Archives for January 3, 2011

Violence Reduction Program-“DC Public Safety”

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/12/violence-reduction-program-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today, we are here to talk about the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. CSOSA is a federally funded parole and probation agency with responsibility for parole and probation issues in the great city of Washington, D.C. To talk to us about this program we have three extraordinarily interesting people. We have Zoë, and that’s not her real name. She is an individual under supervision of Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency to talk about her participation in the violence reduction program. We have Tanesha Clardy, and she is a community supervision officer, and we have Michelle Hare-Diggs, she is a treatment specialist, and to Zoë, and to Tanesha, and to Michelle, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tanesha Clardy: Thank you.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Thank you.

Zoe: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. We’re going to start off with you, Michelle, and you’re going to explain what the violence reduction program is all about.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: The violence reduction program was put into place by CSOSA to, it’s to successfully help the offenders on probation to successfully complete parole and probation. There’s three phases to the group. Phase one kind of gets everybody comfortable with being in the group, comfortable with the group process, so we do a lot of, I guess I would say icebreaker exercises, which is treatment readiness exercises. That runs three weeks, and they come twice a week for three weeks, and then we move on to phase two, which is the meat of the program, and we do a whole slough of, we learn a whole slough of activities, and it’s not just violence. Most of the techniques can be used in everyday life: communication styles, different communication styles, relaxation techniques, so everything that we do in the group can also, it just doesn’t relate to just violence. And that phase runs 12 weeks, and they come twice a week. And then we move on to phase three, which is, the purpose of phase three is to help, we want the offenders to, in turn, want to be able to help someone else to successfully complete parole and probation, so we integrate them into community activities, and that phase runs six weeks, and they come once a week.

Len Sipes: So in essence, what we’re doing is helping people, the theory in criminology called cognitive behavioral therapy, where it’s sort of thinking through life’s event differently than what they’ve done in the past, and I would imagine that’s sort of what we’re talking about now, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Yes.

Len Sipes: So it is how to stay away from situations of violence, potential situations for violence, how to extract yourself, how to deal with all of that in such a way not to land you back in the criminal justice system.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Exactly, and there’s situations where you can’t do that, how to make a better choice, what would be a better choice.

Len Sipes: A better choice. Okay. We were talking beforehand, my wife constantly tells me about better choices. I get angry at my daughters, and she’ll tell me to go cool off. I mean, this is sort of a lifelong learning situation for a lot of us, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right. So it’s just situations where we try to, if you’re in a situation where you can’t just walk out, what would be the better thing to do, how to take a time out in your head. Some of the techniques sound corny, but they really work. Things that you would never think of, how to count to ten, and we hear it, but do we really do it? How to shout loudly, stop it, to yourself, so you’re able to not give yourself that continuous negative self-talk.

Len Sipes: And Tanesha, we’re going to go to you for the next question. You work with these women, the women offenders on a regular basis. Do you deal just with the women, or with the men, or both?

Tanesha Clardy: I deal with both.

Len Sipes: With both. Do you have any preferences over which group? Are women easier to deal with than men? Or do they, or they bring their own unique issues?

Tanesha Clardy: All of them bring unique characteristics to the program.

Len Sipes: Because the average person is going to –

Tanesha Clardy: What I’ve discovered is that women, they have different issues, totally different issues that come from, as far as growing up and being a female, you have molestation, you have rape, you have substance abuse, and you just have emotional, physical abuse. So those are different issues that women more deal with than men.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty much clarified by the criminological literature, by all the studies basically, talking about the fact that women offenders, women caught up in the criminal justice system have much higher rates of substance abuse than men, have higher rates of mental health issues, and the rate of prior sexual abuse is astounding. It is one of the highest correlates or the things that are connected to crime, it is astounding as to how many women caught up in the criminal justice system come from that sort of a history, and the women offenders that I’ve talked to in the past, they’re, they’ve had a lot of explosive anger going on with them and throughout their lives, and a lot of it’s self destructive, which I would imagine a lot of the emotional issues and substance abuse issues come from that history.

Tanesha Clardy: True. It’s all about their defense mechanisms. It’s things that women internalize more, so when it gets to the point where you can’t take it anymore, it’s easier to just lash out, and so it’s probably easier for them to just, you know, commit an act of violence when they feel as though they have to defend themselves. They have to protect themselves, because here you are, you’re coming up against me. And so that’s what I’ve just, you know, just noticed on my women offenders.

Len Sipes: Either one of you can answer this question now. We’re talking about basically a four month program where we take individuals with a history of violence, and we sort of restructure who they are and what they are in terms of their day to day ability to cope with the stresses of life. Correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right.

Tanesha Clardy: Right.

MD: But I think the group is, because it is four months long, it gives you time to really think about behaviors and how it may have impacted your decisions in the past, so that’s the real purpose of the group. We want you to see how your past behaviors now, how have they impacted your decisions, and for whatever reason, have put you on parole and probation, and how can you rethink those past behaviors, and how can we use them differently in the future to help us make better decisions.

Len Sipes: Right. We don’t want the person engaging in additional acts of violence, so this protects the public. We don’t want the person engaging in additional acts of violence because it protects the taxpayer, because the person theoretically does better, and the research indicates that individuals do better with these programs, cognitive behavioral therapy programs, or violence reduction programs. So this is a win-win situation for everybody. What we’re doing is helping people understand that the stuff that they’ve done in the past, they cannot continue to do in the future, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right. And in turn, we also, not just for themselves, but because some, like with the women offenders, some of them are mothers or sisters, the skills that you learn, even again, they sound corny, but as you’re at home, I’m sure, they joke about it later on. Like, we did this skill. But if you really practice it, and this is something that you try to practice with your siblings at home or your children, or your significant other, it’s not something that they themselves are just learning, they’re also teaching others.

Len Sipes: And that’s important. I mean, what you teach individuals, they teach their sons, they teach their daughters, they teach their peers, a lot of people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system who are now doing well, people sort of wonder, well, why are you doing so well? And one of the reasons why they’re doing so well is they’ve learned a new way of thinking about who they are and their lives. Most people don’t want to return to the criminal justice system. I get a sense that a lot of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system don’t quite understand how they got there to begin with. All they were doing were hanging out with friends, drinking a beer, doing whatever, and somebody said the wrong thing, and they lashed out. It’s not like they sat down and said, gee, I want to assault somebody violently with a beer bottle tonight. Stuff happens.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: And stuff happens quickly.

