Archives for May 17, 2010

An Interview With Women Offenders-DC Public Safety

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. public safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have another interesting program on women offenders, and back at our microphones, we have Dr. Willa Butler. Willa Butler is a supervisory community supervision officer, and most places throughout the country, they call their people parole and probation agents, within Washington D.C., we call them community supervision officers, and Willa basically runs a unit for women offenders, and we have three people who are currently within her group, and I’m just going to be using first names to describe all three. We have Jacquelyn, Jacquelyn’s on probation for failure to appear, we have Diane who’s on probation for drug dealing, and we have Kim who’s on probation for assault, and to everybody out there listening, we really want to thank you all for your participation, for the comments that you give back to us. We’re up to 135,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. public safety, on the radio and the television side, and for the articles and the blog, and even the transcripts, which is certainly amazing to me. If you need to get in touch with me, you can do so via email, and that’s Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D, dot-sipes, S-I-P-E-S,, or you can follow me via twitter, which is twitter/lensipes, S-I-P-E-S, and with that long introduction, Dr. Butler, Willa, you’re going to start off the whole thing. How you doing?

Willa Butler: I’m doing fine, Leonard. I would like to thank you for inviting us here today.

Len Sipes: I always enjoy your presence, Willa!

Willa Butler: Oh, well thank you so much!

Len Sipes: You and the young women that you bring to these discussions, I think, are some of the most interesting people that I get to talk to, and we get all these requests from the listeners for more and more programs for women offenders, or regarding women offenders.

Willa Butler: Okay, well this program is WICA, Women in Control Again, it’s a holistic approach to counseling, which I developed in 1998 when SAINT/HIDTA became a unit.

Len Sipes: Right, and St. Hida, nobody’s going to understand what that is.

Willa Butler: St. Hida is a substance abuse unit that we have here at CSOSA which was developed in 1998, and they asked me to come over and develop a gender specific program for our female offenders, and when you study female offenders, it’s just not substance abuse that we’re looking at, but it’s a holistic approach as to what happened, we go back to when they were children, or do a retrospective journey back, and we find that many things have caused them to enter the criminal justice system, and one of them is needing support and programs such as WICA, a place where they can be directed, where they can get some type of help or support during their traumatization or victimization or whatever they’re experiencing at that moment or in their past life.

Len Sipes: Okay, and people are going to say, “Willa, Dr. Butler, they’ve committed crimes. What do you mean, their victimization?”

Willa Butler: Well, when I say victimization, it’s basically what you’re experiencing growing up. We all basically, society is dysfunctional, but some areas a little more dysfunctional than others. When I say our environment, what we’ve been subjected to, and a lot of times, we as women, not only female offenders, but we have been subjected to victimization as children, and a lot of times, it has gone unanswered. And response to that victimization, I don’t want to use the term, it’s acting out, but we may do things a little differently than the so-called “normal” would do. We have survival tactics maybe a little different.

Len Sipes: Well, the research, this is all Department of Justice research, and we’ve talked about this before the program, is that the research from the Department of Justice basically states that women offenders have higher levels of substance abuse, higher levels of mental health issues, and in terms of research on abuse and neglect, offenders basically stating that they were abused or neglected in childhood, sexual abuse against female offenders who were victims of sexual abuse is astounding. It is above 60% where I think for male offenders, it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15%. So we’re talking about, in essence, different types of offenders when we were talking about male and female offenders, correct?

Willa Butler: Yes, exactly. Like you said, the statistics are higher for women, although men have experienced the type of victimization, but they handle it differently than women do, and one of the main concerns is that women don’t have support when they go through it as children, or as adults, and they have the propensity or tendency to, I’m not going to say, I don’t want to use the term, as acting out, but like I say, survival skills, they become more dependent as opposed to interdependent. A lot of them, due to – maybe – due to the victimization, I don’t want to say, but they don’t finish school, and therefore, they don’t have the economical means to take care of themselves, and sometimes they go to, maybe selling drugs, or boosting, or something of that nature.

Len Sipes: And I think, you know, we’ve discussed this in the past, Willa, the idea is this, and you tell me, and the ladies who are going to be interviewed can tell me this or not. I’m not, number one, I’ve got to say, I’m not making excuses for bad behavior, because I’ll get letters, and I’ll get emails, and comments on the program saying, basically, “Leonard, you’re making excuses for bad behavior.” It’s not so much making excuses for bad behavior, it is basically what is, and I’m recording this at 10 after 11, and all I’m saying is that it’s 10 after 11, and people listening to this program have heard this example from me before, and that it, it’s simply that the facts that I’m talking about right now, I mean, and the majority of criminologists in the country talk about, and there seems to be a consensus among people within the criminal justice system that the following is true: women offenders have substantially more problems than male offenders in terms of the coping because they’ve had a pretty tough life. A lot of them have been the victims of sexual violence. A lot of them have raised themselves in the same way that a lot of male offenders have raised themselves. Their codependency, or their dependency upon males has gotten them into real trouble. I’ve talked to dozens of women offenders who are serving long stretches of prison time because the male basically said, “I want you to take this big carload full of drugs to New York City, and if I don’t, I’m going to mess you up.” It just seems to be, in many ways, a different world, most women offenders have kids. When they come out of the prison system, if they come into the prison system, they’ve got to come out and deal with kids, so it’s just not them that they have to be concerned about, they have to be concerned about kids, so in everything that I’ve said, when I’m expressing a consensus of criminological opinion, do you believe that this consensus is correct or incorrect?

Willa Butler: I believe that it’s correct, but moreso than being correct is preventive measures. If we had more preventive measures in place, then it wouldn’t go this far –

Len Sipes: Like what?

Willa Butler: As opposed to a place where a person can go, a place where a person can go when they have been victimized, and number one –

Len Sipes: At what age? We’re talking about –

Willa Butler: At an early age.

Len Sipes: Okay, so you’re talking about kids getting the mental health –

Willa Butler: Children, as well as adults, because a lot of times, even women, they’re not believed that something has happened to them, or either they’re made to feel guilty. One thing, when you’re talking about being raped or molested, is that what part did I play in it, and that’s what society has the tendency to look at, well what part did you play in it? We didn’t play any part in it, because no one has a right to violate your person.

Len Sipes: Well, how can you hold an 8-year-old responsible for being the victim of a sexual assault by a family member, which is extremely common amongst women offenders?

Willa Butler: One thing, not being believed. I think that’s the most traumatizing thing, because you’re being re-victimized all over again, because, you know, our parents, our support, our safe haven, and when you go to them and tell them that something like this has happened, they don’t believe you. So then you’re out there left alone, I mean, who else can I, where can I find refuge, if I can’t find it from my mother or from my father, and depending on who the abuser is, sometimes it may be the mother or the father.

Len Sipes: And it’s not unusual for it to be the mother and the father, and I’ve read that within research. So that becomes part of the problem. That becomes the whole issue of, if you’re wondering, as criminologists would say, if you’re wondering why women offenders are the way they are, take a look at their own upbringings. I’ve heard other people say that it’s massive child abuse. It’s child abuse on a massive scale. Now that applies to both female and male offenders. But it’s a situation that we don’t talk about, Willa. That’s the weird thing about all of this, it’s a situation that we really don’t like to talk about, and why we don’t like to talk about it, but we simply do not like to address the fact that, in terms of, let’s just talk about women offenders right now, that in many cases, they have been extraordinarily abused in terms of their own childhood. Now I’m not going to put words in the mouths of the three ladies here, and we’re going to go over to them right now, starting with Kim – Willa, is there anything else you wanted to follow up on? Because I’m going to let you end the program.

Willa Butler: No, I’m fine. Thank you.

Len Sipes: Okay. Kim, one of the things that I find interesting. Now you’re on probation for failure to appear. Now all three of you have basically talked about having a criminal history, having a history of substance abuse, having a history of being in and out of crime. Is that correct for you?

Kim: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, how long – get closer to the microphone, please. How long have you been in and out of the criminal justice system, Kim? How long have you been in the game?

Kim: Let me start with, I left home at 13, and I’m 41 now, I’ve been using since the age of 13, and I left home, left school, I didn’t go to school, 8th grade, so I haven’t finished my education, I didn’t get my GED, because of my drug abuse.

Len Sipes: Okay. What’s your drug of choice?

Kim: Crack. Cocaine.

Len Sipes: So you’ve been at it for decades.

Kim: Forever.

Len Sipes: Forever. Have you been –

Kim: Off and on.

Len Sipes: Have you been in prison?

Kim: Yes. In and out.

Len Sipes: In jail? Okay. So you’ve been, you’re exactly what we read about.

Kim: Exactly.

Len Sipes: In terms of being in and out of the criminal justice system. What’s your take on your experience, what’s your take on being with my organization? What’s your take on life in general?

Kim: Right now, I’m more angry with myself, because it’s not like I didn’t have support, and my family was a lot of support, because they still are supporting me, you know, my family has always been there for me, you know, I love them so much, because they’ve never ever turned their backs on me, no matter what I’ve been through, so I just want to say, throughout my incarceration, instead of being, putting women in jail –

Len Sipes: [cell phone ringing] Yes, if all of us could turn our cell phones off. I’m sorry, I should have told you that before the program. I’m sorry, go ahead Kim.

Kim: Instead of incarcerating women, they need to find out what’s really going on in our minds, you know what I’m saying, jail is not for nobody –

Len Sipes: [cell phone ringing] Please.

Kim: And I didn’t never get anything out of going back and forth to jail. That’s probably why I continue to go, and –

Len Sipes: But you know there are people who are going to simply say, “What’s your problem?” You know they’re going to say that!

Kim: Mine is missing. I’ve just been diagnosed for bipolar. So mine is that, by leaving home as a child, it’s not much that I knew. I don’t know anything. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go to school, so I wasn’t around, my parents said I was out in the street doing what I wanted to do. So I didn’t know no better. So instead of, once I went to school, tried to get my GED, but they didn’t keep me in there long enough. Another thing I can really say is that I feel like they need more programs.

Len Sipes: Talk to me about the programs.

Kim: We need to be more educated, we need to be more therapy. More therapy, because they never know what’s going on. A person just don’t wake up and say, “We wanna get high,” because that’s not what I planned, I didn’t plan to be like this at 41.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kim: This was not my plan at all.

Len Sipes: What was your plan?

Kim: To one day open up a day care center. I love children. But you know, my life has never been stable enough to take care of no kids, not even my own. I have one son.

Len Sipes: If there was an opportunity somewhere throughout your life, that somebody would have provided you, who intervened meaningfully in your life, got you the mental health assistance that you needed to be sure that you got off of drugs, if you were on drugs at that point, so let’s just say at 11 years old, right before it got real bad, because you were doing drugs since you were 13, been on your own basically since you were 13, right? So at 11, they meaningfully intervened in your life, you had the social work, you had the mental health treatment, you had different people there who advocate for you, who help you make sure that you stayed in school, what do you think would have happened?

Kim: Well, my mom did all that. She did that, so I had, I was an only child, too, until 13. That was my problem. I was spoiled, and when my mother had my brother, I didn’t want that. So I left home. That’s when I left home, because I was already seeing doctors and psychiatrists and everything.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there was intervention, but different people did –

Kim: But when I left home, it didn’t continue.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you left home at 13, you didn’t have a right to leave home at 13, why didn’t somebody basically reach out, grab you, and pull you back.

Kim: Who?

Len Sipes: Parents.

Kim: My parents couldn’t find me. I was nowhere to be found. Somebody sends the police to pick me up for running away from home.

Len Sipes: Okay. Were you arrested at any point between 13 and 18? Didn’t anybody ask you what you were doing out –

Kim: Well, I danced in the club, so I left home.

Len Sipes: At 14!?

Kim: Yes.

Len Sipes: Wow!

Kim: Yeah. What a life.

Len Sipes: Wow!

Kim: I took care of myself.

Len Sipes: I’m – you’re – everything that you’re telling me, and this is one of the reasons why these programs are so profound. I mean, that is a profound statement. You were dancing in clubs at 14.

Kim: And they let me do that.

Len Sipes: How are you doing now? How are you doing now? No, I think whoever let you do that should be – well, I’m not supposed to expressed my personal opinions. All right, back up. How are you doing now?

Kim: Today?

Len Sipes: Today. You’ve been with Willa’s group, you’ve had an opportunity to talk through all of this. Has it made a difference? Do you think you’re going to continue going back to crime? Do you think you’re going to continue going back to drugs? What’s your future?

Kim: Well, hopefully, I’m going to stay clean. I know I’m going to stay clean, because I’m tired. I’m sick and tired.

Len Sipes: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Kim: Exactly. I can’t go back to jail. I’m never going back to jail.

Len Sipes: Now you do know that everybody who says that –

Kim: – goes back.

Len Sipes: Not everybody, but there’s a substantial proportion of people – I’ve sat there and said, “I ain’t never going back, I ain’t doing no more drugs, I’m not going back to jail, I’m not going back to prison, I’m going to come out and do landscaping, I’ve got a job lined up,” 3 months later, there’s a needle in his arm, hell, in some cases, 2 days later, there’s a needle in his arm.

Kim: I’m taking it one day at a time. One day at time. And for me, right now, I have to stay focused on my son. I have son.

Len Sipes: How old’s your son?

Kim: 23.

Len Sipes: What’s your relationship with your son?

Kim: I don’t know. We’re working on it. It’s always been good. We’ve always been close. An unconditional love, but you know, I want to be a closer part of his life. So I feel like I have to make changes in my life today. I’m not getting no younger, you know what I’m saying? Society ain’t brought me. I brought myself here, mostly, you know what I’m saying, because it’s things that I could have done for myself that I didn’t do that I’m trying to do today.

Len Sipes: Okay, what do you hope to do a year from now, in terms of a job?

Kim: A job?

Len Sipes: Are you working now?

Kim: No.

Len Sipes: Okay. What do you hope to do a year from now?

Kim: I do housekeeping. I clean every now and then, because like I said, I have my education is not all that well, so I can go back to school, I know, but I’m working on that too.

Len Sipes: You’re going to be in my prayers. It is clearly within society’s best interest to reach out and help you. It’s either that, or the drugs continue. It’s either that, or the pregnancies continue. It’s either that, or the crime continues. So I’m hoping and praying for you – now I am going to express my personal opinion, I’m hoping and praying for you – how long is it before you’re released from your supervision, us in here in CSOSA?

Kim: 2 years.

Len Sipes: 2 years, okay. No positive urines?

Kim: Oh, they’re all negative.

Len Sipes: There you go. Thank god for that. Thank god for that. Kim, you’re a –

Kim: Well, something else I can say is I go through my spells, I’ll stay clean 6 months out of a year, and the other half of the year under, and this goes on throughout my whole life.

Len Sipes: But that’s got to stop.

Kim: I know!

