Archives for 2010

Sex Offenders

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[Video Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I’m Len Sipes. Today we’re going to talk about the supervision of sex offenders, and there are literally thousands of articles and reports in the national media every year. Few criminal justice topics generate more interest. We’ll talk to two professionals from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency who directly supervise sex offenders. In the second segment we’ll talk to community supervision officers who supervise female and male sex offenders. Throughout the program we will post agencies who could possibly answer your questions about sex offenders. And with that I’d like to introduce our first guest, Akil Walker, a supervisory community supervision officer, and Clarence Anderson, a community supervision officer. And gentlemen, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Clarence Anderson: Thank you.

Akil Walker: Thank you, real pleasure to be here.

Leonard Sipes: Akil, the first question goes to you. Before we get into the components of the Sex Offender Unit, the thing that’s always amazed me throughout my criminal justice career and sex offenders is that they’re compliant. You go to regular offenders, robbers, or drug offenders, and sometimes they show up, sometimes they don’t – sometimes they’re properly drug tested, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they get the job, sometimes they don’t‚ but with sex offenders, they’re generally speaking very complaint. They dot every i and cross every t. Am I right or wrong?

Akil Walker: Yeah, for the most part. One of the issues that we have to address is that most offenders present very well. They’re working, they’re reporting – drug testing is very negative, so when they come in, they present themselves like they’re everyday citizens, hey, I’m just like you.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: That’s one of the difficulties so we’re trying to work with them on their behavior, as that of the every day citizen. We try to work with them just adapting their behavior.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But Clarence, that’s a challenge isn’t it, when you’re supervising sex offenders because you’ve got all of these guys and some women who, again, their showing up, sometimes they’re not, sometimes they’re compliant, sometimes they’re not. But those sex offenders, they’re doing everything right. And that’s a screen, is it not?

Clarence Anderson: That’s true, Len. That’s one of the difficulties in supervising sex offenders nowadays. They are compliant, and as a community supervision officer, you have delved deeper into their behaviors because they will present as Mr. Walker said, appropriately for supervision. You have to go into their background, you have to go into their family history, their criminal record. There’s certain behaviors that will investigate to in an sense sniff out –

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Clarence Anderson: – inappropriate behaviors and so forth.

Leonard Sipes: And Akil, one of the things in terms of the sex offender unit, we are the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we are in essence the parole and probation agency for Washington D.C., we are a federal agency. How many people are in the Sex Offender Unit and how many offenders are in the Sex Offender Unit?

Akil Walker: We have three supervisors, 23 CSOs. We have 414 active sex offenders, and a total of 620 offenders. Those are monitored offenders currently in jail or in drug treatment programs.

Leonard Sipes: OK so people on the street are what, 600?

Akil Walker: People on the street are 414.

Leonard Sipes: 414, okay. And we have others that we keep an eye on who are in jail or treatment in another state or that sort of thing, right?

Akil Walker: Pending release as well.

Leonard Sipes: All right. So we have a very low caseload. I think the audience needs to understand that in parole and probation agencies throughout this country, it’s not unusual to have caseloads of 150 offenders to every parole and probation agent. Now throughout the country they’re called parole and probation agents, in D.C. they’re called community supervision officers. But in the Sex Offender Unit it’s what, one community supervision officer to every 35 offenders, something along those lines?

Akil Walker: One CSO to every 23 offenders.

Leonard Sipes: 23 offenders.

Akil Walker: Active offenders.

Leonard Sipes: That’s amazing‚ active offenders. Okay, so you have a way of keeping an tight reign on sex offenders, correct?

Akil Walker: Absolutely.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and some of the things that the audience is going to see throughout this show is footage of the community supervision officers using GPS – Global Positioning System, or satellite monitoring where we can actually watch their behavior on a day-to-day basis, on a minute-to-minute bases for that matter. We go to a computer and we can see in real-time where they are, so if they’re hanging out at a playground, we know. We know where they are and we ask what it is they’re doing, correct?

Akil Walker: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s why we have such low numbers, because for each offender, the CSO spends many hours‚ well just one offender, for example, when you’re in general supervision, you don’t have to spend as much time, but for example, Clarence will have to review GPS which takes hours at a time on an offender, tracking him. Depending upon their movements, they can be in D.C. right now, and then later on this afternoon they’re in Virginia, so it takes a lot of time.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: Plus our officers also monitor computerware and stuff like that, and the contact requirements are much higher in our office.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now Clarence, let me go back to you. Now I’ve seen the community supervision officers hovering over the top the computer terminals watching where a person is going. Now the person is supposed to leave the house and go to work. He has a job, we ensure that he has a job to the best of our ability.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And we know that he’s scheduled to leave the house at eight o’clock in the morning and arrive at his job at 8:30. But if that person’s veering off to the side and‚ we can see graphically on the map every playground, every church, every subway stop in the District of Columbia, we see that. So if he veers off for 15 minutes and gets to work 15 minutes, or instead of coming back home veers off the playgrounds, we stop him, we call him into the office, we go to his home, and we say, why were you hanging out at the playground? What were you doing at four o’clock this afternoon?’

Clarence Anderson: Right, that’s correct. That kind of deviant behavior at the time may not be considered deviant, but it goes against what their schedule, normal schedule, would be. So in that case we would have to investigate to find out, what was the reason why you went this particular place instead of going straight to work?’ You ask probing questions to gather more information so you can adequately and properly supervise the individual.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Okay. You also go into their computers. You have software that you can access the inside of their computer‚ what it is that they’re looking at from the office, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Yes, we’re expanding our computer search capabilities. Right now we have the ability to extract what they previously viewed and also implement monitoring software on their computer to see what they’ll be viewing in the future. And then the CSOs responsibility would be to come back, look at the computer again, pull that information, and we’ll review it amongst staff and then also bring it to the offender’s attention.

Leonard Sipes: Right, because he or she, but the overwhelming majority of them are males, they’re not supposed to be downloading pornography, they’re not supposed to be downloading child pornography or anything along those lines, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Pornography‚ they shouldn’t be downloading any of that information, but also we’re looking at chats, even computer sites that are not considered necessarily pornography. There may be some adult context which would be questionable that we would like to address with them.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. But even if they’re engaged in email conversations‚ inappropriate email conversations, we monitor that as well?

Clarence Anderson: Yes, correct.

Leonard Sipes: That’s amazing. All right, so we also use polygraphy ‚¬” lie detector tests.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and why do we do that?

Akil Walker: We need to address certain issues, for example, we may talk to them, have you had contact with minors? Have you been involved in criminal activity?’

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Akil Walker: And so forth because a lot of times the offenders will come into the office and say, everything’s fine.’

Leonard Sipes: Oh yeah

Akil Walker: Everything’s fine, nothing’s going on.’ But when you get a chance to polygraph them on specific questions, this one really comes in‚ okay, well there’s deception indicated on certain areas. Once we get that information, we can bring it to them and like Clarence said, probe deeper into what those questions were that they failed.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And we also have from time to time investigators who actually shadow this person, correct?

Akil Walker: If we have the capability to‚ we have surveillance officers available to our CSOs and our teams.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. What’s the bottom line with you gentlemen in terms of supervising sex offenders? I think that these are some of the most challenging offenders to deal with. And again, throughout my career, people who have committed murder, armed robbery, garden variety types of crimes, drug dealing‚ they’re fairly predictable. But the sex offender‚ again, he presents himself very well. He’s in every meeting, he’s always working, he’s always compliant. You really have to dig to get at whether or not this person is violating, and that’s the challenge. Is it not of your unit?

Akil Walker: Oh yeah, definitely because we’re not only dealing with the offender, but also his family members, his friends and so forth. A lot of times you’ll say, just for an example, Bill didn’t do it, he’s a good guy.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: So it’s difficult sometimes working with the community to make them understand that these guys present as normal human beings, but sometimes they issue is a lot deeper.

Leonard Sipes: Clarence, you go out to their homes?

Clarence Anderson: Yes I do.

Leonard Sipes: You visit them in their homes, you visit them where they work. Sometimes they’re prearranged visits and sometimes they’re surprise visits, correct?

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: All right, so tell me about those. And sometimes you go to the house with members of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Clarence Anderson: Correct. The times we go out with the Metropolitan Police Department are called accountability tours.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Clarence Anderson: It holds the offender accountable to let them know that we’re out in the community‚ I can not supervise a sex offender 24 hours a day. With bringing MPD out, it gives the offender opportunity one, to meet the officer and also let them know that somebody else will be watching out for them.

Leonard Sipes: Sure. And those officers spread the word to the other police officers that that John Doe, that Johnny Thomas, who’s living at 1113 Montpelier Street is a sex offender and here’s his criminal background. And he alerts others so the other police officers keep an eye on him as well.

Clarence Anderson: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: So that’s part of the interesting partnership that I think that a lot of parole and probation agencies throughout the country do not have. We work on a day-to-day basis with the Metropolitan Police Department as well as I mean, we are Washington D.C., as well as the FBI, as well as other federal agencies. Again, we are a federal law enforcement criminal justice agency. And that partnership is a big strength of our supervision strategy, correct Clarence?

Clarence Anderson: Right, it’s important. Like I said, I can’t be with them 24/7.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Clarence Anderson: It allows the officers in the community to get to know the offender‚ his behaviors, his hangouts. And if they see him in an inappropriate situation, of course they’ll take action. However, they’ll also notify me to let me know what kind of situations he may be getting himself into so I can address it when he comes in for his office visit.

Leonard Sipes: Now Akil, that’s the heart and soul. It’s all the equipment we have, the satellite monitoring GPS tracking, the lie detector tests, looking at their actions in real-time on the computer, having investigators follow them. But it’s your personal sense as an investigator, it’s your personal sense as a person. We’re trying to help them as well. I do want to get into that part, we provide a ton of treatment. So it’s that combination of working partnership with law enforcement, all the equipment you have at your disposal, your own skills as an investigator, but what about the treatment aspect?

Akil Walker: Well like you said Len, I think all this is done in terms of we use what we call a containment theory, like you mentioned MPD, CSOs, and so forth, bring the attention to communities so that the offender won’t recidivate again.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: So we’re trying to make sure that they get the tools necessary, and that’s where treatment comes into play. Treatment can span from 12 months to 18 months or even longer. We’re starting to extend our treatment program to allow more tests, what we call PPGs, or penile plethysmograph.

Leonard Sipes: We actually measure his arousal capacity, correct?

Akil Walker: Right, to minors, to adults.

Leonard Sipes: Yes.

Akil Walker: They’re likings‚ heterosexual, homosexual likings. And it’s important, we need a complete picture of the offender and we can’t get that just based on the information provided through the offender, so we need the community, MPD, treatment providers, all adding their input on this offender to give us the maximum picture on this offender.

Leonard Sipes: Right, but the point that I do want to make is that we provide treatment – I mean, we fund our sex offender treatment. We not just enforcing the rules, as important as that is.

Akil Walker: Right.

Leonard Sipes: At the same time, we will give that person counseling, at the same time we will give that person the measurement tools to help him because the research is fairly clear that if you ride the individual hard, hold him accountable, if you integrate that treatment package‚ Clarence, this question goes to you, that there’s a good possibility that this person can reside in the community safely without harming anybody else, correct?

Clarence Anderson: That’s correct. With all the necessary tools in place to include treatment, it lowers the offender‚ it can lower the offender’s recidivism rate which is important.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But that’s the final challenge. The final challenge is putting that whole package together. I mean, most parole and probation agencies in this country see their offenders twice a month, maybe‚ for maybe 15 minutes a piece. You guys are out in the field using all this equipment.

Akil Walker: Right. And like Clarence talked on with that treatment piece, they’ve gotta internalize those tools to really make it effective for them.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Akil Walker: They can’t just sit there and sit in treatment, they need to actually practice what they learn. And if they do so, like Clarence said, it’ll seriously reduce the likelihood that they’ll get rearrested in any type. Sex offense or just minor criminal infractions.

Leonard Sipes: All right, that closes our first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us. Watch for us in the second segment as we continue our discussion on the supervision of sex offenders. We’ll be right back.

Leonard Sipes: Hi, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. Our guests for the second segment are two community supervision officers, again, from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They are Ivy Gilliam and Anthony Desharten, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ivy Gilliam: Thank you, Len.

Anthony Desharten: Thanks for having us.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, before we interview Anthony and Ivy, we’re going to throw to a package of the supervision of sex offenders provided to us by NBC4 here in Washington about the supervision of sex offenders, we’ll be right back.

Video Footage: In the Washington area and across the country an increasing number of sex offenders in the headlines are women, some of them teachers. Tonight in part 2 of her special report, Julie Carey looks at whether parents and educators are teaching children that sex offenders are not always men.

