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Hiring People on Community Supervision-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today we’re going to be interviewing Alex Vincent.  He is with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Manpower Development Specialist, but the interesting thing about Alex is that he is currently under the supervision of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  He came to us with an armed robbery charge out of prison, and he has an amazing story of leaving the prison system, struggling within himself in terms of the employment issue, gaining employment, eventually becoming, again, the Manpower Development Specialist for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, and this is all part of a series of radio and televisions shows that we’re doing here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency on the Employment Issue.  We are crowd sourcing this issue, if you will.  We are asking employers or anybody else who has an opinion to give us information as to what it takes to hire somebody under supervision, and with that introduction, Alex Vincent, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Alex Vincent:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Alex, again, you’ve served time in prison, you came out, and you came under our supervision here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, you’re charged with armed robbery, and you hit the streets, and what happened in terms of your issue regarding employment?

Alex Vincent:  Well, in terms of my issue in searching for employment when I came home, it definitely was a struggle.  I went to several places, tried to find gainful employment.  Unfortunately, I was turned away or turned down for the same reasons that a lot of ex-offenders are turned down or turned away from employment.  The stereotype that’s attached to ex-offenders is that they’re not going to work, or they’re serious, they’re still dangerous people, and of course, a lot of times, when you fill out an application, they do ask, have you been convicted in a certain amount of time.  Some ask the basic question: have you ever been convicted.  And with that being said, I definitely answer the question honestly saying yes, and when you answer that question yes, the next question behind that is, give some details about your conviction or whatever you were incarcerated for, and a lot of times, as you said earlier, coming back with an armed robbery, which is considered a violent crime, definitely the employers look at that, or that’s definitely an obstacle, and employers immediately, that’s a negative, and something’s negative attached to that.

Len Sipes:  Of course.  And you know, at the same time, in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this and talking to people under supervision, you know, most of them end up with employment, and some of these folks have had some fairly serious charges in their lives, and yet, they’re selling insurance, they’re driving trucks, they’re hiring other people to drive trucks for them, they’re business owners, somewhere along the line, they do make that transition from tax burden to taxpayer, and what we’re trying to do in the 10 minute program that we’re doing today is to figure out what are the key issues that help a person go from tax burden to taxpayer.  So what do you think, Alex, in terms of, because right now, you not only had this personal experience, but now you help people just, who are in the same shoes that you were in when you came out of prison.

Alex Vincent:  Definitely, definitely.  I do help others that’s under supervision as well, but one of the major things that help others to make that transition is that support: family support, some religious, religious background, upbringing, those are things, are key things to help individuals, but one of the things I think that, community support, and what I mean by community support is those employers, because you have a sense, you feel a sense of confidence when you can go get up and know that you’re a taxpaying citizen and feel that the community supports you coming back to the community, and gaining employment gives you that sense of confidence, especially if you go to an employer, you do an application, and right away, that’s not realistic, but the first person you go to employment gives you an opportunity, and you get it, that’s definitely a confidence booster that makes you want to do the right thing.

Len Sipes:  All you hear on the evening news broadcast, or if you read the paper, are the negatives about people who are from the prison system out in the community, and they commit other crimes.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Yet at the same time, I’ve talked to, in 20 years of doing this, literally hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of individuals who have the same charge you did who are out there gainfully employed, and so what do you say to employers?  I mean, they have that stereotype?  They read the paper, they watch the evening news, and so suddenly, someone representing that demographic, if you will, person out of prison is standing in front of them and is asking them for a job, and to overcome that stereotype is probably pretty difficult for some employers.

Alex Vincent:  Yes, I would find it being difficult for some employers, but what I would say to those employers is that some of the problems or issues that you think you may be faced with are not so much, you won’t be faced with as much –

Len Sipes:  It’s not as bad as they’re making it out to be.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  And I mean, it’s not very different from hiring employers or hiring employees or hiring persons from the regular community, from the street.  You’ll get some of the, some of the people that come from supervision or come from those backgrounds that’ll work just as hard, if not harder, and be more dedicated to doing, you know, doing the job and being, you know, a productive, and definitely make your business organization, be an asset to it.

Len Sipes:  The website is where we talk about tax credits depending upon circumstances, bonding programs, incentives to hire people under supervision,, and Alex, you know, it is, the point is this, is that I’ve talked to employers who have basically said that in some ways, hiring somebody under supervision was preferable to hiring from the larger community, because they had an ally in that parole and probation agent, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, they had an ally that, if there was an issue that they could turn to to help them with this individual, and some people really like that combination.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly, and I agree, some people do like that combination, because one of the things that we know that clients that’s under the supervision, one of the main things to remain in society under supervision is that you have employment, and a lot of times, most persons coming from incarceration, they want to get to the lowest supervision that they can get to, and how you get there is through employment, and so when they go to employers and they try to seek employment or find employment, they try to maintain that employment just for those reasons, and as you said also, employers know that as well, and they know that if this guy’s coming to work, or if he on supervision, he’s going to see his probation officer, or his parole officer.

Len Sipes:  And all he has to do is pick up the call, he or she has to do is pick up the telephone and call the parole and probation agent or the community supervision officer, in our case, and basically say, hey, I have an issue, can you help me solve this issue?

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that could solve whatever’s going on real quickly.

Alex Vincent:  Exactly.  Get right to the point.

Len Sipes:  But the bottom line is, and again, getting back to the stereotype, the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of the recidivism rates, the overwhelming majority of people who come out of prison don’t want to go back.  They don’t want to go back to mugging and thuging, they desperately want to be able to be part of regular society.  Am I right, or am I wrong?

Alex Vincent:  I think it, very right.  I think you’re right.  But one of the things that I think leads to a large, that leads to the recidivism rate being so large is that most persons under supervision find it so difficult to find employment, and like I said, that’s also a confidence booster for those persons.  If you come to society, if you come back to the community, and you have that support of local businesses, government agencies, nonprofit, whomever it may be that you’re seeking employment from, it gives you the confidence to say, you know, okay, the community accepts me, that I’ve done my crime, I’ve paid my debt to society, and I’m being accepted back into the community.

Len Sipes:  But at the same time, the people who we encounter under our supervision, or you with the Department of Employment Services with the district government, basically what you’re saying is no bullcrap, show up, be quiet, give 8 hours work, give 10 hours work, give whatever’s necessary, we don’t want to hear whatever issues you have.  You’re there to be employed, and you’re there to do a job, and that’s basically, you need to show up ready for work.  No issues, no bullcrap, no nothing, you need to go to work and show up for work and do whatever the employer wants you to do.  Is that our message?

Alex Vincent:  That’s definitely our message.  Show up, be ready for work, and be ready to go to work.

Len Sipes:  And I think we’re going to leave it there, because I think that that’s probably the best advice that you can give, and at the same time, we’re telling employers, look, please give our folks a chance, we can lower the crime rate, we can make a safer society, we can, we’ll spend less money out of our own pockets in terms of our own tax dollars by hiring people under supervision.

Alex Vincent:  Yep.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the bottom line.  Alex Vincent, the DC Department of Employment Services.  He is currently the manpower development specialist, currently under our supervision here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, again, the ongoing series of radio shows talking about employment.  We will be interviewing people under supervision, talking about their struggles, and we will be interviewing employers.  The website is where we’re asking you to go there and either call or leave messages for individuals telling us why you will either hire or not hire people under our supervision.  We want your opinion, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


American Probation and Parole Association-Update-35th Annual Training Conference

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

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s guest is Diane Kincaid.  Diane is the Deputy Director for the American Probation and Parole Association.  They are the leading organization promoting the issues in parole and probation in this country. They are at the forefront of virtually everything that’s going on throughout the United States, and for, to some degree, throughout the world in terms of anything involving community supervision services.  Their website,  Before talking to Diane, our usual commercials.  We’re up to 200,000 requests a month for D.C. Public Safety, radio, television, blog, and transcripts.  Once again, we are really appreciative of all the guidance that you give us, and we will take it all, criticisms and guidance, whatever is on your mind, please get back in touch with us.  If you want to get in touch with me directly, it’s Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S,  CSOSA is the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency in Washington D.C.  You can follow us via twitter at, or you can comment, as most of you do, within the comment boxes of, again, D.C. Public Safety at Media, M-E-D-I-A,, the radio show, television shows, blog, and transcripts.  Back at Diane Kincaid, Diane, how’ve you been?

Diane Kincaid:  Good, how are you, Len?

Len Sipes:  I’m fine, fine, fine.  Diane, you know, one of the things that I said when you, I’m a member, by the way, of the American Probation and Parole Association, and they were kind enough to give us, Tim Barnes and myself an award for our community outreach efforts, and from the podium, what I did was to thank Diane Kincaid because there are people all throughout the United States who depend upon Diane Kincaid to answer their questions and provide them with information and feedback about parole and probation, so she’s probably better known than anybody in the country in terms of parole and probation issues, and I thanked Diane from the podium, because she’s been there for years, and she really does know more than anybody else in the country regarding parole and probation efforts, so Diane, once again, thank you for everything that you do for those of us in the corrections community.

Diane Kincaid:  Thanks, Len, I really appreciate that, and I want to say, too, that doing what I do.  I truly appreciate the job that you do as far as outreach, because that’s not easy, and you do a wonderful job, so our association certainly appreciates it.

Len Sipes:  Well, compliments are going both ways, but without APPA, we wouldn’t exist.  We wouldn’t be there, and we wouldn’t have the strategies that we have today.  A variety of things that we want to talk about today, the 35th annual training institute coming up in Washington D.C. on August 15-18, that’s why I’m going to be repeating the website address throughout the program,, and talking about the training institute, talking about the marketing strategies, talking about a variety of resolutions that the American Probation and Parole Association has on their plate.  Parole and Probation Officer Week is coming up on July 18 through July 24.  A force for positive change is a logo that APPA produced a couple years ago to help the rest of us out in terms of our public relations effort, and also support for the second chance act, so that’s a long list of different things we have to do within a half hour.  First of all, let’s talk about the 35th annual training institute in Washington D.C. on August 15 and 18.

Diane Kincaid:  Yeah, we’re really excited about being in the capital.  We’ve never had one of our annual institutes in the capital of our nation, so it’s going to be really exciting.  We have a lot of wonderful activities planned, and CSOSA, as co-host agency is doing a wonderful job in helping us bring in some wonderful workshops and good presentations.  It’s going to be really good.  You know, we’re hoping to have a good crowd.  With the travel situation the way it is for many agencies, it’s difficult, and we understand that.  You know, it can be hard to have a budget for training, let alone for travel as well.  Hopefully, the location there in D.C. is going to be easy enough for people all along the east coast to get to, many people are going to be able to drive in, so that’s going to help out a whole lot.