Len Sipes: But everybody says that, just because I say it doesn’t mean it is, but I think you tell a very inspiring story, and I’m going to pray for you and hope that things come out okay. You’re a beautiful young woman. I just think that you’ve got a heck of a future in front of you, especially with Willa’s help. We’re going to go over to Diane now. We can’t say “contestant number 2,” Diane, and don’t look at me like you’re not going to talk. Come on now! You’re sitting there, you’re sitting there. Another beautiful young lady. Diane is on probation for drug dealing, and Diane, have you, everything that I’ve said thus far about the childhood history, about basically raising yourself, lots of drugs, men who aren’t the best for you, is any of that true, is that a myth, what’s your take on all that, Diane?

Diane: Yes, most of that is true. But I’ve been having a drug problem for many years now, and I was put into a women’s program because of my relapse. I have just relapsed.

Len Sipes: You’ve just relapsed. What’s your drug of choice?

Diane: Heroin.

Len Sipes: Heroin.

Diane: And I do crack, too. I also do crack.

Len Sipes: It’s interesting how the folks in Baltimore and D.C. say “hare-on,” and to everybody else, it’s “hare-o-in,” but that’s, I said that a little while ago, I was being interviewed, and I said “hare-on,” and the person said, “what?” and I said, “I’m sorry. It’s hare-o-in.” You know, boy, this is amazing, because when you talk to Kim, its crack, and we talk to Diane, its heroin, two drugs that just completely mess you up for the rest of your life. When did you start doing drugs?

Diane: When I was like, 20, I believe 20.

Len Sipes: Really?

Diane: Yes.

Len Sipes: That’s a little unusual, because most of the ladies I’ve talked to, the guys for that matter, started drugs earlier than that. What caused you at the age of 20 to do, was it heroin, or was it something else?

Diane: It was powder coke then.

Len Sipes: It was powdered cocaine. So at 20, at the ripe old age of 20, you discovered –

Diane: Yeah, we thought it was fun, I guess, we were doing it young, I guess, we think it was fun in the beginning, and it turned out to be the worst.

Len Sipes: Oh, it’s always fun in the beginning. There’s no high like the first high. Okay, so what are you doing now? You’re on probation, how are you working out?

Diane: Well, I’m on probation for 5 years, and like I said, I have relapsed, and I asked to go into a long term program, because I really believe that I need help.

Len Sipes: All right, so you pulled some positive urines.

Diane: Yes, the last three.

Len Sipes: The last three? Well you’re fresh off the street there! Okay, Diane, I’m sorry to hear that. So we’re going to put you in what, a residential?

Diane: Residential.

Len Sipes: Okay. You’ve been, how long, go ahead, look at that microphone now, how long have you been involved in the criminal justice system? How long have you been in, what we call the lifestyle, the game, you know what I’m talking about, I don’t know if the audience knows what I’m talking about, but the criminal activity that goes along with the whole drugs and crime stuff.

Diane: Well, I’ve always been around drugs.

Len Sipes: Always been around drugs –

Diane: My mother and father did drugs.

Len Sipes: Your mother and father did drugs.

Diane: Both of them.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so how’d you hold off until the age of 20? That’s amazing. So, what’s your crime background?

Diane: I was locked up for domestic violence one time. This time I was in for distribution.

Len Sipes: Okay. So it’s domestic violence and drug distribution. How many times have you been arrested, do you think?

Diane: Probably four.

Len Sipes: Four. That’s not a lot compared to some of the ladies that I’ve talked to on the streets. Other ladies that I’ve talked to on this program that have been arrested 20, 30 times, you know, so you’ve been locked up four times.

Diane: I only stayed, did time, like twice.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you know, when I talk to people beyond this room, beyond offenders directly caught up in the criminal justice system, I keep hearing, “Leonard, would you stop it with programs for offenders? We’ve got kids to take care of, we’ve got the elderly to take care of, we’ve got unemployed people to take care of, we can’t wet nurse every person who puts a gun in somebody’s head or sells drugs, I mean, you know, they did the crime. What do you want me to do for them? We’ve got kids to take care of. We’ve got the elderly to take care of. We’ve got all sorts of people to take care of, and you’re out there saying there should be additional programs caught up in the criminal justice system.” How do you respond to all that, Diane?

Diane: I believe everyone deserves help, and a lot of criminals do have more problems than others, so I think it would be nice to have a lot of different programs that we can get into.

Len Sipes: Okay. Would the programs make a difference? I mean, that’s what everybody wants. People say, “You know, Leonard, I don’t mind putting more money into programs for offenders, but tell me it’s going to make a difference. Tell me it’s going to have an impact on the lives of these young men and women, and in some cases, older men and women.”

Diane: Well, I’ve been in a couple of programs, and I came out and did well for a while, but eventually, I relapsed. But I think it’s in self, too. If you really want it, you –

Len Sipes: But that’s the question. Do you really want to? I mean, you’re fresh off of positive urines.

Diane: Yes, I want to.

Len Sipes: Why? Why, why, why? Why do you want to get off of drugs now?

Diane: [overlapping voices] because I’ve been clean for a while, and I’ve seen ho fast I lost everything that I had just gained.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you’ve been involved in programs before for substance abuse, correct?

Diane: Yes, but usually I stay out a long time, and when I come back in, I’m almost dead, but this time, I caught myself before then.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Diane: And I asked to go into a long term program.

Len Sipes: That’s great, that’s great. Other people force you into other programs?

Diane: Most of the time, I went in for someone else. And then I was looking so bad, I didn’t want to be on the street.

Len Sipes: Yep. You know, people are going to say, Diane, again, another beautiful young woman, you would think that there’s a life for Diane beyond drugs. You know it’s going to kill you. You know it, you know it, you know it, and people, that’s a lot of what people don’t understand. If it’s going to kill you, and if it’s going to make your life miserable, why, why, why, is the pain that happened previously in your life that bad that you’ve got to mask it?

Diane: I believe it has something to do with the pain.

Len Sipes: Where does the pain come from?

Diane: I mean, when I was growing up, I’ve seen a lot of violence and drug abuse, and I just didn’t talk about it, I guess.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry? Kim? No, no, no, no. No, go ahead. No, get close to the microphone. Get close to the microphone. Go ahead.

Kim: A lot of times, when people lose members in their family, and they relapse, that’ll make them relapse, too. My thing, I never really been to no drug programs. I have more family support. My family will come and get me no matter where I am and say, “It’s time for you to come home.” And I go, because I know they love me, and they’re going to be there for me. But I always go back out.

Len Sipes: But a lot of family members, well, there’s two things. First of all, a lot of family are so sick and tired of the person in and out of the system that not only do they not let them back inside the house when they come out of prison, they change every lock on every door, because they’ve stolen from them far too many times, they’ve made their lives miserable far too many times. You know what I mean?

Kim: I know exactly what you mean. I haven’t really, I haven’t burned my bridges, I’m just, haven’t done that yet. My family just loves me so unconditional, it’s so hard for me to say, I remember one time, I stole my brother’s classic Cadillac, kept it for two months. You would think that he wouldn’t want to be bothered with me no more. It was like a month later, we got back friends. But I don’t know why my mother loves me so much, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to get clean. My mother, because a lot of times, we don’t have our parents, we don’t realize, our parents and our family members go through our addiction also. And my mother tells me all the time, she says she can’t die, because she won’t wonder if I’m going to be able to take care of myself. And that’s a terrible feeling, because all she worry about is me. I’m the only one she worries about. I have two younger brothers, and they take care of me, and that hurts too, because I have to go to them when I need help, and they should be able to come to me, and that hurts a lot, and I’m going to work on that, but I wanted to say something about the programs. You know, the programs, if you really want help, the programs might help you. But for me, some people go to the programs because they have to go. We need more therapy. The program’s not therapeutic, they’re just, you’re talking about drugs. Most people go in there and talk about drugs. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t go to meetings myself. I would prefer to go to church, which I’m really not going to church like I should. But I don’t like to be around a lot of people who use, because that’s my triggers. Because they talk about the old things that you used to do. That’s one of the things I don’t think people should talk about. But I think we should have more therapy.

Len Sipes: I talked to one person who said giving up drugs was easy. Giving up the lifestyle, giving up the friends, giving up the corner was the hardest thing.

Kim: Because I sometimes think about why I’m not with my friends, because then I think about I don’t want to be like that anymore. But see, we need more therapy, more therapy classes. One on one therapy, because we don’t just want to use drugs. We’re going through things that people don’t know, and we suppress it with drugs.

Len Sipes: And that’s exactly why we’re doing this program so people understand –

Kim: We need more therapy, more doctors, more counseling.

Len Sipes: – what it is that you’ve been through, and the fact of what that struggle is. Okay, now ladies and gentlemen, we ordinarily stop programs at 30 minutes, we’re going to be way beyond 30 minutes on this program, and I think it’s justifiable, because I think the stories that the ladies are telling are hugely compelling. We’re going to go over to Jacquelyn, and Jacquelyn, said it with a smile, so you need to get real close to that microphone, Jacquelyn, as much as possible. That’s fine. And ladies and gentlemen, Diane has to go. Diane, thank you very much for your participation in the program. I really appreciate it. That was really gutsy on your part. Okay, so we’re going to go to Kim. Kim’s on probation for assault, as we play musical chairs in the studio – I’m sorry? – Oh Jackie! Jacquelyn! I’m sorry, my apologies. I’m watching everybody leave, and I was saying Kim leave, and it’s Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn, you’re on probation for failure to appear in court. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Jacquelyn: Well, basically, I’ve been –

Len Sipes: Get closer to the microphone, please.

Jacquelyn: Basically, I’ve been in and out of the system for two years, but I’ve been doing good since I’ve been on probation for over a year, and I’ve been clean for 11 months now.

Len Sipes: Okay. What was your drug of choice?

Jacquelyn: Cocaine.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you’ve been testing negative?

Jacquelyn: Yes, I’m negative.

Len Sipes: Good, thank god. Now how long have you been involved in the system? You said you’ve been involved for a couple years. Does that mean two years currently, or does that mean beyond –

Jacquelyn: Two years, two years.

Len Sipes: So you’ve only been involved in the criminal justice system for two years?

Jacquelyn: Yes, just two years.

Len Sipes: Really? How did that happen?

Jacquelyn: Because I made the wrong choices to do wrong –

Len Sipes: But you know, again, you’re another beautiful woman – young woman, but you’re not 18 –

Jacquelyn: No, I’m 44.

Len Sipes: Nor are you 25. So how does somebody in their 40s suddenly decide to get caught up in the criminal justice system?

Jacquelyn: I guess you learn from your mistake, but I chose the wrong thing to do so, I’m learning from my mistakes, and so, I mean –

Len Sipes: But you’re learning from your mistakes, but you got caught up in the criminal justice system at 40, that doesn’t make any sense. I’m so used to talking to people who get caught up in drugs at 13. I’m so used to people getting caught up in crime at 16. You got caught up in this stuff in your 40s?

Jacquelyn: No, I started out almost 39 –

Len Sipes: Okay, get closer to the microphone –

Jacquelyn: 39, 40, yeah. I started at 39. That was only a year, 2006.

Len Sipes: All right. What caused you to get involved?

Jacquelyn: Hanging with the wrong people. Hanging out in the crowd, trying to be cool.

Len Sipes: Yeah. In your 40s? Wow!

Jacquelyn: Yeah, trying to be cool, and you know, I said, I’m getting too old for this. So I learned, but I kept getting locked up for the same thing and the same thing, I said “It’s time for me to stop doing this,” and –

Len Sipes: How many times were you locked up?

Jacquelyn: Maybe three times.

Len Sipes: Three times. And what were the crimes?

Jacquelyn: For prostitution.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you were out there involved in prostitution to raise money for drugs?

Jacquelyn: For drugs, yeah.

Len Sipes: Okay. Have kids?

Jacquelyn: Yeah, I have a son. I had three sons, but I have two deceased sons –

Len Sipes: Okay, I’m sorry to hear that.

Jacquelyn: and one living son.

Len Sipes: All right. And have you been doing drugs before the age of 40 –

Jacquelyn: Off and on.

Len Sipes: Off and on. So you’ve been doing drugs for how long?

Jacquelyn: Well, basically, I can say I started, when I had my children, I was on pretty good, and then after I lost my sons, then I got into a depressed mood, and I used that to soothe my mood swings and stuff.

Len Sipes: Okay. Get a little closer to the microphone. I don’t want to, I’m afraid to ask this question, but I’m going to ask this question. What happened to your sons?

Jacquelyn: One got killed in a car accident, and my baby son got killed in a fire.

Len Sipes: In a fire. My god, that’s tragic. That’s tragic beyond comprehension. So that accelerated your drug use?

Jacquelyn: And it didn’t solve anything, it just made me get out there more and do, do, do, and I didn’t realize until the last, this year’s been really good for me, man, it had really taught me to be wise and do good, and I’m clean. I’ve been clean for 11 months, and I get off probation in August, the 2nd of August of this year, so I’ve been doing good, going to my classes, I missed some of my classes, because the buses be runnin’ late sometimes, but I do good, I love coming to my meetings and stuff, it has me generating, to cope with my problems, with the daily life, I’m going back out on the street, being around my friends, they do drugs, get high, “why don’t you come over,” no, I stay clean, try to get off probation and do my part, I want to stay out of jail.

Len Sipes: What’s the world like when the people around you are always doing drugs? Is that what you’re saying, that your personal friends are all involved in drugs?

Jacquelyn: Yes, it’s my personal friends, it’s all about drugs.

Len Sipes: I mean, that’s –

Jacquelyn: And I said, I’ve been doing good, I’ve been clean, I don’t go around, I say to myself, stay away from people who do it, and that’s how you can stay clean, stay out of that environment.

Len Sipes: Yeah, everybody’s saying that, but again, as I said a little while ago, talk to the guy who said, giving up drugs is one thing, giving up my friends, giving up the corner –

Jacquelyn: Yeah, giving up, you’ve got to give it up if you want to stay straight!

Len Sipes: Right! But I mean, there’s so much into this whole story of substance abuse and criminal activity, where you know, if you see people driving a nail through the side of their head, and you can see the obvious pain and the distress it causes them, you would think that you wouldn’t do that sort of thing, but then again, so many people get caught up in this, and you’re saying, at the age of 40, and a couple years beyond 40, your peers, your friends are still doing drugs.

Jacquelyn: Yes, they sure are. They haven’t changed. Doing it, they’re out all night. I mean, I seen one of my friends today when I was standing outside, and he’s taking a urine, but he’s on probation too. Is they gonna change? No! But they can’t wait to get off this. They say, “I can’t wait to get off!”

Len Sipes: But the result of it is hell. The result of all this is just straight to H-E-L-L. I mean, for your kids, for your family, for your possessions, for where you live, it’s just, that’s the thing that always will bewilder the rest of us who aren’t involved in drugs, is that if you do something, the drugs, the pool has got to be beyond comprehension, because you know what it’s going to do to you.