Offender: I felt like this was my only friend…

Reporter: This woman we will call Cala is a convicted sex offender, accused of inappropriate touching for incidents involving a 14 year old nephew. She takes full responsibility for her crime, and after years of probation and therapy, she warns that we don’t properly prepare children for the fact that a sex offender could be a woman.

Offender: There’s always the image of the creapy figure lurking around your children and snatching them off of the swing set and such, but no, not a woman. That’s the Moms.

Reporter: Ed Jagon agrees that society doesn’t like to face the idea of female sex offenders, leaving children vulnerable. He was sexually abused by a middle age baby sitter when he was just 7.

Ed Jagon: When it happened to me I did tell my Mother and it was a baby sitter and my Mother didn’t believe me.

Reporter: Now along with dozens of volunteers he runs a sex abuse awareness program for children called the Good Night Program. Based in Beltsville Maryland, the fairy tale motif has a serious message.

Man: Excuse me, I’m looking for Park Street.

Reporter: Children are taught to recognize 10 deceptions used by would-be sex offenders.

Woman: I would like to get someone to mow my lawn.

Reporter: And in half of the role playing scenarious, the offender is a woman.

Sophia West: What we try to teach the children, education wise, is you look for the behavior of the individual. Whether it be a male, a female, whether it be a family member, whether it be a teacher, a priest, a neighbor or the stranger on the street.

Reporter: At the District of Columbia Superior Court Supervision Office, just 4 female sex offenders are among the hundreds of men being monitored and treated. Still Director, Paul Brennan, warns most female offenders go undetected in part because women are seen as caretakers and naturally have more intimate contact with children.

Paul Brennan: The community in general determines that females don’t commit sex offenses. If they are inclined to molest children, some of the warning signs aren’t going to be picked up on as readily because they are women.

Reporter: Brennan says most female offenders with intensive treatment will not offend again. Still he says one woman supervised by his office is classified as predatory. She’ll be placed under electronic surveilance. And Brennan says as society slowly begins to acknowledge the danger in female sex offenders, the criminal justice system must do it’s part.

Paul Brennan: What we can do in the criminal justice system is hold the female sex offenders just as accountable as the male offenders. The message will be clear if we are doing that.

Reporter: Julie Carey, News 4.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen again, welcome to back to D.C. Public Safety. Ivy Gilliam and Anthony Desharten. Ivy, the first question goes to you. We saw in the package about one of our comprades, Paul Brennan, supervising female and male sex offenders. Now I want to make it clear that we don’t have that many female sex offenders compared to the male sex offenders, there’s only ten compared to like 400. But there are differences in terms of supervising men and women, especially female sex offenders, correct?

Ivy Gilliam: That’s correct Len. In general we like to take a proactive approach for both our male and female sex offenders. But the differences are instances where we have to consider children, consider that our female offenders may have other issues‚ childcare, finding parenting and maybe even issues around employment in order to be able to take care of those children that they have.

Leonard Sipes: I think one of the things we want to talk about in general, but we’re getting back to female offenders, is recent research basically stating that 50% of all offenders are claiming histories of mental health issues. For women offenders, it’s higher than that. If you take a look at substance abuse histories, again, for female offenders, they have higher rates and more intense rates of substance abuse. So it seems to me that female offenders bring more challenges than the male offenders simply because of their backgrounds.

Ivy Gilliam: And they do. And we meet those needs by placing all of our offenders, by placing the female offenders into treatment programs if they’re necessary so they can get those needs met.

Leonard Sipes: And the bottom line for the public, and Anthony, I’m going to go to you, the bottom line in terms of the public is, are those needs met? I mean, a person – because a lot of female offenders come from histories of sexual violence. They have their own histories of being a victim of sexual violence and being abused as children and as young women. That seems to me to be an extraordinarily difficult person to deal with. Can we tell the public that these intense needs that they bring to the table are adequately met?

Anthony Desharten: Well they’re most definitely adequately met. And one thing that’s special about CSOSA is that we offer so many services to the offenders. We give them every opportunity to become a stable individual. And that deals with often substance abuse treatment, mental health services, sex offender treatment‚ so really what our goal is is to do our best to help them reintegrate into the community.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and we know from research, and I want to make this very clear to the public‚ very, very clear – is that we just can’t watch them, we have to provide them with treatment services. Department of Justice research made this very clear in the mid 1990s, that the more you supervise them, all you do is violate them and put them back them back in prison to the point where the prisons can’t deal with the volume coming in. But if you provide services, stabilize them in the community‚ especially with a person with mental health issues. I mean, who would argue that a person coming out of the prison system with a severe mental health problem needs mental health treatment, or it’s guaranteed that he’s going to go back to prison? So we intervene, we try to provide these services that stabilize that person, but at the same time we still hold them accountable.

Anthony Desharten: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And Ivy, the difficulties of dealing with sex offenders, I threw this out to our guests in terms of the first segment, you’ve got a very conniving, cunning, individual‚ I mean, because they have a predisposition in some cases towards violence against women. They have a predisposition in some cases of sexual urges towards children. I mean, that’s something that is extraordinarily difficult to deal with because it can be the core of that person’s psyche.

Ivy Gilliam: Right. And which again is the reason why they work so hard to make sure that they fly under the radar, why they make it a point to be as compliant as possible so that we won’t look, we won’t probe, we won’t ask those important questions that will gain us access to information that will be helpful in protecting the public. And also protecting themselves from possible situations where they leave themselves susceptible to reoffending.

Leonard Sipes: Now when they go through the treatment process, the people who deal with them, they’re experts. I mean, you guys are experts, but the psychologists and psychiatrists who deal with them, they know when they’re not telling the truth. And I can be a bit more explicit, but this is family television. They know when they’re not being honest and they confront them about that. And then you’ve got the lie detector tests, and you’ve got the satellite monitoring, and you’re viewing their computer – there’s a certain point where you can get a fairly decent picture as to who this person is.

Ivy Gilliam: That’s correct. They also give us the opportunity to work with them, the treatment specialists, so that once information is obtained through treatment, that information is given to us by way of staffings with the treatment providers and the offender, so that we could all sit down and discuss what’s going on in this person’s situation in order to better assist them.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now Anthony, we have‚ I mean, no offender on community supervision is perfect, it’s impossible. I mean, we expect issues, we always expect issues. If a person comes out with a serious substance abuse history, that person when he gets to the street is‚ we expect that this person is going to try to sneak in drug use, which is why we drug test as massively as we do so we can ferret that out and deal with it immediately.

But we expect these sort of things. Our sex offenders, when they violate what we have as a serious of intermediate sanctions that we take immediate action to deal with that person so that person knows that there are consequences for his actions.

Anthony Desharten: Yes, it’s interesting you brought up drug testing because even with sex offenders, it seems as though substance abuse issues are at the forefront. But we do have sanctions in place to help deal with those. Some of the more basic sanctions are daily reporting to the supervision office. When an individual is having problems, we want to see them more often.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: If they’re on maximum or medium supervision, we can increase the supervision to intensive, that would also give us the benefit of seeing them more.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: Additional sanction would be GPS monitoring.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Is there more treatment? There’s just a lot of contact with us, that’s the bottom line.

Anthony Desharten: Bottom line, yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Anthony Desharten: And when there are issues, we notify their treatment vendors immediately, especially they’re sex offender treatment providers immediately so then we can also address the issue in the supervision office, but they’re also addressing the issue in the treatment center as well.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And the question goes out to both of you, we can assure the public, because the public is scared of sex offenders, again, everyday I get news clips from all over the country, and every day those news clips are filled with stories about sex offenders and what different states are doing to deal with them and just basically sex offenders – that’s all you read about, it’s guaranteed everyday in terms of the news summary. We can tell the public through your low caseload ratios‚ again, it’s what, 23 offenders to every community supervision officer. I know of other states immediately surrounding the District of Columbia where it’s 150 to one. So you have 23 to one, you have all this equipment, you have all this treatment‚ we can safely maintain, this is what the public wants to know, that we can safely maintain these individuals in the community?

Ivy Gilliam: We can. Through the technology that’s now made available, we are able to watch them closely and to be more effective in our positions.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: As Ms. Gilliam indicated earlier, we take a very proactive approach towards supervision, that’s with regular contact with the offenders, regular contact with the treatment vendors, and we also like to establish collateral contacts with their family, friends, girlfriends –

Leonard Sipes: Do their families cover for them? I mean, are the families enablers or are the families helpful in terms of the supervision?

Anthony Desharten: At times they do attempt to cover up for their family member, but I’ve situations where family members are concerned about the well-being of their relative in the community, they want them to succeed as much as we do.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Desharten: So when they do see an issue, they do bring it to our attention at times.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the things that a lot of people are going to understand, but it’s true. Again, I’ve been in the business for quite a few years, and sometimes family members are your best ally. They want to see the person succeed, so when they see the person veering off to the side, often times they will bring you that information.

Ivy Gilliam: But that comes with early establishment of a rapport with the family members. We make sure that we gain collateral contact so that we can contact those family members and build a relationship with them as well as the offender. And it helps the offender and it also helps us.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And I’ve seen the community supervision officers go into the homes of offenders and they do exactly that – they establish that relationship with the family, that’s why you don’t want all the visits to be surprise visits, you want the family there. You maintain that contact with the family. I saw a mom one time chastise the dickens out of her son for not getting work and saying that, he and I will be at your office the next day in terms of looking for jobs and I want the job services,’ and the offender just sitting there going, okay.’ I mean, sometimes family members are our best allies.

Anthony Desharten: We love that though.

Ivy Gilliam: We do.

Anthony Desharten: That’s exactly what we need because they have the most insight to how an individual’s doing in the community because we can’t be with them 24 hours a day.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And they are you barometer as to how that person is doing. So suddenly if this person is not under GPS but leaves the house at three o’clock in the morning, that’s of concern to her, that’s a concern to mom or dad and they will bring that to your attention, in many cases so the offender can be immediately confronted.

Ivy Gilliam: Oh yeah.

Leonard Sipes: And the quick answer is, because we’re running out of time, you’re some of the best investigators out there. I mean, you deal with some of the toughest clientele out there. What’s it like being a sex offender CSO?

Ivy Gilliam: It’s challenging, but it’s completely doable.

Leonard Sipes: Clarence, a quick answer?

Anthony Desharten: And because it’s challenging, it’s also extremely rewarding as well.

Leonard Sipes: Great. Ladies and gentlemen – well first of all, thank the two of you.

Anthony Desharten: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us today. This is D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. Watch for us next month as we produce another program on the criminal justice system. Have yourselves a pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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Hiring People on Community Supervision

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– Video begins –

Len Sipes: Hi, everybody, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting show today. The show is about hiring people under community supervision and what we are doing with this show and a lot of the things that we’re doing in terms of radio shows and our website and our phone number is we’re crowd sourcing this issue. You in the business community, we want you to come and tell us how we can do it better; the people who hire the people from the community. We want you to tell us what we can do to do a better job of making sure, out of the 16,000 people under supervision in the District of Columbia on any given day, that as many of these individuals as possible have jobs. The research is very clear that the more of these individuals that have jobs, the less the recidivism rate, the less crime we have, and the less taxpayers have to shell out of their own pockets. So, it’s a win-win situation for everybody. To discuss this issue today, we have two principles with us: Eric Shuler, senior program analyst from my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and William Winchester, director of job training and green job development for housing evaluation plus. To Eric and William, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

William Winchester: Thank you very much, Leonard.

Eric Shuler: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Gentlemen, this is a tough topic. A lot of people have stereotypes and some of the stereotypes are justifiable about the 16,000 offenders that we have, people under supervision, under our supervision on any given day at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. But, Eric, the bottom line is that we do have thousands, thousands ready to go to work today who are beyond social issues, who are beyond substance abuse issues. They want to work. They would make good employees. They’re ready to go today. Correct?

Eric Shuler: Absolutely. And we have a need for employment opportunities for those thousands who are ready to go.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Eric Shuler: Through our process of partnerships with the community and the employers, we’re looking for those opportunities.

Len Sipes: And getting people to come to us and tell us how to do it better is going to be sort of the theme of the radio shows that we’re going to put up, the television shows that we’re going to put up. And, ladies and gentlemen, what I do want you to know; Eric is giving out his personal telephone number in terms of his desk, 202-442-1112, 202-442-1112. That’s Eric’s telephone number, Look for hiring people under supervision. Go to that section in our website, as we have this conversation over the course of the next six or seven months. So, how can we convince people that to get beyond this stereotype of our individuals and the people under our supervision are just all unemployable? Is that a stereotype or not?

Eric Shuler: It is a stereotype and it’s one that we’re going to have to face head on. We have thousands of people who are qualified, skilled, have been assessed, and screened. And we’re interested in delivering our best people and letting people understand and employers understand specifically that we can be a reservoir of talent for their business.

