulk of the victimization is within our urban areas, and in many cases within the African American community, but that’s another story for another day. The larger issue here is that we seem to be growing little bit by little bit through a constitutional amendment or state constitutional amendments, or by media interest, or by just the pure human interest on the part of law enforcement personnel, we seem to be inching to a greater sense that the victim needs to be honored – not honored, respected in terms of their role within the criminal justice system, and the victim needs to be protected.

Will Marling: Yeah. And Leonard, if I could speak to one issue too that I thought of, sometimes it’s contrasted between defendants’ rights and victims’ rights, and so there’s this kind of lore that’s put out there, and I’m not sure who, maybe defense attorneys or others, who say, “Well, if we enhance victims’ rights, then we’re going to diminished the accused rights,” and the fact is, it’s not true. You can have both. You can respect the rights of victims, and also respect the rights of the accused, due process, and so on, but what we need to do is emphasize the enforcement of those rights as well, and some are working hard to do that. You know, the example I gave you represents the fact, you can have all kinds of constitutional amendments, but if nobody’s protecting and enforcing those rights, then this poor woman, she has no place to turn.

Len Sipes: I did a program on victim assistance, and specifically within the Washington D.C. area, and I turned to the people who were advocates from the prosecutor’s office, and from my agency, and I said, “How many times do you have to remind those of us in the criminal justice system, the bureaucrats, that a constitutional amendment does exist?” It’s not a matter of do we or don’t we, we are required by law to provide these services to victims and to respect victims in terms of every process of the adjudicative process. Every part of the adjudicative process.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right.

Janette Atkins: [overlapping voices 24:58] victims that are actually getting counsel and actually looking for somebody to do something when those rights are violated, and Will’s absolutely right, many of the constitutional amendments, and even the state statutes, there’s no real consequence if they are violated, but we were just now seeing victims who, there are attorneys out there who will represent their interests.

Len Sipes: And I don’t, and before ending the program, because we’re into our final 5 minutes of the program, I do want to emphasize that things have changed significantly. I don’t want anybody listening to this program to be scared from contacting the criminal justice system. I want them to contact the criminal justice system, and if they feel that they’re not getting their due sense of respect, that there’s somebody, specifically the victims advocates within every law enforcement agency in this country, practically, there’s somebody there who will take their case, take their point of view, and advocate for them, correct?

Will Marling: Yes, that’s correct.

Janette Atkins: Yes, in many law enforcement programs, and then also prosecutors or DA’s offices, states’ attorneys’ offices, even in the municipal or city programs, there are many, many victims’ assistance programs, and that’s where I would start if I was them. I don’t want to leave people, your listeners, that there is a horrible void in this country when it comes to victims’ assistance, and people are not getting the services, and they can’t trust the criminal justice system, because I have seen it evolve over almost 30 years, and it is much, much better than it used to be, and there are, victims’ assistance programs are much more common now than when I started in this field. You are hard pressed to find one, particularly a system based program. So you’re absolutely right, Leonard, in saying that people should not be afraid, they should call, if they don’t know who to call, they can start with NOVA, and NOVA will guide them to their local resources.

Len Sipes: 1-800-TRY-NOVA, 1-800-TRY-NOVA, or the website, www-dot try, T-R-Y N-O-V-A, dot-org, that would be the place that they would turn to, so I’m feeling guilty. There’s part of me that has a historical point of view that’s always been outraged in terms of how victims of crime are treated, but there’s also a side of me that says things have improved dramatically, and there are people within every bureaucracy that are empowered to go to bat for them, and empowered to fight for them if they feel that they have been mistreated.

Will Marling: Yep, you’re exactly right. I’m glad you have the perspective that you have, it’s an informed perspective, and you know, it’s something we’re trying to make people aware of. We sometimes do advocate directly for people with law enforcement for people, if they have a problem, I can call, I know how to talk the language a bit, and so those kind of things, we can do for people.

Len Sipes: And I think a call from NOVA is impressive enough. I mean, the National Organization for Victim Assistance has been around for how many years, Will?

Will Marling: Well, since 1975, actually.

Len Sipes: 1975, and you’ve been around the block, you’ve been established, you know how to work with the criminal justice system, but the criminal justice system, nobody likes to get a call from NOVA, because we all know who you are, and nobody is, because when you hear that NOVA is on the line, you say, “Uh oh, who has mistreated who?” Right, Janette?

Janette Atkins: That’s very true! And people can get the peer pressure from a national organization, or a state attorney general’s office, for example, or it always helps if the victim is just totally exhausted and not getting the assistance he or she needs, the news media can really help them as well. People, our elected officials don’t want to have the news media knocking on their door either.

Len Sipes: I remember talking to a woman one time who went to her state senator, and her state senator stopped whatever she was doing, picked up that phone, and called that chief of police for that jurisdiction and simply said, “I never, ever, ever want to hear something like this happening to my constituents again, and I want to meet with you personally on this issue, and I want this case taken care of!” And guess what? It was, pretty quickly. So there are ways that people can employ leverage to get what they need in the criminal justice system, but again, I do want to emphasize that there are individuals within every law enforcement agency in the country, just about, who are there to protect you, and you do have a constitutional right to make sure that your rights are respected, and there is a federal constitutional amendment to make sure that you do have access to services and get the respect from the criminal justice system. So with that in mind, I just wanted to say thank you today to our guests, Will Marling, the executive director for the National Organization of Victim Assistance at 1-800-TRY-NOVA, 1-800-TRY-NOVA, the website is www.trynova.org. We’ve also had at our microphones today, Janette Atkins, she is the administrator, the Green County Prosecutor’s Office in Xenia, Ohio, and to both of you, in the final seconds we have left, anything that I’ve left out?

Will Marling: I don’t think so. You’ve covered quite a bit. We really appreciate you.

Janette Atkins: Yes, it’s been a pleasure. We appreciate you bringing this kind of information to your listeners.

Will Marling: Absolutely.

Janette Atkins: The key is that this is the first of six programs we’re going to be doing with the National Association of Victim Assistance over the next year, and we’re going to be looking at victims’ issues in, I think, minute detail to see how we in the criminal justice system can improve. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. This is D.C. Public Safety. You can contact me, Leonard Sipes, at Leonard Sipes, L-E-O-N-A-R-D dot S-I-P-E-S, @csosa.gov. Please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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