Len Sipes: Stuff happens quickly. It happens rapidly. And sometimes you’re not even quite sure why you did what you did, correct?

Tanesha Clardy: Very true, very true. But I’m, I guess, that’s the benefit of the program, because instead of just reacting the way you normally would act, you sit back and you think about, okay, what is my next move? Like, you have to make a choice, and hopefully the choice is a positive one.

Len Sipes: All right. Now we’re going to go over to Zoë. Zoë is, what we said before the program, was the truly authentic person sitting in this room. The rest of us are paid by the federal government to do what we do on a day to day basis. Zoë, you’re here, because I’m quite sure you volunteered to be on the radio show, and just absolutely adored the idea of sharing your feelings with the public.

Zoe: Absolutely!

Len Sipes: Okay, cool!

Zoe: The public needs to be informed.

Len Sipes: Cool. Why does the public need to be informed?

Zoe: Well, because everyone that commits a crime or commits an act of violence isn’t a bad person. It’s just a way, you have to rethink the way that you’re going about things, think about how you’re going to approach this situation, and think about who you’re in the situation with. You can’t react the same to everyone, so that’s what I take most out of the group, that even though we’re not talking about something that directly applies to me, I can take the message out of that and apply it to my life, and it’s helpful.

Len Sipes: Well, what we’ve said before throughout the entire program is the sense that too many people are being caught up in too many acts of violence. They need, what we call in the field, cognitive behavioral therapy, what the other person, the average person listening to this program would be, come to you-know-what meeting, or come to reality meeting, or whatever, you know, our parents read us the riot act in the past, we got punished, we were instructed by uncles, aunts, others, people in the community that what we were doing was inappropriate. We had no business doing it. Are we suggesting that people didn’t grow up with those guidelines?

Zoe: Well, some people didn’t. Everyone didn’t have that uncle or aunt or cousins or family members around to give that positive reinforcement, or even still, just the things that you were doing wrong, no one told you they were wrong. No one really reprimanded you for it. So that catches up with you in the end, and pretty much here, we’re just reversing, kind of, the bad learned behavior.

Len Sipes: Well, there are two questions. Is it too easy to get involved in acts of violence?

Zoe: Yeah –

Len Sipes: And, you know, again, most of the people that I’ve talked to have been caught up in the criminal justice system, didn’t say, you know, I set out that evening to beat my brother over the head with a beer bottle because he insulted my wife. I mean, that’s not how it went down.

Zoe: No, it went down, in the flash of an eye, before you knew it, someone was hemmed up because of whatever internal anger that, well, that I had, this is my personal experience. Yeah, so before I knew it, I was already at a 9, and just that one little small incident just took me to 27 somewhere, and I ended up in the system.

Len Sipes: It was an explosion.

Zoe: It was an explosion.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you’ve been through the criminal justice system, and you have been through the violence reduction program –

Zoe: Currently in the program.

Len Sipes: You’re currently in the program, and what does that mean to you now?

Zoe: Well, for one, when we first started the program, I was kind of sketchy about, I just really didn’t understand why I was in the group, but now, I look forward to coming to the group. These are just people, these are my friends, now, actually, and we talk about different experiences that we have throughout the week, and it’s helpful. It’s really helpful. Whether I’m actually joking around, or we come in there and play around, but at the end of the day, all right, we actually got something out of this, and it’s valuable to put forth in your everyday life.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing to me, because that is something the average person doesn’t hear. The average person listening to this program is saying, wait a minute, people who are violent belong in prison. They don’t understand that the overwhelming majority of people caught up in the correctional system or in the street, they’re under parole and probation supervision. Parole meaning, they’ve come out of the prison system, probation means the judge decided to sentence them to a period of community supervision, and not necessarily prison, but prison’s always hanging over their heads. So the overwhelming majority of people caught up in acts of violence aren’t in prison, they’re in the community.

Zoe: Yeah. Your next door neighbor.

Len Sipes: Their next door neighbor, the person you interact with at the gas station, the person who serves you at your local restaurant, the person who hands you your dry cleaning, it’s one out of every 45 people in the community are under active community supervision. Now most criminologists have said, well, if it’s one out of every 45 under active, current community supervision with correctional systems, it’s at minimum one out of every 20. So you’re encountering people every day by the scores who were either once caught up in the criminal justice system or currently caught up in the criminal justice system. So these programs, this particular program, what does it mean to you, and what does it mean to public safety?

Zoe: Well, as far as public safety and, the program really just has people to, I don’t really –

Len Sipes: It’s a hard question. I’m sorry, it is a ridiculously hard question to answer. But I mean, the bottom line is, if more people were involved in programs like this, would there be less violence?

Zoe: Yes, there definitely would be less violence.

Len Sipes: Okay, and why is that?

Zoe: Because it changes your way of thinking about it. Change the way of thinking about the situations that you’re in, and things that may seem like a threat to take you from 10 to 27, they’re not, they don’t bother you as much anymore.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: I also think the peer interaction they’re getting from the group, the peer feedback that they’re getting, things that they would, there are situations where we’ll come out, somebody in the group will come up with a scenario that may have happened over the weekend where they didn’t think that there was any other way to handle it, and the peer interaction or peer feedback that they’re getting inside the group like, okay, maybe you could have tried this, you could have tried that, and then it seems more realistic. Like, okay, maybe I could have done that, where some people, sometimes you think, the only thing I could have done was hit this person or lashed out or cussed the person out, or have, however you may have acted before, the interaction that the peers give, the interaction in the group from the peers is just, it’s amazing. The feedback, well, next time, maybe you could try this, walk out, come back in, things that you would never think that you yourself could do, you know, they test themselves, and I really like that.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, and I’m going to reintroduce everybody here at the microphones today. Zoë, not her real name, but an individual kind enough to participate. She is currently in the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Community Supervision Officer Tanesha Clardy, and what most people call parole and probation agents, we call community supervision officer, and a treatment specialist, Michelle Hare-Diggs, all three are before our microphones talking about the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Now ladies, I’m going to go back to my experience when I ran groups in the Maryland prison system, and one of the things that I discovered is how folks react in a treatment setting, and how they act in the community can be two different things.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Well, I think what makes this group unique, because I’m a treatment specialist and I’m not a CSO, they kind of see it as separate, so I think the group tends to be a lot more real. It’s not as, I think what most people would consider as fake, and Zoë, you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Zoe: No, I agree with you. I like, okay, at first, I wasn’t sure about it, but I like the fact that it’s, the time period, the length of it, because if we were meeting once a week for a month, I wouldn’t know these people, and I wouldn’t tell them anything. It wouldn’t be a conversation, it’d just be Ms. Hare-Diggs talking to us. She’d just be talking at us pretty much, vs. us interacting.