Len Sipes: In essence, we’re not asking for a handout. What we’re saying to employers is that give us an opportunity to put our best people in your hands. We’re going to help you along the way. You can come back to us if there are issues. We’re going to be partners with you in finding that individual and while that individual is on the job. Correct?

Eric Shuler: Right. We have a system of assessment, counseling, matching, skills enhancement, and placement assistance that lets us be able to partner with employers and, when I say partner, I mean we work with them. It’s like a network; the Verizon network, for example. We have a network of people behind these individuals to manage, to work with, to teach them, to carry them along the path of being independent and successful within the employment arena and within their lives.

Len Sipes: Again, with the phone number, 202-442-1112, William, you’re the person who basically does some hiring, does some training. What lessons from your part of the world, what instructions do you have to us in government in terms of making sure that as many individuals under our supervision are hired as possible?

William Winchester: Send us your best. Send us those individuals who you have screened that understand that we understand that they’ve had problems, that they’ve had issues. That’s not our issue. Come ready to work. Come diligent. Be truthful. Be forthright and we can go from there because we will train them. They don’t necessarily have to be totally qualified. Just come with the understanding of being able to be on time, show up every day, do some due diligence, and be there and be ready to go to work.

Len Sipes: I think most employers are going to tell us this: Exactly what you just said, William. I think most employers are going to say, you guarantee me that he or she will show up on time, sober. Give me my eight hours; don’t be distracted throughout the course of the day by phone calls or any other issues. Do what it is that I need you to do and I will employ you and I will train and I will set you up with a career, but you’ve got to bring, not necessarily construction skills, not necessarily truck driving skills, not necessarily specific job skills, you’ve got to bring the right attitude.

William Winchester: Correct. And attitude is most important. If you come willing to work and willing to learn and willing to accept whatever the circumstances are that has happened to you, we’re not judging you for those things. What we want is if we’re going to pay you for you to be able to help us to go to the next level.

Len Sipes: Eric, and that’s one of the things we were talking about before the show. I mean, we do have literally thousands. And isn’t that the dilemma? We have a public perception of offenders and I understand that public perception and I’m not going to disagree with that public perception. But, at the same time, the sort of tragedy, social tragedy, is that we have thousands who don’t fit that stereotype, who are ready to go today. William and I were talking about that attitude. They have that attitude. They’re ready and willing to go to work now.

Eric Shuler: Correct. And what we want to assure the public and the employers is that we have a system of qualifying, a system of, if you will, polishing the apple.

Len Sipes: Tell me about it. What do we do?

Eric Shuler: Well, we have a system that allows us to do an in depth assessment of their literacy skills. We have occupational assessments that we do, nationally recognized. And it gives them a certificate of employability. We also do the workshops that work on core skills, which most people call life skills, but they’re the core of the person, those things that are innate, that need to be present for you to be successful. And those are the things that William was alluding to that employers are looking for. Of course, employers will tell you, if you deliver me a person who’s willing, who is receptive, we’re willing to train them. And we have thousands who are far removed from their past, regressions, their crimes, who have paid their debt to society, they have worked very hard to acquire necessary marketable skills and we just need the opportunities to bring that about, that opportunity about. And I can say this: There are many benefits also to hiring from these individuals.

Len Sipes: Oh, thank you very much. And we’re going to have information about this on our website, right? Tax credits and bonding.

Eric Shuler: Correct. Tax credits and bonding. And in a short term, if people don’t understand what bonding does. It is provided for any person whose background usually leads employers to question whether or not they’re good employees.

Len Sipes: It limits their liability.

Eric Shuler: It limits their liability and at no cost to the employer or the employee.

Len Sipes: Right.

Eric Shuler: And the tax credits is something that is very valuable to an employer because it allows them to get an individual who’s going to come to help grow their business, help do the tasks that need to be done for them to be successful. And also it gives them a monetary incentive for hiring from our population of people.

Len Sipes: 202-442-1112 is the telephone number of that gentleman, Eric Shuler, of my agency, willing to give out his own telephone number. There will be others who will pick up if Eric’s not there.; look for hiring people under supervision. William, we’re going to be reaching out to business people and we want them to be honest with us. We’re not asking for anybody to pull any punches. We want them to say, Leonard, we’re going to hire your people because; we’re not going to hire because. We want an honest assessment from the business community. We want the business community to tell us how we can do it better. Are we opening ourselves up for, what are we opening ourselves up for?

William Winchester: Well, I don’t think you’re opening yourselves up for anything major, but what we would like is that, and we know that people slip; we know that things happen; we know that emergencies happen, so stick with us. Follow the person as well as we’re following them. If there is a problem, you stay in touch with them or you come back, even if they have to be replaced. Give us a person and make sure that that next person is as diligent as that first person versus us having to track them down and chase them down. If you do your due diligence, just to go down that road a little further, it makes us as employers a little more comfortable in picking up and bringing in somebody.

Len Sipes: But I do want to get over this point that we discussed before the show. It’s just not the people that we have under community supervision who we’re concerned about. Either one of you can jump in on this. I mean, look, my own kids drive me crazy in terms of their ability to say, yes sir and no sir, yes ma’am and no ma’am. Show up on time. I’m telling my kids. I said they don’t want to hear from you anything else besides you’re going to give them a productive eight hours. So, it’s just not the people under our supervision. Isn’t this a societal issue?

Eric Shuler: Absolutely, it is a societal issue and it’s something that is across the board. We just happen to have individuals who fall into some of that category, but I guarantee as a microcosm of society you could probably hire 20 people and out of that 20 people you’ll have some of those same issues. What our charge is at CSOSA is having a program, a process, a system of making sure and shoring up these individuals as they try to reintegrate into society and to seek gainful employment.

Len Sipes: But we do tell them the same thing I told my daughters, correct? Show up, and this is what I heard from an employer at a job fair one day, show up, shut up, do what I want you to do for eight hours. If you do that, we can train you, we can work with you, we can help you build a productive career, but you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to understand that for the next eight hours or more if I need you to, you’re mine.

Eric Shuler: That’s it.

Len Sipes: I mean, that’s what we tell our people, correct?

Eric Shuler: Absolutely, absolutely. It’s a simulation. It is integration. It is the understanding that the job is a part of you learning how to adjust to things. The job is a means to an end. A job is something that you go to. There’s a uniform that you wear, which is the office decor. There is a culture in any organization that you need to ascribe to and this is the important thing that I think William was eluding to that we all need to work very hard to make sure that those doors open, those opportunities are there for them to go in and purport themselves and to showcase their skills and abilities and their willingness to be a part of an organization.

Len Sipes: Now, William, I talk to people under our supervision and I’ve done so for years when I was with other agencies and they will tell me from time to time that I got turned down because of my criminal history. And sometimes I feel that that’s a tragedy because they are far from their criminal activities and a lot of them, their criminal activities were pretty minor. I mean, we do have probationers, people who haven’t been to prison, and I sometimes wonder if they want in with exactly the issues that we’re talking about; yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, a nicely formatted resume, fully understanding that that person brings you those skills, not how to run a printing press, not how to drive a truck not how to lay concrete, those basic human skills. My guess is that the employer will probably hire that person, but that person’s presentation skills are extraordinarily important.

William Winchester: And that’s first and foremost and the other thing is that they have to understand that throughout their life every single day from 8:00 in the morning to midnight or however long people are looking at them and they will always be looking at them and sometimes, we had a situation where a young man was in the bank and he was hired because he was in the bank, he was acting very good, he wasn’t showing off, he wasn’t clowning, the person saw him, he heard in his conversation that he was looking for a job, the man was right behind him, he had a record; however, because he was showing some diligence, he was showing restraint, he was just out in public, he was hired because he was acting right, because he understood, because he was coming through our program that every single day somebody’s looking at you.

Len Sipes: Is the principal issue, attitude is the principal issue, job skills?

William Winchester: That’s the biggest; it’s attitude. It’s coming to work and understanding that basically you’re on somebody else’s time and you’re responsible for your actions from the time that you get there and even after that. We found out now even with the social networks and Facebook and things that people are looking on these social networks to see how people are responding and how people are reacting because there’s so many jobs and there’s so many opportunities that everybody’s looking at everybody all the time.

Len Sipes: And that becomes worrisome, too, because that presentation skill that you provide to that employer is the same presentation skill that you have to have on your Facebook page.

William Winchester: Correct.

Len Sipes: I mean, you’ve got to be the whole person. That employer is going to be checking into your background.

William Winchester: All the time.

Len Sipes: And so people just need to understand that. Eric, do our folks understand that?

Eric Shuler: They do understand that and it’s demonstrated daily. We have a unit called, the VOTE Unit. It stands for Vocational Opportunities Training and Employment. It is our way of polishing that apple. It is our way of getting them to understand, to modify behavior. And that just what you said, it’s not, I heard William say acting, but what you said was being, and that’s very important because you need to be the kind of person, we all need to be the kind of person that does the right thing when no one’s watching

Len Sipes: Right. Bring your A game everyday.

Eric Shuler: Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s what the multitude of folks that we have, who have gone through the behavioral modification, who have corrected their attitudes towards work, towards society, and they’re just looking for that opportunity and we have thousands. And they’re being subjected to a broad brush painting of lumping all folks together.

Len Sipes: I met a man who was in his early 40s and he’d been, like, 10 years away from his crime. The crime was a non-violent crime. The guy had real presentation skills, so the guy had real occupational skills and he was telling me that he was being bounced, and this is a very tough economy to be out there looking for work, but he was being bounced time after time because of the fact that he had a criminal record. And I said to myself, now this is a shame. I mean, there really is an issue. I’m not going to dispute society’s stereotypes. I understand why they’re there and I’m not going to necessarily disagree with them, but I do understand at the same time him as a human being. He would have made a good employer.

Eric Shuler: Sure.

Len Sipes: Or good employee, I’m sorry.

Eric Shuler: A criminal past or a criminal record is something that you can’t get away from, but you can overcome.

Len Sipes: All right. We’re going to have to leave it there. We’re going to the next segment and we’ll continue this discussion. Ladies and gentlemen, 202-442-1112, 202-442-1112,; look for the “hire us” or “hire people under community supervision.” That part of the website we need your opinion. Stay with us. We’ll be right back as we explore this issue some more. Be right back with you.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes: Hi, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes. And we continue to crowd source a very important issue; that is, hiring people under community supervision. We are looking for you, employer, you the person who hires people, you the person from the business sector, from the non-profit sector, from the government sector. We want you to come and tell us either by phone or via the website or through the radio shows that we’re going to be doing, the television shows that we’re going to be doing about this issue. We want you to tell us what it is that we need to do to do a better job of trying to hire as many people as possible, the people who are under our supervision on a day-to-day basis in the District of Columbia, 16,000, the research is clear. If they are hired, the more they work the fewer crimes they commit, the greater their chance for becoming taxpayers instead of tax burdens, the greater propensity of taking care of their kids; 70 percent are fathers and mothers. So, we all have a big stake in terms of what it is we’re doing here. 202-442-1112 is this gentlemen’s personal telephone number at his desk;, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, look for “hire people under community supervision.” Back with us, Eric Shuler, the senior program analyst for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and also Alec Vincent, Manpower Development Specialist for the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Eric, Alec, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Eric Shuler: Thank you, Leonard.

Alec Vincent: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. We’re going to talk to you, Eric, first and then we’re going to go over to Alec because one of the things that I love about Alec’s background is that he’s currently under supervision with our agency and yet he’s been able to cross that bridge and not only find meaningful employment, he’s working with our folks on a day-to-day basis. The District of Columbia is providing the bulk of these employment services, correct, Eric?

Eric Shuler: Correct. Absolutely. And let me say this, Alec is an example of operating under the framework that most likely will render us able to successfully matriculate ex-offenders into entry level positions as well as the high demand growth opportunities.

Len Sipes: While you mentioned that, entry level high demand. I hear people saying we want living wage, we want living wage. Don’t we want to start off at least with basic work skills and maybe that’s not going to be living wage for the moment but, hopefully, it’ll progress into something that is living wage?

Eric Shuler: Well, absolutely, absolutely. And one of the things we understand at CSOSA and we impart that onto the participants at CSOSA and the people under supervision is that this is a marathon; it’s not a sprint. And it’s key to understanding that. You don’t throw away pennies for dollars and we work very hard to get them to understand the work ethic that allows them to understand that and operate under that guise.

Len Sipes: Okay. But it’s interesting, I know people, before I even came to CSOSA from my job in the state of Maryland who are ex-offenders, who make a lot of money, who are doing very well at their occupations and, in one case and he’ll never do a radio show or television show with me; although, I’ve invited him on many times, sells insurance. And he’s making more money than you and I put together.