Jacquelyn: It brings you down, it takes all your money, I mean, you can’t, next day, you don’t have nothin’ in your pocket –

Len Sipes: It takes everything!

Jacquelyn: It takes everything, and you’re going to wake up and smell the coffee, and say, “Let me, this got to change!” I mean, you want to feel good about yourself, you don’t want to be down for the rest of your life because you want to do drugs or alcohol, whatever the substance that you use, you know, to make you feel the way you want to feel. But my heart, I’m waking up, and it’s time for me to grow up, and I’m 44, and I have a son in the Army, he’s just finished Army, he’s going to go into the Marines, and he’s 25, he just turned 25 May 19th, I mean, March the 19th, excuse me, March the 19th, but he’s married, and he has two kids, so he’s doing good by me, but he knows, he don’t know that I’m in the court system. I haven’t told him. I kept that from him.

Len Sipes: The whole concept of programs, because I’m going to go to Willa to finish everything up in a couple seconds. More programs?

Jacquelyn: More programs, more counseling, and it helps. It helps me a lot, it helped me a lot, and now, I get off probation, and I’m doing successfully, doing good without any relapse.

Len Sipes: Well that, to me, is astounding, and I’m so happy to hear that. I really am, because I know, just in terms of knowing you as a human being, in terms of sitting across this table looking at you, there’s an emotional connection, but just for society, just for your son, just for your grandkids, just for everybody’s sake, it is in our best interests to make sure that you’re clean.

Jacquelyn: Yes, be clean, and that’s what they want you to be clean, always be clean, and you don’t want to get set back, you don’t want to go back to jail, and those, I say no.

Len Sipes: I hear you. The other point is that, I forget who said it, Jackie, but I think it was Diane or Kim, but – it’d have to be Diane or Kim, because there’s only two other people – about liking the process of when you all get together. I discussed one time in the women’s prison, talking to a whole group of women, about 30, who said that they never felt more at peace and more comfortable because they have these counseling groups with the different women there.

Jacquelyn: It makes a difference.

Len Sipes: And that this is the first time in their lives that they’ve been able to express what happened to them, who they are, their struggles, without feeling judged by everybody else, and they loved that concept.

Jacquelyn: They’ll come to the meetings and participate in them, and it helps, it helps you feel good when you talk about your problems and stuff, when you hold back, that’s when you can’t grow, if you hold back.

Len Sipes: I hear you. I hear you.

Jacquelyn: So I tried participating, get it off your chest, and when you go home, you feel good, go get me something to eat, lay me down, take a nap, and forget about the outside, you know, and just be me. I know I’ve got to do, because I’m not going back to jail. I’m staying clean.

Len Sipes: I pray that you do. Okay, the microphone’s going to go over to Kim, and then we’re going to finish up with Willa. Go ahead, Kim.

Kim: Okay. I really appreciate Willa. She has been tremendously helpful to us. Her meetings is inspiring, very inspiring, because when we women get together, it’s like sisterhood for me, you know, it’s nothing, I love it, you know what I’m saying? Because we get to let our hair down, talk about our problems, and give one another insight where we can do the help, or some of us go through things, and we need to talk to women. Women understand women more than anybody. So Willa has, I love her program. I just wish we could have it more than once a week. Because once a week is just, it’s just like going through the whole week, anxious to get there, you know what I’m saying, just really want it to be more than once a week.

Len Sipes: One of the reasons why I love to have Willa do these problems and bring over some of the people that are currently in the group, because the stories that Willa tells, and the stories that the ladies involved in the group tell are just profound beyond comprehension. I always get letters – not letters anymore, emails – in some cases, I even get phone calls. Different people saying, every time I do a group, every time I do a radio program with Willa and her participants, they find it to be one of the most inspiring things they’ve ever heard in their lives. All right, Willa, you’ve got the last couple seconds, and again, I do want to apologize to everyone, I do try to keep these programs to 30 minutes, but whenever Willa comes by, we just throw caution to the wind and let the microphones roll, because it’s such an interesting program. Willa, do you want to sum up what we’ve just heard, if that’s humanly possible?

Willa Butler: Yes, I’m going to try. I’m just touched, the program, it’s for the women. It’s to address their concerns and their vulnerabilities, and I’m glad that it’s working. It’s therapeutic, too, and we’re dealing with the core beliefs. In other words, our belief system is the reason why we are “in the system,” and what we’re working on now is changing it. I guess I have to, cliche, “thinking for a change,” but we’re trying to have understanding as to why we do the things that we do, and how we can change the way that we do things, and I just thank the ladies for coming down and participating, and I thank you again, Leonard, for having us here.

Len Sipes: Oh, I love it! If it was up to me, I’d have you on every month, but I think the listeners would get tired of it. The listeners do tell us, “Leonard, it’s a very interesting program, but mix up the variety,” so you’ve got carte blanche to come over what, every three months or so –

Willa Butler: Oh, thank you!

Len Sipes: – and do the program every six months or so, three months or so, but you know, do people, here’s what people need to hear who are listening to this program right now, that their tax paid dollars is going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people who we’re trying to help, but also it’s going to make them safer, and it’s actually going to reduce their tax burden by taking this person out of the criminal justice system and out of the substance abuse system. Is that what people want to hear?

Willa Butler: Yes, yes –

Len Sipes: And is it true?

Willa Butler: Yes and no, and what, I’m being realistic about it –

Len Sipes: And I appreciate that.

Willa Butler: You have to want to change, and you have to really want this thing, but the thing about it is, we can instill in you to at least start out being compliant, then you’ll start adhering to the rules and regulations on what you have to do, and understanding that change comes from within, and what I try to teach the women is to spend time with yourself during the day, at least 10 minutes a day, because you’ve been out here, you’ve been raised in the street, and we don’t know who we are, and once we begin to know who we are and to love on ourselves, then we’ll want to change, because we know this is not where God wants us to be, because there is a better place for us, a better tomorrow –

Len Sipes: No sense being dead at 45.

Willa Butler: Exactly!

Len Sipes: Because that’s where the people caught up in the lifestyle are headed. They’re going to be dead at 45.

Willa Butler: Exactly. And we are promoting change, and I believe it’s working. I don’t know what else to say. I get choked up, too.

Len Sipes: I get choked up every time I do one of these programs! I mean, how can you listen to Jacquelyn and Diane and Kim without being emotionally moved! Okay, to Kim and Jacquelyn, because Diane had to go, or even to Diane, because when she listens to this program, because my heart goes about to everybody involved, it is so important to me personally and to everybody listening to this program that you succeed, and I hope and pray, and you’ll be in my prayers, that you will succeed and improve your lives and the lives of the rest of us. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Again, we are over by 15 minutes in terms of the program time. I apologize for that. Feel free to give us comments at D.C. Public Safety, you can go there, listen to the radio shows, television shows, the newspaper – I’m sorry, the articles, and the transcripts, you can get in touch with me via email, Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D, dot-sipes, S-I-P-E-S,, stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C., or you can follow me via twitter at twitter/lensipes, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: Women offenders, female offenders, child abuse, drugs, violence, violence reduction, violence prevention, crime, criminals, criminal justice, prison, incarceration, parole, probation, corrections


Faith and Community-Based Reentry and Jobs Program:US Department of Labor

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– Audio begins –
Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Back at our microphones for a second time is Scott Shortenhaus. Scott is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives, with the US Department of Labor.

One of the things that the US Department of Labor, in conjunction with the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies have done over the course of the last six years, is to fund approximately 30 programs, all throughout the country, and these are community-based programs, and faith-based programs. They are not through the mayor’s office. They are not through the governmental entity. They are not through the Department of Corrections. They are not through the police department. They are community organizations, and they are faith-based organizations, and what they have done after those six years is to come up with a lot of results, and that is one of the reasons why we have Scott at the microphone this morning.

Scott, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Scott Shortenhaus: Thank you, Len, it’s great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Alright. We did another program, and we have to summarize that program just a tad, the first program we really just focused a lot on this issue of faith-based organizations and what it is that they do, and their roles, and what is appropriate and what is not. And just to summarize, we basically said that what is more important to a community in terms of its reputation, in terms of its standing in the community than a faith-based entity, and whether it is a Catholic church, a southern Baptist congregation or whether its an Islamic initiative, whether it’s coming out of the synagogue, these are organizations that have the trust of the community. So, if they get up and say that this is something that we should do, generally speaking there are thousands of people who would follow, is that correct?

Scott Shortenhaus: That’s correct, and having the safeguards in place to make sure there is no abuse on federal dollars, but the more important part is they exist in the community, they have this very compassionate vision, and they are able to produce some very good results, and it’s just good public policy.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that we are going to talk about is some of those lessons learned today in this program, in terms of the faith-based organizations, the community-based organizations and what it is that we’ve learned from that experience, but did , and, again, another point that we need to summarize that we are insistent. The Department of Justice and the Department of Labor and the federal government is insistent and our experience, both yours and mine, has been that most of the religious organizations, if not all of the religious organizations, will adhere to that. They cannot insist that the person come to church. So, if they are mentoring an offender who comes out of the prison system, and it’s a southern Baptist church, they cannot insist that person partake in their tenants or their beliefs to service that individual. So, the person can go to that Catholic church and be from the Islamic faith and receive all the services on the face of the earth, and there is no pressure to embrace the tenants of that particular religion, correct?

Scott Shortenhaus: That’s correct, Len, they cannot discriminate based on religion, on their entrance into the program, and then we also put the safeguards in to make sure that any inherently religious activity is offered at a separate time and location, and there is no condition that they participate in that in order to receive the services.

Len Sipes: And we both acknowledge that it’s not going to satisfy the critiques that believe in a staunch separation of church and state, that we are still going to have our critics on that particular point, and we move on from there.

Okay, so one of the things, in terms of today’s discussion, the second discussion is going to be on the lessons learned in terms of, again, the faith-based organizations, the community organizations and how they interact with the larger political structure, how they interact with the larger governmental structure, because we in the Criminal Justice System, we have a problem. We think we are in charge, and we’re not in charge of anything. It is the communities and themselves that make those decisions. It is community leadership. It is in many cases faith-based leadership that makes those decisions and sometimes we are not jumping up and down for joy that now that this church, this Islamic center, this synagogue suddenly has this power to make decisions about what is happening in this particular community, correct.

Scott Shortenhaus: Correct, and I would like to just address that a little bit from the angle of the president’s reentry initiative, if you think that would be okay.

Len Sipes: Sure, of course.

Scott Shortenhaus: What we’ve done, is that the president announced his Prison Reentry Initiative in his 2004 State of the Union, and from that the Department of Labor has funded 30 faith-based and community organizations all across the country that are providing job placement, job training, mentoring and providing other services to returning adult ex-offenders, ages 18 and up, and what we’ve done also is that the Department of Justice has provided grants for services for these men and woman, pre-release. The pre-release activities include case management, vocational training, transitional plans, risk and a needs assessment and things like that. The results that we are seeing are very encouraging. Nearly 12,900 people, over 12,900 men and women have been served by these organizations and over 7900 have been placed into the jobs and the recidivism rates at one-year post release are less than half the national average.

Len Sipes: That is incredible. That is a wonderful result. That is not the norm.

Scott Shortenhaus: And we are very proud of that, that these organizations are proving that they are helping to provide some very good results, and so what we’ve seen is that we are kind of creating mini marriages at the local level, in 30 different communities in the country, between the Criminal Justice agencies, the State Departments of Correction and faith-based and community organizations, many of whom have not worked together before, and you know, I think in developing these relationships we are realizing a couple of things. In creating our relationships and functional partnerships, you have to realize what’s in involved in both institutions. I think that institutions have to realize the great strengths that faith-based and community organizations ,

Len Sipes: Institutions, meaning government and bureaucracy.

Scott Shortenhaus: Yeah, government, the state correctional facilities, local prisons and things like the police department, but also faith-based community organizations have to realize the great worth that the correctional departments, the police department’s, Parole and Probation, bring to the reentry process, itself, and that they are all working towards the same goal. You know, what we are looking at here, and what we are seeing is that there has been a real kind of class of cultures here. A lot of these organizations want to work behind the wall and to create these relationships. Statistics have shown that if you create these relationships with these men and women before they are released, it can be far more effective, but you’ve got clashing cultures. They don’t speak the same language. You’ve got to follow the rules. When they say, be here at noon for an appointment, and you show up at 12:30, that creates a lot of havoc and you are seeing that in working together there is a clash in cultures, and you have to work through these in order to have a working relationship.

Some of the things that we have seen which are very effective is creating a seamless transition plan. So, if you have reentry specialists from the Department of Corrections, working with parole and probation, working with these faith-based community organizations and not having three plans, but having one plan, where everybody knows what is going on with this offender, and everybody is on the same page, and what role each is providing, it is incredibly effective and it seems like a basic thing, but it is often times we are working in silos here and not working against each other, but we don’t even know what the others are up to. So meeting with these institutions, creating these seamless transition plans, can be affective.

We’ve also worked with some of the courts, and some of the parole and probation services to where they have created such a great relationship that it is a condition of their supervision that they participate in certain of these organizations that they share information. I think it’s also important, and results are very important for us, Len, in that everybody is accountable for their program. The faith-based organizations can track results and can show that the parole and the probation and the facilities, they can show us, this is what we are doing and here are the results.

Len Sipes: Obviously, from the results of the program, and the results are what make it or break it in terms of our ability to tell citizens that this is a potent combination. On the first program, you mentioned that if they are in mentoring, and when I say mentoring, it could be three people on one offender. It could be a one-on-one relationship. There are wide varieties and forms of mentoring, but if they are mentored, they stay and they get the job, and stay in the job. If they are mentored, they recidivate at a much lesser rate than the everybody else, so you are bringing data to the table that certainly indicates that this is a potent sort of thing, and we within the criminal justice system have got to get over ourselves. We’ve got to work in cooperation with these community-based organizations, with these faith-based organizations, and develop that seamless plan that you are talking about. But even in government, that seamless plan does not exist. You know, even if you have the same agency, and I was in Maryland for 14 years and the Division of Corrections really did not really talk much to Parole and Probation. They are in the same department, in the Maryland Department of Safety, but there is not a lot of conversation that is going on between the two. So, that sense of a seamless plan involving community-based and faith-based organizations, that’s a tough row to hoe.

Scott Shortenhaus: Right, and we are not saying that it’s easy. We know that there are a lot of barriers to that happening, but we have seen it happen. We have seen it happen in many of the 30 communities, and it is possible, and when it is done, I think that’s in the best interest of the men and woman that are returning so that they don’t have, you know, three different plans that they are trying to juggle on top of returning to their family and finding a job and finding housing. It’s much better for the offender when these institutes can work together.

Len Sipes: What happens? What are your points that we were talking about drawing out different points and lessons learned in terms of the community-based organizations and in terms of the faith-based organizations. What do you think are the key points?

Scott Shortenhaus: Some of the key points, I think, and are you speaking in terms of what services they provide?