Len Sipes: A lot of people go through these programs because they’re stuck with going through these programs. How authentic is this? Any one of you can answer. How real is this? How deeply do we get into the lives of the individuals, and is there real change? That’s what the public wants to know?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Well, it is a real change, because one, you don’t have to be there. You can just be at home, and next thing you know, you’ll get someone at your door taking you back to jail. You don’t have to be there. But you come, and then you choose to participate. So you can come and not say anything, and you can come and share your experiences, so just by that, and just us learning to trust each other, we can talk about these things and throw ideas off the wall and give each other constructive criticism or just say pretty much whatever we’re thinking without it becoming an issue. So the fact that we have that freedom, that ability to just let it all hang out and put it out there. We get a lot of things accomplished. We talk about a lot of different issues, and we hear each other out. We’re more receptive to our peers, because they’re not someone talking down at us, they’re someone that’s going through the same thing I am.

Len Sipes: How scary of a place is that? I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been through drug treatment describing it as one of the scariest events of their lives, because they had to confront all the garbage that has gone on in their lives that calls them to be caught up in the criminal justice system. Sometimes treatment is not pretty. Sometimes it’s dragging a person through everything that happened beforehand and coming to an understanding that it doesn’t matter what happened to you beforehand, what happens is now and how to control yourself now.

Zoe: It definitely gets ugly at times where, you know, the group forces an individual to look at their own behaviors and stop putting the blame on everybody else, from the PO to their mother to, sometimes, it’s really difficult to look at your own behavior sometimes, so it gets ugly when the group forces that person to address and take some ownership in their behaviors.

Len Sipes: When I did group, it was like going to Mars in many instances because, no, you went to a different planet. You got involved in an extraordinarily intensive examination of people’s lives. In my life, the lives of the participants in the program, it was scary at times, because, not because of what they said, not because of threats or anything along those lines, but you dig deep into the individual’s life, and suddenly, they are dealing with issues of their past for the first time. They’ve never really dealt with them before. Am I right or wrong?

Tanesha Clardy: You’re definitely right, because I’ve definitely seen a change in, especially the females who weren’t very interested in being in the program at all. Like for Zoë, she definitely came a long way. She didn’t want to do the program, she didn’t understand why she had to do the program, she understood the charge, but to her, I’m not an angry person, I’m not a violent person, the situation happened, it is what it is, I just want to do this and get on with my life. But she comes to group, she actively participates, she’s very open, she accepts responsibility for her actions, and I’ve just definitely seen a positive change in her.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the most meaningful part of all of this. When you go through interacting with a whole bunch of people, and they come to understand what’s happened to them in the past, and they come to understand that they can control it, there are a lot of people caught up in the criminal justice system who have been, I don’t know, I mean, ships on the ocean without sails. I mean, the wind’s just pushing them all over the place, and suddenly, they learn how to put up sails and move in the direction that they want to move in. Boy, that’s a great analogy, isn’t it? I just thought of that! And then there are people who are listening to this who are going, you know, Mr. Sipes, you’re so full of hooey, don’t you understand that they’re just jiving you, they’re just doing what they have to do to get through the program, and –

Zoe: Well, they show. When you show back up, and you’re locked up, it’ll show whether you got something out of the program or not, and it’s all about what you put into it. You can’t expect to, okay, well my life has changed, when you don’t even talk in group. You don’t even participate. It’s not going to happen. And they’ll see you again. So if you’re trying to put your best foot forward, just go ahead and actively participate, pay attention, try to get something out of it, and you won’t, hopefully you won’t have to be in the system again.

Len Sipes: My guess is that an awful lot of people involved in the criminal justice system could use this type of, who could use this kind of program, that this kind of program would be valuable to them. It’s just not people who are ostensibly “violent offenders.” There’s a lot of people with nonviolent charges who have a history of violence. And you, we can judge that through our own instruments. We’ve pretty much come to a good understanding here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency through our instruments as to who that person really is, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Correct. I think anyone can benefit from the program. You could probably benefit from the program yourself because it’s all about conflict resolution, different communication styles, and coping skills, because it’s nothing but a table that separates me from Zoë. I could have been in that same restaurant, and someone pushed me, and I turned around and slapped them, and here I am, I’m on supervision.

Zoe: That’s what happened. No, that’s what happened.

Len Sipes: Yeah, but that could happen to any of us. But I mean –

Michelle Hare-Diggs: It’s all about how you react and the choice that you make.

Len Sipes: And according to the research, most individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system at the time of the arrest were under the influence of something. And most were young. So if you have a younger individual full of pee and vinegar who doesn’t feel that good about themselves, who –

Tanesha Clardy: Pee and vinegar?

Len Sipes: As Tanesha tries to recover from that statement, and, no, no, no, I mean, this is the reality of what we’re dealing with, is it not? I mean, tell me if I’m wrong. It’s, they’re young, they’re very emotional, they’re caught up in the moment, somebody has insulted them, or there’s a perceived insult, may be real, may not be real, and that person just explodes, and that person, they don’t have to be young?

Tanesha Clardy: No, they don’t have to be young. I mean, we don’t have many old people in our group, but there’s a few. Yeah. And they, they get just as much out of the group as I would, or as the next person. So you don’t have to be young, you don’t have to be a male or a female to get caught up in the moment, and next thing you know…

Len Sipes: But you do have to be willing to understand how you became involved in the criminal justice system, how you came to be arrested that evening, and that arrest is oftentimes just the tip of an iceberg. I mean, people caught up in the criminal justice system, they’re here for a burglary, but you know, they’ve been down the road before. They’ve been involved in the criminal justice system. We just don’t know about it. Most crimes aren’t reported, most reported crimes do not end up in arrest. I’m talking about national statistics, and most reported, even when they’re prosecuted, most felonies in this country don’t get prison time. So I mean, to be involved in the criminal justice system, you’ve really had to do something, or you did a series of things before they send you to prison. So, I mean, the point is, is that people are actively engaged in lots of different things that could get them involved with our agency or put them behind prison bars. I mean, it’s just not one instance in many cases, and in many cases, there’s a history of violence, there’s a history of crime, there’s a history of acting out.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right, the group also focuses on trying to get the individuals to understand what they did and how it has led, again –

Tanesha Clardy: Ownership.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Ownership, taking ownership to their behaviors, because a lot of things are learned behaviors, and they don’t see anything wrong with it, so we have to really focus on what you did and how it’s affected your life.