Eric Shuler: Yes. Well, it’s funny, Leonard, because in daily life you would be surprised how many people in the walks of life that you pass by, that you interact with on a daily basis who are ex-offenders.

Len Sipes: It’s my contention that every 10 people, every 15 people within any urban metropolitan area, you’re going to encounter a person who’s been in the criminal justice system.

Eric Shuler: Absolutely, absolutely. And at CSOSA one of the things we’re keen on is behavior modification and polishing that apple, meaning directing them into skills, enhancement programs, being the ambassadors to employers, to ask for those opportunities. Let’s get this clear: We’re not asking for a handout. We’re asking for opportunity.

Len Sipes: And we’ve said that. We’ve said that we’re not asking for a handout. We have thousands of individuals ready to go right now whose apples have been polished.

Eric Shuler: Absolutely, absolutely.

Len Sipes: And who are having a struggle in terms of finding employment. That’s why we’re crowd sourcing this entire issue, 202, this gentlemen’s telephone number, 202-442-1112,; look for “hiring people under community supervision.” Alec, tell me a little bit about your story here. Currently under our supervision?

Alec Vincent: Yes, I’m currently under supervision at CSOSA and, well, basically, I cam out of prison in about ’04 and, when I came home from prison, of course, before I came home, I already understood that I was going to have to come back into society, implement myself into society successfully, so a part of that preparation for that was to go for higher education. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete my degree while I was in, but I started that while I was in to prepare myself.

Len Sipes: And D.C. offenders, to make it clear to the public, they go to the federal prisons, so you came out of the one of the federal prisons.

Alec Vincent: Yes. Came out of one of the federal prisons, actually in Louisiana.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Alec Vincent: So, came back to D.C. and immediately started looking for employment and, of course, I was faced with some of the obstacles that most offenders, or all offenders, are faced with. A lot of the places you go and knock on the door, fill out resumes, fill out applications, I’m sorry, get your resume together. Unfortunately, after being gone for so long, there’s very little that you can have on your resume. That’s one of the barriers that you face.

Len Sipes: How do you handle that question? Well, Mr. Johnson, where you been for the last five years? Prison? How do you do that?

Alec Vincent: Well, actually some cases, I mean, my thing is to be very honest and I’ve been on several interviews and actually was very honest and that a lot of times be the reason why you’re not getting hired and I’ve sat and I’ve seen others that come from that same situation lie about that, based on the fact that after going and knocking on so many doors. I mean, you go and you go to 15 different establishments, whether it be private sector, non-profit, or government, and all of those places you go and some of those places even you have the qualifications to get the job.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s part of the issue here and that’s one of the things I really struggle with because I know thousands of you. I know thousands of Alec’s. They’re in a suit, they’re yes, sir, no sir. They are willing to work. They want to work. There’s no reason why they can’t make wonderful employees. That’s our point; that there’s thousands of you, people just like you right now who are ready to go to work and be good employees. We’re not asking for handouts; we’re asking for tell us what we can do to get folks like you hired because there is a stereotype and that stereotype does cause some people not to be hired. Right or wrong?

Alec Vincent: You’re definitely right. And sometimes, and me personally, understandably those stereotypes because we have had some to come and be afforded opportunities and not take advantage of it and not excel. But you have so many more that’s ready to go or ready to go into those opportunities and take full advantage of it and because of what a few have done, we all kind of suffer.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s again what we were talking about before the show, the production of the show. Eric and I were saying that we remind the people under our supervision that they’re just not dealing with themselves. You’re representing everybody caught up in the criminal justice system and you don’t want to give that employer the reason to say, all right; that’s it. I’m not hiring anybody else under community supervision again.

Alec Vincent: Exactly. And one of the things I did want to speak to. I heard Eric say earlier about polishing the apple. That’s one of the things that’s real paramount, I think, when we talk about dealing with ex-offenders that’s coming back to society, going into the workforce, polishing that apple because some do be a little rough around the edges and don’t have certain skills or they lack certain skills and we’re not talking about hard skills, soft skills. Those things, some just have a problem with getting up in the morning. Those are the things that you have persons that work at CSOSA that’s able to help with those and we have programs, other programs that’s out there to help those individuals. I think that’s one of the things, probably one of the most important things that need to be said to those employers about those persons that’s coming back to society, that they have that support system.

Len Sipes: I’ll ask you the same question I asked William on the first segment. Is it the job skills or is it the whole human being that you bring to that job interview? If our people want in and gave that message, are they going to get hired? That becomes the bottom line, doesn’t it?

Alec Vincent: I think so; I think so. I think it’s a combination of both, but I think, like you said, those other things, those soft skills, of having people that want to come to work, that’s going to come to work and be on time, give you 110 percent at work, and work eight hours, even more if so, if need be.

Len Sipes: All right. Work 10 hours, work 12 hours; you do what is necessary

Alec Vincent: Exactly. And

Len Sipes: Go ahead.

Alec Vincent: Oh, excuse me.

Len Sipes: No, no, no. Go ahead.

Alec Vincent: In the field that I work in, I work for D.C. government, I work with the ex-offender population as well and helping them find employment and I work with other supervisors and part of my job is to meet with supervisors and CEOs and employers daily. And one of the things I find that’s said to me so often is that when we have someone go to that work site and they hire that person and they want another person to come, one of the main things they say is send me somebody that wants to work.

Len Sipes: Got it. And you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, again, 202-442-1112, 202-442-1112; that gentlemen’s telephone number on that desk. Brave enough to take on the entire metropolitan area in terms of tell us what we can do to be sure that our folks are ready for your employment. Give us whatever advice is necessary;, look for “hiring people under supervision” part of the website. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

Eric Shuler: Thank you, man.

– Video ends –

Series Meta terms: Employment, Offenders, Parole, Probation, vocational, training, career, guidance, counseling.


Offenders Participating in the Census-DC Public Safety-200,000 Requests a Month

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

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes:From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. We have I believe to be a very interesting program today. We are talking about the census, and why people under community supervision should participate in the census, and quite frankly, it’s far more important than many of you realize. This is a program that is going to address the fact that the offender’s family, the offender’s children, could greatly benefit by his or her participation in the census. We have Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. The address for the Census Bureau is www.2010.census Before we get into the show, I want to remind everybody that we are just completely happy, very happy, with all of the responses that you are giving to us. We appreciate all of your comments, whether they’re good or bad or negative or suggestive, to get in touch with me directly. It’s Leonard Sipes, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes You can follow us on Twitter at, and by the way, CSOSA does stand for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington, D.C., a federal parole and probation agency. Back to our guest, Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. Welcome to D. C. Public Safety.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Nunzio, it is really – to me, this is a tough topic, because what we’re going to do is to try to convince about seven million human beings, two million incarcerated, five million involved in community supervision programs, and I would imagine the prison part of it you’ve pretty much taken care of, but the five million human beings who are under community supervision, finding them and including them in the census process, I would imagine is a dire and daunting undertaking.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, it is. We want to reach everyone who lives in the United States and we want each person, each household that they live in, to fill out their form and mail it back.

Len Sipes:Yeah, but, you know, that’s a challenge, because we’re talking about people who quite frankly do not trust government. I mean, first of all, they don’t trust the criminal justice system, and we’re talking about sending people from the Census Bureau to knock on their door. We’re talking about trying to track the folks down to get them to fill out the census, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing the radio show. For those people who are caught up in the criminal justice system who are listening to this radio program, to encourage them directly, but you’re mostly talking to people who represent the criminal justice system, the mainstream criminal justice system, who deal with people on supervision, and I imagine what we’re trying to do is to convince those people, under their supervision, to participate, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct, and an important thing to get across to your population, to the people who are under your supervision, that we the Census Bureau employees take an oath of office. When we’re hired, we must take this oath of office to protect the confidentiality of census responses. This is an oath for life. Any employee who reveals any personal census information is subject to severe penalties. It includes a fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years. We take it seriously. In addition, why we can say that the information provided to the Census Bureau for this important undertaking is, by law, no other government agency, no law enforcement agency, no national security agency court, or anyone else can access responses from anybody who responds to the census by anyone for any reason.

Len Sipes:The bottom line is that not only are you duty bound, you could be thrown in prison and fined considerably if you release this information that you collect via the census to anybody.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, and no law overrides the confidentiality law that protects personal information collected by the Census Bureau or can force the Census Bureau to share the census responses with anyone. The Justice Department recently confirmed that no provision of the Patriot Act overrides the confidentiality law that protects census responses. So that’s why we say it’s safe.

Len Sipes:Well, it sounds safe, but you know that our people – interestingly enough, there are people who are under active supervision who do listen to this program, and they’re going to sit back and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Nunzio, that’s what you’re supposed to say. That’s – you’re in government and you want me to participate.” Number one, okay, so fine, I buy into the fact that you have an oath of office, but the key thing is that he or she is going to say to themselves – again, they distrust government; they don’t like government. As far as they are concerned, government does nothing else besides put them back in the criminal justice system. Their participation means what?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Two important things: what’s in it for them? Number one, our founding fathers made it part of the Constitution, Article 1, section 3 directs us to count every person, regardless of citizenship, whether to document it or not. What’s in it for them and their family members – and the purpose of this census – is for proper apportionment, which is the process of determining the number of representatives that will represent the family members, everyone, in Congress, that we have proper representation. The second thing, what’s in it for them, is every year, the federal government redistributes over $400,000,000,000 a year, annually, back to the fifty states. Now, this is based upon a formula, and a big part of that formula is the population count – that is, the census. So if you want to get your fair share of the money, this four hundred some odd billion dollars that’s going back to the fifty states, it’s going to be based on a population count. If you don’t respond on the census, you’re not going to get your fair share. The family members will not get their fair share – the mothers, the children, their spouses will not get their fair share. Now, this money is used for usually infrastructure needs. Now, we’re talking about road, hospitals, schools, daycare centers. Now, if a state or a county has this money to allocate for these important structures, that frees that state or county or municipality up to provide money back to services such as training, education, health services. It’s a balancing act, so what’s in it for them? Representation. What’s in it for their family members? Fair representation. What’s in it for them is their fair share of the money that’s allocated, based upon a population count.

Len Sipes:Okay, so the bottom line is that we may not be talking about them, because they can be pretty cynical and very mistrustful of government, but what we are talking about are their children. Seventy percent of offenders have children. We’re talking about their children. We’re talking about their mother. We’re talking about their sisters. We’re talking about their little brothers. We’re talking about their family and their friends directly participating and benefiting by getting more money for the programs that community needs by their participation in the United States Census.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Okay, and that’s a little profound because we’re not asking a lot from them. It’s my understanding, because – I’m sorry, I’m such a coward, here – my wife does the census form. I haven’t even seen it. The census form is ten questions, right?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, it’s ten topics. It’s the shortest census since 1790, which was the first time we did the census. And we asked for the name of the person, their gender – male, female – their age, race, origin, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a very short form. The information on here is mandated. The questions we asked are mandated by Congress. The questions are approved by Office of Management and Budget. I mean, we’re asking what we’ve been approved to ask and it all funnels back to those two items I mentioned before about fair representation –

Len Sipes:But the bottom line is that they’re really simple questions that anybody can answer. You’re not going to have to look up tax forms. You’re not going to have to look up your social security number.

Nunzio Cerniglia: No, that’s not even a topic. Social security number and anything related to an identifier like that – again, citizenship is not an issue here. Documented or not, not one of the questions. Not at all.

Len Sipes:Okay, so let’s go down the list very quickly. Number one, the information cannot, will not be used against you. Number two, your family and your friends are going to directly benefit from your participation in the census. Number three, it’s extremely easy to fill out, and there’s no question that you can do it and take care of it in what, ten minutes? I hear ten questions, ten minutes?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s it. Ten questions, ten minutes, and you’re benefitted by it for ten years.

Len Sipes:Okay, and we want the individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system who do listen to this program – we want you to directly participate in this. Now, what if the person sits back and says, “Okay, fine, I’ll participate. I trust Mr. Sipes. I believe whatever Mr. Sipes has to say,” and if that’s true, I wish we could transfer that magic over to my wife and daughters, but let’s just say the person listening to this show is caught up in the criminal justice system, and buys into what we just said, and wants to participate. How does he or she participate?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We will be mailing a form to over 130,000,000 addresses, and when that form arrives, we ask them to fill it out and mail it back. It’s a self-stamped envelope. It’s pre-addressed. There’s no cost to mail it back. If for some reason they don’t receive it, we have a toll-free number to call.

Len Sipes:Ahh, okay.

Nunzio Cerniglia: And I can give you that number.

Len Sipes:Yeah, what’s the number?

Nunzio Cerniglia: One way to do that – that’s a toll free number. It’s 866-872-6868. That’s in English. There are other – they can direct you to other numbers that would be in different languages.