Len Sipes: How are the lessons learned? I mean, you know, if I’m representing the governmental bureaucracy, dealing with ex-offenders and somebody says, well, we are going to give $600,000 to the Roman Catholic Church, and my first response is to moan and groan, and you know, these faith-based and community organizations don’t know how to manage a dollar, they don’t know how to do these contracts, and are they going to cause me an endless amount of grief. It’s the uncertainty of that relationship, and obviously you have been successful. The US Department of Labor has been successful in terms of creating those relationships, helping those relationships start, for the lack of a better word, or to be successful, so what are the key lessons learned from doing that?

Scott Shortenhaus: Sure, I think some of the key lessons learned that we have seen with these organizations and their ability to produce good results is mentoring, which we covered in the previous program, and job placement and training. But it’s also leadership buy-in. I think that when you look at correctional facilities working with faith-based community organizations, the leadership buy-in has to be there on both ends and the folks have to know that this is a priority or our warden, from our secretary, from our director, and on the faith-based community organization side, it’s a priority from our executive director that they work together.

And second, and I think this is very, very important, and that is that seamless case management is a necessity.

Len Sipes: Explain case management.

Scott Shortenhaus: Sure. Sure. A case manager might be when they return to the community, and in the faith-based community side of things, it’s a person that kind of helps to navigate this person and navigates their transportation, navigates their , you know, it’s the person that kind of shepherds them through the program in order to find a job or to stay out of prison, and sometimes, in parole and probation, it can be a case manager and in many ways they have got conditions that they are supposed meet, and sometimes behind the wall, we have reentry specialists, and so these are a different sort of case managers.

Len Sipes: In figuring out who this person is, analyzing this person from a criminal history point of view, and from a needs point of view, so that we can say that the guy is on his third burglary, he is 35 years old, he has a substance abuse history, and he doesn’t have much in the way of a job background, and these are the different things that we are going to have to focus on, and we have to hold him accountable for his behavior while out of the community, but at the same time, he really needs job development. He really needs substance abuse therapy and counseling when he gets into the community, and by the way having a mentor would be a wonderful thing for this person. So that’s basically case management.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: So, any other lessons? We have to do case management. Everybody has got to understand the strengths that everybody brings to the table, anything else?

Scott Shortenhaus: On thing is, we have to figure out the accessibility. Once you identify who the players are in the community, these entities, these faith-based and community organizations, and there are many that exist in every community. We are funding 30 through the present Prison Reentry Initiative, but here in Washington DC alone, there are dozens and dozens of organizations that provide services to men and women returning from prison.

Len Sipes: Right, and we have our own at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have our own faith-based coalition, and we are working with faith organizations throughout the city, and it’s a powerful component.

Scott Shortenhaus: That’s fantastic. And once you identify these entities, then you have to figure out how we provide them access to these men and women before they are released. How are the facilities identifying the men and woman that are returning. Are they alerting them when they are two months out, four months out, six months out? When is the community notified that this man or this woman is returning, and then second of all, how do we match up the faith-based community organizations with these men and women.

You know, I was talking to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections a couple of days ago, and they said, “Mondays from 3-4 is when the community can show up and they can , you know, we give them a list of the men and women that are returning, and they can make these connections at this time,” so there are different ways to do that, but we have to figure out a way to provide access and I think that comes from relationships.

Len Sipes: Now, we are halfway through the program and we haven’t even hit the job component of it yet, and we have to start focusing on that on the last half of the component, but let me give me your name, telephone number and website address.

Scott Shortenhaus, Deputy Director for the Center of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, US Department of Labor. Scott’s telephone number is (202)693-6459. They have a website at the Department of Labor which is

Scott Shortenhaus: CFBCI. Center for Faith Based Community Initiative.

Len Sipes: Okay, jobs. I did Jail or Job Corp kids a billion years ago, and I found this. Job Corp was a wonderful initiative that basically offered individuals their education, getting their GED, getting their plumbing certificate and buying them their tools and really doing a comprehensive assessment as to who what person was and providing that person with the wherewithal to go out and get work. Now, here is my assessment of my experience, in my one whole year at Job Corp, which was the hardest job I ever had in my life, and that’s including security and law enforcement. It is that one-third understood their circumstances and embraced that job, embraced that job training and that job opportunity. One-third were on the fence, and one-third you couldn’t reach regardless of the circumstances.

So, just because you have an opportunity does not mean that people embrace it, and that becomes the difficulty of this whole issue of placing people in jobs, does it not?

Scott Shortenhaus: Yeah, and that’s true. It can be a challenge, but there is no doubt that when men and women return, one of their biggest needs is finding a job.

Len Sipes: You sit down with that offender, and it’s like, “Mr. Sipes, yeah, I need to get my GED, but not now.”

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And, “I need drug treatment, but not now. I need to get a job. I have to get a job with a future,” and that’s what 90% of them will tell you upon release from prison.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and often times, Len, one of the best social services can be a job. It can be the structure that a job provides, with others, etc, etc.

Len Sipes: And we all understand that. What was your experience in terms of your 30 sites throughout the country? You said that most of them found jobs, and most of them kept the jobs.

Scott Shortenhaus: Most of them found the jobs, and most of them kept the jobs, and I think in order to find out why they were successful, we have to take a step back and see where we came from in this area.

When we were developing the Ready for Work Program, we sat down and did a focus group with employers. We did two focus groups with employers, and we said, we are developing programs that are going to help retrain men and women, and what will help you hire these men and women as they return to the community? Is it the Federal Bonding Program? Is it the Work Opportunity Tax Credit? What is it?

Len Sipes: And we have not even touched the bonding programs and the tax initiatives. Maybe we can come back and do a third program on those two issues.

Scott Shortenhaus: We could. They said that it was none of that. They said, “This is the heart of how and why we would hire these men and women. We need somebody that can vouch for them, that can say “˜we have come alongside of them,’ a faith-based community organization, maybe it’s a mentor, or other people that can say when it’s 9:05 and that person has not shown up, they can call an organization and say, “˜Scott’s not here. Where do we go?'” Business are in the business of meeting their bottom line.

Len Sipes: Of course. They are not social service entities. They are there to make a profit.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and many of them said, they would be willing to take a chance on hiring a person, and giving that person a second chance, someone that has a criminal background.

Len Sipes: But come to me and tell me that this guy is truly ready to work.

Scott Shortenhaus: That’s exactly right. They said, “We can teach them the hard skills. We can teach them how to build a house, and we can teach them how to ,”

Len Sipes: Right, lay concrete.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and in any and all of those jobs. It’s give me an organization that can work with these men and women coming out that can provide them life skills, soft skills and ways to interact with coworkers, how to dress for the job, how to communicate with a boss.

Len Sipes: You just cannot tell the boss to go pound sand. That’s not going to aid in your job retention.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and that is often times that some of those life skills trainings are some of the things that the faith-based community organizations can excel at.

Len Sipes: Absolutely, and such a key issue. You can take a person who has spent 40 years working, who volunteers to help this individual and when this individual comes back and says, “You know, the boss is on my derriere. I’m getting sick and tired of it,” he or she can tell them how to deal with that particular individual. Wouldn’t we all love to have that support system out there. I need it from time to time, and I would imagine most of you people need it from time to time. But, I mean, that’s the heart and soul of this.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and let me just tell you a little bit about how these organizations have set up their employment programs. Oftentimes, you will have two different positions within these organizations. One, is a training specialist who is responsible for operating the classes, for developing the curriculum, helping these men and women be prepared for jobs, and that training specialist works hand-in-hand with a job developer, and their job is to work in the community, and oftentimes in high-growth and high-demand jobs, who knows full well the laws and regulations about hiring people with criminal backgrounds, and construction is a great field, and sometimes healthcare is not. So, to know that, and to navigate that, and then to work these employers to sell them on hiring men and women that are coming back.

I mean, it’s important to know that these organizations are providing a valuable resource for employers. The cost of turnover is extremely high, and we have on our website a Cost of Turnover worksheet, where a faith-based organization can work through what the cost of turnover with an organization or business.

Let me just give you an example. A couple of years ago, Steve Wing of CVS told me this story.

Len Sipes: CVS, the drugstore?

Scott Shortenhaus: CVS, the drugstore. They ran an ad here in the Washington Post for flat tax and things like that. They spent about $50,000 in advertising and got zero job applicants. They met with the pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church here, Reverend Edmonds, and he said, “Well, why don’t you just do a job fair at my church,” and Steve thought about it and decided to do it, and over 250 people showed up for the job fair. More than 100 were hired, and at least half or more of them stayed on the job for a good portion of the time. These organizations can be wonderful resources for employers, especially when you look at the cost of job turnover. So, for them to know their niche and to know the industries that they can go to and say, “We’ll provide you with a good workforce,” where they’ve got a mentor, and they are receiving life skills, and they are eager to work, because these men and woman want to work and stay out of prison.

Len Sipes: The funny thing about it is that there is no doubt about that. I believe that they all are sincere. I mean, you know, the criminal lifestyle is just a terrible, terrible lifestyle. I don’t care what the movies say. I don’t care what the videos say. I don’t care what the music says. The criminal lifestyle, being in the game, being part of the lifestyle as everybody puts it, is just death, and self-destruction, and everybody attached to the Criminal Justice System knows this, so if the individual can come out of prison and have that support group and have meaningful jobs, and hopefully something that will give that individual a future, that is leaps and bounds better than the life they knew previously, but breaking from that life that they knew previously, sometimes that is the biggest barrier that we have to deal with.

Scott Shortenhaus: Absolutely, and I think this touches on something that we talked about last program, and I’m not going to get into it now, but the combination of employment, job skills, job training and job placement, with mentoring, where you are providing these men and women with the support that they need to navigate the job, to navigate the transit system, to navigate family reunification, can be a very potent combination that we really believe in at the Department of Labor.

Len Sipes: How do you train individuals, because part of this involved training, did it not?

Scott Shortenhaus: Some of it in the department does involve training, and I think what you will see is that with very different organizations and 30 different markets across the country, you are going to see different training in different areas, so really these organizations are forming training programs, according to the employers they have marketed with and have networked with. So, our Des Moines site might have a very different training program than with our Brooklyn site and than our San Diego sites, so it really varies across the board.

Len Sipes: But in many cases, you don’t have to, and boy I am going to get letters on this one, you don’t have to have a bricklaying background to be a bricklayer’s apprentice. You don’t have to have a plumbing background to be a plumber’s apprentice. And, there are unions out there, throughout the country, that provide these sort of apprenticeship programs, and also pay them while they are going through the apprenticeship program. You don’t have to know how to lay concrete which is one of the most physically demanding jobs on the face of the earth. Somebody will teach you how to do that, so we are talking about job training, and in many cases as one employer said to me, “Tell them to show up, shut up and do what we tell them to do, and we can lead them to a great career,” but they’ve got to be willing. The biggest thing is show up and learn and pay attention and we’ll take care of the rest.

Scott Shortenhaus: That’s exactly right, and many of these faith-based community organizations are great at taking somebody who is returning, and making them job ready and preparing them through mock interviews, preparing them through “dress for success” programs, preparing them with life skills training, and to be ready on that job. And, when they show up, they can learn how to lay bricks, lay concrete, build houses, as you mentioned, and do whatever it is, manufacturing, etc. Whatever it is, in the industries they are being trained for, the employers are willing to provide the hard skills training.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and so they don’t have to go to the community college for two years. They don’t have to go to an organization for six months. In many cases, what these employers are saying and I’m probably repeating myself unnecessarily, but what they are saying is, “Just give me a person with a strong sense of work. Just give me a person that has the right attitude and is willing to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and is willing to be out there in the dead of winter and the heat of summer,” and that person can make, within the first year, $40,000 a year, and it’s all uphill from there, and we can work that person from the day he or she comes along until the next 20 years. So, there are ways out that don’t involve an enormous amount of money.

Scott Shortenhaus: And what we’ve seen also is that oftentimes many of these organizations have wonderful reputations within the communities that they are existing in, but the best selling point can sometimes be just one or two good participants where the employer says, “I’ll take a chance on a couple and see how it goes,” and then these participants are good workers, that they show up to work every day on time, they do a great job, they work well with their colleagues, and all of a sudden word of mouth spreads and this employer will not only employ more but he will talk to other people within their sector and they will start to take folks from these programs and success can build on itself.

Len Sipes: Scott, there is so much that we need to talk about. We did two programs and there is just so much more to cover. You are a very interesting interview, and I really appreciate you being with us today. Scott Shortenhaus, and he is the Deputy Director of the Center of Faith Based and Community Initiatives with the US Department of Labor, telephone number of (202)693-6459, and the website for the US Department of Labor, in terms of this initiative, is Ladies and Gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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“The Next Door” and Women Reentry from Prison-National Criminal Justice Association

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Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Ladies and Gentleman, we have an extraordinarily interesting show today from the National Criminal Justice Association, we’re doing a series of shows with the National Criminal Justice Association looking at outstanding programs and pertinent issues regarding the Criminal Justice System, and what they’ve done today is to bring in the outstanding Criminal Justice Program Award winners, and I’m going to introduce three individuals; Pat Dishman, who is with the state of Tennessee, the Office of Criminal Justice Program. She is the Director. Linda Leather is the Chief Executive Officer, and she is with “The Next Door”, and “The Next Door” is a program for woman coming out of prison, coming out of the jail system. Also, we have the Chief Clinical Officer, Cindy Snead. She is also with Next Door and to Pat, and to Linda, and to Cindy. Welcome to DC public safety.

All: Thank you so much, good morning.

Len Sipes: Before we continue, a little commercial. We are way above 1,000,100,000 (one million/one hundred thousand) requests for the program. We’ve listened to every suggestion that you make, and we incorporate most of those suggestions you make into the show. Feel free to contact us at DC Public Safety through your search engine, or simply go to That stands for Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the agency that I am with, and getting back to the program.

Okay, so the National Criminal Justice Association wants to feature dynamite criminal justice programs throughout the country and you guys run this program dealing with women and coming out of the prison system, coming out of the jail system. Linda Leathers, you are the Chief Executive Officer of “The Next Door”, Inc. Why don’t you start off the program and explain what “The Next Door” is.

Linda Leathers: Thanks, Len, we are so excited about this opportunity to tell the nation about “The Next Door.” We’re a residential transition center that focuses on the needs of women coming out of incarceration. It’s housing. It’s recovery-based. It works with workforce development. We work with the needs of addiction and the mental health needs. We really concentrate on giving the woman the greatest opportunity for success when she re-enters society. That’s our goal, that’s our mission, and that’s our passion.

Len Sipes: Cindy Snead, you’re the Chief Clinical Officer. That means that you have to diagnose and make decisions as to who these individuals are and what they need.

Cindy Snead: Exactly, and we make the assumptions that everyone coming into our system has a mental disorder or at least some underlying mental health needs, as well as an addiction to a substance, and most woman who have an addiction to a substance also have cross-addictions, such as sexual addictions, gambling addictions, etc.