Len Sipes: And it’s not just, I guess the point that I’m trying to make, Zoë, is that it’s, in many cases, it’s not just one altercation. We’re talking about a history of inappropriate behaviors.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: So we try to focus on learned behaviors and unlearning behaviors, and it can be done.

Len Sipes: That’s the interesting thing where the audience does need to hear that. I mean, you can be 27-years-old, according to Zoë, you can be 47 years old, and you can have this whole life of not making the best of decisions, and you can come out of these sort of encounters making much better decisions. It does work, is the question the average person listening to this program is saying, ladies, does it work?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: It does. I mean, it’s hard for an individual, if you’re 47, 27, whatever, if you’ve been reacting the same way your whole life to whatever situation, if you’re used to lashing out, holding off hitting somebody, smacking somebody, spitting, whatever, and then you’re in a group with other people who have the same issues, some of the similar, some of the same, similar incidents have happened, and you can hear how somebody else is able to react to a situation, it makes you think at some point, okay, maybe I can try that, you might, you might not want to try it the first time, maybe not even the second time, but the third time, be like, okay, I can try that, and then if it works, it works, if not, we use so many different skills, you can try a different one, a different type of coping skill –

Len Sipes: Like retreating.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Retreating, right. Or counting to 10, removing yourself, some people are like, I’m never going to walk out. I would never do this, and you just try something different. So every skill doesn’t work for everybody, but we, thinking errors, you think about, what have I been doing all these years, I’m sorry, what have I been doing all these years, and you have to think, how has it gotten me to this place? And I think that’s the biggest thing that we learn in group, so many, we do the same things over and over and over again, and if it doesn’t work, what can we do differently?

Len Sipes: I talked to a guy who went through this program who was telling me about being involved in a confrontation on the street, and for the first time in his life, he retreated. He removed himself from that situation. It was a tool that he learned in group, and he was able to use that tool and extract himself, and he simply said, my going back to prison is not worth an altercation with this idiot. And that was a huge revelation for this individual. It prevented a violent crime from going down. It prevented him from being further caught up in the criminal justice system. It saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of incarcerative dollars. That was effective. I mean, just simply saying to himself, I’m going to extract myself from this situation. I’m getting out. I’m not going back to prison.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: And I guess another thing, when you have that peer interaction in the group, the peers tell you, it’s okay to walk away. It’s not such a bad thing. Whereas before, you might have said, I’m not walking away. If this is a way of living, you’re not used to walking away, you’re used to handling things in a violent manner, or in a physical manner, and you’re hearing everyone say it’s okay to walk away, you keep telling yourself that, and if my freedom is on the line, sometimes you need that, the cost, the interaction from your peers telling you, what’s the better thing to do in this situation?

Len Sipes: We just have a couple minutes left. Ladies, I mean, to me, this has been an extraordinary half hour. To me, it really has been. The two of you who are paid to be doing this, and Zoë who got sucked into it, but I mean, the explanation, the explanation is, I think, powerful, that people can change through the right kind of programs, and if we had more of these programs, more people could change. Is that overly simplistic? If you had programs in place for more people, we could, we could have a greater impact on public safety.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Yeah, sure.

Zoe: Definitely. Definitely.

Tanesha Clardy: This is something that could be put into the community. It doesn’t have to be called a violence reduction program. It could just be at a community center, just have people come in from the community, sit down, just learn these different skills, like, be the bigger person. You don’t always have to, of course, defend yourself, but you don’t have to do anything drastic to where you’re going to actually hurt the other person, but just turn away, walk away, I have something to live for, I have a life, I love my freedom, so okay, I’m going to let you get away with this one, and I’m going to just keep moving, because I don’t want to go to my PO and be like, yeah, I got arrested.

Len Sipes: I’m going to let you get away with this one because you are of no consequence to me. I am of consequence to me, and I’m going to protect my kids. I’m going to protect myself, and I’m going to protect my family by getting out of it –

Tanesha Clardy: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Because, my man –

Tanesha Clardy: It’s not worth it.

Len Sipes: – you’re nothing to me.

Tanesha Clardy: I have way too much to live for.

Len Sipes: I have way too much to live for. So he’s not getting away, his opponent is not getting away with anything. He’s getting away with a much better life.

Tanesha Clardy: Right.

Zoe: Right.

Len Sipes: And that’s the whole idea behind this program, right?

Tanesha Clardy: Yes.

Zoe: Yes.

Len Sipes: All right. Any final words? Before we close?

Zoe: Well…

Len Sipes: Okay, Zoë. You’ve got the final word. What is it? Is it meaningful?

Zoe: Well, the program is meaningful. I do appreciate now, I can say this now, once again. I do appreciate being chosen to be a part of it, just, just so I can see, okay, this behavior is not right. Something has to change. And now that I have some of the tools in place and some of the methods in place, I’m able to do that and not just take it to the extreme every single time.