Len Sipes:All right. That will give you the option in Spanish and other –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. 1-866 –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Also, we have what we call questionnaire assistance centers. That’s a place that anybody can go to and if they have the form and they have problems filling it out, we will have someone at these locations, local locations, that will assist in the filling out of the form, or they can bring it with them if they did get it. If they didn’t get it, they can go to this location and still receive a form for themselves. We have the forms in six languages at that site: it’s English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese. But we also have language guides in fifty-nine different languages, so if it’s not one of those six languages I mentioned, we have a language guide in fifty-nine languages that can help us help them fill out the form in one of those other languages. So there are two options. So you can go to a questionnaire assistance center locally – which, again, going to that website,, you can find out where those locations are in your area – and we’ll help you fill out the form, or call the questionnaire assistance center with that other toll-free number: 866-872-6868, and we can help you fill out the form or mail you another one.

Len Sipes:All right. Basically, you guys have pretty much thought of everything, because a lot of people under supervision, they move from place to place to place, and they’re with their mom, and the mom gets tired of them coming in and bothering her sleep and simply says, “Okay, well, you’ve been here for three months. You need to move on.” Then over to his brother’s house, and then after a couple months there will move over to a girlfriend’s house.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, now –

Len Sipes:So the mail will never find them.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, right. The parent or brother may have filled out the form, and they may be at the house and they say, “Well, I wasn’t counted.” That’s why we say call that questionnaire assistance center or visit a local area for a questionnaire assistance center. You know, that’s where they can fill out their individual form.

Len Sipes:Okay, so 1-866-872-6868, and ladies and gentlemen, these numbers – the website and the number – will be in the show notes. 1-866-872-6868, Now, Nunzio, how do you count people in the prison systems?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We count them in their facility. We work with the administration at the facility and there are a couple of ways of counting everyone there. It would be either a census taker would go and interview each person in the facility, or we would swear in your members who work there, and they would do the enumeration. They would be under the same oath of office that I’m in, that I’m sworn under, and they would collect the data. Or we can provide that information through what we call administrative records. But we will get a complete count one way or the other. We like to promote, and we’ve had a good reception with, the facilities we’re working with nationwide to the point where we provide them literature for their inmate population so that they would be aware of it. Their family members when they visit would be aware of the importance of the census for the reasons we’re mentioning here. So there are several ways to conduct an enumeration at the facilities, and it’s been very receptive and responsive from the folks we’ve been talking with nationwide.

Len Sipes:Ladies and gentlemen, we’re halfway through the program. Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau, 1-866-872-6868 in terms of additional information. So Nunzio, we’ve talked about the prison situation, and they’re pretty much counted, and that part of it, the seven million under correctional supervision in the United States, the two million who are incarcerated are pretty much taken care of. There is an additional five million who are under community supervision. You’re basically asking parole and probation agencies, sheriff’s departments, those sort of agencies to help you help the individual caught up in the criminal justice system to participate in the census. What were telling them is that the information cannot, will not be used against them, that there are immense fines and jail time for any member who participates in the census to provide that information to anybody else outside of the Census Bureau. We’re saying that it’s easy. It’s a ten question questionnaire. It’s not difficult at all to fill out, and if you have questions or if you’re not at your old address, so those forms are missing you via the mail, 1-866-872-6868, and they’ll send you out a new form. Now, there’s a certain point, Nunzio, where you guys go and start knocking on doors so you can complete that ten question survey, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, that’s correct. And the first day we do go out and begin knocking on doors will be May 1st. We have a list of the housing units for which we did not receive the form, and we’ll be contacting those households over May, June, into early July.

Len Sipes:So basically, it’s a three-month effort.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Up to three months, correct.

Len Sipes:Okay. Oh, by the way, in terms of summarizing why do all of this – I’m sorry, I forgot the principal reason. Because I do believe a lot of folks caught up in the criminal justice system don’t see the value to themselves. They’re in many cases fatalists. They see the world moving in one direction or another beyond their capacity, but certainly they have sympathy and a desire to be sure that their kids are taken care of, their family members are taken care of, their little brother is taken care of. So an immense amount of money – all that money that flows from the federal government into individual communities is divided based upon how many people live in that area. The more people who are counted, the more money that jurisdiction gets, so it can have a direct affect, not only on the individual offender, but that person’s family.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. I just wanted to go over that one more time. Now, so your door knockers are out there beginning soon. It will go on for a three month process. Anywhere within that three month process, I’m assuming they could call 1-866-872-6868, have the form mailed to them, and participate. I mean, it doesn’t have to be now, it doesn’t have to be May, it doesn’t have to be June, it doesn’t have to be July, but sooner or later, we want that person to do that, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, the sooner the better. It would be more timely. Actually, as we get into May, we’ll probably take information over the phone. By the time that it gets mailed to them, it might be a little bit late, but we will take callers on through all that time period and we’ll address any question they have relative to the questions on the form and we’d be happy to take that information over the phone.

Len Sipes:Ahh, I didn’t realize that. So your fall-back measure is don’t worry about it, I know the form has missed you and the census taker has missed you. Just call 1-866-872-6868 and we’ll take the information over the phone.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Right. Up to a point, we can send a form back. After that point, April 21st, actually, then we’ll be working with our callers and taking information over the phone and process it that way. So we just want to make it as easy as possible, and it’s more timely to at some point just take the information over the phone and go from there.

Len Sipes:Okay, but I would imagine, once again, and I think you just mentioned this, that you would prefer to be in writing. The government works on written documents. I mean, the government exists for written documents, so we are written documents.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, I mean, like I said, we have these questionnaire assistance centers locally, to provide the census form to anyone who feels that they’ve not had an opportunity to fill out the form and be counted, and we have that toll-free number to call to have it mailed up through April 21st, and then at all times, we can take it over the phone.

Len Sipes:Okay, but you would prefer it to be in writing, but we will take it over the phone if at all necessary.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. And I guess we’re into the final parts of the program, because I guess we’ve covered just about everything we need to cover. But we go back to the very beginning of the program, their reluctance to participate in anything government. I think we’ve covered every possible base, that it benefits their children, it benefits their family members, it benefits their communities. It’s not going to be held against you. The information cannot be released to anybody else, under penalty of law. But again, I’ve spent forty years in the criminal justice system, and a lot of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are just suspicious of anything that I say, of anything that you say. I guess there is no magic bullet to overcome that suspicion, beyond what we’ve already said.

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct. I mean, it’s understandable why there’s apprehension, why your people on supervision would be reluctant to participate. We try to, through channels like yourself and other media, try to promote, again, what’s in it for the individual and their family. And it’s those two important criteria – one, proper representation and money that can be allocated, over $400,000,000,000 a year that could be put back to the communities, and there would be an opportunity for them to give back to the community, to give back to their families, like you mentioned, their spouses, mothers, brothers, children. Give them an opportunity to see some benefit from this funding which is being given back to the communities. It’s going to happen whether they participate or not. It’d just be less given back to the communities. It’s hard to believe that taking ten minutes for ten items – it’s the best investment I can think of for ten minutes over ten years. It’s the best investment I can think of in spending time. I don’t think there’s a better way of spending time to get something back, that goes back to the community for the reasons I mentioned: those infrastructure, supporting for schools, hospitals, daycare centers, which allows that state to have more funding for other things that would benefit their family members. And themselves.

Len Sipes:All right, extremely well-put, and the final part of it is that the bulk of the people who listen to this program manage criminal justice systems. They are either sheriffs that have correctional facilities under them, they are community corrections administrators, prison administrators. We do have a lot of people from the law enforcement community, the social work community, who do listen to this program. When you’re talking to them, all the things that we just mentioned apply to them as well. As administrators, why should they participate in encouraging the individuals under their supervision, why they should participate in the census, encouraging the people under them to participate. The same thing applies to them; it’s still their family as well. It’s their kids as well. It’s their community as well. It is a vote of confidence for your community for the criminal justice administrators to participate.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly. The population we’re talking about here are your people under supervision, but everybody in the United States, be they law enforcement officers and every profession in that community or profession, to benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Len Sipes:It’s a win – that’s exactly what I was going to say, Nunzio. It’s a win-win situation for anybody. All right, we’re going to close. Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau. The web address is 1-866-872-6868, 1-866-872-6868. All of these numbers will be in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Again, we are extremely appreciative for all of your calls and emails and letters and everything else that you do in terms of communicating with us. It’s what makes the show. We continue to ask for your participation in terms of suggestions and/or criticisms. You can reach me directly, You can follow me via Twitter, which is, or you can do what an awful lot of you do is simply go to and write in your comments in terms of the comments section for both the television shows, radio shows, the blog, and transcripts. And to Nunzio Cerniglia, thank you for participating and ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –


National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-DC Public Safety-200,000 Requests a Month

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. We have I think one of the more interesting shows that we’re going to do this year. Joe Russo, Assistant Director of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center under the National Institute of Justice, is here today to talk about all things technology as it applies to corrections. Before getting onto Joe, again, our usual commercial thanking everybody. We are up to 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. You are free to comment on any part of the show that you want, whether it be positive or negative, or critical or advisory. If you want to get in touch with me directly, it is Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P-E-S@csosa .gov. You can follow us via Twitter at L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S or you can simply comment, as so many of you do, within the comment section for the radio and television shows for the blog and transcripts, at media M-E-D-I-A.csosa CSOSA stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency in Washington, D.C. Back to our guest, Joe Russo, Assistant Director of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. Joe, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Joe Russo: Hi, Len, good to be with you.

Len Sipes: Joe, when I was with the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, which is the Department of Justice’s clearing house years ago, and I moved over to the National Crime Prevention Council. One of the things that really – people were really interested in technology. It was the most popular topic, or certainly one of the most popular topics, so give us a sense as to what the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center does.

Joe Russo: Well, the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is a program under the National Institute of Justice, and for the benefit of the listeners, the N.I.J. is the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. It falls beneath the Office of Justice Programs, and some listeners might know of agencies like the Bureau of Justice Assistance. These agencies all fall under the Office of Justice Programs, and N.I.J. is one of those programs. Traditionally, N.I.J., as you know, Len, was a social science agency. They focused on criminology issues, crime prevention, crime and delinquency strategies, that sort of thing. Back in the early ’90s, N.I.J., as you kind of mentioned, alluded to, got involved, as well as a number of other agencies, in technology, and became interested in how technology can support and enhance mission performance of our criminal justice agencies. So at that time, they created an Office of Science and Technology, which was a parallel to the research side, which is the Office of Research and Evaluation. And the Office of Science and Technology was interested in specifically developing tools and technologies for law enforcement and corrections – cops, corrections officers, probation officers on the street. And one of the major thrusts was that law enforcement and corrections is an under served market. There was not a lot of infrastructure or technology development specifically for that purpose. So part of N.I.J.’s mission through this organization, the Office of Science and Technology, was to help support the development of new tools. Now, within Office of Science and Technology, back in the early ’80s, they created the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, and as a long way to answer your question, the role of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is to provide support, technology assistance, to the state and local agencies primarily on how to use technology, how to implement it, what types of technologies are out there, how N.I.J. can support, state and locally, these missions through the development of new technologies.

Len Sipes: You know, all you have to do, Joe, is to watch CSI, crime scene investigation, and you learn everything that you need to know about the available technology for law enforcement and corrections by watching CSI, correct? And I’m not going to let you answer that question; I have the hardest time watching these programs, because their reality and our reality are two different realities, it seems to me.

Joe Russo: There’s a big gap between fact and fiction, that’s for sure.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I stopped watching cop shows of any sort a long time ago, simply because I’m sitting back going, “If we even had this stuff that they say that they have, it’s just – the gap is huge.” But the point is that the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is there to try to close that gap, to try to bring what is relevant, what is meaningful, to the law enforcement and criminal justice community. That’s the bottom line, so instead of a police department or a correctional agency somewhere in the United States, or even beyond the borders of the United States, trying to say to themselves, “What is it about global positioning and technology, in terms of tracking criminal offenders” Instead of calling all over the place, you guys pretty much have the sense as to what works and what doesn’t and what’s upcoming, correct?

Joe Russo: Yeah, that’s basically our mission is to have our finger on the pulse of not only what’s out there, what’s working, what’s not working, but also what’s on the horizon. We talked about the CSI factor, and it’s interesting almost from a philosophical perspective, in terms of what’s the potential of technology? You know, practitioners like you and I understand that that’s not the current reality, but one of the important missions of the N.I.J. and the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is to always be aware the potentials of technologies that are not quite available yet but may have the potential for corrections in the future. That’s a critical role of ours.

Len Sipes: So, Joe, you’ve been in the system for how long? You’ve been there for, what, quite a few years, because I’ve been interacting with you for quite a few years. You’ve been with there as Assistant Director for how long?

Joe Russo: I’ve been with the system for thirteen years now.