Len Sipes: And I’m going to go to Pat Dishman, the Director of the Office of Criminal Justice Program. Pat, now, you are principally a guiding agency for the state of Tennessee in terms of guiding criminal injustice endeavors, and my guess is that you also provide funding, and you also provide some of the funding for “The Next Door.”

Pat Dishman: That’s correct, and we are very happy to be a part of that collaboration. The State of Tennessee, as many of the states in the country, are looking at ways to deal with the whole re-entry issue of people who have spent time in the Criminal Justice System, as they come back into society, and “The Next Door” offered us a wonderful opportunity to support that, along with services for woman who had been institutionalized.

Len Sipes: I’m going to give out some contact points now, (202) 628-8550, for the National Criminal Justice Association, and for “The Next Door”, and this is simply if you are going to search for information on “The Next Door” and it’s simply,, and do I have that correctly, everybody?

All: Yes, Sir.

Len Sipes: Alright, let’s get into the gist of the program, and what we have is a situation where woman are now facing an increasing rate of incarceration. There are a higher percentage of the prison population than ever before, and I’ve done some radio shows and television shows at DC Public Safety on women offenders, and one of the astounding things is the rate of sexual violence towards woman as children. The research seems to indicate that the majority come from backgrounds of neglect, abuse and sexual violence.

I sat down with a group of women offenders once time at a prison in the state of Maryland, in a pre-release center, and I was astounded when I heard that an awful lot of them didn’t want to leave, that in that institution they had their meals, they had the counseling, they were getting their GEDs, they were getting occupational certificates in the big jail. This is a prison. The pre-release center. There, they felt safe. There, they felt that the world would not abuse them. Outside, there were no guarantees. Any comments to what I’m saying.

Linda Leathers: Well, we hear the woman commonly say in our program there are worse things than jail, and what you’ve described, you know, is the true state of affairs for many of our women, and they don’t have safe places to return to, and many of their families are in active addiction. The stressors of, inasmuch as they want, and since we’re talking about women, we have to bring in the children factor. You know, most of our women have children. Statistically, I believe, it’s over 50% of the woman incarcerated, and I think that’s low. Women across the country have at least 2.5 children a piece, and given that, they will say, “I’m ready to go home to be a mother to my children,” but when they return without the proper support in those homes, their children themselves, and the issues related to parenting, become huge stressors that drive them back into addiction and many times back into the Criminal Justice System.

Cindy Snead: And I would say, Len, that we’ve served, with “The Next Door”, since we opened in May of 2004, over 475 women and over 88% of those women would say that they were traumatized. They were abuse was as children, and you are right, it is sexual, and it is horrible, and it was never treated, and so then we get in this cycle of having to self-medicate because I don’t know how to deal with my pain and then you do whatever it takes to get your next hit of drugs, and so it becomes a vicious cycle that leads to criminal behavior. Sometimes, we get a chance here, at “The Next Door”, to tell them for the first time ever that it wasn’t their fault and to help them get help from the core abuse that has caused them great, great pain in their life.

Len Sipes: You know people are going to accuse me of being a screaming liberal here, and I come from a law enforcement background as where I started off with the Maryland State Police before I left to go to college, and you know I can be quite a bit of a conservative on a lot of issues when it comes to the Criminal Justice System, but here is my guess, and any of you can jump in and/or say I’m wrong, but an awful lot, and I’m not making excuses for these individuals. If they have done the crime, they should do the time, but I found that the overwhelming majority of the women offenders that I have been in contact with, throughout my professional career, are not what I consider to be a danger to society. In many cases, they are acting out their own addictions, or acting out their own mental health issues and they are more of a pain in the rear to society, more than they are a danger to society, and if given the treatment services, mental health services, substance abuse services and if they are given assistance in terms of dealing with their kids, they will be taxpayers and not tax burdens. Response?

Cindy Snead: I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s absolutely accurate, and you know, if the world were perfect, we could get to these woman before they ever reached the Criminal Justice System in the first place, and the reality is that there’s a phrase, you know, when you go to prison, you’re rehabbed, and there is the other thought that you have to be “habbed” in the first place, and the women that are entering our criminal justice society, they don’t have the tools to survive on their own, and the majority of the woman are being incarcerated as a result of some drug-related offense, be it prostitution, or larceny or theft in order to obtain drugs, in reality, the majority of it is drug-related. I believe that it’s not enough to know that the woman uses drugs, and that’s what sends her to prison. You have to get to why she uses drugs in the first place.

Len Sipes: Right, and Cindy Snead, you are the Chief Clinical Officer, my guess is that the heart and soul of their substance abuse, and the heart and soul of their acting out, is the fact that they were neglected as kids, and in many cases hit as kids, and in many cases sexually abused as kids, right or wrong?

Cindy Snead: That’s absolutely true, and basically that is proven again and again, and really the women and the statistics of the women coming into “The Next Door” and moving into society after leaving our program mirror that of the prisons. I mean, that’s common sense, and that’s why a lot of our program has been set up as a recovery and we are in the system of care to address all of those needs.

You know, a mental health disorder or an addiction, to me, is not an excuse for bad behavior.

Len Sipes: And we have to get that point across. It is not an excuse for bad behavior. In all the ills of this world, and all of the millions upon millions of individuals who turn to our Criminal Justice System, I mean we can make excuses in terms of their childhood and their upbringing for probably the majority of them, but yet there is a certain point where society has got to say no. There is a certain point where society has got to say, the prostitution brings down my community, the drug use brings down my community, the other crimes you were involved in bring down my community. So I understand why people are saying, “Hey, you know, they committed crimes, for the love of the heavens, shouldn’t they be held responsible?” But, I think some of the scariest things that you can do to a female offender is to put them in treatment to confront what’s happened to them previously and to go through the therapeutic community, and to go through the drug treatment. That, to me, is the scariest thing, and is the harshest thing, in fact, that you can do, if you will, to these individuals, so I don’t know how, and I’m stumbling here. I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but if there are people who want that pound of flesh for individuals disobeying the law, to me, that is the pound the flesh. To me, that is the most difficult thing they will ever do in their lives, confronting their past.

Pat Dishman: Len, I think you’re right, and from a state’s perspective, and I also think from a national perspective, the re-entry issue, which is really part of what we are talking about here, whether it is women or men, “The Next Door” is just a wonderful example of a program for women, and we really have to confront. I mean, not only is it the right thing to do, but also it is a hugely important budget issue for the country and for the state. Do we continue to build more and more beds, more and more brick and mortar, or do we really try to deal with the issue of recidivism and reduce that and get to the heart of the program and help people not re-enter the system once they’ve paid their pound of flesh, and they’ve left.

Len Sipes: I have a woman when we were serving warrants in a section of Washington DC one time, and I think she summed up the whole re-entry movement, in my mind, beautifully. She was a member of the community and she simply said, “You know, the ones that need the help. The ones that really want the help, need the help and are willing to change, help them, but the ones who aren’t take them. Get them out of my community,” and I think that’s the heart and soul of it, that there are literally millions of people who can be helped, and there are literally millions of people who probably, at this stage in their lives, are unwilling to be helped, so there should be the re-entry programs in place for those individuals who are ready to be helped.

Cindy Snead: I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think what you are describing, Len, is a point of readiness. You know, I can see a woman that says, you know, “I’m ready to change, and I’m ready to change this, that and the other, specifically, in my life,” but she goes out and commits another crime, is re-incarcerated, and I ask her again, “So, are you ready to change now?” and she says, “Yes, I’m ready to change.”

So many times, my experience has taught me that those points of incarceration are moments of opportunity and that they are safe off the street long enough to really work with that woman, engage her and encourage that change in her life, and as Linda said early in the program, recovery from mental illness is absolutely possible. Recovery from addiction is absolutely possible, and recovery from going out and getting that fast money versus trying to make it on minimum wage with two children, you’ve go a lot of societal factors that are working against you, but you know recovery is possible with the right people and the right system that never gives up on them.

Pat Dishman: And that’s reinforcement, also Len, of “The Next Door” for us, as a state funding agency. We are charged with, and of course the federal government continues to press this point, as we do in all the states, we don’t have the resources to place in programs that are not effective, that do not produce the outcome that we all need.

Len Sipes: That gets to the heart and soul of it. At what point can we, as governmental people, look the citizens square in the eye and say, “You know what, this program works. These people, a certain percentage, will become taxpayers instead of tax burdens. Your life is going to be safer because of it, and you are going to save money.” Can we do that? Can we look the citizen in the eye in terms of “The Next Door” Incorporated and say, this works.

Cindy Snead: I would say absolutely, and we show it through outcomes. We welcome accountability from all our funders. It’s important, and if we receive funding, there ought to be results, and we realize that, we welcome it, and actually we look forward to it because it allows us a greater platform to say, “Look what is happening.” I would just say, Len, 14% of the recidivism rates of women who come through our six-month program, and then leave our program after four years, 14% which is phenomenal.

Len Sipes: It is phenomenal. People don’t understand how good that is.

Cindy Snead: Right, because that 14%, that means that 86% are doing great and are working hard on their recovery, or if they’re having challenges, they’re calling back home. We are home for women, and programs like this can be established all over the country for both woman and men, because they just need a chance.

You said something earlier, that I just wanted to go back to. Our women are not bad women. They just make terrible choices, they want a second chance, and that is what we are here to give them.

Len Sipes: That’s the difficulty in terms of the larger discussion throughout the country, because, you know, and the people who have listened to this program have heard me give this example endlessly that my wife, who was the vice president of a PTA, said, “Why are we giving money to people who have harmed society? Why don’t we give this to the schools where we can wipe this out? We can do a much better job with our children if we put all this money into the schools.”

My mother, God bless her soul, said, “I’ve been through the Great Depression. I’ve been through the Second World War, at what point do we take care of the seniors of this country? Why is money going to people who have harmed other human beings?”

And the third question, is, okay, if these programs are so great, why aren’t they in every city and every community throughout the country?

So, there’s got to be a reason for the general reluctance, or we are just beginning to prove ourselves. I don’t know how to respond to all that.

Pat Dishman: I think it’s the second part, Len, that you just said. When you have so much as a funding agency, at the national, state or local level, tied up in, if you will, beds and/or bricks and mortar, I think it’s very difficult to find the dollars to either use on the front end of the system, which is prevention, which is what your wife is saying, obviously, and/or the backend which is ensuring that once the debt to society has been paid that services are available like “The Next Door” that are effective that can help to support those woman as they continue crime-free, hopefully, throughout the rest of their lives. It’s all a balance, and we never have enough money throughout the whole system, and I think that’s the best thing to say, at the time that you need it, but if we produce effective and support effective programs, then obviously one would hope over time that we can handle all of those budgetary problems in a way that citizens can feel good about.

Len Sipes: Ladies and Gentleman, you are listening to DC Public Safety. We have a program today from the National Criminal Justice Association. The National Criminal Justice Association has nominated this program for the Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Award, and I want to give contact points out, (202) 628-8550, for the National Criminal Justice Association here in Washington, DC, and the program we are talking about today is “The Next Door”, and you can find them through the internet at, and do I have that correctly, everybody? We have three individuals: Pat Dishman, Director of the State of Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice programs; Linda Leathers, Chief Executive Officer for “The Next Door”; and Cindy Snead, Chief Clinical Officer The Next door. An extraordinarily interesting program. Cindy, do you go home broken-hearted at times in terms of all the stories of the individuals who come to you? I had a woman one time in a forum we were doing, stand up and simply said, “The woman I’m living with pulled a knife on me and my two children and told us to get out, so I’m now homeless with two kids, what are you going to do about it?” and that’s the day to day reality of women offenders coming out of the jail and prison systems. They have kids. They have the enormous responsibility of taking care of those kids. They want to be clean, but it’s very difficult making your way from point A to point B.

Cindy Snead: Yes, it is, and yes my heart has been broken many, many times, and I have to say that if I don’t feel their pain to a certain extent, then I’m impaired professionally myself, and that’s a dangerous balance, and trying to maintain self-care for all of our staff because we do put so much into the work of “The Next Door” and we believe every woman is worth another shot and another opportunity, so I will say, as well, that one of the things is that, the more you work with these women, and you mentioned earlier how this has got to be one of the toughest things ever to do, which is to face whatever caused that pain, and being here for six months in our transitional living program, you have an opportunity to really begin to work on that, and do it with a lot of support around, so it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid really fast versus ripping it off slowly and then beginning to dig into that wound, and what has caused that pain. The more you work with them, the more you figure out that they are not victims as they have seen themselves in the past, but they emerge as survivors.

I mean, the things these women have survived, every story that you hear is a privilege to hear, and it is just as painful as the one before it, and one of the things that “The Next Door” has really learned a lot in the past couple of years is that we need to put more of our injury into the intergenerational impact of addiction, and subsequently the crimes that come with that, and that means backing up and doing some prevention work with the children of the woman coming out of our programs, so we are really taking a strong interest in working with these little kids, and some of them are adult children of these woman, and try and help them learn how to talk to one another and help the mom explain where she has been and why she has been where she has been.

Len Sipes: Well, the research on the children of incarcerated parents seems to indicate a lot of this dysfunction, of early age of onset of drug use, of alcohol, and getting involved in the Criminal Justice System, so if there are 2.5 kids for every woman in the Tennessee Criminal Justice System, and I don’t know if that’s a national figure or a Tennessee figure, we are at the same time, I am assuming, addressing the needs of those kids by addressing the needs of the mother, and we do that collectively.

Pat Dishman: Exactly, Len, and back to that point of balance, I think that we’re trying to make certain that everyone gets the services that they need, but also the balance in regard to funding effective programs versus programs that are not as effective. I would just like to make the point, and I know your listeners are well aware of this, but struggling with funding at any time is always an issue, but lately during the last few years we have found ourselves in a situation of almost, for all spending in our country because of a our problems, where we are looking at perhaps reduced funding, and one of the things that we have been very concerned about with “The Next Door” is that if cuts are happening to our level of funding that we can use to support these kinds of programs, then what will we do to address the issues of the women and their children if we are faced with those kinds of real happenings that could occur.

Len Sipes: Well, you have federal budget cuts that go down to the state, and agencies like yourself, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs, virtually ever state in the country has a similar type of office where monies flow through. You’re supposed to coordinate the anti-crime effort in the state of Tennessee, as the other offices are supposed to create anti-crime efforts in their own states, and if you don’t have the funding flowing from DC, then you don’t have the ability, or you have less of an ability to fund innovative programs like “The Next Door.”

Pat Dishman: That’s right, and I would like for Linda and Cindy to talk a little bit about how wonderful their collaboration has been. Our office, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs, has used the Bar and Justice Assistance Grant to offer funding “The Next Door.” Now, I know that they also, because they have done such a good job of collaboration, and really using funds to leverage against other funds, they have money from different state departments, and I think Linda you also have another federal grant, but in regard to that Bar and Justice Assistance Grant, Len, we have seen that funding go up and down for the last few years, and unfortunately this last year, which was the Federal Fiscal Year 2008, we received reduction in that formula grant, and everyone of course, almost 67%, which is pretty staggering when you are trying to deal with how do we keep this money flowing to programs like “The Next Door.”