Len Sipes: Well, for me, it’s been a wonderful half hour, ladies. I’ve really enjoyed this, and I think it’s been very meaningful, and I think a lot of people and the public are going to learn from it. Our guest today, ladies and gentlemen, Zoë, who, it’s not a real name, but she’s a person under supervision with our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in the violence reduction program. We have community supervision officer Tanesha Clardy, and we have treatment specialist Michelle Hare-Diggs. Ladies, again, thank you for being on the program. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety, radio programs from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Drug Courts in Washington, D.C. “DC Public Safety”

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts. We now average 200,000 requests a month.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/11/drug-courts-in-washington-d-c-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From our nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to talk about drug courts. Drug courts seem to have a pretty impressive research history from the U.S. Department of Justice and other sources essentially stating that people involved in the drug court process do well, better than the people who do not go to drug court, people involved in substance abuse, they go to drug court, they interact with the judge, they interact with supervision staff, and generally speaking, the outcomes are positive. To talk about the program that we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we have two principals with us today. Carline Claudomir and Amanda Rocha, they’re both community supervision officers assigned to our drug court, but before we get into the program, our usual commercial, we are up to 220,000 requests for DC Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. If you need to get in touch with us, and we really appreciate all of the emails, we really appreciate all of the comments in the comment line, and whether it’s criticisms, or whether it’s platitudes, we embrace whatever it is that you have to say to us, and we take it very seriously, and we appreciate all the suggestions in terms of future programs, you can get in touch with me directly via email: Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can follow us via twitter at twitter.com/lensipes or you can go to the site itself, www.csosa.gov and look for the radio and television programs, or you can go to media.csosa.gov directly and take a look at these programs and comment through the comment line and back to our guests, Carline Claudomir and Amanda Rocha, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carline Claudomir: Hi, Len.

Amanda Rocha: Hi, Len.

Len Sipes: All right, Carline. How many times did I butcher that first name? And last name? Carline Claudomir!

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. And I know I’m going to get the emails saying, Leonard, you can not pronounce names correctly! Amanda, you’ve been before our microphones before, correct?

Amanda Rocha: I have, Len.

Len Sipes: You’ve done some other stuff for us.

Amanda Rocha: Yes, I have.

Len Sipes: All right, so you’re star of stage and screen.

Amanda Rocha: Oh, no!

Len Sipes: And you’re very used to the microphone process. Drug courts. You know, ladies, the research on drug courts is positive, Carline, and the first question’s going to go to you. The research is positive. Drug courts do seem to work. Individuals going into the drug court process do seem to do fairly well. The whole idea behind, or the history of drug courts, for the audience, was to try to provide an alternative to incarceration, and an alternative to doing nothing. If you take a look at national research, out of all of the offenders caught up in the criminal justice system, 11% get drug treatment.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Now, the overwhelming majority of people caught up in the criminal justice system do not get drug treatment. That’s amazing to me. That’s amazing to me, considering all the social ills that are out there. But here, what we do is provide drug treatment, and in some cases, we simply provide supervision services. We do whatever is necessary to stabilize that person with a substance abuse history, correct?

Carline Claudomir: You’re correct.

Len Sipes: All right, tell me about it.

Carline Claudomir: My name is Carline Claudomir, and I work with the STAR/HIDTA team. STAR/HIDTA stands for Sanction Team for Addiction Recovery. Our program entails the clients being assigned by either their judge and their attorney, or coming through transfer from other teams at CSOSA, or through our pre-trial drug program. Once they come to STAR/HIDTA, they are signing a contract stating that there are a number of things that they will and will not do while on probation, and they understand that there’s immediate consequences for any positive drug test or noncompliant behavior.

Len Sipes: Okay, so if they screw up, there are immediate consequences –

Carline Claudomir: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: – and that’s what seems to work, correctly?

Carline Claudomir: Yes, it’s the blessing and the curse for some of the clients.

Len Sipes: Because we need to understand that people with substance abuse histories, shall I say, always screw up. Recovery, problems are part of the recovery process, so it’s not, go to drug court and never do drugs again. It’s go to drug court and work with that person as that person faces their addiction history and relearns how to live life without drugs.

Carline Claudomir: Yes, and a lot of times, when they come to us, they sit, stand up in court before the judge and say, Your Honor, yes, I want to do probation, Your Honor, yes, I want treatment, then they come to the office, and then they reread the contract and realize it’s not only treatment!

Len Sipes: Oh, my heavens! What have I gotten myself involved in?

Carline Claudomir: Yes, it’s treatment and sanctions, so if you continue to use drugs, unfortunately, there are jail sanctions involved, which are treatment, tough love all the way.

Len Sipes: You’re tough love all the way, but that’s what is necessary. Amanda Rocha, in terms of that sense of tough love, correct?

Amanda Rocha: Yes, absolutely. It really does help to have that median sanctioning, because it puts a little fear in the offenders so that they don’t go back and use, it gives them that second thought before deciding to use, oh, that’s three nights in jail if I go ahead and do that, or oh, you know what? I’m on my fourth sanction or fifth sanction, and now it’s seven nights in jail. So they don’t want to continue going back and forth. It gets old for them to have to do that, and so kind of helps them along the way a little bit.

Len Sipes: Well, I think it’s important for people to understand just that, because, you know, this whole concept of treatment, the research is pretty clear that the reason why most people don’t get drug treatment is not its availability or lack of availability. The principal reason for why people don’t get drug treatment is that they don’t feel they need drug treatment, and in many cases, in terms of the criminal justice system, we basically coerce them into a) getting drug treatment, b) sticking with it because of the sanctions along the way. If you have a positive urine, we don’t care if it’s for marijuana, we don’t care what it’s for. If you have a positive urine, this is what’s going to happen to you, and those punishments, if you will, are going to increase as you continue your substance abuse, correct?

Carline Claudomir: It’s the accountability factor, and a lot of times, they come to us never having to be held accountable for their drug use, never had to be held accountable for their actions, and when they come to us, they realize every time they mess up, there is no passes, there are no passes, so immediately, you go see the judge, and you can explain to the judge why you felt it was okay to make this decision, regardless of the consequences.

Len Sipes: You know, the interesting thing is that there’s an increasing number of research programs out there, studies that, interestingly enough, it’s the judge who seems to be at the centerpoint of a lot of these mental health courts, substance abuse courts, reentry courts, there’s something magical about the judge being involved in this process, I think.

Carline Claudomir: It’s the authority, because if I say he needs treatment and the judge says he needs treatment, that holds a lot of weight. You don’t want to go to a judge and say, no, he doesn’t need treatment. No, it doesn’t work that way. The judge says he needs it, then you’re going to listen, because they’re in the midst of the battle.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now it’s extraordinarily confusing for the people of this audience, because it goes way beyond Washington D.C. 20% of our audience is international, and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area is not our top city in terms of people listening to this program. So we have to explain that under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, administratively, we have an entity called pre-trial services who are their own independent agency with their own board and their own mission, but they fall under the generic auspices of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, both are federalized, and they also have a drug court program focusing on pretrial individuals, correct?

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and I know you can’t speak for them, but in essence, the gig is that the person goes before a judge, and if he completes, or she completes the provisions of the drug court program, the charges are dropped.