Len Sipes: Wow, and do you have a background in corrections and law enforcement and technology? How did you end up being there?

Joe Russo: I do. My background is in corrections, primarily. I grew up in the New York area, New York City area, and my employment after college and my master’s degree was with the New York City Department of Corrections, where I helped run the police program on Rikers Island.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Joe Russo: And from there, I went on to the New York City Department of Probation, where I helped implement alternative to incarceration programs and helped with a major re-engineering effort that they were going through at that point in time.

Len Sipes: And that was a major re-engineering effort, so you have real-world experience, plus your years there at the center, correct?

Joe Russo: Exactly.

Len Sipes: All right, and I think that’s important for people to understand – that the center is basically staffed with and advised by people in the field on a day-to-day basis, so you do advisory panels, you consult with people throughout the United States as to what the experience is in Missouri, or the experience is in New York City, and not only do you have your own real-world experience, you’re constantly being advised by people throughout the country and beyond in terms of what their needs are, correct?

Joe Russo: Absolutely, and that’s a very important point. You know, everything that N.I.J. does, whether it’s technology or social science, it has to be practitioner-driven and informed by current requirements and current experience. So, my experience in New York City, while it was interesting and it’s my personal background, may not be particularly relevant to what’s going on right now, so it’s very important that we tie back to the practitioner community and understand their needs and what they’re doing through.

Len Sipes: The website for the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is, How do you set the priorities, Joe? I mean, how does N.I.J. set the priorities? We were just talking about that a couple seconds, so, you know, there is an emerging sense within the correctional community that global positioning system monitoring, GPS monitoring, satellite tracking of criminal offenders is something that we really do need to do, really need to investigate. I know it has strong limitations, and we try, when we talk about it, not to sell it as a panacea, but that’s something that is certainly of importance to us, along with offender reentry, if there is technology that applies to that. But that’s our priority; that may not be California’s priority, and that might not be the priority for St. Louis, so how does N.I.J. set the priorities in terms of the different things that you guys investigate?

Joe Russo: Good question, Len. Basically, it ties back to my comments about being tied to the practitioner communities, and N.I.J.’s strategy is to establish what they call technology working groups, and these groups are established in about twenty different areas. There’s an institutional corrections technology working group, or TWIC. The federal government has a lot of acronyms. We have one for community corrections and biometrics, sensor surveillance, all kinds of things that you could possibly imagine that have a relevance to the criminal justice community. Basically, these working groups are made up of working professionals, typically mid to upper level management folks, who are interested, or implement, technology issues projects for their agency. They come from all across the country; they represent large agencies, small agencies, state, local – you know, we try to get a good representation, good demographics. And these folks come together twice a year to brainstorm, to talk about what current issues they’re facing, what technologies they’re having difficulty with that could be improved that require improvement, enhancement, what technologies that don’t even exist yet but would address, if they were developed, a critical need. So that’s really their role, is to identify usually a top ten list of the technologies needs from their particular perspective in the field. N.I.J. uses that information to inform their research and development portfolios.

Len Sipes: Now, what are you guys currently working on? So, what’s the consensus around the country right now? What is the country, at least from a corrections side, what is the correctional community asking for now?

Joe Russo: Well, in terms of the requirements on the community corrections side, I’ll touch on a couple of key ones, and it’s one, actually, that you alluded to. It’s related to the GPS or more generically, offender tracking technology. And what these technology working groups have identified the need for is true, continuous offender tracking technology, and we’re talking about something that works indoors and outdoors, that does not have the limitations of current GPS technology. In terms of a solution – and we try not to jump to solutions in this group – we talk about needs. Solution would be more of a hybrid type of system, something that uses satellites as well as terrestrial-based technology, so that you truly have a 24/7 continuous tracking system of an offender no matter where he goes, no matter where he lives. So sort of, let’s make the reality match the hype. That’s sort of what the TWIC is after, there.

Len Sipes: Does that ever bother you guys, by the way, the reality and the hype? Because, you know, a reporter would come along and ask me, “Len, this is not a foolproof system,” and I would pause and say, “Well, I don’t think we ever said it is.” That GPS comes with a wide variety of limitations – I think that you just hit on one – the fact that when you go inside of a building, you’re no longer tracked by that satellite, depending upon the size of the building, and what we do is we do the terrestrial implementations to help continue to track that person within their own home, but I mean, you can’t stop a person from taking the thing off. You can cut through it. There are ways that you can go within the home or a building or a tunnel and not be tracked, and just because you’re tracked doesn’t mean that there’s a person on the other end continuously monitoring your behavior 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In most cases, we don’t track them that continuously. It’s a passive system where we come in the next day and see where the person’s been and whether or not we can tie them into different crime sites. So, you know, we say this all the time. We tell people about the limitations of technology all the time, but I sometimes think that they only hear that he’s being tracked 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they’ve watched CSI way too many times, and they assume that that person, that sex offender, if you will, who wanders into a playground, that there’s going to be a parole and probation response immediately. How do you temper public expectations with the realities of the technology?

Joe Russo: That’s a point, and it’s not just news reporters, it’s not just media. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes judges don’t quite understand the technology limitation. Legislators who are passing laws mandating the use of GPS technology don’t fully understand the limitations of technology in some cases, so it is a huge problem, and from our perspective as a technology center, we kind of straddle the fence, there. As a technology, it does exactly what it’s intended to do. It has inherent limitations. It was never developed and never designed to track offenders. It was designed to track military assets in open field, an open area. So for those purposes, it works wonderfully. We’ve tried to adapt it to criminal justice uses, and it works pretty well, but you have to manage the expectations, and that’s the key. We’re talking about uncooperative subjects. We’re talking about criminals who don’t have much incentive to keep their bracelet on if they’re determined to do something they shouldn’t be doing. There is no way to secure, permanently, a bracelet at this point – at least none that we are comfortable with as a society. So I think the key issue is managing expectations, making public the limitations, the inherent limitations of the technology, making public the ability of the technology to supervise people in the community in a more effective way. We have to remember that this is the best technology that we have, the best tool we have, short of incarceration, so there is value. Is it perfect? Far from it. So there is that fine line, and we try to do education every chance we get about balancing those issues, and balancing expectations of all the stakeholders, because ultimately, if the people have the false expectations of the technology and the offender fails or commits a heinous crime, they’re going to point back to the technology and think that that was the problem when in fact, the technology was doing exactly what it was intended to do.

Len Sipes: Once again, I think you can’t go into the movies, and you can’t watch the TV shows without coming away with an inflated sense in terms of what our technology can do, and again, the movie reality and the television show reality is not our reality. I would imagine ours is much more mundane, much more down to Earth, much more workman-like, if you will. All we’re trying to do is to bring tools and provide reasonable expectations in terms of what those tools can do, and once again, I won’t leave you with it. I’ll editorialize. I think sometimes it’s hard to do within a society that has inflated expectations. I think they’ve seen one too many CIA-based movies one too many times. Our guest today – we’re halfway through the program, and it’s Joe Russo. He is the Assistant Director of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center under the National Institute of Justice, under the Office of Justice Programs. All of these fall under the auspices of the United States Department of Justice. The website for the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center is, Joe, I think first of all, a lot of us within the corrections and law enforcement community are extraordinarily grateful for N.I.J. taking on this issue, and the Department of Justice across the board taking on this issue, because instead of us – like I said, offender tracking systems – instead of us calling a dozen different states and doing polls, as we used to do earlier in my career, where we sent out letters, snail-mail letters, to the directors of law enforcement and corrections asking them a simple question about a piece of technology, and now all we have to do is basically log on to your website to get pretty much the state of the art, correct?

Joe Russo: Absolutely. You know, our networks are expanded both individually and as an organization. Most agencies do not have the time to thoroughly research technology issues. Many agencies are fairly small, so they really don’t have the resources. N.I.J., through the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, provides that resource for agencies.

Len Sipes: Give me some of the other stuff that you’re working on, Joe.

Joe Russo: Well, we talked a lot about offender tracking systems, and one of the most exciting projects that we’re working on currently is the development of standards for offender tracking technology.

Len Sipes: Ahh.

Joe Russo: In many areas of criminal justice, there is a woeful lack of standards. Body armor has the benefit of having standards, and that’s probably the most high-profile technology that does have a standards program attached to it, but for many other technologies, there are no standards, so we’re kind of at the mercy of the vendor community, and of industry, to kind of do the right thing. With offender tracking, in particular, because of the high-profile nature of GPS and a lot of the sex offender legislation that’s come through, GPS use has grown dramatically. And as we talked about before, their misconceptions about the technology. A lot of vendors are entering the market looking for market share because they see a great opportunity there. So the need was expressed, again, through one of our technology working groups, that the field requires standards in this particular area, so that we have a good understanding of what this technology can and can’t do, how specific technology vendors perform under different metrics. So N.I.J. had undertaken that project to develop standards and protocols for testing different technologies against that standard. We’re currently convening a working group that’s working on this issue on a monthly basis and identifying the key areas of what must be tested and how do we go about testing it in an objective, fair way so that we can get some good outcome data and that ultimately, when an agency has to make a decision about offender tracking technology and what to buy, they have a standard to reference, and they will know what vendors met that standard, and which vendors did not meet the standard.

Len Sipes: And if people doubt the importance of standards, which seems to be a little mundane, every time I put on a bulletproof vest, and I’m assigned one here, and I was assigned one with my old job with Maryland Department of Public Safety, and when I was a police officer a billion years ago, they didn’t have bulletproof vests back then. But every time I put that vest on, I know that it meets a standard set by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center and the National Institute of Justice and I know that those standards have saved people’s lives, and I think that’s one of the most important things for people to understand. Without standards – I mean, this is a criminal justice system made up of thousands upon thousands of individual law enforcement and correctional agencies, and there’s no way that they can set their own standards and N.I.J. pretty much sets those standards and they save lives for police officers, for correctional officers, in the process, and so I think you would agree with that.

Joe Russo: Absolutely. It’s of critical importance. And you know, in the area of offender tracking and other technologies that may not be as critical in terms of individual officer safety as body armor, it only serves to increase confidence in the products, and that only serves to increase the use of these products. If we know that a product meets a standard, agencies are more likely to use those products and technologies. So we think it benefits everyone to establish good standards, particularly where technologies are running out of the gate and expand probably too quickly before good evaluation is conducted, before standards are developed, maybe driven by political impetuses, like some GPS legislation. We need to catch up and establish some good standards so that the practitioners are more of a driver in the whole process.

Len Sipes: Right, because at the moment, we’re at the mercy of the market, and the criminal justice system shouldn’t be at the mercy of the market.

Joe Russo: Exactly right, and we shouldn’t – frankly, we shouldn’t be at the mercy of legislators who mandate the use of technology. Now, I fully support the use of GPS. It’s the best option we have right now for managing high-risk offenders. But the practitioners should be in the driver’s seat, and they should be driving requirements.

Len Sipes: You know, before we go on to the next topic, one of the things that I do want to point out to the public: TechBeat magazine – there are a lot of publications, and I’ll be the first to rant that they’re terrible with a capital ‘T.’ They’re almost unreadable. TechBeat magazine is put out by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center and it is one of the most readable publications – it’s an award-winning publication. It is very, very, very user-friendly, so if you’re sort of put off by government publications, you won’t be put off by TechBeat magazine. This issue just came to my inbox yesterday, and here, you’re talking about deployable crime labs, the fact that you can have not these huge structures on wheels like we used to have, but deployable crime labs to go onto the scene for investigations. One of the more interesting articles in here: facial recognition system, talking about various police departments using facial recognition, and they were able to apprehend dozens and dozens of suspects through facial recognition. I think that that is just really interesting stuff. So again, as I page through this, it’s colorful, it is professionally done. Here is bomb squads, here’s on first responder, to be sure that the credentials of first responders are intact, that they have the proper credentials to get there, to get involved in the scene. And one of my favorite topics: social networking for law enforcement, where it’s beautifully done. YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and talking about how different law enforcement organizations throughout the United States are using social media to better communicate with and serve the public. So I just want to tell and remind everybody, again, if you’re interested in that publication, you go where? To the website: Again, the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. We’re into the final minutes of the program, Joe. This is going by way too fast. We’re going to have to have you back in the future. So, we’ve dealt with bulletproof vests, we have stab-proof vests, we have GPS technology. What else, in the final minutes of the program, are you guys working on?