Cindy Snead: And I’ve said, Len, it’s so important that we provide housing with the supportive services. It’s not either/or. It must both, and with the Bar and JAG, I felt it was an amount of money for three years in which we could really invest in our substance abuse treatment, our recovery support services, and so we do believe as an organization, and we would encourage any organization to think about diversity of funding, but not all of any funding that is coming from one source, but this has been a tremendous source of funding for us that really established a program that has now become a national model, so groups, the treatment plans and the goal setting are all a part of this grant, and I will tell you we are so grateful for the accountability that the Criminal Justice Program demands of our program. I know that they are utilizing that money very faithfully, because the requirements of the program are great, and that is what should happen for government leaders and therefore, for taxpayers like me, it’s great to know that the money has been administered well.

Pat Dishman: And that actually gets to your point, Len, you can actually look at the taxpayer and say, “For this dollar invested, this is what we got back for you.”

Len Sipes: Yeah, and I think that’s probably the most important thing that we can do for the taxpayer because they are simply asking, “Where are my dollars going, and what is that doing to make me safer, and what are you doing to relieve the tax burden from me?” and I think that has to happen. But, now, to be perfectly fair, there are going to be a lot of people who will say, “Look, Ladies, if the program is that wonderful, why doesn’t the state of Tennessee fund it?”

Pat Dishman: Sure, absolutely, and it , Linda, I’m trying to think. I know you don’t have any state dollars from us. Are their state dollars from any other department at this point.

Linda Leathers: You know, we do. Again, diversity of funding from those private donations, corporations, foundations, some governmental, local, state and federal are so crucial to the mix, that we can’t get lopsided on any one of those. We do receive some money from the Department of Mental Health and Development. We do receive some funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) through the Accessed Recovery Grant, but the Bar and JAGrant has been most instrumental in helping us get to the point of building the quality program in which we are showing the outcomes and for which we definitely need for this society.

Pat Dishman: Len, your point about the state’s support, you are absolutely right, and what our job is, in this office, as in the other state departments, is to make sure that we are not duplicating services, to work together and to also have a team put our money, the taxpayers money in Tennessee that comes through Tennessee State Government, into the programs that are the most effective in that we can produce the best results for the least amount of money.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the whole idea behind all of the Offices of Criminal Justice Programs throughout the country, and I think there are different reasons why the National Criminal Justice Association is as interested in this discussion, because everybody understands that we have to maximize our dollars and we have to prove our worthiness to the taxpayer, and I think that as long as we do that, we are going to receive some support, and that’s why I think that the state of Tennessee and “The Next Door,” I think is a profoundly good example of holding ourselves, we in the Criminal Justice System, accountable because I think in the final analysis, if we can’t prove our worth, then it’s going to be awfully hard to go to people and ask for money. You got to prove your worth.

Now, we have two minutes. Ladies, any other final points?

Linda Leathers: Well, from “The Next Door” standpoint, it’s wonderful to see changes occur in the lives of women, because we know that transformation is going to work down to the families, so we are changing generational patterns, and that’s what funding does. That’s what peer relationships does, that’s what quality services do. We can’t say thank you enough to the Criminal Justice Program, to the Bar and JAG, and so many people out there that are working in the system and outside the system when they come out, to make a woman’s life successful when she come out.

Pat Dishman: And then what we are going to do, is that we are going to continue as a state to work, and obviously with the state dollars that we have, but also with the National Criminal Justice Association, as we continue to tell the story, as you have said, to the American Citizen about what is needed and how we can ensure that the money that is placed in our stead to use is used most effectively.

Len Sipes: Cindy?

Cindy Snead: Well, Len, I would say in closing that the message that I think that we are trying to communicate here today is that a woman is not her crime, and “The Next Door” exist to give the woman the tools to prove it.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ll tell you, I think that your program, and I’ve been in touch with other programs throughout the country, and a program here in the District of Columbia, and I think these programs are extraordinarily important. I think they allow an individual, if they are ready, to cross that bridge and take care of their kids. All of us in the Criminal Justice System have simply seen way too many kids go neglected, and we say to ourselves, that if we can somehow, some way deal with this problem of neglect and have people raise their kids responsibly and we can have a real impact on the overall issue of crime and justice within this country, and I think that’s what you are trying to do. You are trying to help the individual offenders cross that bridge and take care of their kids, and that’s what everybody wants. I think that’s the bottom line to me.

Ladies and Gentleman, this is DC Public Safety Program of the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency in Washington, DC. The program today has been coordinated by the National Criminal Justice Association, and their program “The Next Door” was their Outstanding Criminal Justice Program award winner. The contact points for the National Criminal Justice Association are (202) 628-8550, or and for information about “The Next Door”, “it is and to Linda Leathers, Cindy Snead and to Pat Dishman, thank you ladies.

Ladies and Gentleman, this is again DC Public Safety, and we do listen to every comment that you make. We take them into consideration, contact us at DC Public Safety through your internet search engine, or simply go and search for and have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –


Halloween Checks of Child Sex Offenders in Washington, D.C.

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. I think today we have one of the better programs that we’ve ever produced, and one of the more interesting programs we’ve ever produced. This is done in conjunction with the effort on the part of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision, the agency to do a public safety endeavor to check on 200 sex offenders, child sex offenders specifically, on Halloween evening. There are 13 teams of individuals from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Sex Offender Unit that will fan out throughout the city and do residential checks. There are approximately 600 sex offenders in the District of Columbia supervised by us, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, there are three sex offender teams, this is the 4th year of trying to do something special regarding sex offenders. Last year, what we did was to do what we call a mass orientation, we called all of them into one place, and we, MPD were there taking part in that. We have approximately 100 of our sex offenders on GPS, Global Positioning System, so we’ll be doing random checks, I’m sorry, we’re going to be doing extra special checks on GPS correlating their tracks with crimes on Halloween evening, and we’re going to be doing surprise and random checks on everyone else who’s not a child sex offender. At our program and at our microphone today, we have Diane Groomes. Diane is the assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, and we have Trifari Williams. Trifari is a community supervision officer, known most of you throughout the country, as a parole and probation agent in the sex offender, and to Diane and Trifari, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Diane Groomes: Thank you, sir. We’re proud to be here.

Len Sipes: And you know, one of the things we are interested in, Diane, I’m going to call the assistant chief, and I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 40 years, I have a hard time calling the assistant chief Diane, but this is how we’re going to refer to each other throughout the program. Diane, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department is going to be teaming up with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, but you guys are out there dealing with sex offenders, child sex offenders, all the time anyway!

Diane Groomes: Well, what makes this very important to us, sir, is as everyone knows, Halloween is a time for children. The children come out with their parents, some children come out without parents, with their friends, to go trick or treating, therefore the threat against them encountering one of our sexual offenders is very high, so I think it’s very important that we take a special time out to go to the houses and check to see where these offenders are and kind of send them the message that we’re watching them.

Len Sipes: One of the things in terms of color background, we sent a letter to all the child sex offenders, and Trifari, this question is going to go over to you, we could have a person who is currently being supervised, and we supervise people out of the prison system or placed on probation, there’s 15,000 offenders on any given day in the District of Columbia that we supervise. Now we, that person could be supervised for burglary but have a history of child sexual, a child sex related crime 15 years ago, correct?

Trifari Williams: Yes, you’re correct about that. One of the unique things about that, the sex offender unit at CSOSA is that we’re actually responsible for individuals that a) have been convicted of a traditional sex offense, which is also considered their underlying offense, their instant offense, but we also supervise individuals, like you stated, that have had a previous sex offense in the past, might be on supervision for another charge at this point in time, it could also be an individual that’s been convicted of a sex offense in another jurisdiction but is currently residing in the District of Columbia and is under supervision, so therefore, we’re supervising that case as well.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now we sent a letter out to all people who are child sex offenders, and we basically said, you can’t decorate, you can’t participate, and you have to stay home, correct?

Trifari Williams: That is correct. What we did was we actually had those individuals come into our office, review that letter with them, all the conditions on that letter, you cannot have a child in your home, you cannot decorate, you cannot participate in any type of Halloween activities, you cannot have anyone in your residence distributing candy, you cannot have your lights on, we went through a litany of things that they needed to do along with being at home –

Len Sipes: In person?

Trifari Williams: In person.

Len Sipes: One-on-one?

Trifari Williams: Yes. But also, we got them to sign off on those things after we reviewed them. The most important thing is, we told every one of those individuals that you must be at home from the hours of 6PM to 11PM. We did not indicate to them that we would be doing random checks, because if we did, it wouldn’t be random. But we did indicate to them what their responsibility was and what our expectations are of them while they’re on supervision.

Len Sipes: And I think the important thing is that we at MPD, and Diane, I’m going to throw this question over to you, one of the things that always has impressed me, Diane, is that on any given year, we have about 8,000 concurrent home visits between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for high risk offenders. So we go, the team, of CSOSA and MPD goes through the door of these 8,000 individuals throughout the course of the year, so it’s not like this is an unusual thing, or this is a special thing. We do this throughout the course of the year anyway!

Diane Groomes: Right, as you said, we have a wonderful relationship with CSOSA. We have worked many years with them, and we call them accountability tours, we go together, and again, CSOSA’s lead, and again, to have us there kinda sends a message to the offender that D.C. government and the government’s taking this seriously, and a lot of times, we notice great success where the offender keeps on track, then, and we find that it lowers the rate of recidivism if they know that CSOSA and MPD are working together.

Len Sipes: Now I work for the Department of Justice’s Clearinghouse a long time ago, I spent 14 years representing the state of Maryland and the department of public safety, parole and probation was part of that, I have somewhat of a sense as to how parole and probation conducts business, I’m a former cop. The thing that impresses me about the District of Columbia in the five years that I’ve been here is that there’s been a continual effort on the part of the Metropolitan Police Department and CSOSA to interact together. I’m told that every day, intelligence is shared, GPS tracks are shared, we sit down at the district level at the Commander’s level on a regular basis, information is exchanged between the individual officers and the individual community supervision officers everyday. I think that’s impressive, and I also think it’s unusual.

Diane Groomes: Well, as I said, the relationship is wonderful, and it continues to build, and it continues to grow. Our most current partnership does involve our intelligence sharing. When we have, like we did last night, we had 3 murders occur in 2 hours, and our CSOSA partners have already reached out to us to tell us, you know, the history of our victims and maybe some possible relations to kind of help us, guide us on our investigative track. It’s a win-win situation, and as you said, our commanders and our officer level are touched by CSOSA, and we have had great success of reducing crime. I can give this partnership credit that it really helps us fight crime out there.

Len Sipes: But I don’t know if you wanted to comment on that, when I say it’s unusual. I think it’s unusual. Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement traditionally haven’t talked to each other throughout the country, and I find what’s happening in the District of Columbia in the 5 years that I’ve been here, not only unusual, I find it to be intensive at times. I don’t know if you feel that it’s intense enough, or enough information is being shared back and forth, but I’m sort of knocked over by how much information is shared, not just at the command level, but the individual officer level.

Diane Groomes: I agree with you on that, as you said, the criminal justice system is made up of several parts, and usually police have a different goal from the other agencies, so we really appreciate CSOSA coming and really partnering with us, again, the information we share is to reduce crime, reduce recidivism, and also what I appreciate is the long term issues that CSOSA deals with, trying to get offenders jobs, substance treatment, because that is, are the things that lead to crime. So MPD is proud to be part of, you know, a system that is for a long-term approach vs. just a short term fix.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I find, when I came here to the district 5 years ago, I was flabbergasted by the level of interaction between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, and that level has increased dramatically lately in the state of Maryland, and I find it happening increasingly throughout the country, but it was just, when I came here to the District of Columbia, it was like, wow! This is really unusual all the conversation taking place. Trifari, we’re going to go over to you. You know, you’ve been 5 years at CSOSA as a community supervision officer, and you’ve spend the last year within the sex offender unit. Supervising Sex Offenders, and you and I had a radio show a long time ago talking about, you know, supervising offenders. Sex offenders are sometimes more difficult to deal with than the average offender, because they seem to comply all the time, where a lot of other offenders are basically saying, ah, I’m not going to go for drug treatment, or I’m not going to show up for drug testing, or whatever it is, sex offenders, generally speaking, dot every ‘i’, cross every ‘t’ and that’s what makes it really interesting and tough in terms of supervising them, correct?

Trifari Williams: Yes, it can be. One of the things that, in my experience, I’ve realized while working with these sex offenders, it’s very similar to what you’re saying. There’s a number of situations in which individuals are more compliant, they’re more willing to work with the community supervision officer, which is to their benefit, but one of the things that we set up, and they understand as a part of working with the sex offender unit is, is that we take what is considered a collaborative approach when supervising sex offenders. All of our sex offenders that it’s also, not only a partnership that we have with MPD, we also have a partnership with the treatment providers that provide sex offender treatment, along with the polygraphers that we use –

Len Sipes: Polygraph operators.

Trifari Williams: Yes.

Len Sipes: Lie detector tests.

Trifari Williams: Right. And it’s all used as a complete system. If I can give you a quick example,

Len Sipes: Yeah, please!

Trifari Williams: If you take the average offender, we want to look at it as a sense of a triangle, the offender is innocent, or the supervision officer is at the top of it, on one side of that is the treatment provider, on the opposite side of that is the polygrapher or the polygraph examiner. We place that person inside of that triangle because the expectation is that, when we have an individual that is a sex offender, we want the community to understand that there is close supervision that’s done. There is a partnership that has been developed with MPD, of course, in which we share information, what you were talking about earlier, but there’s a strong information sharing that we have between the sex offender treatment provider and the polygrapher. What we try, what we do, actually, with that is, at any point in time that one of these individuals does something that, what you would consider out of the ordinary, they’re missing their appointment, they’re not participating in treatment, they’re using drugs, that information is shared between those three entities immediately.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Trifari Williams: Take a classic example, I had an individual, not saying any names, of course, but he missed an appointment last week with his sex offender treatment provider. By that evening, I had already gotten a fax from the treatment provider notifying me of that individual’s missed appointment, which automatically prompts me to implement sanctions in regard to his non-compliance –

Len Sipes: And when we’re talking about sanctions, we mean we bring them to read them the riot act, he’s got to start coming in every day, he’s got to go to a litter detail, there’s some punishment which is immediate for any action that’s not appropriate.