Len Sipes:  If people have an opportunity to come to Washington D.C., bring your family if at all humanly possible, there are, you can spend days and days and days in Washington D.C. going to all of the free events, the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum, the World War II Memorial.  My wife and I, just the other day, were talking about going down and seeing the Holocaust Memorial.  I mean, there are an endless array of things and events that are all free.  D.C. is a very family oriented place, and did I say free?  So if you come to D.C., there is just a ton of things to do, cultural and historical and otherwise, it’s just an amazing city, and I’m privileged to work here, so I really encourage anybody to, who’s listening to this program, to pay attention to the website, in terms of the 35th Annual Training Institute.  Diane, I think one of the real wonderful things about your training institutes are the courses, but more importantly, just the ability to network with other people just like yourself.

Diane Kincaid:  Absolutely.  You have multiple opportunities at our conferences to go into the expo hall, to look at some of the new technologies coming out for supervision, just to talk to people, just to meet people, just to make contacts from people across the country who, more than likely, are facing some of the same situations that you are.

Len Sipes:  I spent time at the last training institute that I was at, I spent a half hour with an individual who was involved in promoting their parole and probation agency and representing that agency, and I just sat there and listened to this person for a half hour talk about his experiences, and it was just fascinating in terms of the different things that he was doing and employing, and I came out of that with, wow, saying to myself, wow, if I would just have this opportunity more often, just to talk to different people and pick their brains for ideas, the exhibitors area is always amazing, because you have people who set up their wares, commercial companies and otherwise, who set up the different booths, and talk about the technology and how it’s having an impact on parole and probation, correct?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s correct.  We generally have a couple or three new ones come in, the technology is always advancing, so there are a lot of new things coming out, and our exhibit hall, unlike some other conferences, is not huge.  Attendees absolutely have every opportunity to visit every booth and speak to the representatives of those companies.  So it’s not overwhelming, it’s not a huge crowd, we have a very friendly crowd, and what amazes me is how excited people are about the work that they do.  That really helps people do my job, just to see how involved they are, and how much they do really want to help people.

Len Sipes:  Well, this is a hard job.  I mean, working directly with offenders, working with people under supervision, it’s a hard job, and sometimes you come out of it reinvigorated when you talk to other people and strategies that they’re using and listen to their experiences, I think sometimes it’s an opportunity to recharge your batteries when you go to an APPA conference.

Diane Kincaid:  I think so, and you know, we have the opportunity as well, joining committees on a number of different topics.  Our website will give you an idea of the different types of committees that we have, just join up, get involved, and you can get a lot of information in our conferences.  It’s only a few days long, but you meet a lot of people, and you get a lot of new ideas.

Len Sipes:  And it’s in Washington D.C. which, boy, if you bring your family and you bring your kids, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime in terms of seeing everything that D.C. has to offer.  Again, all of this is on the website,  Also wanted to tell you that we will be on the floor doing recordings, radio recordings of people on the floor of the conference, who are going to be, in essence, asking people why are they successful, or why their program is successful, or why their programs contribute to public safety, and so we’re just going to have a smorgasbord of people on the front lines, the parole and probation agents, and the other people who work on the front lines of community supervision and just get a sense as to why they’re successful, so if you want to be included in that, please show up and track us down.  Also, what we want to do, Diane, is talk about the marketing strategies part of it, the fact that we have a force for positive change as being the logo, and we have a website, an entirely different website.  Now you can gain access to the website, the marketing website, through the main website of APPA, or you can go to, and I’ll repeat this a couple times, – one word – dot-org, that’s I would imagine CC is Community Corrections?

Diane Kincaid:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  And why did we do this, Diane?

Diane Kincaid:  Well this is a project that began several years ago, and of course, you remember being a member of the working group that got together to decide how we would best approach marketing community corrections as an outreach activity for agencies across the country, and one of the final deliverables that we had on this project is this website.  We have a number of different target groups that we use examples of tools that you can use for these groups to create outreach opportunities for your agency.  We also were able to produce a number of really nice videos.  There are videos of officers speaking about their job and what they do.  There are other videos of offenders speaking about their experience being on community supervision, so we were real excited to get those out, and we hope that people will take an opportunity to look at it.  I want to mention to that this entire project was funded through the bureau of justice assistance.  It was a small grant that we received to do this work for them, because they realized that outreach for community corrections agencies was sometimes difficult.  You simply don’t have time or the budget to have a full time public information officer, and many smaller agencies simply don’t have that.

Len Sipes:  And in essence, the website makes it easy for you to gain new ideas and to, more or less, figure out for yourself what it is that you can do within your agency.

Diane Kincaid:  That’s correct, and alongside that, as a sort of partner project, we did one on our own where the force for positive change came from.  That’s also available on our website with other tools.  They’re kind of linked projects, but they are pushing that same idea that you want to be prepared in your community for questions about the job that you’re doing.

Len Sipes:  Now it strikes me that the most important part of all this, because I’ve talked to, and you’ve talked to a lot of people throughout the country, and we’ve had people throughout the world, I mean, we’ve had a big contingent from England to come in and take a look at what we were doing with radio shows and the television shows and the blog, and talking about, this is something that we want to do.  But two things come to mind, it strikes me, in terms of marketing, community corrections, and marketing parole and probation.  Number one, most of us don’t do it, and I would like to ask your opinion as to why we don’t do it, and I suppose the second part of it is, well, let’s just stick with that for a moment.  Why don’t we market?

Diane Kincaid:  Well, it’s a difficult job to market yourself in a profession where it sometimes is difficult to actually explain what you do, and the professionals who do this type of work, for the most part, are just too busy to do outreach.  They keep their heads down, they take care of their clients, they report to a judge, they’re going to court, they just don’t have time to sit down and think about what they need to tell the community, or what they need to tell the media, but it’s very important that they do that, because unfortunately, situations will arise where something happens.  You may have an offender who does something on supervision, and everyone will turn around and look at that probation or parole department and want to know, you know, how did this happen, why did this happen?  But if you have that background, if you have that support of your community or support of the media.  They understand more about what you’re trying to do, and they understand that, while you’re trying to help offenders straighten out their lives and get a second chance, some people just have a lot harder time doing that than others.

Len Sipes:  Well, look.  Parole and probation agencies, it’s difficult.  You and I are going to agree to that, and everybody else listening to the program is probably going to agree to it, because it is inevitable that people coming out of the prison system, whether by parole or by mandatory release, are people who are on probation, they’re going to go out and do some terrible things.  It’s been that way in the 20 years that I have been associated with community corrections, and so it really doesn’t matter.  It, from the standpoint that, whether you want to market, or whether you want to work with the media or not work with the media, about 5 or 6 times throughout the course of the year, the media is going to say, why did that parolee, that parolee who committed that murder, was he properly supervised?  How many times did you come into contact with the individual, did he go to drug treatment, I’ve read his pre-sentence report, and he was supposed to get treatment for mental health treatment, did he?  I mean, that’s a difficult process for most parole and probation agencies, and what we’re saying is transparency is probably the best way to go, and there’s nothing more transparent than to explain what it is that you’re doing throughout the course of the year rather than what you’re doing within the context of something terrible happening.

Diane Kincaid:  That’s true, and in the community, and policymakers need to understand that none of this happens in a vacuum.  Funding must be provided for programs to help offenders.  You can’t simply release someone out into the community who has a substance abuse problem, who may have a mental illness, and expect them to just, do just fine.  They do need services, and the funding for that has to be provided.

Len Sipes:  Right, but I mean, to explain that whole process, it’s a lot better to explain that process in the context of, not being in the context of all heck breaking loose.  When a parolee goes out and commits a series of murders, and he may have been properly supervised, not properly supervise, to explain all of this in that context, your message never gets across.  All people want to know is, are you protecting my safety.  Where there are hundreds of other issues that we should be talking about throughout the course of the year, so the media and the public has a better understanding of what it is that we do on a day to day basis.

Diane Kincaid:  Well, and a lot of times, reporters will write these stories without speaking to anyone, any of the officials, or any of those authorized to speak to the media from community corrections.  They assume they know facts that may not be true.  They glean reports from here and there, but they really need to have that contact to get the correct information.

Len Sipes:  Diane Kincaid is the deputy director of the American Probation and Parole Association.  She’s been with the organization, how long, Diana?  150 years?

Diane Kincaid:  I’m not quite that old!

Len Sipes:  No!

Diane Kincaid:  But about 10 years or so.

Len Sipes:  But you’ve been there, you’ve been there for a solid decade, and she is, in essence, what all of us need information as I needed information yesterday, somebody was asking me what the average caseload of parole and probation agencies throughout the country was, I said contact Diane Kincaid.  I don’t know if the person has contacted you as of yet, but Diane is the, when somebody says, I need to know this information, my response is, Diane Kincaid, and here’s her telephone number. is the website.  Again, we’ve been talking about the 35th annual training institute coming up in Washington D.C., August 15th through 18th, and we’ve also been talking about the new website APPA has put up in terms of promoting community corrections,, all one word,, or to access the site through the website address that I’ve given probably now a dozen times, but I mean, a force for positive change.  What that says from APPA and for the rest of us is that we’re there to improve your life.  We’re there to have a positive impact on the community.

Diane Kincaid:  And to also support public safety.  That’s one of the primary functions of community supervision.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And that’s one of the things that I find most difficult, because when our response to practically everything, why are you doing this, and why are you doing that, it’s all a matter of public safety, it’s all a matter of keeping people safe, how many times throughout the 20 years that I have been speaking for both, you know, in some cases, both law enforcement and correctional, and community correctional organizations, I mean, the common theme is safety.  I mean, reporters want to know what you’re doing to keep them safe, their families safe, their communities safe.  Everybody wants to know what you’re doing to create a safer environment for them, correct?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s right, and they really need to understand that community corrections does provide that function.  You know, without them, I can’t imagine what types of things would happen, and how ill people, some of those offenders may be, and you know, it’s keeping the community safe, but also providing opportunities for offenders to change their behavior.

Len Sipes:  And the weird thing about it is, I think there’s research from the bureau of justice assistance – I’m sorry, statistics, bureau of justice statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, talking about the fact that I think one in every 40 Americans is under some form of community supervision, either probation, which is probably 85% of them, or parole or supervised release, which means you come out of the prison system, or on pre-trial, or on some sort of juvenile supervision.  I think it’s 1 out of every 40, now that’s currently under supervision.  If you count everybody who’s been in contact with the criminal justice system, it’s got to be at least 1 out of every 20, so the point is that anybody living in any metropolitan area anywhere within the United States or anywhere in this world, they’re going to encounter on a day to day basis a lot of people who are either currently caught up in the criminal justice system or been somehow some way have had contact in the past with the criminal justice system, and I suppose the question is, is that if that person has a mental health issue, do you want that person under treatment being, you’re interacting with that person every day, or do you want that person who needs treatment without treatment?  Isn’t that the question?  Isn’t that the inference that with these programs, we are safer?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s absolutely true.  For those people with mental illness, unfortunately, a lot of times, they are caught up in situations where they’re arrested for a crime, they’re jailed, if they were on some sort of medication, they’re more than likely not going to have that when they go to jail, so their situation deteriorates.  Back and forth, that entire process of going through the criminal justice system is difficult for a lot of people, so having that support system in between, you know, we’re talking about pretrial supervision, investigations, all the way through, they need that support to help them as well as to help the community.