Joe Russo: Well, you know, we also try to obviously maintain a glimpse, or a pulse, of what the future will bring, so that we can be ahead of the curve, and what we’re seeing a lot – and you mentioned social networking – that’s of critical importance. The whole idea of the offender having a virtual life – we are ultimately very interesting in providing probation and parole officers specifically with the tools to be able to monitor offenders’ virtual lives – monitor their computers, monitor their cell phones. Cell phone forensics is becoming a huge, huge issue for probation and parole agencies. Gaming systems – there are a variety of different hardware and software, or hardwares that offenders use to store pornography or any kind of material that they don’t want the officer to know about, so this is a major area in the future that probation and parole need to be exposed to, need to be aware of, and need to have training and the tools to be able to monitor what the offender is doing online. We also see a lot of movement in the area of combining technologies. We’ve already seen vendors marry GPS technology with alcohol tracking technology. So we’re able to detect alcohol use at the same time with the same device as we are able to monitor an offender’s location. You know, we’ll see a lot more of that in the future.

Len Sipes: Wouldn’t that be interesting. So you’re tracking the offender and you’re tracking the offender’s alcohol content. Again, this is remotely. Can we track an offender’s drug use remotely.

Joe Russo: Not currently, and interestingly enough, that’s another one of our technology working groups requirements, that the group that sets forward the critical needs of the field – they asked for the development of continuous remote method of detecting drug technology, or drug use – excuse me – similar to what the SCRAM technology currently does for alcohol use, for example. They would like a corollary that would detect drug use. Right now, I believe that there are some projects in development – the Office of Naval Research has been working on this issue for awhile, but for now, it doesn’t seem that there’s anything viable in the near future. But people are looking at it, and that’s the exciting thing, that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Len Sipes: But we can do it now for alcohol monitoring, correct?

Joe Russo: Absolutely. There are a couple of systems out there right now that do that.

Len Sipes: And that’s coming pretty close to substance abuse monitoring across the board. I think it’s an amazing step that when I entered the criminal justice system forty years ago, in essence, when you were placed on parole and you were placed on probation, we quite frankly had no idea as to where you were, and drug testing and alcohol testing was extraordinarily rare. There is the potential, just around the corner, for continuous monitoring of select offenders and continuous monitoring – real-time monitoring – as to whether or not they’re doing drugs or whether or not they’re doing alcohol. That is an amazing transformation in terms of our ability to keep track of offenders.

Joe Russo: Absolutely, and Len, you hit on a key point. You said “select offenders.” And that’s the important thing that folks should think about when they talk about technology and what we can do, what technology offers the possibility for. You know, there’s the expression, “Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it.” In terms of an environment of diminishing resources, we cannot apply the same level of supervision to all offenders. It doesn’t meet evidence-based practices; it’s not prudent. So when we look at these different technologies, it’s important to select the appropriate technology for the appropriate offender.

Len Sipes: And also, at the same time, in terms of standards, you can keep an offender on that tracking system forever, either. So if you have a person, say, in terms of how we use it, if that person is having a real problem getting a job and we think it’s not a matter of education or training, we think it’s a matter of motivation, we can tell that person, “Well, they’re going to go to day reporting every day, or we’re going to put them on GPS tracking technology,” and you’d be really surprised how fast that offender ends up finding work if you threaten them with GPS technology. So they’ve gone the last six months without a job, and you say, “Okay, well, starting Monday, you’re on GPS technology, and the following Wednesday, they’re employed,” so sometimes, GPS is a great motivator to make sure that people go to drug treatment, to make sure that people do the restitution, to make sure that people are employed. So it’s just not tracking them, it’s also a great motivator to make sure that they get involved in the programs that they’re supposed to be, and when that offender tells you, “Yeah, I was at drug treatment, and he wasn’t,” that becomes pretty apparent pretty quickly. So it’s just not tracking from a law enforcement point of view. It is also ensuring that the offender participates in the programs.

Joe Russo: Absolutely. The ability to provide an offender with structure, by knowing that he’s being tracked, by setting exclusion zones based on time of day, where he can be, where he can’t be, can only help an offender who lacks that internal motivation, that internal structure. So yeah, there’s a benefit – there’s many benefits far and beyond just tracking.

Len Sipes: Well, Joe, we haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of what you all do. I’d like to have you on a couple months down the road and to part two of this, and maybe we could bring on somebody from the field that N.I.J. has directly helped in terms of the use of technology, bring on yourself and do an example, a case study of somebody from the field that has actually employed the technology from the National Institute of Justice. So first of all, I want to thank Joe Russo, the Assistant Director of National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center under the National Institute of Justice, under the Office of Justice Programs, part of the United States Department of Justice structure. The website is, Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Once again, we are extraordinarily appreciative of all the letters, emails, phone calls – I don’t even give out my phone number and you end up finding it anyway. So some of you are more comfortable talking, and that’s fine, but the email is the preferred route, and if we need to get in touch with each other via phone, we can do that after the email. But in any event, keep the comments coming. Really do appreciate it. or, or go to the website and comment directly. It is There are four websites: radio, television, blog, and transcripts, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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Iowa Jail-Based Substance Abuse Treatment Project-NCJA-DC Public Safety

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

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. This program is going to focus on the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Abuse Treatment project, and let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there are some extraordinary results from this. One year after program completion 78.5% say that they are clean, 91.9% have not been arrested, and 68.2% are employed full time, and I find those to be absolutely amazing statistics. Our guest today, Lonnie Cleland, a program planner with the Iowa Department of Public Health; Leesa McNeil – she is the District Court Administrator for Woodland County, Iowa; and Kim Brangoccio – she is clinical director of United Community Services. This program is brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association. As the regular listeners are aware, we do a regular series with the National Criminal Justice Association. Their website: Before we begin the program, once again, we thank everybody for the 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. You can reach us at M-E-D-I-A.csosa C-S-O-S-A .gov. You can reach me for all the comments – and I get a lot of comments, and I’m appreciative of all the comments – you can reach me directly via email: Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes or follow us via Twitter, which is Twitter/lensipes, L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S. Back to our guests: Lonnie Cleland, Leesa McNeil, and Kim Brangoccio. Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Kim Brangoccio: Hi.

Lonnie Cleland: Hello.

Leesa McNeil: Hi.

Len Sipes: Lonnie, Lonnie Cleland, the program planner for the Iowa Department of Public Health, give me an overview of the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment project.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, the Jail-Based Treatment project is a four-county initiative centered in the county jails, but also including outpatient substance abuse treatment for nonviolent offenders. We started the project in 2002 with one county, and it was directly a result of research that came out saying that the longer you kept offenders in treatment, and the more structure they had, the more successful you could be in helping them being integrated back into society. Our substance abuse treatment programs can bring in nonviolent offenders, and the focus of the project is to reduce substance abuse and criminal behavior simultaneously. It’s a curriculum-based treatment program, at least at the jail level, using a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. When offenders get out of jail, then they’re involved in outpatient treatment, which focuses on a more individual kind of approach. Typically, offenders are in the treatment program anywhere from 120 to 180 days. Now that varies from individual to individual.

Len Sipes: Well, I think the impressive part of that is the outpatient component, where you have – a lot of programs throughout the country have in-jail or in-prison based programs, and their concept of follow-up treatment is referral to AA or referral to the local health department who does drug treatment, and you sit for three or four months before you finally get into drug treatment. This concept of the outpatient part of it I think is extraordinarily valuable. It may be one of the key components of your success. Leesa McNeil, did you want to give a shot at that?

Leesa McNeil: Well, I think part of the success, too, is keeping the entire network of the community around the program. One of the things we’ve done in the Woodbury site is to create a program committee, and we have players around the table who meet periodically, at least bimonthly, and we visit about what programs are operating that impact the jail and troubleshoot them. And this is also our way of trying to keep people educated on what’s going on, make sure that we’re providing a safety net to solve any problems that may develop with the program, and we see players cycle through sheriff’s departments, public defenders offices, county attorney offices, judges, even treatment providers. And this is a way we use to make sure we keep educating people and keep the system engaged with promoting the program.

Len Sipes: So, the lesson here, Leesa, is that there’s no such thing as going it alone; you’ve got to build a network in the larger community who are going to supply the services necessary for those offenders, and they’ve got to be supportive and pretty much everybody’s got to be on board.

Leesa McNeil: Right, and we’ve even been successful in getting our county to put money on the table to assist with treatment, so the collaboration amongst the group is key and keeping players educated as they come in and out of the system and having a place where treatment folks can come and say, “Hey, we’re having a problem here,” and bringing the collaborative group together to say, “What can we do to that?” Sometimes we have problems with, you know, we need to find more clients to participate in the program, so we beat the bush, if you would, for attorneys to be reminding their clients that this is available. Sometimes judges forget it’s available, if they haven’t been on the criminal docket for a period, so it’s a continuous process that seems to work well for us.

Len Sipes: Kim Brangoccio, it’s a nice segue into what Leesa said about the clinical folks. You’re the clinical director of United Community Services, so you’re the person basically in charge – tell me if I’m wrong – of making sure that they get the various treatment modalities that are offered and that they are customized for that particular individual offender, correct?

Kim Brangoccio: Yes, that’s correct. I did want to comment, Len, on your talk about how the curriculum, both in the jail and out of the jail, affects the person. We really have found that to be successful, that once they have completed the in-jail portion, they are able to get out into the community. They’re already met their counselors out of the jail; they continue with them once they’re in the community, and they continue to use what they learned in jail, but they still have 6-8 months with us out of the jail where they can utilize what they’ve learned and make sure that they are following through. And that has been very successful for us.

Len Sipes: You know, if anybody doubts that, could you imagine, if a person goes inside the jail, and most jails are nonsmoking, so for the first time in their lives, they’re not smoking, for the three months they’re inside the jail. But as soon as you get outside that jail, you want that cigarette. I don’t care what the circumstances – I mean, before, it’s easy to go through a behavioral therapy-based program, a cognitive-behavioral-based therapy program within a correctional facility. It’s hard as the dickens applying all those skills when you get on the outside.

Kim Brangoccio: Right, exactly. And we talk a lot about that. I mean, we do talk about smoking and a lot of the clients do get out of the jail and start smoking again, but they really utilize the tools that they learn when they’re in jail when they get out, so they don’t go back to using drugs and alcohol. And one of the big things that the clients say to me that they think is a difference is that the program really focuses on both criminal and addictive thinking, so it’s not just the addictive thinking that they might have in another treatment program; they’re focusing on how those two interplay and how that got them into trouble. So we really try to help them always be looking at “What are they thinking?” as well as whether there are addictive patterns.

Len Sipes: You know, when I explain this to people, because I’ve done three stints in terms of dealing with offenders directly – jail, or job corps, doing gang counseling when I was putting myself through college after leaving the law enforcement community, and running group in a prison system – and to explain to people that you have to reorient the individual’s thinking patterns through cognitive-behavioral therapy or what we used to call ‘thinking for a change’ to get people to rethink how they look at life, rethink how they deal with problems, rethink how they process the information that’s in front of them. People who are not part of this process look at me as if I have five heads. “What do you mean? I learned at age five not to beat somebody with a stick if they made me angry, and you mean to tell me that you’ve got to take adult men, or adult women, and teach them that that’s probably not the best way to resolve a problem?” And my response to that is, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” that you have to sometimes train a lot of individuals to think through what it is that they do, and once they develop a different way of thinking through a problem, they don’t revert back to their violent or nasty ways of doing things, and they don’t necessarily go back to doing drugs, because there is an alternative. Now, am I in the ballpark of being right?

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, could I jump in there for a second, Kim.

Len Sipes: Yeah, please.

Lonnie Cleland: Len, I think Polk County historically has a perfect example of that. As part of our project, we have the University of Iowa’s Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation doing criminal thinking assessment so that each of the offenders in the project, the providers of the service give them the criminal thinking test during treatment or admission, and then it’s also followed up later on. What we found – I think it was 2003 or 2004 – was that the criminal thinking scales changed drastically a month after they got out of jail. And so, as a result, the projects were able to adjust their treatment – the frequency, the intensity, the kinds of things that they discussed with the offenders in outpatient treatment – as a way of once again readdressing those criminal thinking kinds of things. You’re absolutely correct. You have to reinforce this at all points, in my opinion.

Len Sipes: And this program is basically based on the individual offender facing a criminal charge, going before the judge, and making a plea either on a pre-trial basis or on a post-trial basis, agreeing to stay within these four jails for a certain amount of time, and then to continue that treatment in the community. That’s pretty much the agreement. They go and they’re sanctioned by a judge and the judge remands them to this treatment program and it’s something that they must complete, and in some cases, the charges are waived or done away with, and in some cases, they continue during a probationary period. Am I correct?

Kim Brangoccio: That’s correct. That’s how it works.

Len Sipes: Okay, cool. All right. And basically, you’ve done about 2000 offenders, 2000 clients throughout that time, correct?

Lonnie Cleland: It’s probably up around 2600 now. Because of some funding problems we had about a year and a half ago, we had to reinitiate the evaluation project, and so we had to start it over, and I think we have – I was talking to the evaluators just a few days ago – I think we’ve got 800 more in the project at this point.

