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The Correctional Education Association Conference, 2011-The State of Correctional Education in America-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live from The Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. We have five hundred people from not only all over the country, but all over the world – over five hundred people who are here to discuss correctional education. As you’re well aware – those of us within the criminal justice system – there are entire states that are cutting out their correctional education programs, vocational programs, educational programs and there are other states cutting back because they feel they have no choice because of budgets. We’re here to discuss what’s going on throughout the country – new and innovative ways to deliver correctional education programs.

The research does seem to be pretty clear that the better prepared they are upon release from the prison systems, the better they do in society, which means that fewer people are victimized by crime and the less money the taxpayers have to put out to put them back into the prison systems. So it’s a win-win situation for everybody. We’re going to be a doing a series of five-minute interviews, short interviews. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education in a Midwest state and she is also the President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Educational Association talking about computer-based learning, computer-learning skills.

We’re talking to William Byers. He is from the state of Arkansas. He is a School Superintendent for the correctional system there in the state of Arkansas, where they found the 25% difference in recidivism, which is pretty significant. We have Denise Justice. Denise is the CEA Past President and she is a School Superintendent for an entire correctional system in the state. She received their President’s Award for her relentless pursuit of correctional educational and she’s talking about how to promote correctional education throughout the United States to get everybody to understand that the payoffs can be significant. Steve Steurer is up for the next five-minute interview. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association. His job is to provide an overview, provide a national perspective as to where we currently are with correctional education.

And finally, the last person up is Cindy Borden. She with a company called Northstar Correctional Systems and she under contract for the Correctional Education Association. They did a four-year piece of research in terms of school programming, post-secondary education, collegiate education and in essence the people who they followed up in a two-year time period, one-third of these individuals were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed, which is a pretty doggone good piece of research or statistics in terms of correctional educational programs and their results. So, again, short five-minute interviews starting with Susan Lockwood and we hope you enjoy the program.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live today from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Quite frankly, ladies and gentleman I’ve been to correctional conferences throughout the country and Tim Barnes and I have done our fair share of conference support and this is one of the largest correctional conferences I’ve seen. It’s principally people who are involved in correctional education, correctional programs, who have an interest in the whole concept of a fund of reentry and we’re here today talking to a variety of people. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education at a Midwest Department of Corrections. But here in her capacity she is President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Education Association and, Susan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Susan Lockwood:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  One of the interesting things here, Susan, is this whole concept of long-distance education, the correctional education. There’s a lot of states out there they’re budgets have been decreasing. In fact, one state in particular – California – pretty much wiped out correctional education. So different people are saying are there ways of doing this differently. Are there new and unique ways using unique technologies to do a better job, to stretch the tax-paid dollar as much as possible? And one of the things that I find interesting in what you’re doing is it’s GED in computer-based curriculum and testing, where your individuals that are involved in this program, what they’re doing is they’re learning computer skills. They’re learning how to type. They’re learning how to word-process for them to be comfortable with computer learning. So this is the process of teaching them how to take the GED test but to do it by computer, correct, do it by long-distance learning?

Susan Lockwood:  Correct. That’s why we’re going to have to drive our curriculum since we’re anticipating the fact that the GED testing service is going to move to that computer application of… the application of taking the test by computer and a lot of our funders are not ready to do that because they lack those skills. So, yes, we would have to adjust our curriculum and prepare them in order to do that.

Len Sipes:  There are a lot of people out there who are still computer-illiterate. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Whether you’re in prison or out of prison. I mean, there’s…I spoke to a gentleman the other day who just absolutely refuses to open a computer keyboard.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  He’s well-educated. He’s smart, but he is at that age where he’s just not familiar with it. So this is a scary thing for some people.

Susan Lockwood:  Sure and a lot of our offenders, especially some of our older offenders who have been incarcerated for long periods of time, obviously, are not technology-literate and so it can be barrier for them if they wanted to take a computer-based test.

Len Sipes:  Right. So the whole idea here is to get them comfortable with a computer to the point where they can take their GED test. Now, GED curriculums are an integral part of prison education. We want them to be literate. We want them to know how to read. We want them to get their eighth grade certificate, their reading certificates, their GED certificates. The GED certificate’s sort of at the top of that ladder, correct?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. In our state it serves as a market signal…

Len Sipes:  Right.

Susan Lockwood:  For whether or not a student is ready or a person is ready to enter post-secondary job training or even an employment situation.

Len Sipes:  It’ll make all the difference in the world in terms of that offender. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  If he or she has a GED, he or she suddenly becomes a marketable, far more marketable than without it.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So the concept of doing the computer testing is you have to get them comfortable with the keyboard. You have to get them comfortable with the keystrokes.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a lot of work that goes into that.

Susan Lockwood:  Right and then there’s also portions of the test that involve writing an essay and so the student would need to be able to word-process to be able to actually type that in and within the time limit of taking the test.

Len Sipes:  Now, is there ever the possibility of being instructed… taking your instructions for the GED through a computer or at a long-distance learning or is that in the future?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. There are lots of companies already that offer different curricular that can be delivered via computer. So that obviously would be something that lots of states are looking at, to be able to load that software into a lab and let students have that opportunity to improve themselves and grow academically through a lot of the coursework that would be on the computer.