Carline Claudomir: It has an affect on the charges or what is actually ending sentencing.

Len Sipes: All right, there you go. It has an effect. You should be a public affairs officer. But ours, what we’re talking about is post-conviction. We’re talking about probationers.

Amanda Rocha: Yes.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and the probationers, we’re talking about, the incentive here is early termination, it’s where the judge or the attorney feels that this person has a substance abuse background, not necessarily currently doing drugs, but having a substance abuse background, and this person may not be new to the criminal justice system. This person may have multiple arrests and multiple contacts with the criminal justice system, correct?

Amanda Rocha: That is correct. We have people who are 18-years-old up until, well into their 60s, so yeah, it could be somebody who is their first charge, or it could be somebody who’s, it’s their 20th.

Len Sipes: Right, and that part, by the way, the process in terms of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and older. I’ve had a chance to encounter them, in terms of the write-alongs that I’ve done with our folks, and that’s sad, don’t you think? I mean, when you walk into this apartment of this guy who’s been through heroin, who’s been through crack, I mean, these older heroin addicts, these older coke guys, you know, they just have the hardest time staying away from drugs. It’s just amazing to me to go into the home of a 50-year-old and 60-year-old because they continue to do drugs.

Carline Claudomir: Can I go back to the incentive process?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Carline Claudomir: I always hear the biggest incentives for our program is the fact that you can come off of drugs, and you can be successful in the community without using illicit substances. We actually have a client right now, he is part of the TAP program, but we also see some of those clients sometimes, and he’s working, he’s successful, he’s drug free. That is the biggest incentive. Most of our clients, however, see early termination, and that’s their goal, and they don’t actually think of, to get there, I have to also be drug free.

Len Sipes: Here’s my guess, and either one of you, feel free to tell me whether I’m right or wrong. My guess is that they think that they’re entering this program, and the early termination is the only thing that’s on their mind, and getting off of drugs is way, way, way, way, way back on the list of –

Carline Claudomir: – priorities.

Len Sipes: Yeah, priorities, because a lot of people, they’ve done drugs the good part of their lives. You know, 12, 13 years old, starting alcohol, 14, 15, starting marijuana, 16, 17, graduating to the harder drugs, a lot of these individuals that we supervise here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and this applies to any parole and probation agency in the country. You know, they work with people who don’t know how to live life without self-medication.

Carline Claudomir: And unfortunately, in their minds, they believe it’s recreational, even though they have a 20-year history of drug abuse and treatment situations, they still believe it’s recreational, I can stop at any point in time.

Len Sipes: I can handle this.

Carline Claudomir: And unfortunately, when they get in front of, into the STAR/HIDTA program, and there’s consequences, and they realize, well I’m just going to jail because I can’t stop using, is that really worth it? And that’s when it may click in their mind, okay, I really do, I have a problem. I can’t do this on my own.

Len Sipes: We, we have this come to reality be, again, I’ve used other terms, but I don’t want to be disrespectful. Where that becomes a defining moment in their lives, does it not, that they have lived their life with the needle, lived their life with a powdery substance, lived their life smoking reefer, they really don’t know what to do without drugs.

Amanda Rocha: And I think, for example, we have somebody assigned to us right now. Her grandmother had a history, apparently she’s not using now, but of use. Her mother is actively using, and she’s a young girl, 19 years old, and is using, so that, not only has she been using for a good amount of her short life that she has had so far, but she also has been living with this substance abuse through her generations.

Len Sipes: Right. I guess that’s the point that I’m trying to get across to the audience, because we have this extraordinarily simplistic sense as to the problem that we have with people, the 16,000 people that we supervise on any given day, and most of the people in the audience that I talk to understand that out of the 7 million people under correctional supervision, 5 of those 7 million are on community supervision. So when we talk about corrections in this country, the overwhelming majority of these individuals are in the community being supervised in the community. The overwhelming majority of these individuals have substance abuse histories. The overwhelming majority of these individuals just don’t smoke a joint every couple weeks. That investment in drugs is a long term early age of onset life altering experience, but they don’t know how to have a life without drugs. So every time the boss gets in their face, they smoke a joint. Every time life takes a turn, the needle goes in their arm. That’s who they are, that’s what they are in terms of their own self definition. Now am I exaggerating, or am I in the ballpark?

Carline Claudomir: No, even when they’re successful, the way they celebrate is by using drugs!

Len Sipes: That’s right! They reward themselves. We had a case one time when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety. The guy comes out of prison, reunited with his family, he’s going to drug treatment, he’s working, he’s getting along with the kids, and he’s doing so well, that what he does is fire up a joint to celebrate! And he kept pulling positives for marijuana! First positive, second positive, third, fourth, fifth, sixth. Now there’s a certain point where we’re sitting down and saying, my man, you’re very close to going back to prison, and your wife let you come home, and the kids, you’re getting along with the kids, and you’re working every single day, and you’re going to drug treatment, and the drug treatment folks say that you’re progressing, and you’re within a hair’s breadth of going back to the prison system! What’s up with you?

Carline Claudomir: Well I have clients like that right now in my caseload. I had a client who, by some confusion, believed that her termination date was a month earlier, and so when I called her in, I said, I need you to come in and drug test, because I’m sorry, you actually terminate in May instead of April, and that drug test was positive for marijuana, and her explanation was, I thought I was off of probation! But she had not tested positive in close to 7 months!

Len Sipes: But that’s not the point!

Carline Claudomir: It’s not the point!

Len Sipes: So you, the criminal justice system, in essence, in these drug courts or other modalities that we have here at CSOSA, when we involve people in long term residential group substance abuse, that is, for the first time in their lives many of these individuals come face to face with the prospect of never using drugs again, and facing the prospect as to why they use drugs to begin with. That is a pretty scary place to be, is it not?