Trifari Williams: Right, correct. And we do those things, and it helps them to understand that the level of compliance that we expect from them, they must follow through with it, and I think that’s the biggest thing is why you will see the individuals in a sex offender unit that tend to be a little bit more compliant, because they know that there’s so much information sharing going on between that treatment provider, between the supervision officer, and one of the things that Ms. Groomes was just talking about, we’re out weekly at these commanders’ meetings sharing information about the recently released sex offenders that we have in the community, any point of time that we have anybody that we feel is considered a high risk, we’re sharing that information, so they see this partnership –

Len Sipes: They see the team, they see the fact that the treatment providers, lie detector operators, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, so they understand that there’s a certain point where, if they screw up, they’re going to be caught, and they’re going to be sent back to prison.

Trifari Williams: Correct.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the impressive thing. We will do everything we possibly can in terms of helping that person through the treatment process, but that person needs to understand that if he violates public safety in any way, shape, or form, he’s probably going to go back to prison.

Trifari Williams: Right, and totally understanding that, because that information sharing is there, and one of the unique things about this agency, as you know, is the amount of emphasis that we put on assisting these individuals. We spend countless amounts, hundreds of thousands of dollars in putting these individuals through treatment, trying to assist them in addressing their issues and making them more productive members of society. That helps to reduce recidivism inside of the District of Columbia, and it’s one of the most impressive things, and one of the things that I find is very unique is the amount of resources that we’ve actually just committed to these individuals.

Len Sipes: Tens of millions of dollars. Diane, one of the things that I did, I interviewed a variety of people from the Metropolitan Police Department for an article that I’m doing for a national publication on GPS or Global Positioning System or Satellite Tracking, and so I was interviewing an officer from Northeast D.C. who was a 7 year veteran, and he tells me that he suddenly started seeing people on the street with these cell phones strapped to their legs, and then we got together, and he took a course from CSOSA on the use of GPS, and he said something that’s extraordinarily interesting, that this is at the officer level, that he now exchanges information on a regular basis because he can look up that person and who supervises that person via the computer in his car, the vehicle. He can find the community supervision officer, talk to that individual directly, either by email or by phone, and the exchange information back and forth, so the individual officers of the Metropolitan Police Department evidently are, and GPS was one example of this, are now exchanging information with the individual officers in CSOSA, and I said to him, is this, now you’re a 7 year veteran, and you’re obviously computer savvy, and is this just you, or do you think the average officers out there recognize the partnership and see the value of the partnership and exchanging information, and he tells me that the average officer is more than ever before exchanging information with average officers at CSOSA. I find that profoundly interesting.

Diane Groomes: You’re correct on that. Everyone should realize in the police department, you know, our officers are our front line, and our officers right now, they want more information to help reduce crime, help the citizens, you know, reduce the fear of crime, and one of the things that, our biggest request right now, as you said, due to the GPS system and tracking, our officers, and as a huge percentage, and it’s growing every day, is the Veritrack[sp?] system, and our officers are going on their laptops, and when they hear, they take crimes personal, so when a robbery spree occurs, or if a shooting occurs, of course, sometimes you figure, they have an idea who could have done it, they now log into their computer and try to track, you know, those offenders that they know to see if they were in the area, then they communicate also with their CSOSA rep and tell them about, if they had an encounter with the offender, positive or negative, so again, it’s just, it’s a win-win situation where, you know, working with CSOSA, we can definitely address those offenders that are not doing so well, and then address also those offenders that are doing well, so it also saves us time where we can focus on those that need focused on the most.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, and it’s going rapid-fire. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. public safety. Diane Groomes, assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, is by our microphones, and Trifari Williams, a community supervision officer with the sex offender unit, Trifari has been with CSOSA for the last 5 years, and we’re talking about Halloween evening, and a brief commercial that we respond to every inquiry, every suggestion that you provide to us, we respond to them, we take them all into consideration, if you go to media.csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, or simply search for DC Public Safety, we appreciate your comments, we appreciate everything that you’ve been doing in terms of the comments and guiding us on the program, we are now well over 100,000 requests on a monthly basis for the program, we are now way beyond 1,300,000 requests since the inception of the program in January of 2007, so please keep your comments rolling in, so again, back to our microphones, Diane, or back to our guest, Diane Groomes and Trifari Williams. You know, Trifari, when we go, when we talk about what we’re going to be doing Halloween evening, we’re going to be sending out 13 teams, Metropolitan Police Department and ourselves, there are going to be 13 teams of individuals, we’re going to go to the homes of approximately, it’s a little bit less than this, 200 child sex offenders, we sent them a letter and sat down with the and told them what they can do, what they can’t do, this is our 4th year of looking at child sex offenders, but nothing this extensive, so you’re going to go out with Metropolitan Police Department on Halloween Evening, what do you expect to find?

Trifari Williams: The expectation at this point in time is since we’ve instructed all of these individuals as to what they should be doing, what our hope is, is that they would be compliant with their release conditions. When we go into these residences, one of the first things we’re going to be looking for, of course, we’re going to be going through every room making sure that there are no minors in the home. We’re going to make sure –

Len Sipes: So you go through the entire house.

Trifari Williams: Yes we do.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Trifari Williams: That’s one of the important things, because we want to make sure that they’re compliant with these conditions, and also, make sure that there’s nobody actually being placed in any type of danger. I mean, that’s the whole point –

Len Sipes: You even have the right to go into their computer!

Trifari Williams: Yes, we do. One of the interesting things about being a part of this unit is a lot of times, several individuals, most individuals actually have conditions that basically dictate what they’re supposed to do while they’re on supervision. One of those conditions can be a computer search condition, and with that condition, we actually go out, we will install software on the individual’s computer, and one of the things I do want to emphasize, it doesn’t only mean computers, I mean, now in the days of technology, cell phones, cell phones can be computers as well, so we also look at cell phones, make sure that they don’t have any type of pornographic material on there, we’re also looking at the searches that they’re doing on the internet, looking at their IM chats, things of that nature, so we’re actually going out investigating, truly getting into figuring out, what is this person actually doing?

Len Sipes: I mean, it gets a little, all of those, for me the child sex offender concept, I don’t think it’s frightening, but I think some people out there, I mean, we’re putting them on Global Positioning System, we have the right to look into their computer, their cell phone, we can search, in fact, their computer remotely. We don’t even have to be within the home. We go into the home, we search the house for any activities, that’s quite a bit of leeway, and to me, it’s comforting in terms of the kind of offender we’re dealing with, in terms of a history of child sex offenses. So you’re going to be going into that home that night, searching the home, looking for any connection between, inappropriate connection between him and children, or any connection between him and children.

Trifari Williams: Yes, you’re going to be looking for any indications in which they may have items in the home that may indicate that a child has either previously been there, or that a child actually resides in that home. You want to make sure that you document all of that, that information, and we’re going to have, of course, MPD with us if there’s any indications that there has been a child in the home for us to further investigate it.

Len Sipes: Now one of the things that I want to touch upon. We are a law enforcement agency, but we do not have direct law enforcement powers. We enforce the orders of the parole commission, and we enforce the orders of the court. So we can tell them that they cannot decorate for Halloween. If they decorate for Halloween, then we have to go back to the courts, and we have to go back to the parole commission, and we have to say, okay, we think that this person is violating, let’s consider whether he’s on probation, putting him in prison, or if he’s on parole, putting him back in prison. If it’s a violation of the law, however, if we walk into the home of a child sex offender, and obviously he has an illegal firearm, if he has drugs, if he is in the process of doing something that is illegal, then we can arrest.

Diane Groomes: Right, and that’s the benefit of having MPD along with CSOSA. Anything in plain view, any contraband, they are subject to arrest on the spot. And one of the most successful stories about an accountability tour with CSOSA, and I think it occurred, it was about 2 years ago, they did a basic accountability tour, and when they entered, all of the sudden, they’ve seen a bunch of people run out of the apartment, and what we found was they were cooking a huge kilo of crack cocaine. MPD was able to chase down the subjects, place them under arrest, but just a basic check led to a huge seizure of crack cocaine off the streets and multiple arrests.

Len Sipes: And I think, once again, it is, and I’m probably going to be repeating myself to death, and so I’ll hopefully say it for the last time. That, to me, is the amazing power. We live in a world where, and this is Department of Justice data, where the average person on community supervision comes into contact, the average person on community supervision comes into contact with a parole and probation agency 3 times a month or less. We’re talking about 80%, 3 times a month or less. So in essence, 99% of the time, that person is unsupervised. That person, the amount of contact you have with that individual is just brief, 5-10 minutes. You know, law enforcement, ordinarily, is not involved. Here, we go to the individual’s house on a surprise basis, and some cases, it’s not a surprise, in some cases, we want to talk to the mother, or we want to talk to the wife, we want to talk to the people he lives with, because sometimes they can supply us with great information, but that’s an immense amount of contact, and that sends a message to that offender of, it’s just not CSOSA, it is MPD, and that person’s going to spread the word to his or her fellow officers in the area that here is a child sex offender, or here is a burglar, or here is a person convicted of robbery, and he’s living at this house, and here are the circumstances. I think that, to me, it’s just immensely powerful and sends an immensely powerful message.

Diane Groomes: I agree with you, and what we’ve been doing, too, especially over the summer, when we have our all hands on deck, CSOSA also joins us with that. When we actually walk the neighborhoods, not necessarily going to even the homes, CSOSA has joined us just walking certain neighborhoods where there is a large population of ex-offenders, and I think it sends a message, again, that we have a partnership in that, you know, we’re going to work together to combat any additional crime that can be committed.

Len Sipes: All right, so to follow up, we do have articles talking about the relationship between the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the Metropolitan Police Department, again, they are on the podcasting website, or the radio/television transcript/blog at if you’re interested in additional articles about the interagency activity between CSOSA and our friends in the Metropolitan Police Department, all these articles have been printed by national publications. Anything else we want to say in terms of wrapping up for Halloween? We’re going to provide some additional information in terms of what happened that evening later on that evening, we’re going to be out between 6:00 and 9:00, but we’re not held to those times, we’ll go later if necessary. Anything additional, Diane?

Diane Groomes: Well, I believe it’s not just a message to these sexual offenders or ex-offenders, it’s a message to the community in whole. In D.C., they’re extremely happy to see that the criminal justice system, CSOSA, and MPD are taking an extra step, making them feel safer, and that, you know, we are working together, so I think it’s not only dealing with the offender, but it also addresses the community at whole that has that fear that criminals are on the loose, or if there are parents, just think how much we could be putting them at ease to know that we’re going to be watching these sex offenders.

Len Sipes: Right. And we didn’t make an announcement or pre-announcement beforehand, Trifari, because we didn’t want to interfere with the integrity of the operation.

Trifari Williams: Yes. One of the things we find is very important when we’re doing these unannounced accountability tours is we want these individuals to always be able to understand that we’re going to be out, we’re monitoring them, the partnership is there, and I’d like to piggyback a bit on what assistant chief Groomes just said, one of the things that we find as going out to the PSA meetings, the Patrol Service Area meetings, when we meet with members of the community is they greatly appreciate our presence. They greatly appreciate, they understand that all the work that MPD is doing, but they appreciate the partnership, they appreciate the fact that we’re out there, working with MPD, to help assure them that we’re doing everything we possibly can to make them feel safe, and it’s one of the things that they always comment about when, at the end of those meetings as well.

Len Sipes: Yep. I think the public expects, and I still say it’s a bit unusual for the District, but the public expects us to work hand in hand, and MPD is going to be taking the lead, needless to say, on crime control efforts in the District of Columbia, but we’re happy to be along, we’re happy to be of assistance, and we feel that we can play a tremendous role in the public safety. Just want to remind everybody listening that, yes, we’re going to be doing accountability tours for child sex offenders on Halloween evening for approximately 200 child sex offenders, but we do this 8,000 times, 8,000 individuals throughout the course of the regular year. MPD and CSOSA are out there, and I just think that’s a wonderful partnership. Diane Groomes, assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department has been at our microphones, and Trifari Williams, a community supervision officer with the sex offender unit, is also at our microphones. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been, or it still is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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


Successful New Mexico DWI Program-National Criminal Justice Association

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We’re doing another show with the National Criminal Justice Association as we examine exemplary programs throughout the country. The National Criminal Justice Association works with corrections, law enforcement, people throughout the criminal justice system to examine and to bring to light some of the better programs throughout the country. The program today is “100 days and nights of summer,” and we’re going to be talking to the deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re also going to be talking to Captain Greg Toya with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, and we’re going to be talking about alcohol related fatalities, the fact that they’re down and down dramatically in the state of New Mexico. Ladies and Gentlemen, we thank you for all of your comments, we really appreciate the fact that you let us know how you feel about the program, suggestions about the programs, criticisms, complaints, and accolades, so keep those comments coming in at media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, or simply search on your internet search engine for D.C. Public Safety. We respond individually to every inquiry, every comment that you make, and we appreciate them. So on with the show, “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” again, introducing Deputy Secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety State Police. Again, through the auspices of the National Criminal Justice Association, to talk about “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” and to Paul Cook and Greg Toya, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Paul Cook/Greg Toya: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, gentlemen, I am a former Maryland State Trooper, you and I, we’re talking, we were talking before the program, and you know, the thing that bothers me about alcohol related fatalities is that we, in the criminal justice system have got to climb into these cars and pull people out. We make the death notifications, we grab the minister or the rabbi or the imam and knock on somebody’s door at 3:00 in the morning to tell them that their loved one has passed due to an alcohol related fatality, and we in the system get very emotional about it, yet I don’t see that emotion carried by general society, so first of all, the issue of alcohol related fatalities, we take it extraordinarily seriously, does the rest of society take it extraordinarily seriously? I guess that’s the question we’re going to start with. Greg, do you want to give a shot at that?

Greg Toya: Well, I think that is a case, and I think that it takes the efforts of law enforcement, the judicial system, of course various counseling groups out there, public health service, to bring the horrific stats and data to the public’s attention as it relates to injuries and deaths and how that touches individual families, and I think once the public starts to understand the horrific scenes that are the result of a DWI related fatality, it’ll eventually mean something to all levels of the general public, and hopefully start to bring down those horrific numbers nationally, and of course, here in New Mexico, I think it has worked.

Len Sipes: The first fatality I ever saw was a cadet riding with a trooper on Route 40 in the state of Maryland, where with a decapitation, and I won’t go into the full details, but you know, as a young man, that affected me, that affected me very deeply, and the truck driver who hit them as they pulled out in front of them, the driver was drunk, you know, it’s, that’s something that stays with you for a long time, and then you tell other people that you were just involved in a fatality, in fact, two fatalities, in fact, a decapitation, and their response would be a hearty chuckle. So once again, we experience it firsthand, we notify the families, I’ve just never been convinced that the larger society understands what’s actually going on out there. Paul, do you want to take a shot at that one?

Paul Cook: Well, you know, I wanted to say that I think that the public education is an extremely important part here, and the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started out doing a lot of advertising, we here in New Mexico do advertising, and we have posters and billboards, basically the motto is “You drink, you drive, you lose.” And it’s focused on just that, the drunk drivers, the inebriated individuals who decide to get behind the wheel, and we settle up, so these kind of people understand, this is not a laughing matter. You get caught, you’re going to jail, end of story. And it has really, I think, started to get people to think, you know, who’s the designated driver, or do I actually need that second drink, or whatever before they leave and drive home.