Len Sipes:  I’ve seen a variety of research on drug treatment, and it’s not encouraging, that out of people caught up in the criminal justice system, I have seen figures ranging from 1 in 11 to 1 in 20.  I’m sorry, let me go back.  Either 11% get drug treatment, ranging from between 11% and 20% of people who need drug treatment caught up in the criminal justice system get drug treatment.  So what that’s saying is, very clearly, is that the overwhelming majority of people who need drug treatment don’t get it, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the bureau of justice assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice funded the American Probation and Parole Association to create, so it’s just not them who are talking about these issues, it is us here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, it is the people in Albuquerque, the people in Amarillo, the people in San Francisco, the people in Minnesota, all of us collectively are talking to our media about the need for programs.

Diane Kincaid:  True, and you know, a good place to find out about these programs are in, our website has some examples of these things, there are a number of federal websites for all sorts of programs that have been, they’re evidence based, they’ve been proven to work, and can be altered if they need to be for various agencies across the country.  It never hurts to ask questions.  You know, it goes, everything from technology and information sharing, the global justice information sharing project is a fabulous place if someone is looking for sharing offender information across jurisdictions with law enforcement, with, from community corrections to jails and prisons, there’s so much information out there that all you need to do is look for it or ask for it.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s one of the interesting things, because we have you, and now you’re a membership based organization, and I am a member, have been a member for the last couple years, but so, you don’t have to be a member to go to the website, and to take a look at either APPA’s website, or the marketing strategies website, and to glean an awful lot of good information just from the websites.

Diane Kincaid:  Right, and I provide information to nonmembers as well as members.  I don’t, when somebody gives me a call, I don’t look them up and say, oh, you’re not a member, I can’t help you.

Len Sipes:  There you go, and that’s what I like about APPA.  You help everybody, but I did not want to put those words in your mouth, so I appreciate the fact that you guys do that, believe me.  Okay, so the parole and probation officers week, I’m, do I have that correctly, July 18-24, that’s what I call it, but it’s had another name?

Diane Kincaid:  We refer to it as the probation, parole, and community supervision week.  We want to include as many groups involved in a very detailed profession as we can.

Len Sipes:  Right, because you have pre-trial, you have juvenile.

Diane Kincaid:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what is that all about?

Diane Kincaid:  Well, we celebrate a week every July, it’s generally the second week in July, second or third week, looks like.  We produce a website, we produce a new poster every year with a theme, this year’s theme is support for a second chance, reflecting, you know, all of the funding that has come from the federal government into the second chance act, and it’s, you know, most people think of the second chance for parolees, but unfortunately, there are a number of people who need a second chance who have been in and out of a jail, a community jail, or community transitional housing, so those services are needed for others besides just parolees.

Len Sipes:  Well, the second chance act, did you want to explain what the second chance act is?

Diane Kincaid:  The second chance act is a federally legislated funding program, was first passed through Congress, and then a year or so later received some funding from the U.S. Congress to provide grant funds for various agencies for things like jobs programs for offenders, treatment services for offenders, mental health programs, just a myriad of programs to assist offenders coming out of prisons and jails, just to get their lives on track and to make sure that they are getting the services that they need to become law abiding citizens.

Len Sipes:  And I think that that’s an amazing thing, because you have legislation from the federal government.  We’ve had bits and pieces of it in the past, but certainly this is significant.  There are hundreds of millions of dollars involved for community organizations, for parole and probation agencies, for a wide variety of groups to actually apply for funds, and to do reentry programs, offender reentry programs in their own communities, and it doesn’t, to my knowledge, I don’t think it has to be limited to solely to people coming out of the prison system, although I may be wrong about that.  IT has to do with community supervision across the board.

Diane Kincaid:  Pretty much.  I mean, they, the first set of funding proposals that were sent out, have covered a number of different programs.  I think, like I said earlier, most people do think about parole, parole release as that second chance, and giving services to parolees to get back into the communities, but I don’t know that it is specifically limited just for that.  It’s a pretty wide net.

Len Sipes:  But I think it is significant that there are hundreds of millions of dollars now coming from the federal government that weren’t there before, and hopefully, we can evaluate some of these programs and get a sense as to, a) do they work as well as everybody suggested that they do, and b) what are the specific strategies that make programs, some programs stronger than others?

Diane Kincaid:  Right, and what the federal government also urges is that these programs be evidence based, so that they are replicated, they can be replicated across different agencies and different areas, different jurisdictions.  You know, there are some pretty stringent rules on when they hand out money, and what the reporting process is for that.

Len Sipes:  Diane, we only have a couple minutes left in the program.  I did want to touch upon the resolutions.  You have one, on pre-trial supervision, victim restitution, restitution of voting rights, and felony tax refund intercept.  These are four resolutions that are going to be sent out to the membership of APPA?

Diane Kincaid:  We have recently had several of these resolutions passed on and reviewed by our executive committee and board of directors.  There are a number of different things that come out of federal initiatives that we support, oftentimes, our representative or a senator at the federal level will introduce a bill, and we will see that as something that is encouraging for community corrections, and we will write a resolution for our membership supporting that.  That happened for restoration of voting rights, and actually, our executive director was in D.C. a month or so ago, actually a couple months ago, and presented testimony in front of a House subcommittee supporting that legislation and emphasizing how important restoring rights is to offenders.

Len Sipes:  Sorry we didn’t get to the other three in terms of an explanation, but we are out of time, and I would, Diane, again, I want to thank you for all of the services that you provide to thousands of individuals every year, simply in terms of answering the questions and being sort of the front person for the American Probation and Parole Association, so we are grateful.  Ladies and gentlemen, today we’ve been talking to Diane Kincaid, the Deputy Director of the American Parole, Probation and Parole Association, two websites, is the principal website.  The marketing website is  Ladies and gentlemen, like I said before, we’re up to 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety.  For the television shows, for the radio shows, for the blog and the transcripts, you can go to media – M-E-D-I-A – dot-csosa – C-S-O-S-A – dot-gov to access those four services.  You can comment in the comments section, and we do get about 10-12 comments out of the comments section every single day.  You can contact me directly, Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S –  You can follow us on twitter at, L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S one word, we’ll take all of your comments, whether they are positive or negative, and we appreciate your suggestions in terms of future programs, and you have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


What Works: Evidence-Based Practices in Community Corrections

“What Works: Evidence-Based Practices in Community Corrections”  is part of the” DC Public Safety” television series.

Please see for our radio shows. See

We welcome your comments and suggestions at

This show provides an overview of “what works” in community corrections through an examination of research-based practices.  Participants include:

Nancy G. LaVigne, Ph.D. Director, Justice Policy Center, The Urban Institute
Thomas Williams, Associate Director, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency
Debra Kafami, Ph.D, Executive Assistant, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

The program is offered by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal executive branch entity in Washington, D.C.

This television program is available at

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. Timothy Barnes is the Producer.

Transcript available at

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi.  And welcome to DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  You know, today’s program is pretty interesting.  It’s about what works in community based corrections or evidence-based corrections.  There’s quite a bit of research out there now that indicates that you can reduce crime, you can reduce recidivism, you can help the cost to states in terms of the criminal justice system, that you can take tax burdens and turn them into tax payers.  But the problem on the part of the practitioner throughout the country is that they are having a hard time taking all of this research and turning it into day-to-day practice.

And to talk about that whole concept of taking the research and turning into day-to-day practice, we have three principals with us today.  We have Dr.  Nancy La Vigne.  She’s the Director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute.  We have Thomas Williams.  He is the Associate Director of Community Supervision Services for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency.  And we have Debra Kafami.  Dr. Kafami is the Executive Assistant in Community Supervision Services at Court Services, and Offender Supervision Agency too.  Nancy, and to Tom, and to Deb, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Debra Kafami: Thanks, great to be here.

Thomas Williams:  Thank you Len, glad to be here.

Len Sipes: We have this really interesting conversation that all four of us have had over the course of years of taking this massive amount of research from the Department of Justice, from the Urban Institute, from Pew, from lots of other organizations, and the struggle that we have to make it practical, to make it real, to read through all the volumes of material, and to get down and take a look at it, and say, “Boom, okay, this is something I can use at the state or local level.” Nancy, now the Urban Institute– You sort of specialize in that.  And you’ve been doing this sort of research for decades.

Nancy Lavigne: That’s right.  The Urban Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization based in Washington as you know.  We’ve got policy centers across a wide array of topics from education policy to health policy to tax policy.  And as director of the Justice Policy Center in the Urban Institute, I direct evaluation and research, a team of over 35 researchers.  And one of our main goals is to find out the truth, what does work, and why does it work?  And on what populations?  And in what context?

Len Sipes: Right.  And so the average person sitting– I’ve give you an example of a couple years ago.  Tom, and I, and Deb, all three of us come from the Maryland Department of Public Safety.  I’m sitting there in the Secretary of Public Safety’s office, and he says, “I got off the phone with the governor.  The governor saw this program about boot camp on ABC Evening News.  And now he wants us to do boot camps.” And I’m sitting there going, “Well, what is the evidence on boot camps?  What is the research?” It was the governor who came along, and said, “I’ve got a great idea.  Let’s do boot camps,” rather than the research pushing us in that direction.  That’s how the criminal justice system seems to work correct?

Nancy Lavigne: Right.  And that’s an interesting example because of all the different kinds of interventions out there.  I think the research is most definitive on boot camps and that they don’t work.  I know that as a researcher, but does the practitioner community know that?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think we’re getting the word out the way we need to be.

Len Sipes: And one of the things, interestingly enough, you take a look at the DARE Program, which is a police-oriented, police-run program for kids to teach them about the dangers of substance abuse.  Now the DARE research seems to be pretty negative, yet DARE thrives.  So there are other dimensions here.  There is the evidence-based part of it, and there’s the practical, reality base to interpret what people want, what they’re comfortable with.  Tom, now you went to China to talk about evidence-based procedures.  You lectured in that country.  You’ve written articles.  You’ve gone to conferences throughout the country talking about evidence-based procedures.  I know you’ve had this conversation with people in the field in terms of how you take all of this research and make it practical to make it real.

Thomas Williams:  Well, that’s correct, Len.  I was in China three years ago lecturing on evidence-based practices.  And actually, part of my discussion with the Chinese there, the delegation, was actually giving a historical perspective about evidence-based practices.  As you know, some of your viewers probably know as well, prior to Lipton, Martin and Wilks coming out with the “Nothing Works” document that actually revolutionized basically the way that we deal with offenders in a criminal justice way, we had a single theory with regards how we manage offenders basically from a prison standpoint.  And that is an indeterminate sentencing.  So you went into prison, you got rehabilitated hopefully and you came out and that continued.

But unfortunately with that “Nothing Works” theory that came out, that really revolutionized things for which it was a whole metamorphosis of now we just put a man and through away the key.