Len Sipes: Wow, that’s amazing.

Lonnie Cleland: But those results, because we had to start it over, those results are still sort of in process.

Len Sipes: Okay. And to go with the results, this is one-year follow-up, but this is a self-assessment on the part of an offender, basically through an interview process done by an outside agency. 78.5% were clean, 91.9% had not been arrested, and 68.2% were employed on a full-time basis, correct?

Lonnie Cleland: Full or part time, yes.

Len Sipes: Full or part time. Now, those are amazing results.

Kim Brangoccio: Yes they are.

Lonnie Cleland: Yes they are.

Leesa McNeil: We think so.

Len Sipes: Congratulations. Congratulations to the three of you and congratulations to everybody involved. Those are amazing results. Before getting involved in the larger question of the take-aways – what are the things that the rest of us in the criminal justice system can learn from all of this – in essence, you have these participants, they’re basically successful. And this evaluation is focusing on the people who’ve completed the program – it is cognitive-behavioral therapy based, but you provide lots of other services, both inside the institution and out in the community. But the interesting thing about all this is that it’s done within a jail environment, and being exposed to a jail when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety at the Baltimore city jail, which is one of the biggest in the country, I was like blown away by the complexity of running a jail. I mean, a prison is relatively simple and straightforward and easy compared to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of individuals coming into and out of the jail in a rapid-fire fashion. They’re coming into the booking center, if the booking center is within the jail. Any jail is chaotic. Any jail is just an immensely complicated place to run, and the fact that you were able to produce this sort of a program and have these sort of results within the jail setting, I think are enormous. But am I right? The jail is just a difficult place to do this sort of thing.

Leesa McNeil: Oh, it’s very difficult, Len. This is Leesa. Space is an issue, because you need to find space where you can kind of isolate the defendants that you want to participate in the program. As you know, jail space is at a premium. The lack of jail space is what actually prompted our county to be very anxious to get to the table to get some better outcomes, because overcrowding was an issue. And through a series of programs, you know, here we are six years later. We’re aren’t facing building a new jail, so –

Len Sipes: And every government administrator who is listening to this program, their ears just perked up. So you were able to avoid building a facility because of this program.

Leesa McNeil: Well, not just this program. We have a group of programs, and that’s one of the keys to success in terms of a walk-away, I think, is you need to have a collaborative group that supports the bigger offender population in terms of working to get better outcomes for them. We have a drug court, we have a mental health court, and now we have this Jail-Based Treatment program. And we attribute our success to not building a new jail to the combination of those programs and the collaboration, that all of the players came to the table and worked to make them all a success.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I do want to give the website for this particular program: and search for jail-based programs. I’m going to repeat that one more time, but in the show notes, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll have the web address that goes directly to the publications that address the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment program project. Stumbling over that. Again, it is Search for jail-based programs. Our guests today are Lonnie Cleland. He is the program planner, Iowa Department of Public Health. Leesa McNeil, District Court Administrator for Woodbury County, Iowa. And Kim Brangoccio – she is the clinical director for United Community Services. The program is brought to you, once again, by the National Criminal Justice Association – Okay, Leesa, you were talking about taking about take-aways, and that’s exactly where I want to go with this, is that there are people throughout the country who are saying, “Eh, the jail is just not the setting to do clinical-based programs.” Or they’re saying, “No, it’s just too expensive,” or they’re going to throw a lot of reasons up as to why they can’t do what they want to do, so what would you say to them?

Leesa McNeil: I would say the take-away is that it is key to have program evaluation, because that shows it’s a success. And when people say we can’t afford to do this, we can’t afford not to. Everybody knows that to house a prisoner for a year costs $25,000 plus, depending on the jurisdiction. We can show that treatment of an individual for a fourth of that amount can keep a person out of prison, and so when the community says, “Why are we paying for treatment for these people?” it’s like, “Well, would you rather pay for them to be in an institution in the future for how many years?” And now we’re turning them out and they’re paying their child support, they’re keeping jobs, they’re staying clean. We’re not building jails. Those things are expensive. I think when we look at the human cost, the taxpayer cost, and unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies that pull all that together for the taxpayer to see, but that is the true savings. And so, not only saving the person from a horrible life in terms of abuse, but saving the taxpayers and saving our future workforce, saving future families, all that. You can’t compare the cost.

Kim Brangoccio: Len, this is Kim, and I would also add to that the fact that it really does affect future generations. Many of the clients that we see in the jail, they have young children. And if they turn things around because of their treatment, their kids are way less likely to end up in jail. And right now, as it stands in our jail, there are many, many people that their grandpa was there, or their father was there, their mother was there, and if we can stop that cycle, it helps into the future.

Leesa McNeil: Again, add the cost of foster care. Oh, my god.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, and we haven’t – we’ve actually, Len, done a cost analysis of this project and compared the cost of this project versus the cost of prison, which is where many of these offenders would end up without the project.

Len Sipes: Right, correct.

Lonnie Cleland: The average daily cost for these four counties is $30.19 per offender. The average prison daily cost is $64.00. So we’re saving the state taxpayers $34.00 per offender, per day.

Len Sipes: Basically, we want tax burdens to become taxpayers. We want non-parents to become parents. We want to reduce the odds, which according to research, are very high, of the children of offenders – instead of them continuing the ways of their parents and continuing within the criminal justice system – we’re trying to reach them as well, through their parents. So this is from an economic point of view, from a crime control point of view, from a fiscal responsibility point of view, this seems to be a win-win situation.

Kim Brangoccio: Yep.

Leesa McNeil: Mm-hmm.

Lonnie Cleland: I agree.

Len Sipes: Then the other issue is that administrators who are listening to this are basically saying, “Leonard, you could tell me that an investment of $5,000,000 will give me the goose that lays the golden egg, and eventually, those golden eggs will more than make up for that $5,000,000. I don’t have the money.” And how many times have I heard from administrators throughout the country, “Leonard, what is it that you don’t understand about the fact that I don’t have the money?”

Leesa McNeil: Well, you’ve got to ask them, “Do you have the money to build a new jail?” And our community said no. And that is why we, I think, as administrators and people who are working in the system need to help people understand there is a cost to doing nothing. And people have to be educated about that cost and we have to get decision makers to say, “This isn’t just a program we should wait for the feds to come and solve; this is a program that affects every county in the nation.”

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, and Leesa and Kim, I’m wondering if you might not agree that the first step is just getting everybody to the table and getting information out, but also having a conversation about, okay, let’s talk about what some of the options are that are out there.

Kim Brangoccio: Yeah, I think if you do that, if you have a conversation with everyone involved, there may be some other ways to get it started without the jail just having to fund it, or the community, or maybe a treatment program would be able to utilize some of their dollars in the jail, doing treatment with those folks, and it’s just a change of site. Or maybe there’s some arrangements that can be made where the services that are already being provided in another way, just the dollars could be shifted a little so that they could start a jail program, and then once you see the success, it really does prove itself and the money can be easier to find.

Leesa McNeil: Len, this is Leesa. That’s just one of the walk-aways. You have to have a good evaluation, or you won’t be able to prove that you’re doing the kinds of things we’re doing.

Len Sipes: Bingo. That’s exactly where I was going, Leesa. The point is that you can prove your impact. The great majority of the programs out there that are similar to yours don’t have an evaluation, so they really can’t prove their impact. I mean, one of the ways they’re proving their impact, by the way, is in lieu of a formal evaluation, is that the jail population seems to go down, or seems to be steady, so they don’t have to build another jail, and without the evaluation, you never know if it was attributable to your program or not, but they’re happy with that. They’re just tickled pink that they do not have to invest several hundred million dollars to construct a new jail and a million – oh, I’m sorry, probably I’m going to guess $50,000,000 a year to maintain it. They’re just tickled pink that that is the result, but it’s more than that, is what you just said before. It’s less crime, it’s more kids being taken care of. It’s just a win-win situation across the board, but yet the average county administrator in the United States is not jumping up and down to do these programs.

Kim Brangoccio: Yeah, and I think that’s why we’ve got to make the case.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, one of the benefits of evaluation is not just the long-term benefit of being able to show that these projects save money or that they have a social benefit, but it’s also being able to move more efficiently, more effectively, when you get a snapshot of how a project is working. As I pointed out earlier, finding out that criminal thinking increases a month after people are released from jail has a powerful affect on being able to adjust the treatment program quickly and to be able to keep the social impact of those folks at a minimum. And so the evaluation component can also help you be more flexible and faster and meaner when it comes to successfully treating these folks.

Len Sipes: Right, because the process of evaluation, a third of the way through, will show some success and some problems, so thereby you address the problems, because you were evaluating the program from the very beginning. Is there something in the water in Iowa that causes everybody to sit at the same table? We did another show with the National Criminal Justice Association about a jurisdiction in New York City, Red Hook, where the judge got everybody together and had fabulous results. It’s that sense of – and it’s funny, the President’s Commission on Crime and Justice back in the ’60s made this point – and in my forty years in the criminal justice system, I haven’t seen many examples of everybody coming together and sitting at the same table and cooperating for the common good, so what’s in the water out there in Iowa that calls in four counties and calls to everybody to sit at the same table and to share resources and to try to do something for the common good?

Leesa McNeil: Len, this is Leesa, and I’ll pipe in to start the conversation on that topic. And that is, in our community, it took two things. We had a jail overcrowding crisis where we were under federal court supervision to do something or build a new jail. And we had a judge who worked with me and stepped up to the table and said, “I’ll help lend credence to getting everybody to the table.” And as you know, Leonard, when a judge says, “Come to a meeting,” everybody comes. Well, once we got people there, we kind of semi-formally organized ourselves and made some agreements about future meetings, and the groups hung with it over ten years now. And they see the benefit, after we start the process going to making these productive meetings and that we’re talking about things that affect them. And one of our collaborative groups – we have twenty-two different criminal justice entities, or entities that affect the criminal justice system – that come to the table on a regular basis. And it’s just to hear about, well, “What’s going on? What are the problems? Who’s doing what? How is that going to impact me? What am I doing that’s going to impact everybody else?” And it gives a forum for sharing, and then it creates a synergy unto itself.

Len Sipes: And more and more judges, Leesa, are taking center stage, and I’m very happy to see that, because judges traditionally have found that their role, in terms of separation of powers, the tri-partied sense of you have the executive branch, you have the legislative branch, and you have the judicial branch, and the judicial branch should not intermingle with the other two. And that seems to be falling by the wayside, and when judges take the lead, they seem to have a powerful impact on the rest of us.

Leesa McNeil: Yep, it’s working in Iowa.

Len Sipes: Lonnie, you were trying to get in here.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, I think also sheriffs are more interested than they used to be. I think they’re seeing more of the impact of high levels of drug and alcohol use in their jails – the offenders getting into jail and having that history. And the word is starting to get around that when we can intervene with those folks successfully, then they’ve got some ideas about, “Well, okay, maybe we can do this too.” But I think the important part is understanding that we have to go to folks right from the start with information, as Leesa said, with data, with “Here’s how much it’s costing you folks to not do anything.”

Len Sipes: Well, it’s my hope that jail administrators throughout the country, or county administrators, will hear this program and say, “Well, son of a gun, if they can do it, I guess we can do it. It’s worth the conversation.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, but you know, it’s not easy. Kim, do you remember back in the early stages of the Polk County project, folks, you know, that was a struggle.

Kim Brangoccio: It was.

Lonnie Cleland: Getting folks together.

Kim Brangoccio: It was lots and lots of meetings, initially, trying to get people at the table, just us going to lots of different places and talking with public defenders and the county attorney’s office and going to roll call and really trying to talk with everybody about the results of this outcomes-based, evidence-based practices and that it would really be helpful. But it was very tricky at first.

Len Sipes: Well, we are out of time, and I do want to thank the three of you and the National Criminal Justice Association for bringing this program to our attention, and to congratulate the three of you and everybody involved with the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment project. I mean, what you guys have accomplished, especially within a jail setting, is nothing short of miraculous. And you’ve got the data to prove it, and you have the organization in four counties to support it. And the fact that it’s both jail-based and community-based is, I think, extraordinarily impressive. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today, Lonnie Cleland, program planner with the Iowa Department of Public Health; Leesa McNeil, District Court Administrator for Woodbury County, Iowa; and Kim Brangoccio, clinical director of United Community Services. Again, the program brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association, I will have the exact address for the report on the Iowa program in the show notes, but for the moment, if you would go to and simply do a search for jail-based programs, you’re going to be able to find exactly what it is that we’ve been talking about for the last half hour. Ladies and gentlemen, again, we really appreciate the fact that you are so influential and coming to us with lots of comments about what it is we can do, shouldn’t do, suggestions and criticisms about the program. is my direct email address. Or you can go to and comment on there, or you can follow us via Twitter at, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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