Amanda Rocha: I would think so, yeah. Some of the offenders have already had drug treatment, though, and this is their second time coming around, because like you were saying, it is a scary thought, so maybe that first time they weren’t open to it. They didn’t really reap the full benefits of receiving that treatment, so here they are, back in the criminal justice system, and we’re giving them another chance, and we’re hoping that this time, they are receptive, and they do keep that open mind, and they aren’t so put off by the whole idea of addressing that issue.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, ladies and gentlemen. This is DC Public Safety today. We’re talking about drug courts. We have two principals with us. We have Carline, let’s see if I can actually pronounce Carline’s last name correctly, Claudomir, and Amanda Rocha, both community supervision officers with drug court. Again, there are two drug courts in the District of Columbia, ours under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which is post-adjudication, which means the person’s on probation, and we also have one on the pretrial side of it, and the whole idea is, when the judge or the attorney takes a look at this individual’s background, they say that this person’s involvement in criminal activity is principally due to substance abuse, and that person may not be new to the criminal justice system. This may be the person’s fifth, sixth, seventh, twelfth time, but he has a substance abuse history, she has a substance abuse history, and what we try to do is to get them involved in treatment, but the interesting part of it is that treatment may not be the first stop, correct? We have other, we assess the individual –

Carline Claudomir: When they come in to this, the HIDTA drug program, initially, some clients actually are [INDISCERNIBLE] from either the pretrial or from a request from their judge. A lot of our clients come in, and we assess their drug, their current drug test to see, what level they would actually go into. Some clients come in and never drug test positive, and they had dealt with their issues prior to coming to –

Len Sipes: Or they make the voluntary decision to stop as long as they’re under supervision. So the interesting part, this was the point I was trying to get to, and both of you were looking at me, so why did I, the interesting part of it is research years ago that basically said offenders take vacations from their drug use all the time. There’s a certain point where even the person involved in substance abuse will say, I’m doing it too much. I need my wife or my significant other, or for whatever reason, I’m going to be drug tested, I’ve got to stop for the next 3 or 4 months, and then oftentimes, the person goes right back to it. So this sense of an uncontrollable craving for drugs, that craving is always there, but the person can stop for a certain amount of time.

Carline Claudomir: It depends on the person, but yes, sometimes we do have clients who may have tested positive three or four times at the very beginning, and we never, and then complete their whole probation with no, with no positive drug tests, but then we’ll see them later on in court, and they got another charge, and they tested positive at some other point after they leave the STAR/HIDTA program.

Len Sipes: So with the criminal justice system has the wherewithal, and mothers have the wherewithal, and pardon my sexism, wives have the wherewithal, and in the case of women offenders, husbands have the wherewithal, people who have a certain amount of power regarding the offender, have the ability to get that offender to stop doing drugs, at least for a certain amount of time.

Carline Claudomir: Specifically when the consequences is jail time. A lot of our clients, after they sit, do their first sanction which is a jury box sanction for three days, and they see the judge stepping back, client after client after client for a positive drug test for three nights or seven nights or 14 nights or 28 nights, they look at that and say, oh, I’m not going to do 28 nights for a positive marijuana. I can stop for –

Len Sipes: That’s the point, isn’t it?

Carline Claudomir: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Isn’t that the point? I mean, it’s like we have these endless debates about substance abuse and what works and what doesn’t work. Well, holding a 28 day setback, as we refer to it, of spending 28 days in jail for smoking a joint seems to be an awfully heavy price to pay, and a lot of these individuals under our supervision consciously make the choice not to continue to smoke marijuana because they simply don’t want to spend 28 days in jail, correct?

Carline Claudomir: Correct, but the flipside is those who actually are in the grips of their addiction, no matter how many sanctions you provide, they’re not going to stop.

Len Sipes: They’re not going to stop.

Carline Claudomir: And those are the ones we really try to focus on and really try to get them out of the community immediately, because every time they pick up, they’re, one, they’re breaking the law, and they’re violating their probation contract, and they’re violating probation, and they’re hurting themselves, and they may become a threat to the community, so we try to get them out of the community as fast as we can through treatment.

Len Sipes: All right, and then some cases, through residential treatment.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. So let’s walk through those steps, those sanction steps, because we have, sitting in the jury box for three days, which is a real pain.

Carline Claudomir: First violation.

Len Sipes: Okay. Second violation –

Carline Claudomir: – is going to be 30 days on GPS with [INDISCERNIBLE] conference.

Len Sipes: So 30 days being tracked electronically through global positioning system satellite tracking, so wherever you go, you’re tracked.

Carline Claudomir: With a curfew.

Len Sipes: With a curfew.

Carline Claudomir: And sometimes, a stayaway. You can’t go to the neighborhood where you usually get your drugs from.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Carline Claudomir: If you do, we know where you are.

Len Sipes: There you go. So he’s being watched all the time. Okay, so that’s pretty cool. Now the next sanction after that?

Carline Claudomir: Third sanction is three nights in jail.

Len Sipes: Three nights in jail. In the D.C. jail.

Carline Claudomir: D.C. jail.

Len Sipes: Well that’s a lovely place to visit! Is it on the weekend, during the week?

Carline Claudomir: It’s whenever they get their sanction.

Len Sipes: It’s whenever they get their sanction.

Carline Claudomir: It starts immediately.

Len Sipes: Okay. Fourth?

Amanda Rocha: It would be a case staffing. So Ms. Claudomir and I, or our supervisor or other team members get together and discuss this individual’s case to see what we can do at this point, because in the past, what has been going on isn’t working. So a plan, in a sense.

Len Sipes: Is that, is that where you give your riot act pronouncement to the individual, basically saying, hey, you’re this far from going into prison?

Carline Claudomir: They’ve been getting it the whole time! And we tell our clients when they come in, if we get to the case staffing stage, please understand you’re leaving the community and going to treatment. There is no if, but, can I, can I get one more chance? No, your chance was when you stood in front of the judge and said you would be clean and sober.

Len Sipes: And there’s a certain point where we will send them away to residential treatment.

Carline Claudomir: That’s the case staffing stage.

Len Sipes: That’s the case staffing stage. Okay, after that, what happens?

Amanda Rocha: Then we have the seven nights in jail sanction.

Len Sipes: Okay, and then it just basically goes from 7 nights to 14 nights to an entire month sort of thing.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right, and if somebody gets placed in residential treatment and gets discharged unsuccessfully or voluntarily chooses to leave, then that would be 15 nights in jail.

Len Sipes: The average person listening to this program, people within the criminal justice system are going to say, eh, that’s pretty much common business, drug positives and sanctions. The average person outside of the criminal justice system listening to this program would be appalled. They’re going, how many positives, how many bites at the apple are you giving this guy? You’re telling me that he’s got 15 prior contacts with the criminal justice system, and now we’re up to our fifth and sixth drug positive? For the love of good god, put that person in prison! Obviously, that person doesn’t want to comply. Obviously, that person is posing a public safety risk. Just put him back in prison.