Len Sipes: That was during the 1970s, correct?

Thomas Williams:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes: With landmark research basically suggested that they took a look at all the evaluations and they came to the conclusion– Now he would say that that conclusion was exaggerated.  But there was a point where the consensus from the criminal justice systems and in criminology was that there’s no sense trying to help individuals while in prison, and while they come out of prison, commonly know as re-entry.  Because nothing does work.  But we’ve moved way beyond that now, correct?

Thomas Williams:  Well, and that’s the point I was getting ready to make the next point, is that there’s been a whole body of research now that basically says that when you provide intensive supervision services, in addition to special design programs, you are going to have dramatic reductions in re-arrests and also recidivism rates, recidivism meaning those persons who go back to prison.  So that whole body of knowledge now is a wealth of knowledge that’s out there that a lot of criminal justice professionals are now using to develop programs within their own individuals entities.

Len Sipes: And what I want to do is briefly run over, take 15 seconds and go over some of the programs that have worked.  The Washington State Institute for Public Policy in 2006, they came a long with a very brief, but a very comprehensive piece of research taking a look at the individual programs in terms of what works and what doesn’t.  And also, at the same time, talking about the percentage reductions.  But beyond that, we’ve had drugs courts, cognitive behavioral therapy, which is teaching individuals how to think differently about their own lives, Project Hope in Hawaii.  We’ve had re-entry programs in San Diego, jobs through the Department of Labor, jobs programs, substance abuse treatment, mental health courts.  All of these programs have shown that it’s possible to reduce recidivism, it’s possible to reduce crime, not by leaps and bounds.  Because the research seems to indicate that there’s a 10 to 20 percent reduction in recidivism.  So the possibility is there.  Debra?

Debra Kafami: What we seem to be talking about is results-based management.  What gets measures gets done.  And it’s so important because if you can look at your results, you can distinguish your successes from your failures.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things that I’m really impressed by.  You’re in charge of our SMART System.  You’re the basically the person who has helped design the SMART System which is our own book-keeping system which has our own internal management system.  And all the way throughout this process in the 6.5 years I’ve been with CSOSA, you’ve said, “Unless you measure it, it doesn’t happen.” What happens, what gets done is what gets measured.  Correct?

Debra Kafami: Correct.  And like I said, it’s so important so you can distinguish the successes from the failures.  Because if something is successful, it can be replicated.  And if it’s a failure, they want to know so you can go back and fix it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Debra Kafami: Sometimes a very good program works well in one area of the country, but you bring it to another place and implement it the same exact way and it may not work.  So you may not want to just totally throw the program away.  But you can work and figure out what went wrong, and try and correct it and make it work.

Len Sipes: And boy did you just hit the nail on the head, Dr.  Kafami or Debbie.  Because that’s the conversation I have with practitioners all the time.  And any one of you can jump in on this.  It’s that Project Hope in Hawaii, where you take probationers who have a meth problem.  And if they mess up, you immediately put them in a local incarcerated setting.  And you do provide treatment.  And eventually they have good outcomes.  And different people are saying, “Well, Leonard, you know that’s a wonderful idea.  But I don’t have the jail space to move people in there every time they mess up while they’re on community supervision.” So as Debbie said, because it works in Hawaii, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in DC, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in Rhode Island.  And that’s the frustration on the part of parole or probation people throughout the country.  How do I take all this research and distill it and apply it to my particular situation?

Thomas Williams:  Right.  But I don’t think this argument, on the one hand, jail or prison versus community corrections.  Certainly I think we need both.  I mean, there’s a certain segment of the population for which they do, unfortunately, need to be incarcerated.  Because they won’t change, they’re not willing to change, and they have no desire to change.  For that group with regards to the accountability that we need, in community corrections, need to have with regards to the public, and also letting the public know that we’re serious about quote-unquote changing behaviors.  We do need to, unfortunately, incarcerate that segment of the population.

Len Sipes: There’s no question that we have to incarcerate.  There’s no question that there are people out there who pose a clear and present danger to our society.  And they have to go to prison.  There’s no doubt about that.  But the overwhelming majority of the people under correctional supervision in this country are on community supervision, they’re supervised by parole and probation agencies.  Like 85 percent are being supervised by parole and probation agencies.

So when people think of corrections, prisons, which is the first thing that comes to their mind, is a tiny part of it.  The overwhelming majority of people under correctional supervision belong to us.  And the practitioners are saying, “What do I do with all these people?”

Nancy Lavigne: Right. Well, I think we can take this apart into different pieces of the challenges that practitioners face and trying to digest all the research that’s out there and use it in a meaningful way.  For one, as a researcher and an academic, I know what the research is because I get the journals in the mail and I can read them and understand them.  For practitioners, they may see a study here or there.  It’s usually not written in a way that’s accessible.

And in addition, there’s just a bunch of different studies, and some say something works, and some say the same thing doesn’t.  And so it’s very hard for someone to say, “In the balance, what really does work and why and how and on what population?” So one thing we’re doing at the Urban Institute is trying to cull all the research out there on the topic of prisoner re-entry.  Now it sounds narrow, prisoner re-entry.  But as you know, prisoner re-entry encompasses everything.

Len Sipes: It’s huge.

Nancy Lavigne: It’s housing, it’s mental house treatment, it’s substance abuse.  It’s everything.  It’s in-prison programs.  It’s programs after release.  It’s programs for literacy, for employment and so forth.  So we’ve identified over 1,000 individual studies that fall under this umbrella of re-entry.  And those are studies that are truly evaluative in nature.  Now what we’re doing is reviewing each and every study and rating it according to its level of rigor.  Because that’s another challenge for the practitioner community.  They see a study and it says something works, and they don’t have the knowledge to understand whether that’s a definitive–

Len Sipes: It’s methodologically correct or not?  Yes.

Nancy Lavigne: Of course.  So we’re reading them and we’re going to compile all that information and develop it into an online, searchable website that’s part of the National Reentry Resource Center.  So this is all funded under the Second Chance Act.

Len Sipes: Right.  And it’s all being funded by Department of Justice and the Assistant Attorney General.

Nancy Lavigne: Yes.

Len Sipes: She’s really focusing on making the research come alive.

Nancy Lavigne: Yes.

Thomas Williams:  Let me just cut in.  What we just touched on just a minute ago are the challenges that folks who are coming back from prison have with regards to trying to reestablish themselves within a community.  Issues of substance abuse, issues of employment, issues of housing are major issues, interpersonal relationships, and who do I associate with when I do come back to the community?

We’ve got all bodies of research now on those individual topics and collectively to kind of help the practitioner.  And I think one of the things that kind of argues against a practitioner sometimes is, how do I actually take this research and apply it to my day-to-day job?  And then number two, how do I actually target the right population?  Because you could have a program that you think is good because you read the research, but then if you target the wrong person, then you’re not going to have the results that’s expected.

Len Sipes: And that’s my point, again, going back to our Maryland Department of Public Safety days when the public safety secretary– A new piece of research would come out from the National Institute of Justice.  He’d plop it on my desk, and go, “Sipes, give me a two-page summation on this.” Because he didn’t want to go through this telephone-sized book filled with facts and figures and the methodological review.  He just wanted to know what the lessons were and how we could apply those lessons within the Maryland Department of Public Safety.  And Deb, I think the practitioner community is overwhelmed by the research.  And they just don’t understand how to use everything that’s before them.  It’s like having this gigantic feast and you have toothpicks to eat.  I mean, you just can’t distill all of this information.

Debra Kafami: You can’t do everything at once.  You just don’t have the resources to do everything.  And there’s not just one magic bullet: “Do this program; everything will be better.” And it takes time.  And many times you just don’t have that luxury.  People want to see the results, they want to see it now.  But sometimes it could take three years at least from beginning of a program to start to see some tangible results.

Len Sipes: Okay.  And we’re going to be talking about resources on the second part of it.  Because the other big complaint on the part of the practitioner community throughout the country is, I don’t have the resources to implement all of this.  First, they’ve got to get through the research.  They’ve got to understand the research.  They’ve got to understand how to apply the research.  And then they’ve got to come up with the resources.  And ladies and gentlemen, we’ll discuss that resource question when the second segment of DC Public Safety– Stay right there, we’ll be back with this intriguing conversation on what works in terms of community-based corrections.  We’ll be right back.

[Music Playing]

Hi, welcome back to DC Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes.  Our guests continue in the second half of the segment.

Dr. Nancy La Vigne.  She’s the Director of the Justice Policy Center for the Urban Institute.  Thomas Williams, he is the Associate Director of Supervision Services from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Dr. Debra Kafami, Executive Assistant again for Court Services and Offender Supervision.  And to Nancy, and to Tom, and to Deb, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Debra Kafami: Thank you very much.

Len Sipes: All right.  So in terms of this discussion, it’s going to be seen in the District of Columbia, it’s going to be seen throughout the country.  So what we have, and Debra talked about it, at the end of the first half is, okay, so we have all these studies.  And Nancy, Urban Institute is doing a wonderful job and Department of Justice and the National Resource Center, everybody’s doing a wonderful job of taking all of this evidence and distilling it down into useful lessons for practitioners in the field.  So that’s lesson number one, correct?  Okay.

Lesson number two is when I talk to my peers in the field, they say, “Leonard, okay fine.  The evidence says that you need to design a program around that individual.  No more cookie-cutter drug treatment.  If that woman has had a history of sexual abuse in her younger years, which is not unusual for the female offenders that we have under our supervision, the reason for doing drugs is tied into the fact that she was sexually molested at nine and ten years of age.  That substance abuse program needs to be designed with her specific conditions in mind.  They can’t be cookie cutter.  But I don’t have the money to do it.  I refer her to a community health program.  And four months down the road, they put her into a group program that meets twice a week for one hour at a time.  And it’s cookie cutter and it’s not designed for her.  So I know the evidence that design a program specifically for her but I don’t have the money to do it.” What do we tell a person under those circumstances?

Nancy Lavigne: I think you’re thinking too big.  I don’t think you should be thinking about new programs.  I think you should be thinking about how we can advise the field on using existing resources and programs more wisely.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Nancy Lavigne: We do a lot of partnerships with practitioners and it’s often to evaluate existing programs or to assist people in measuring success.  They say, “We can’t measure success.  We don’t have the resources.  We don’t have the expertise.” And I said, “Well, how do you know you’re even serving the right population to begin with?  You should be collecting that data to begin with.  Because that’s the same data we need to evaluate the program.” “Oh, well yeah, I guess we’re not collecting that.” And when we go back and look and see whether there’s a one-per-one match between people who have, for example, histories of substance abuse and whether they’re getting treatment, we’ve been stunned to find that as many as 50 percent of people who are enrolled in treatment don’t have those extensive histories.  So there’s a mismatch and–

Len Sipes: We may be taking the wrong people to go in to begin with.

Nancy Lavigne: –and resource allocation.  And that’s another way that you can use evidence to improve practices that doesn’t require new resources.