Len Sipes: It’s a very complicated societal issue, but one of the things we in the criminal justice system are responsible for are catching them and to reduce the amount of DWI accidents. When you started this program, Greg, New Mexico was 3rd in the country, and you’re now 17th in the country for DWI related accidents and fatalities, that is a huge decrease, and over what time period are we talking about, and how did you do it?

Greg Toya: Well, I think if you compare the 2006 statistics with current stats, typically during that time period, our statistics go down by about 15%. There’s a number of components, we’ve all been doing that, and again, it’s not only the state police doing that, it’s all the agencies working together that implement DWI checkpoints, DWI patrols, we’re concentrating parts of the roads that are historically high in DWI related accidents. In addition to DWI, though, we issue a lot of other enforcement citations along the lines of keeping the general public safe: seat belt citation, child restraint citations, and various other things, but we’ve increased our DWI arrests from a little over 2,000 during the 100 days and nights of summer every year over the last 3 years. We’ve had, again, saturation patrols, 140 a year during that period of time, that’s a lot of work to do, and we like to think of it as we bring public awareness into this whole issue, bring on a lot of other law enforcement agencies to help out, we’re out there in the general public’s eye, and it’s kind of along the lines of what Secretary Cook said that it’s a matter of educating the public of its DWI problem and the horrific results of DWI related accidents.

Len Sipes: I can’t remember a lot of things in my life, but I can remember those death notifications as if they were yesterday.

Greg Toya: Oh, they’re horrible!

Len Sipes: I can remember the look on a woman’s face, or the various face, because it’s always the male, you know, who ended up dying, I don’t know what sort of societal statement that is, but generally speaking, it was grab the priest, grab the minister, go knock on the door, and that look in that woman’s eyes is just profound, I can’t even remember for sure what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember vividly the look in that woman’s eyes, and again, I probably will bring this up throughout the program, you know, this whole concept of drinking and driving is something that I think society takes more seriously, but not seriously enough. I still think that it’s just, I can’t say that it’s a joke on the part of most people, but I think way too many people drink and drive, and I don’t think people, I think people’s perceptions and abilities to drive are affected by one drink. I know that doesn’t constitute the legal limit in New Mexico or any other part of the country, but even one drink is enough to affect you profoundly.

Greg Toya: It is, and it’s a matter of impairment, it’s not a matter of maybe staggering or not being able to communicate verbally and talk and coordination, but it’s impairment: your reaction time is greatly affected, your depth perception is greatly affected, and when you take all those things, and you multiply them by the speed of a vehicle, particularly on the interstates, your reaction time is really cut down in half, and you know, we talk about these really horrific accidents, when you have speeds in excess of 60-70 miles and hour, and they collide with somebody, well you just take the speed of two vehicles, add that speed, and it’s 150, 160 mile an hour impact crash, and like you said, when you have to show up at those accident scenes and decide what body belongs to what vehicle, and then look for ID and start to think about how are we going to tell the family, and again, like you said, getting a hold of a priest or somebody to make that a little bit more comprehendible when you approach families, geez, it’s not something a law enforcement officer looks forward to doing, especially repeatedly, repeatedly in their career.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I had, in one case, where a guy hit a bridge abutment, and he was drunk, pulling body parts out of a tree. I mean that’s, you know, I understand that it’s legal to drink. I drink! I’m not, the issue here, I don’t think, is drinking, the issue is drinking and driving. I don’t think the issue is not driving drunk, I think the issue is having any alcohol at all and getting behind the wheel of a car, so that’s just my political editorializing, you guys can feel free to disagree with me, and I drink! I do! I simply don’t drive when I drink, period! I don’t have one beer, if I’m driving on my motorcycle, I drink coke!

Greg Toya: Correct, and I think that many, many times, particularly after a long day’s work, or after a person is exhausted, and that one drink has a much more profound physical effect, that one drink might be just enough to have you impaired, again, to get you likely to be involved in that motor vehicle accident.

Len Sipes: Absolutely, absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to deputy secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re talking also on the phone, Capt. Greg Toya, he is with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and with the New Mexico State Police. When you go to the show notes, I’ll include contact points for the National Criminal Justice Association, and Paul Cook and to Greg Toya, and I’m sure that they have a website that relates to all of this. Okay, so fatalities went down dramatically in New Mexico, you have “100 Days and Nights of Summer, which I’m assuming is this widespread law enforcement, not just in New Mexico State Police, but as you’ve said, allied law enforcement agencies, everybody together doing the checks, doing the roadblocks, doing what is necessary to reduce drunk driving in the state of New Mexico, you’re talking about public outreach, and one of the things that we’re doing now is part of public outreach, and this show is heard all over the world, so it’s not just New Mexico that’s going to be hearing this, but people from throughout the world. So what, in terms of all of this, is the magic ingredient that brought down the number of DWI accidents and deaths in New Mexico from 3rd in the country to 17th in the country?

Paul Cook: Well, let me just give you some stats from our “100 Days and Nights of Summer in 2007.”

Len Sipes: Okay.

Paul Cook: Len, from June 1st through September 8th, the total citations and arrests during that time was 89,926. Now if you realize that every one of those people that got a citation are going to be talking to their neighbor or somebody and saying, you know, dang, I got cited for A, B, or C, and that spreads the word, because Capt. Toya said we had 2,216 DWI arrests, we conducted, actually 232 checkpoints. Now that’s not just the state police, that’s throughout all law enforcement across the state.

Len Sipes: Understood.

Paul Cook: But the saturation patrols he talked about, we conducted 714. Now again, New Mexico is a fairly large state. We have 121,000 square miles here, so [overlapping voices] 714 is a lot, but it doesn’t cover everything.

Len Sipes: Well, New Mexico’s a drop dead gorgeous state, number one, and you know, there are magazines devoted to driving in New Mexico. I remember reading them as a child, and just looking at these wide open spaces, for those of us on the east coast living in the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area. Sometimes I’m extremely envious, especially when I’m on my motorcycle, so the point is that New Mexico’s a pretty spread out state, I know it has its metropolitan areas, but you know, you probably have parts of the state that patrol potential is limited.

Paul Cook: You can drive an hour and a half and not see anything in some places.

Len Sipes: Right, so how do you patrol those sort of areas? How do you make it stick in those wide open spaces?

Greg Toya: Well, that’s what we were talking about our saturation patrols, is we designate a handful of officers to patrol a stretch of road where maybe typically most law enforcement will not be out there, and during that period of time, when you have a handful of officers that are mandated to patrol that particular stretch at a particular time on a particular day of the week, it has a very positive effect, because if you look at your information, and if you’re having a problem with accidents, DWI arrests, things along those lines, you can strategically place your officers, so like the secretary said, there are places here in New Mexico that are very rural, more or less lightly patrolled, so when we do these projects, we figure out where we need to concentrate on, and as a result of that, we’ve had some very positive results.

Len Sipes: Now you also – go ahead Paul.

Paul Cook: I was going to say, that’s also working, I want everybody to keep in mind that’s working with all other law enforcement agencies, because some agencies are strapped with manpower, equipment, training, knowledge, and we try and include everybody to get on the same bandwagon and help, so it’s a unified enforcement project.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now I represent a community corrections agency, a federal community corrections agency in Washington D.C., so I’ve got to ask this question, are you working with your correctional counterparts, either the department of corrections or the division of corrections and parole and probation authorities?

Greg Toya: We are. We do work with them. On this particular issue, it’s a little bit after the fact is, if in fact somebody is arrested and charged with a DWI incident, when we do our homework on these types of cases, we’ll find out if in fact somebody is on probation, parole, and at that point in time, corrections is contacted, and then we do follow-up work with the conditions of probation, parole, we don’t just put them through the judicial system, we work with parole, corrections, and we try and get them the education that they need in order to complete the judicial side of this incident, but try to get them to counseling, and the health and the education they need so that hopefully, they won’t become a repeated offender.

Len Sipes: One of the things that we have here in Washington DC is we have like 3,000 people on our caseload, and we’re pretty tough on them. We provide individual counseling and group counseling to the people who are involved in the drinking and driving program here, but we have a lot of contact with them, we do a lot of surprise visits, we do a lot of enforcement, but at the same time, we try to get them the treatment that they need, a lot of these individuals, I understand somebody getting behind the wheel of a car, and they believe it’s a mistake, and it’s never happened before, it’ll never happen again, but some of these people end up being violators 2 and 3 times. Some of these people have serious issues with alcohol, alcoholism and drugs, and quite frankly, they need the treatment, and part of what we do, beyond provide enforcement, is we provide the treatment component as well, and I think that that’s a pretty serious and necessary part to all of this, do you agree?

Greg Toya: Absolutely agree. It’s not only a law enforcement issue, it’s a society issue, and you can’t arrest enough people to make a positive impact. It has to go hand in hand with education, and once you start to educate, it has to start, I should say firstly, at a very young age. Most kids have alcohol available to them when they’re 6 years old. 6 years old! So we don’t wait until they’re in middle school or junior high or high school, you’ve got to get into the elementary school setting to start to plant that seed that tells young kids, alcohol and it’s effects are devastating. And you’re exactly right, we try to do that at a very young age, we try and make the connection, alcohol and drugs combined or separately have the same horrific devastating effects.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Go ahead, Paul, please.

Paul Cook: I’d like to add that part of our probationary process in New Mexico right now has got a mission interlock device requirement, so –

Len Sipes: That’s a great idea. Explain what that is, Paul.

Paul Cook: Well, when a person is convicted of a DWI, they are required to get an ignition interlock device installed on their car, and that is basically a mini-breathalyzer, they have to blow into this before it releases the ignition for them to start their car. It works very well, and there are some pretty severe penalties for bypassing it by having someone else blow into the device for them. So just another way that we can keep track or try and inhibit those repeat offenders from going back behind the wheel while they’re – let me start over again – keep them from getting behind the wheel while they are intoxicated.

Len Sipes: We’ve even gone so far as to stick GPS devices, global positioning devices, and we’ve gone so far as to basically say, stay home, you know, you can go to work, you can come back, but after that, you’ve got to stay home. So that way, that’s another little trick, it doesn’t matter whether they have, and I totally agree, by the way, with the locking devices where you have to blow into it to check your alcohol level, but some of these people are of such danger to themselves, to their families, and larger society, they’re just told, stay home. So in terms of summarizing, gentlemen, where do we go? What do we want the public to do, because certainly the good citizens of New Mexico, and again, I emphasize the beautiful, lovely, state of New Mexico, you know, they’re going to hear this, and hopefully they’re going to take it to heart, but you’re going to be talking to people in Australia, England, Canada, and other countries throughout the world, for that matter, and that’s one of the advantages of doing these programs via the internet. What do we say to them? What do we say to larger society in terms of alcohol and drinking and driving? I mean, the obvious one is, don’t do it!

Paul Cook: That’s correct, I agree with don’t do it, but I also, again, you know, reiterate my feeling, personal feeling is the constant and continual reminding by public education, be it through TV, billboards, handouts, mailers, it has to continually be reinforced. Number one, you drink, you drive, you lose; but number two, you are so severely impaired when you’re drinking, you really are operating a deadly weapon, you’re not operating a motor vehicle.

Len Sipes: I totally agree.

Greg Toya: I agree, and essentially, the really important question, and that is, don’t do it. Most people want to know why: why can’t I do it? And I think that it’s incumbent upon letting everybody know, and when I say everybody, it’s starting again with the younger generation, high school, college, the professional section, and all the way up with people that are older and sharing these horrific scenes with them and showing them the results of consuming alcohol, whether it’s at a party, a restaurant, sports events, wherever it may be, because all those different venues have the same results, and people need to realize that, even in a socializing environment, that one or two drinks of alcohol could be just enough to have you impaired when you get behind the wheel. So I think we need to continue educating the horrific results of drinking and driving, we need to continue funding law enforcement agencies around the country and the world so that we have enough officers out there to enforce DWI laws, and we also need to have a judicial component that’s going to do its part to follow through with either convicting and hopefully monitoring these individuals as they’re kicked out of the judicial system and transitioned into probation and parole.

Len Sipes: Yep.

[overlapping voices]

Greg Toya: – of all those groups.

Paul Cook: And let me add, the one other thing we need to add in there is the legislative group. We need to have our politicians fully educated and aware of what we’re doing so we get their support, and they’re the ones that give us the funding, and we need the funding and the political support to make any of these things happen.

Greg Toya: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s, once again, I think, a larger, I think we all agree that there’s this larger societal issue, yet I constantly come across, either personal examples or societal examples of people who just don’t understand that giving, allowing the sun to go down to a resort town in the state of Maryland and allowing them to take alcohol down with them on the premise that they not consume that, and I’m talking about people under the age of 21, on the premise that they not consume it while they’re in the car, I think that’s playing with fire, some people are going to think that’s going way too far, I don’t believe it’s going way too far, it just strikes me that our politicians really need to understand that the funding needs to be there, the larger society really needs to understand that, you know, I just wish I had a whole bunch of people along as, in my days in the state police, of crawling through the superstructure of a car to get at somebody who’s mangled in that car, and who’s drunk, and try to save their lives, and you come out of it with their blood on your uniform, I mean, I don’t know how graphic to get with this, but that’s our experience, that’s all the experience that we’ve had in the law enforcement community, you don’t forget any of that stuff, and I just sometimes wish somehow, some way, you could share that experience directly with the larger public, somehow some way, I think that they would fully understand what drinking and driving truly means.

Greg Toya: Absolutely. I think along the line of sight, the smell, and you can back me on this, I’m sure, but pulling up to an accident, the smell of gasoline, oil, the smell of blood mixed with alcohol, it’s a horrific smell that seems to stay with you –

Len Sipes: Forever!

Greg Toya: – for your entire life. Forever. And if you’re at a restaurant, or if loved ones, and you reminisce about that, it’s like it happened that very morning!

Len Sipes: That’s right!

Greg Toya: And it does not go away. It does not go away.

Len Sipes: I can smell it now!

Greg Toya: Oh, yeah! I can remember picking up a toddler at an accident, and you know, the only thing holding that little child’s body together was his skin! It was like picking up a 10lb bag of potatoes in a bag!

Len Sipes: And I think –

Greg Toya: The result of a DWI related incident.

Len Sipes: Yep, I can, both of us, all three of us could just go on endlessly about this, and so I think we’re pretty much leaving it there and close. Deputy Secretary Paul Cook, it’s been a real pleasure, deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya, again, New Mexico Department of Public Safety with the New Mexico State Police, talking about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer within the notes of the program, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll give you contact points for both the deputy secretary and Capt. Toya, and website addresses to gain more information about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes, I want you all to have a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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