Carline Claudomir: But see, you look at the context of the situation, the average individual on probation actually provides a number more of positive drug tests are a lot more noncompliant. We get them immediately, after the first, second, third, fourth, fifth. So in the context of probation, sometimes a client won’t be able to go before the sentencing judge until the 20th plus drug test because we can’t get a show cause until then to tell the judge he is noncompliant with probation.

Len Sipes: Okay, but that’s a technicality, and I’m glad you brought that up, but the principal issue here for the average citizen is, you know, are, the people that we have under supervision are not exactly the most popular people on the face of the earth.

Carline Claudomir: No, but they are your neighbors.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s a good point. That’s a good point. But my, the other point is that, you know, when we go out, the citizens asking them to support, whether it’s mental health programs or substance abuse programs or educational programs or vocational programs, the response oftentimes is, Leonard, we’re going to give to the church, we’re going to give to the schools, let the money go to the kids, let the money go to the elderly, I’m really not all that enthused about giving criminals. Money for programs, so the point is, is that there’s a frustration level and a tolerance level on the part of the average citizen as to how many chances we’re going to give that individual from the standpoint of public safety, and we need to explain why we do that.

Carline Claudomir: Public safety is our number one concern, so we always talk to our clients in regards from the aspect. When you become a threat to public safety –

Len Sipes: Boom, you go.

Carline Claudomir: – you need to leave the community.

Len Sipes: That’s right.

Carline Claudomir: But up until that point, we have to work with you, because once you leave probation, you’re done with this. You go back into that same community, because you don’t walk around with a sign saying, I am a criminal. You walk around into those churches, into those schools, pick up your children, those same places that the public wants to provide their money, those clients are there with them.

Len Sipes: 1 out of 45 individuals, according to national research are on probation right now or community supervision. Now, if you can, these are active. So if you count people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, it’s at least 1 out of 20. So every time, regardless of where you go, where you shop, those, you’re going to encounter hundreds of individuals who have been caught up in the criminal justice system. So I think the rationale is, is that we want them to quit drugs, we want them to become taxpayers, not tax burdens, we want them to stop criminality, and I think that’s what we try to do with these individuals in drug court.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right. We want them to make that lifestyle change, so they’re not back in and out of the system.

Len Sipes: We want them to toss off substance abuse for good.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And stop messing with us.

Carline Claudomir: The problem is, sometimes it doesn’t happen in one try. I have sat in drug court and did my cases in drug court and have turned to the left, and looked into the jury box and saw a client I had a year ago who got off on early termination who is now back on pre-trial.

Len Sipes: That’s exactly right. And it is the process of recovery, and when we do live talk radio, people have a hard time listening to this, because their sense of the criminal justice system is, you’re getting a break, buddy, and maybe one, maybe two, but you hit three, and I want you to go back to prison. I think the average person in the larger community, not in the criminal justice system, feels that way. So we have to be accountable to the average citizen and explain to them that recovery, in terms of substance abuse, is a messy process that takes, in many cases, two, three times at treatment, and in many cases, involves multiple positives for drugs until we can convince that person to stay away from drugs, at least for the period of their supervision, or go to jail.

Carline Claudomir: I have a client who has been on probation since 1995, and he has been through every team at CSOSA, and when he finally made it to STAR/HIDTA, and he started messing up, and we did the warrant initiatives and went into his home and arrested him, and we brought him in front of his judge, the judge said, no, we’re going to give him one more chance, and that is it. One more chance. And it just continues on. But I will say that after this last opportunity, he has been clean and sober for 7-8 months, is working full time, and now, he is back, part of society. But see, it didn’t work the first, second, third, 10th, 15th time.

Len Sipes: You know, the interesting part of this is that the average person hearing it has a low frustration level for people caught up in the criminal justice system, but that is our reality. Our reality is that we have individuals who don’t know how to live life without a needle. They don’t know how to live life without a hallucinogen. They don’t know how to do it, and what we do is we teach them how to live life without using drugs, and that created a much safer society, a much saner society in the long run, and we turn people who are tax burdens into taxpayers, and I think that’s the heart and soul of it. It’s messy, it’s sloppy, sometimes it’s hard to explain to the general public, but we take individuals who are problems and we turn out individuals who are no longer problems, and we do that more often than we don’t, correct?

Carline Claudomir: And sometimes we’re the only ones who hold up that mirror to that individual and make them see how sloppy and messy they are, and they have been living their life, and hold them accountable, and when they think they’re almost done, hold them accountable even more and make them be the successes that they say they want to be when they first came to probation.

Len Sipes: It’s a fascinating process. Most of the people that I’ve encountered after a certain point, especially the older guys, sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are. I mean, it is just a terrible process of being arrested and rearrested and rearrested and reincarcerated and reincarcerated. These aren’t necessarily violent criminals. Most of these people are involved in nonviolent crimes, but there’s a certain point where they just get sick and tired of being constantly put through the criminal justice system, and they finally quit. They finally make that break. So I think what you’re doing is intervening in that process earlier, if at all humanly possible to get them to that point where they understand that they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, correct?

Amanda Rocha: Well, and also, think about the example that I gave before where this young adult has this generational, you know, substance abuse that she’s been around, and those people who have dropped out of school in the sixth grade, or who have all these different issues, and they’re using to kind of, you know, make themselves feel better about the issue, or they’re trying to fit in with their peers, or with their family. So you have all these issues that are going on, and part of probation’s job is to address those issues, get them into an employment training program, get their GED, so now that they have these positive things in their life that they didn’t have before that would help them to stop using or even wanting to go back and use.

Len Sipes: Or put them back in jail or prison, and either one protects public safety.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: That’s the bottom line. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we’re out of time. Carline Claudomir, and I said it for the first time correctly, community supervision officer with our drug court unit. Amanda Rocha, also a community supervision officer with our drug court unit. You can find information about CSOSA at www.csosa.gov. You can also access the radio, television shows, the blog, and transcripts through the CSOSA website, or directly through www.media – M-E-D-I-A – dot-csosa – C-S-O-S-A – dot-gov. You can follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes, and you can also email me directly, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov. Ladies and gentlemen, I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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