Len Sipes: So the evidence says, “Be sure you pick the right people to go into the right programs to begin with?”

Nancy Lavigne: That’s right.  It’s being smarter with the resources you currently have.

Thomas Williams:  Well, if you think about the Drug Court movement over ten years ago, that’s basically how the Drug Court movement got started.  Certainly there was a little bit of money that came from the federal government to help support that.

Len Sipes: Right.

Thomas Williams:  But there’s the whole issue of collaboration.  And as we just discussed here a few minutes ago is targeting the right people for the right program, and making sure that the program fits the needs that you’re trying to address.  So one way that you can do that is basically having a good assessment system, a good assessment protocol where you’re actually trying to identify the risk to re-offend, and how do you minimize that risk to re-offend?  By the same token, identifying the particular needs that are specific to that group or that population that you’re looking for, and put that person in that particular program.  Then you can match up those two things and then have most of the literature saying that you will have.  But the whole issue of collaboration is important, because one entity can’t do it alone.  Criminal justice entities cannot do it by itself.  It needs the collaboration of the systems that are out there to help support what we’re trying to do in terms of that behavior change.  But also as important as that is the social support that needs to come following that.  So as we have the services, as we’re providing the services, as we’re now having that level of success, what is following that program either by the family members or the community that’s going to help sustain that success that we have?

Len Sipes: Okay.  And I think you just summarized the principal findings in terms of the evidence-based process.  Somebody said some time ago that in terms of the substance abuse end of it, that the National Institute on Drug Abuse and SAMSA has had the last four decades to think through this process.

And they do give out very specific guidelines in terms of how to handle the individual, how to assess the individual, how to design a program for that specific individual, follow up.  So they are very, very specific.

And supposedly we, in community corrections, are in our infancy in terms of developing this evidence-based approach.  But SAMSA, in the National Institute of Drug Abuse, they’re the leaders, so to speak, in terms of taking a population in need and figuring it out, exactly what works for them.  And so what we have to do is do that for mental health, what we have to do in terms of jobs, what we have to do in terms of supervision techniques.  And what you’re saying at the same time is that not everybody gets the same levels of services.

Thomas Williams:  And they don’t and they shouldn’t get it.  Anyone that assesses at the high level of supervision with intensive or maximum, whatever it’s called.  But wherever the high level is, that’s the group that you want to target.  And you want to put those persons into your high-end, costly programming.  The low-end of the spectrum that’s a low-level supervision, you might just want to provide life skills to them at best.  But the literature really tells us that if you have someone who’s assessed at the low level, you really shouldn’t be spending any resources on them at all.

Nancy Lavigne: That’s right.  In fact it can actually be harmful.  If you look at the literature on halfway houses, it’s pretty definitive that the lowest level offenders who are coming back to the community do worse off when they have to go into halfway houses.  And the theory is that it’s preventing them from finding jobs, keeping jobs, reuniting with family in a way that’s detrimental.

Len Sipes: Well, there was a book years ago called Radical Non-Intervention, and the message of that book and this is a book that’s 40-years-old, was be careful as to who you put into particular programs.  You may not want to intervene in the lives of certain people.  They’re marginally involved in the criminal justice system, you do as little with them as you possibly can.  The more you try to help them, the more you try to supervise them, the more they get sucked into the criminal justice system.  So it’s picking the right person to receive the right services, correct?

Debra Kafami: It’s not so much picking but identifying the right person through a validated risk and needs assessment instrument like Tom said.  You want to focus on those high risk offenders, and you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Thomas Williams:  Let me go back to the 1980s to the RAN study that was done on intensive supervision where basically because the staff were able to have a lower case load and follow people more closely, they had high levels of re-arrest, or re-offending, technical violations I should say.

Len Sipes: Right.  They put more people back in prison.

Thomas Williams:  Right.  But the important thing about that is that the services weren’t there.  So they had high-level folks that they were monitoring, which they should be doing, trying to keep tabs on what they were up to and trying to make sure they were reporting for their appointments and things like that, or going to services.  But the more they watched them, the more technical violations actually were recorded, which eventually led them to be revoked.  But the problem was that the services for these high-end folks was not provided.

Len Sipes: Right.  And that’s the same research that applies to boot camp, that you can’t just supervise people intensely because the more you supervise them, the more violate them.  There’s got to be a combination of supervision and programs.  And that’s what seems to work, correct?

Debra Kafami: Yes.  And the programs really need to be cognitive-based programs.

Len Sipes: Cognitive-base, and I talked a little bit about that at the beginning of the program, means helping them think through their issues to be sure that they see the world better, make better decisions.

Debra Kafami: Yeah.  It’s a program where there’s a lot of role-playing and skill development for the offenders.  They have to be able to go out in the community and deal with issues in an appropriate manner.  And they need skills to do that.

Len Sipes: So in the closing minutes of the program, is there today one document – and I know Nancy, you were talking about Urban is working on it, Justice is working on it, the National Center is working on it – but in essence we’re working towards one comprehensive approach.  So it’s no longer the people in Milwaukee or in Alaska or wherever they happen to be; they’re going to be able to have resources in the near future that gives them the best available evidence in terms of how to proceed, correct?

Nancy Lavigne: Yes.  But my fear is that once we get all this evidence out there, the Project Hope is a perfect example of this.  Everyone’s latching on to it as this silver bullet that’s going to reduce recidivism.  And I think that’s really ill-advised.  It gets back to this validated risk and needs assessment tool.  You really need to know what population you’re dealing with.  And each person has different needs and risks.  And Project Hope may work for some but not others.  I fear that once we get all this wonderful information out there, people are going to pick and choose, “I want to do this program because it has the biggest impact on recidivism,” rather than, “This is the population I’m trying to deal with.  Now what program fits their issues and their needs?”

Len Sipes: So the lesson seems to be from the three of you as that, A, we are going to have that assessment, we just need to provide guidance in terms of how to use the evidence; and B, Tom you mentioned the partnerships, the parole and probation agencies aren’t there by themselves.  They really have to coalesce with the people providing the mental health services, the people providing the job services.  There really has to be that.  I think they will begin to coalesce once the research is placed in one easy-to-read venue, correct?  Look, the jobs people, they’re burdened.  They’re under and enormous burden.  And you go them, as we did at Maryland Public Safety, and they’re not overly-enthusiastic about taking on a new role.

Thomas Williams:  I just want to kind of dovetail a little bit on what Nancy said, I think the hope or the future for those who are managing or directing criminal justice agencies is pretty good.  I think we’re in a pretty good space right now.  The research is coming out.  I think there’s a lot of interest in Congress now about those offenders who are returning and what do we do to put them on a different plane so that they can then be successfully in the community.  And I think from the standpoint of the Justice Department, the various agencies under the Justice Department, are actually giving guidance on this whole issue, I think is so fundamentally important.

So even though a probation director may want to do something, as Nancy indicated before and Debbie, you many not have to do it on a larger scale.  But you can target your population on those persons who are the most riskiest to re-offend And then once you target on that most risky population, using the research and using the funds that will be coming from Congress.  We will start to see dramatic effects.  I would like to go back to the 70’s when we had a single theory in this country for managing offenders within the country.

Len Sipes: It seems to me now that with President Obama’s Administration there is strong support for re-entry.  It seems to be with Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson over at the Department of Justice, she’s a strong proponent of the evidence-based process, and research, and reentry.  The Second Chance Act that went through Congress, we now have hundreds of billions of dollars for states and jurisdictions throughout the country to implement re-entry based programs.  Match all that up with the fact that the states can no longer afford to incarcerate.  In fact, states are cutting back on their budget by, again, tens of millions of dollars in individual states.

They can no longer afford the level of incarceration.  So we now seem to be at an appropriate time where evidence-based and re-entry practices now just come together at a very opportune time.  But the individual practitioners are still saying, “Len, help me understand this research and where am I going to get the money?” So it’s still coming down to that.  What we’re saying to them is that there’s hope in terms of the coalescing of the research; there’s hope hopefully in terms of the money.  But you have to do partnerships, you have to take this research and get together with your fellow agencies and make it come alive.  Is that it, Deb?

Debra Kafami: Exactly.  The collaboration is key to implementing evidence-based practices successfully.

Len Sipes: Right.  Parole and probation agencies are just not going to do it on their own.  It has to be the governor of that particular state coming together, and saying, “You guys have got to get together and do this.”

Thomas Williams:  As well as the community stepping up as well.  When that person comes back to that community, he wants to feel apart of that community.  And the family support that’s actually needed to support that person once they go through the various programmings is so fundamentally important.

Len Sipes: Okay.  Tom, you had the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us on DC Public Safety as we explore this whole concept as to what works in corrections, evidence-based corrections.  Watch for us next time as we explore another very important part of our criminal justice system.  And please have yourself a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

Series Meta terms: Criminal, Justice, what, works, drug, treatment, educational, vocational, assistance, employment, interviews, policy, makers, staff, probation, parole, reentry


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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s program is about women offenders and we have an event coming up on May 1st in Washington, D.C. dealing with women offenders.  And this radio program is designed to provide clarity to that event and possibly promote the event a little bit.
At our microphones today, Dr. Willa Butler.  Dr. Butler is a supervisory community supervision officer.  She runs groups of women offenders.  And we also have on our microphones Tracy Marlow.  She is under–currently under the supervision of my agency, the court services and offender supervision agency.  She’s about eight months away from her full release from our supervision.  She’s also in the process of starting her own business.  And so, to talk about women offenders, we’re going to have, again, Willa and Tracy to do that, but right for the moment, we’re going to be talking about the fact that we are extraordinarily grateful for the fact of all of your letters, emails, principally emails.  You’re following us on Twitter.  All the suggestions you provide, the criticisms, we really, really, really do appreciate them.
You can get in contact with us at and simply comment in the comments box.  Or you can contact me directly,  Or you can follow us by Twitter, which is
Back to our guest Tracy Marlow, and Dr. Willa Butler.  Willa and Tracy, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Willa Butler:  Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Tracy, I just want to–I’m sorry, we’re going to start off with Dr. Butler.  Willa, now you’ve run groups of offenders here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, groups of women offenders, people under supervision.  Give me a sense as to that process.  Why do we have special groups for women offenders?

Willa Butler:  Well, the group is Women in Control Again, WICA, which is a group started–it’s been maybe 12 years now, because we found out that women are different from men.  And we knew there was a–we knew they were different, but we didn’t know why.  So during studies, we found out that they needed a little more attention.  Women are, I don’t want to say needy, but women have more serious problems than men.  Not to say they are serious.  They have the same problems, but women adapt differently than men.  And when you look at the profile of the women or the characteristics, there’s usually child abuse, either sexual or physical abuse, substance abuse, little or no education, and a financial deficit there.
And then they grow up.  And they grow up–they start off with I could say dysfunctional, because we all come a little dysfunctional.  But then they end up somehow in the criminal justice system, because there was no one there to respond to their needs.  And that’s why they end up there, because what they had to go or the way that they chose to go to make it through life was outside of the norm, or outside of society’s norm, which led them into the criminal justice system.  In order to survive a lot of them, they end up doing prostitution or selling drugs or whatever have you.  And that’s how they ended up in the system.  And it seems like once in the system, it’s just so hard to get out of it.
And one thing that we notice is that now we need to hear from these women.  And we need to answer their cry.  What are the barriers?  And that’s what we’re addressing in our group.  What are the barriers?  You say women in control again.  I mean, we’re going to give them back the power that was taken from them at such an early age.  And they develop low self esteem, low self worth and value.  And you start getting into all their emotions and what exactly that they need.  And now it’s the time that we’re coming to the fore front in trying to address these needs.  And that’s what we’re all about.

Len Sipes:  The statistics aren’t very good.  Now when you compare the statistics regarding male offenders, female offenders, women have higher rates of substance abuse.  Women have higher rates of mental health problems, but it’s really what you’ve just mentioned the astoundingly high rates of sexual abuse as children.
Now if you take a look at the data, you’ll find astoundingly high rates of abuse and neglect for both male and females, who come under our supervision, who come out of the prison system, come under our supervision, come to us on probation.  But it’s the women offenders that really is startling in terms of that level of sexual abuse.
They come out of the prison system.  And they have, in most cases, 70 percent of cases, I think it is, they’re mothers.  So they’ve got to come back and deal with child related issues, and sometimes multiple children.  So it’s just not all the issues dealing with male offenders, which is tough enough.  But it’s all of the issues dealing with male offenders in terms of mental health, in terms of drugs, in terms of not having a high school education in terms of having a terrible job history, in terms of all of that.  But it’s even more so with women offenders.  And they’ve got to come out and raise and hopefully reunite with their children, and become mothers.  Again, that is an extraordinarily difficult set of circumstances to overcome.

Willa Butler:  Yes, it is, because a lot of times, the mothers never really raised their children.  Then there’s some guilt feelings there.  And there’s some hurt and angry feelings coming from the children.  And then the mother have to adjust to that.  And a lot of times, they’re manipulation in that relationship.  And the mothers feel that they have to do what the children want them to do in order to gain their respect or gain some type of relationship with them again.  And that can be detrimental, too, because we’re trying to live a better lifestyle, but yet we’re still going through a stage of manipulation in order to get the things that we had before we were incarcerated, which are our children.  And then you look at the other things that’s related to that.  We need housing, transportation, and like I say programs that would deal with the disorders.  We need integrated programs that’s going to deal with substance abuse and mental health, because a lot of the women, they suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, you know?  And that’s something that needs to be addressed.  And when you couple that with using drugs, then you really have something on your hand and that’s what we want to look at today and talk about. 

Len Sipes:  Willa, you’ve been through this for how many years?  You’ve been running these groups for women under supervision for how many years?

Willa Butler:  Since 1995.

Len Sipes:  And so you have seen literally thousands of women come through the criminal justice system.  At what point does it simply become overwhelming?  Because when I sit down, and I talk to women offenders, I’m simply overwhelmed by the complexity that they bring to the table.  I mean, the guys are hard enough, but the women with the increased levels of substance abuse and mental health problems, employment issues, anger issues, issues stemming mostly from their own childhoods that to me would become simply overwhelming at a certain point.

Willa Butler:  Well, doing this job, you have to be a passionate person and have compassion for this population that you’re working with.  And knowing that I came away today, and I helped somebody, I gave somebody some good advice, it makes me feel good.  Sometimes I do.  I just want to throw up my hands and give up.  But then, there’s always somebody that’s saying, Ms. Butler, if it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be here today.  Or Ms. Butler, you helped me today and it makes me want to go on and do what I’ve been called to do.  It’s not an easy job, but it’s a job that I guess I’ve been chosen to do.  And I guess I don’t know what to say.  It’s just–it’s always tell my staff just do it, meaning just do it, meaning if you took time and thought about what you had to do, and the consequences of what you were doing, you wouldn’t do it.  So you just go on and know that you are going to make it, and God is with you.

Len Sipes:  But we do talk to more than just a couple women offenders, who have made it.

Willa Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  An awful lot do end up making it.  And awful lot do end up being taxpayers instead of tax burdens.  An awful lot end up being the mothers of their children once again.  They are productive.  They are working.  You know, this is just not about her.  It’s about her children.  So we’re not just talking about one human being.  We’re talking about multiple human beings.
And you know, the fact that so many do make it is, I think, just a testimony, because you know, ordinarily, women involved in the criminal justice system, even in programs, they do better than the guys–

Willa Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  –that go through the programs.  And so to talk to one of our success stories today, Tracy Marlow.  Tracy, you’re going to start your own business soon.  You’re–what an ice cream truck?

Tracy Marlow:  Well, I’m not going to start it.  I have it.

Len Sipes:  You have it.

Tracy Marlow:  I’m about to buy a second ice cream truck.

Len Sipes:  That is incredible.  And so you’re your own business woman.  You’re your own entrepreneur.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  That is so great.  That’s so cool.  I want to point out that Tracy is under our supervision for distribution of crack cocaine.  She was–been locked up in the federal prison system 1991.  She came out to us and been under supervision since 1995. Tracy, now give me a sense of your history?  Everything that I just said to Willa, and Willa just said to me, is that realistic?  Is that a accurate portrayal of women caught up in the criminal justice system?

Tracy Marlow:  Oh, yes, it is, sir.  Yes, it is.  When I came out to my family, I had no one to stand and guidance because I was angry because I was locked up.  I thought you all was the wrong people.  And I was the right people.  And we come with this idea, because we angry because our childhood.  I was molested and raped ever since I was five years old.  So–

Len Sipes:  And that’s a tragedy.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes, and long before drugs came along, I was sick.  And my mother didn’t give me the help because she didn’t understand.  She was an alcoholic.  And my father was an alcoholic.  So they did what they thought they was doing best was just sending off to school.  Don’t tell nobody what happened in the house.  Keep this a secret.  This is a family secret.  And that’s what I did.  I kept things a secret, but it was killing me inside.

Len Sipes:  But that’s exactly what happens. 

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Women keep these things secret.  Women don’t go out to get help. Girls don’t go out to get help and it just rips them apart internally.

Tracy Marlow:  It makes us grow up to do bigger crime.  And bigger crime became using drugs, selling myself, selling things out the house, abusing my kids, because I didn’t understand why.  Then mental health came apart, depression, not understanding that didn’t have a coping skill to cope with these things, because there was nobody to go to.  It was nothing designed.  You put your back out in the street and tell you to make it with your family.  How could I make it if I don’t have the tools to make it with?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tracy Marlow:  I need to have some guidance.  I needed that.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tracy Marlow:  But what held me on, I had some good parole officers.  I’m going to say all them was good.  It was me that wasn’t ready.  And as I went on learning life, I got a job in 2002 at Greyhound.  I still have some anger problems.  I still was going back and forth, but I just believed in a God greater than myself.  And people like Ms. Butler, Ms. White, some good parole officers, Ms. Wallop, they just stuck with me.  They sent me to groups.  They sent me to after care meetings.  And that pulled me on, but a lot of us won’t take it, because we don’t believe in it, because we think it’s a setup.  We think the system is trying to set us up.

Len Sipes:  Well, I mean, considering everything, we’re not exactly the most believable people on the face of the earth.  I mean, we’re there because we have to be there.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  We’re there because we’re paid to be there.  And people just think that we’re just going to set them up.  They don’t trust us.  And they don’t trust their own families.  They don’t trust their own friends.  Why would they trust the criminal justice system for the love of heavens?

Tracy Marlow:  And you’re right about that.  And for a long time, I didn’t trust you.  I really didn’t, but there’s so many programs you all got going now, but you need more.  You need to have–when a person step out of prison, you sent him to the halfway house.  You need to have something when they step out into their family.  Counseling, groups with their family, the way to welcome them back with their kids.  You just send them out to failure, because they go home and they’re not taking their kids, because they didn’t know how to take their selves.  So how could you send me back to three kids, but no home? 

Len Sipes:  Most of the criminal justice systems in this country do not have programs for either men or women.  Most–in most states, I mean, there was just research the other day that what are we saying, 70 to 90 percent of offenders caught up in the criminal justice system have a substance abuse background?

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  11 percent get treatment.  11 percent.  And we’re not talking about treatment designed specifically for that person.  We’re just talking about treatment of any kind.  So 11 percent. 
So what we’re saying is is that 89 percent of people caught up in the criminal justice system, who end up in the prison system, who have substance abuse backgrounds don’t get drug treatment.  So people, number one, need to understand, who are listening to this program, that the vast majority of offenders don’t get the programs they need to make that transition from prison out into the community.  They should be getting these programs in the prison system, correct, Willa and–

Willa Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  That should seamlessly follow them in the community.  But there aren’t programs for most offenders in most places in this country, whether it’s employment, whether it’s substance abuse, whether it’s mental health.  We, because we’re federally funded, do a lot better than most.  But even our programs as far as I’m concerned are not sufficient in terms of the sheer number.  For instance, we have 25 percent funding for 25 percent of the most heavily addicted individuals in terms of providing them with really good substance abuse therapy.  What about the other 75 percent?
So we struggle with that every single day, as most parole and probation agencies struggle with it.  I mean, the rest are taken care of either by the District of Columbia or the Veterans Administration, or faith based organizations, but you see my point.  The point is is that programs really aren’t there for people caught up in the prison system and they’re really not there throughout the country for women who come out.  Now why is that?  Either one of you can chime in.  Why don’t we have those programs?

Tracy Marlow:  Because somebody need to speak and tell them, let them know.  It need to be known.  If it’s one person, we could catch her, one, that’s a fight–it’s a fight for.  But if nobody knows, and we don’t believe, but if you put something out there, and we could see it, then might one or two will come along.
If I say one, another will come.  If I get two, another will come.  All of us is not going to make it, so who could choose which ones are?  So let’s help them all.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but–

Tracy Marlow:  Let’s help them all with more programs, more designs for this here.  Teach us while we in jail about family meeting, family planning.  Teach us.  Your carcerate person, and then you send them back out.  Teach them why they in there.  And teach them while they out.  Make programs.  They make everything else up.  They send rockets to the moon.  Help make more programs.  Do something.

Len Sipes:  Our guest today halfway through the program, and we’re really rocketing through this.  Sometimes, Willa, I–when we do these programs, I’d rather them be an open ended program.  So you know, we don’t have a time limit reintroducing, I guess, Dr. Willa Butler, supervisory community supervision officer for the court services and offender supervision agency.  My agency, she runs groups for women offenders.  Tracy Marlow has been on our supervision since 1995.  And she has started her own business, too, and bought her second ice cream truck.  Tracy is an example of what programs do in terms of helping human beings cross that bridge from prison into the community.
I’m going to go back to the same question, and because I hear what you’ve said, Tracy, but again, there’s got to be an explanation as to why people–why if I just described the fact that there aren’t enough programs, or aren’t nearly enough programs throughout this country.  I–is it what, prejudice against people caught up in the criminal justice system, the fact that people are saying to themselves, hey, let’s send the money to the schools, let’s send the money to the elderly, let’s not give it to the offenders.  They’re the ones who have caused us all this grief.  Why should we give them any money?  What’s the reason why we don’t have the programs we need?

Willa Butler:  Well, one reason, when you look at history, women were not–were looked on as not being intelligent enough to commit crimes.  So therefore, they were not thought about as being criminals.  And as they began to get in the criminal justice system, only back in 1998 when the drug trafficking laws were increased, that women really started going to prison more and more.  And then, we come out with–we have a deficit in a sense, because we don’t have anywhere to put these women or what to do with them.
But they were going through a treatment modality that was designed for men.  And like we said, women are different.  So now we see the difference.  And now we have a–we’re trying to develop a treatment modality that’s more designed for women that’s going to address all of their needs and not just part of their needs.  When I say part, just a substance abuse.  We need to address the substance abuse, the mental illness, the spiritual aspect of the person, the emotional aspect.  And not only that, to integrate it so that their children are involved.  We need programs where when the women comes out and goes to treatment, her children can go with her, because a lot of times, when women are in treatment, or when they’re away from their children, their mind is on their children.  And therefore, they can’t really concentrate on what they need to do, because part of them is thinking about what are their children doing, especially if the parents or someone from home is calling them, and telling them that Johnny or Sue is acting up, etcetera, etcetera.  What am I going to do?  The first thing they’ll want to do is leave the program.  Sometimes they do.  And then what–they’re right back in the system again, because it’s a violation.

Len Sipes:  I ask you this question every time you’re on these microphones in front of these microphones, Willa.  If we had, and Tracy, you’re more than welcome to chime in on this as well, if we had sufficient programs for women offenders, because women caught up in the criminal justice system always do better than men if you put the programs in place.  The question becomes if we had all the programs in place, the woman goes to prison, she gets substance abuse counseling, she gets mental health issues, she gets parenting classes, she gets employment readiness, or they train her for a job.  She gets her GED.  She comes out to a parole and probation system, where all of that is continued, but it’s continued in the community.  Your mental health issues, your mental–your substance abuse issues, your trailing issues.  And eventually, the idea behind all of this is that the majority of the people who we try to supervise and assist go in and start being reunited with their kids.  They start taking care of their kids.  They start becoming taxpayers.  If we had all of that in place, and none of that exist anywhere in this country. There are different states who are doing a better job than others in terms of trying to do that, but if you had all that in place, what percentage of women under supervision do you think would be successful?  Willa, start–you start first.

Willa Butler:  I would–I believe–I’m going to say 60 percent.  I really do believe that, because they have a better start in trying to live their life again.  In other words, they have substance.  They have something to bring to the table, something that I can do, something that’s going to build me up, and let me know that I can do this thing.  And I’m already pretty much got a great start.  And then I can come out with a job, with a place to stay, be able to take care of my children, and feel worthy of what I’m doing because a lot of times, when they come home now, they’re right back in the situation.  They’re in a situation.  They’re living with someone who they have to depend on.  And when you have to depend on someone else, it puts you in a precarious situation, because what, you’re vulnerable.  You have to do what they want you to do.  But when you have your own, your name on the lease, this is mine, it builds your self esteem and your self worth up.  And you can do better.  I believe you can.

Len Sipes:  Tracy, do you believe the majority of people, women caught up in the criminal justice system, if they had these programs both in prison and in the community, what is your percentage of women who would make it, who would not go back to the criminal justice system, take care of their kids, and end up paying taxes?

Tracy Marlow:  I’m going to go a little higher than 60.  I believe about 70.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Tracy Marlow:  And the reason I say that, because I’m a woman of such, that I’m just that person, that if there’s more out there, what helped me to grip on, I just believed in something.  Somebody told me something, and I just stuck to it and believed in it.  But it took me many years for that.  So if there’s more set out, more women will gravitate to it, because women are caregivers.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tracy Marlow:  We are caregivers.  So if we don’t break this cycle with these children to let them know that they don’t have to do what we did, the world will get better.  It will be more programs.  We’d get home for these children, because self esteem is a big issue, too. If we don’t have self worth, we are filled zero.  We got to believe that you could buy ice cream truck and start your own business.  You could be a president of the United States.

Len Sipes:  And that is a foreign concept to the vast majority of women caught up in the criminal justice system.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Right?  They’re nowhere even near that sense of themselves.

Tracy Marlow:  No, they’re never nowhere near.

Len Sipes:  So if you have an individual who’s been sexually abused, who’s been neglected as a child, and many cases, the women I’ve talked to repeatedly so, they come out of that set of–I mean, I–you can take a person, regardless of their circumstances, regardless of their race, regardless of their income, regardless of who they are and what they are, just being repeatedly sexually violated.  Give them every other benefit on the face of the earth.  Just take that particular factor.  And they will struggle throughout life in many, many, many instances.   In other words, they will use drugs.  They will have very, very–

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You add that to everything else that people who get caught up in the criminal justice system go through in terms of dropping out of school, in terms of not having a job history, in terms of an extraordinary low level self esteem, in terms of poverty, if you put all that together, the cards are so heavily stacked against you, that it seems almost inevitable that you will fail.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.  You’re set for failure.  It’s a setup for failure when you have all that stacked against you.  All this is stacked against you.  And in the side, you say you can make it.  Give me some materials to make it with.  Give me some programs.  Give me a job.  Give me a place.  Start me out with a corner.  I’m not asking for a mansion.  Give me a little place with my three bedroom for my kids, a one bedroom.  Give me something to start and see what I do with it.  Give me a chance.  Make more programs.  Everybody might don’t be successful as I did.  I’m coming out of it in eight months.

Len Sipes:  But yours wasn’t a straight success.

Tracy Marlow:  No, mine wasn’t straight success, because–

Len Sipes:  I mean, you–

Tracy Marlow:  –it’s still a fighting matter.  But I have a place.  I came out and got a place, got a job.  First time I ever had a job 2002.  I’ve never worked, because nobody would give me a chance to work.  They wouldn’t hire criminals.

Len Sipes:  Because of what?

Tracy Marlow:  They wouldn’t hire criminals.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Tracy Marlow:  Women criminals.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Tracy Marlow:  You know, we didn’t talk strong enough.  They didn’t–oh, what?  They’ll push us to the side.  But it was just that one person on this job, this one person.  I’m going to give you a chance.  All jobs don’t do that.

Len Sipes:  Who gave you the chance, by the way?

Tracy Marlow:  Jeff Biebenton gave me a chance at Greyhound.

Len Sipes:  At Greyhound.

Tracy Marlow:  Gave me a chance.  And it was the day after they hired people.  It was finished.  It was over with, but I called him.  And he said come in.  Just come in.  You didn call me so much, come in.  And I came.  And he did it.  He opened the door for me. And I didn’t let him down.  I became a good worker and one of the best workers.  You know, but somebody gave me a chance, but I didn’t believe in myself.  I had to build it and believe in myself.  I got one child at a time.  My mother wouldn’t give me all my kids.  Thank God for grandmothers.  My mother gave me one child at a time.  Every year, she gave me another one.
Len Sipes:  How many children?

Tracy Marlow:  I have five.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Tracy Marlow:  She gave me one at a time until I became strong.  And she knew I can handle it.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Tracy Marlow:  Then she went on to heaven.  And I’ve been fighting the battle every since, having good people like Ms. Butler, Ms. Wallop, Ms. Tracy White just holding me on.  But every woman don’t get that.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s my point. 

Tracy Marlow:  Every one don’t get it.

Len Sipes:  That’s my point.

Tracy Marlow:  So we got to make something better, because everybody–if we don’t break this cycle for the children, then the system going to be bigger with a lot more women in jail.

Len Sipes:  And the research is pretty clear that women, I’m sorry, the children–

Tracy Marlow:  The children.

Len Sipes:  –they have higher rates of criminal involvement.

Tracy Marlow:  The younger girls now are getting–they are going to jail left and right.  They are–I know they’re high, because I go and do volunteer work.  And the girls in the youth places are more than the guys now, because the parents can’t break the cycle.  The children are mimicking what the parents did.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tracy Marlow:  Their mothers.

Len Sipes:  Well, they’re doing exactly what they know.

Tracy Marlow:  What they know.

Len Sipes:  And that knowledge base is not very good.

Tracy Marlow:  No.

Len Sipes:  No.  Willa?

Willa Butler:  And that’s true.  And that’s what we need to do is break the cycle of pain, because girls are ending up in the criminal justice system more now.  And they’re starting off early.  And it’s like they need the identity, and say–they’re trying to identify with each other and with the wrong peer groups.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Willa Butler:  And that’s the problem that we’re seeing.  And the sad part about it is the characteristics are the same.  A lot of them, they’re running away from home because they have been abused, you know, molested at home.  And that’s the beginning of it.  They run away.  And then somebody pick them up.  And they start them out to prostitution at an early age.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Willa Butler:  And that’s how some of them get in the criminal justice system, because they’re predators out there more ways than one.  And they’re looking at these children.  When, you know, that’s what they’re there for.  They’re designed to get them.

Len Sipes:  And this is happening in every day in every city throughout the United States.  And yet there’s no collective scream.  There’s no collective outcry.  There’s no collective sense of just sheer and unadulterated anger that this happens to human beings day in, day out.  And then, they get caught up in the criminal justice system.
But we do have society that at certain points, there–this is almost–people are too cavalier.  They’re not carrying enough by in terms of what’s happening, in terms of the immense amount of child abuse that’s going on inside of homes.  I mean, you know, Tracy, you have a sense of whether I’m right or wrong?

Tracy Marlow:  Oh, you’re right, because how many kids are keeping it a secret, because I was told to keep it a secret?  How many kids are getting molested and won’t tell because the parents told them not to tell?  I’m one of them.  I’m a victim of that.  My mother said you don’t tell what goes on out this house.  Keep it a secret.  I was molested since five.  And I kept it a secret. 
But my secrets kept me going till I became uncontrollable.  And now I’m crying out to the other ones.  It’s not a secret, tell it.  Tell somebody.  Help, help.  Get more programs.  Get more groups.  Talk one on one, a group, something, because these kids are going to mimic.  And when you’ve been abused, you become abuser sometimes.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, you do, because it’s what you know.

Tracy Marlow:  It’s what you know.

Len Sipes:  It’s what you know.

Tracy Marlow:  Jesus.

Len Sipes:  I mean, how many of my friends throughout my times, who have been children of alcoholics end up marrying alcoholics?

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  It’s what they know.  It’s their comfort level.  And that comfort level is destructive.

Tracy Marlow:  That’s what my mother and father did.  They both was alcoholics.  But they was functional.  They worked.  They worked every day, but they thought that was right, because they didn’t know better.  They only knew what they was taught.  So it’s not their fault.  We got to break the cycle.

Len Sipes:  We’re in the final minutes of the program.  I need a quick answer from both of you.  And, you know, every time we do these programs, Willa, I’m just, you know, shivering in terms of hearing from individuals like Tracy, who tell their stories so honestly and so passionately.  It’s just–it absolutely blows my mind.  I mean, I love doing these shows, because of the passion your folks bring to these microphones.  But at the same time, it’s frightening to hear.  And I want to say it over and over again that there’s not enough programs.  And there’s just not enough caring on the part of the larger society.  Final comments, Willa?

Willa Butler:  That’s true, Leonard.  I just want to say that we do need more programs out here for women, not only that we need more programs, but we need some preventive programs in the community where the mothers, the children, they can go and find refuge.  And come together with their children.
If they had some type of counseling when this first happened as far as the rape and molestation was going on, that would prevent a lot of this.  But I’m looking forward to our program that’s going to be this weekend, Saturday at the Temple of Praise and 700 Southern Avenue.  And a lot of this will come out there.  And I thank you for inviting us today.  

Len Sipes:  Well, Willa and Tracy, I want to thank you very much.  Tracy, thank you very much for telling me your story.  I’d love for you to come back six months from now and give me a sense as to where you are in terms of your own business.  I am so enthralled.  And, Lord, just listening to you, I just want to hug you, which I will do after the program.  And just, you know, I think you’re the very epitome of what we in the criminal justice system can do, given the resources.  I just thank God for your recovery and the fact that you’re out there, and the fact that you’re now helping others make it through. 

Tracy Marlow:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So God bless you for doing that.

Tracy Marlow:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very emotional D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Our guest today, Dr. Willa Butler, supervisory community supervision officer from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  Willa, as you well know at this point, runs groups for women offenders.  Tracy Marlow is a person under our supervision and she started her own business, her second ice cream truck.
Again, thanks to both of you.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening.  If you want to comment about this program, any other program, give suggestions, comments, criticisms, the email directly to me is Leonard,  Follow us on Twitter at  Or go to the website where all of these programs are, and simply comment in the comments box, as so many of you do.  And please, everybody, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Community Based Support for Offenders and Their Families

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[Video Begins]

NARRATOR:  In January 1997, former President Bill Clinton outlined their vision to revitalize Washington D.C.  From this vision, CSOSA was created by the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Improvement Act of 1997.  The central mission of CSOSA is to increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and develop collaboration with the community to expand the capacity to assist offenders and their families.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON:  Hello, this is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.  We are very fortunate in this city to have a fully funded federal agency, CSOSA, which supervises our residents on probation or returning to us from prison, and they do a lot more.  That residential treatment center, built from federal appropriation from the Congress, is very important, because it not only takes people off of drugs, it keeps them from going back to prison.  That leaves a lot more, a lot more than only community and faith based groups can do.  There‚Äôs a lot you can do.  There‚Äôs a lot that‚Äôs already being done by faith based groups, by community groups, and helping with job training, even with jobs, with housing, with mentoring, with reaching out to these D.C. residents.  Won‚Äôt you help us?

NARRATOR:  CSOSA provides probation and post-incarceration supervision for approximately 16,000 adult offenders in Washington, D.C, and provides comprehensive public safety oriented programming and treatment services combining strict accountability with meaningful opportunity.  Each year, approximately 650,000 offenders return from federal and state correctional institutions throughout the country.  Approximately 2,000 offenders return to the District of Columbia each year.  Most need supervision, services, and support to remain drug and crime free.  An individual‚Äôs passage through the criminal justice system from arrest to prosecution to sentencing through incarceration and release involves several agencies.  Judge Satterfield recognizes the need for innovative collaboration of the entire community.

LEE SATTERFIELD:  When it comes to the individuals that we see more often in our family court and in our criminal division, they typically are young people, they typically are male, and they typically have a host of number of issues that, if they could get resolved, could help them stay out of the system, and I‚Äôm talking about things such as education, many have dropped out of high school, have been truant since they were in middle school, so they lack the type of education that would help them maintain employment.  I‚Äôm talking about employment.  Employment is a necessary thing for anybody, and for anybody to become a productive citizen, employment is always something that is necessary.  And then many of our people that come before us, whether in our adult court or in our family court may have issues involving substance abuse, that they need drug treatment for the drug addiction that they have.  In addition to education, mental health, drug treatment, and those factors, we have things such as housing that‚Äôs also important as well, and so these are the kinds of things that I would ask the community to focus on in helping us help others who are coming back to our community having gone through the criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system.  Your help is needed to help all of our citizens here in the District of Columbia.

NARRATOR:  The results CSOSA seeks depend in part on cooperation from and effective collaboration with community based organizations.  Partnerships with community based organizations result in increased employment, training, and support programming for such services as housing, food distribution, healthcare, and clothing distribution, to name a few.

ASHLEY MCSWAIN:  Basically, Our Place was brought into existence to provide supports for women who were being released after a period of incarceration, and so Our Place provides baseline support, so when you are released from custody, you need clothing, identification, you need resources, access, and relationships.  We have a clothing boutique where the women come in who don‚Äôt have a lot of options for clothing.  We have a boutique that provides those things.  If a woman is interviewing for a job, she can come in and get clothing for that interview.  We also provide legal support.  We have a full time lawyer on staff.  We provide supports around employment, and we also provide HIV and AIDS awareness programs.

DAWN:  Our Place offers women that are coming back into the community many different things.  It gives you a lot of opportunities to get your life back together, but other things, there are other needs that women like me have.

PATRICIA:  When I came here for the first time, they, I did my intake, they‚Äôre very warm and welcome, which is very helpful, because getting back to society, it‚Äôs kind of hard, so they make you feel like that you are welcome back.

NARRATOR:  These resources create a bond between the offender and his or her community and a chance to interact with the community in a positive way.

BRENDA JONES:  Our current program is called Moving On: A Life Changing Program.  This program targets adults and parents living east of the river, and also ex-offenders and their families.  We provide workshops, year round workshops, weekly workshops, parenting, and also on empowering oneself.  We do that for the sole purpose, again, of helping persons who have made decisions in the past that might have gotten them in difficult situations now, helping them to make better decisions in the future.

DARYL SANDERS:  So, a few of our services that we provide, particularly around this area, is our fatherhood initiative, where we are training and working with fathers to become better fathers.  At first, you want to do that by working with them to become better men.  So the collaborative has trained all of the men within our organization to work with this population, to strengthen them, become better fathers, of course will make them stronger and better men, so that‚Äôs one particular area.  We also have housing programs for this population as well.  We have an intake program, so all of our services are provided through our intake department, but again, more services are needed.  The collaboratives cannot do this alone.  The issues are so, so intricate, and again, people think that, oh yes, yeah, they‚Äôre home, and things are fine.  No, there are many, many supports that are needed, there are many, many connections that need to happen that have been severed, and more support and more services are needed in this area for sure.

DERON TAYLOR:  Our program is geared toward assisting men and women who have had challenges, either obtaining or maintaining employment due to a criminal history or substance abuse history.  Our goal is to place these men and women with community agencies that are willing to help them in providing job service training or workshops for one year.

SHAKIRA GANTT:  And our mission is to reduce the incidence of childhood abuse and neglect.  One of the ways that we do that is through supporting parents.  The Georgia Avenue Collaborative offers many community based activities and fun events that will allow you to find out about resources, to get referrals, for job information, or even to develop your resume or to continue your education.  Although the collaborative has been around for 10 years providing these services to our reentering citizens, we have found increasingly that what we provide is really not enough for the need that is coming in.  We‚Äôve got an increase of residents coming in asking for these services, and the challenge has been figuring out how to really service them all, because things are so spread thinly that there just isn‚Äôt enough to go around, and so we‚Äôre really reaching out and asking for other organizations and agencies and entities to step forward.

Thomas Waters:  Marshall Heights Community Development has been in existence in excess of 30 years.  It provides wraparound services.  It‚Äôs like a one-stop center.

RICHARD MAHAFFEY:  I‚Äôm a Ward 7 resident and also an ex-offender.  I‚Äôve lived in Ward 7 most of my life.  My aunt lives in Ward 7 also, and she had told me about a program going on.  I was told about a program and a wiring class, and I was called and told that I would be able to get into it, and I was pretty happy about that, me and my family, because with just my wife working, things have been a little rough, and this program has helped us out gratefully.

NARRATOR:  When members of our community make unfavorable decisions and are held accountable by the criminal justice system, it is CSOSA‚Äôs commitment with assistance from the community to help rebuild lives, heal individuals, and bring restoration to families and the community.  The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions play a vital role in the strategy as well by communicating the need to extend resources.  Gaining their support is integral to CSOSA‚Äôs long term success in achieving their goal of reducing recidivism and reintegrating the offender into the community.

BETTY PAIR:  The success of that program and the success of the people involved depends on education, training, and housing, and if those things are provided, the program will be successful.

MARK DIXON:  We welcome them back in the community.  We need to do more things for them.  If we could have more people to come together, more churches come together, more community organizations, it would help, it would help this tremendously.  Then they won‚Äôt try to go back.  So we can do more things, the community could come together more and help support these people, work with CSOSA, work with other organizations that are out here, then we could help these brothers or sisters.

MARY JACKSON:  I‚Äôve worked with CSOSA for quite a while.  Matter of fact, since its conception.  Ward 7 open its arms to CSOSA and its returning citizens years ago.

SANDRA ‚ÄúSS‚Äù SEEGARS:  Some of the impediments that face the ex-offenders when they come back into the community is housing, not necessarily a criminal record, but credit worthiness, whereas they mess up their credit when they go in normally, and even ex-offenders who are not, who are not sex offenders, they‚Äôre welcome back into the community, but it‚Äôs the credit.

WILLIAM SHELTON:  Most of the challenges that I really see are individuals staying home.  I think that we really have to face a reality of whether or not, not only in this city, but if this country has really embraced the fact that our young people are going, they are incarcerated, and they are returning home, and whether or not we‚Äôre going to put together resources to really address and deal with that.

NARRATOR:  Working collaboratively with CSOSA, the community has an opportunity to establish itself as a mighty cornerstone in a foundation of supportive reentry services.  We have certainly been encouraged by the results of the participating organizations and institutions, and we look forward to expanding their capacity to provide value added services and include additional quality organizations.  Please consider joining CSOSA as we work to rebuild lives, reestablish values, restore social order, strengthen families, and change the communities in which we live and cherish.

CEDRIC HENDRICKS:  One of the very important jobs that I have is to work with our colleagues to build and strengthen partnerships with community based and faith based organizations, organizations that can help our clients meet their important social needs.  Among those needs are obtaining employment, expanding the level of education, strengthening ties with family members, and putting behind them crime and incarceration going forward as productive, contributing members of this community.  So I‚Äôm here to invite all community based and faith based organizations to join us in a partnership, expand the range of resources and services that we have to offer, and help make this city a safer place in which to live.

[Video Ends]

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