Len Sipes:  Right. One of the questions that was asked of me is why can’t there be somebody sitting in the state of Kansas or, you know, and teaching people in Alaska? Why isn’t that possible?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, that would be possible, although, having experienced that kind of a situation myself via distance learning, I think that being on the receiving end of that instruction it’s really more beneficial to not only have that piece, but also to have a person in the room with the students right there on site where they can actually ask the questions, discuss and it’s often a lot more…

Len Sipes:  Powerful.

Susan Lockwood:  Yeah, definitely.

Len Sipes:  Sure. Okay and before we go, before we end this particular part of the program, I do want to touch upon the benefits to society. A person gets a GED and what happens?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, the whole thought would be that as part of a process of gaining employment that, again, the GED would be a market signal and so it just allows this person to have an opportunity to be successful and outside the fence, to be able to go out, perhaps get a job, perhaps get further job training and once that a person becomes employed, our research has shown that it impacts recidivism; that employment is…

Len Sipes:  Right. There are fewer crimes.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There are fewer crimes as a result of it.

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And it eases the tax-paid burden because….

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  They’re out there paying taxes instead of taking taxes.

Susan Lockwood:  Instead of being a tax liability, they’re paying taxes.

Len Sipes:  Our guest today has been Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education for a state in the Midwest, but in her capacity today she is the President of the Council of State Directors, again, at the Correctional Education Association Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

Len Sipes:  From the Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia, I’m really pleased to have William Byers by our microphones. He’s the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. He’s in charge of the whole shebang. He’s on the Board of the Correctional Education Association and is also Regional Director with the Correctional Education Association And one of the things that Mr. Byers was talking about – Superintendent Byers was talking about – was the fact that he has a 25% reduction in the rate of recidivism for those people who obtain GEDs. Am I right?

William Byers:  That is correct, yes.

Len Sipes:  Well that’s incredible, a 25% reduction. Most of the research on reentry programs will basically give 10-20%. Twenty percent seems to be on the outer reaches of the reduction of recidivism. You’re doing 25%. Why is that?

William Byers:  Well, we have a very successful program. Number One: We require everyone who comes into the Department of Correction who does not have a high school diploma or GED to attend school while they’re incarcerated. Also, I might add that the Board of Correction is also our school board and they are very supportive of our program. Education, they place a high priority on education. The teachers know that. The students know that. The inmates know that. So I think that’s one thing that contributes to the success. Not only that, but we find that those who get out not only recidivated at a lower level than those who don’t earn a high school diploma or GED, but they also get a better paying job and they’re more likely to have a job.

Len Sipes:  Right and they’re more likely to keep a job probably.

William Byers:  Exactly, exactly.

Len Sipes:  But the interesting thing is that, we in the United States, we’re having a struggle now with correctional education and with reentry programs and vocational educational programs. There are some states that are giving more money towards it and some states that are cutting it out because of their budget situation. The states are in a dire budget situation. What do you say to citizens – somebody sitting out there, somebody from the Governor’s Office, somebody from the PTA – to convince them that correctional education is worthwhile, that it’s in the average citizen’s best interests to do this?

William Byers:  I don’t care what studies you look at. You can look at them from the free world, from the prison situation. The bottom line is education helps. It helps society. If you look at populations, the more educated the populous is the higher the level of income and that’s true of the general population; it’s also true of the inmate population. The more educated they are, the better they’ll behave in prison, the more likely they’ll get out and stay out. So it’s beneficial to society if individuals can get an education while they’re incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Being a correctional officer is one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs of the face of the earth.

William Byers:  It is.

Len Sipes:  These programs…this is very rarely ever discussed, the fact that these programs keep prisoners peaceful.

William Byers:  Yes. We deal with 21 wardens around the state in Arkansas and they will tell you that they want education in their unit because not only does it provide something for the inmates to do, but it provides something positive for them to do.

Len Sipes:  Sure. You want to have problems, then give them nothing to do. Let them play basketball. Let them sit in their bunks. That’s a dangerous prison. If you have programs in the prison, that’s a safe, sane prison.

William Byers:  Plus, they’re around educators. They’re around educated people who mentor them and affect them in a positive way just by being around them.

Len Sipes:  How many people do you graduate a year from the GED program? I was very impressed by that.

William Byers:  In the state of Arkansas we have over a thousand inmates a year to earn their GED and that compares to…the inmate population in Arkansas is about fifteen thousand, so we have a high participation and we have a lot of people who walk out with a GED.

Len Sipes:  Now, we use the word ‘recidivism’ rather loosely. What we’re talking about is fewer people being mugged, fewer people being victims of crime because inmates get GED programs. They go on to live… they have the chance to live a more successful life, make more money, to be in that job longer, which translates into fewer crimes, which translates into individuals paying taxes and not being a tax burden.

William Byers:  And that’s something you can’t measure. We say that they’re taxpayers instead of being a tax burden, but also you can’t measure somebody not being mugged or somebody not being raped. That’s one of the benefits that you can’t put a figure on.

Len Sipes:  Well, that will be the final word from you. William Byers, B-Y-E-R-S, William Byers – he is the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. Thank you very much for being with us.

William Byers:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. We’re at The Correctional Education Conference in Charleston, West Virginia and at our microphones today is a person with a really unique last name: Denise Justice. She is CEA Past President. She is a School Superintendent – and I love all the Superintendents that we’re interviewing today – for a correctional system somewhere in the United States. She received the President’s Award today from the Correctional Education Association and I asked somebody as you why she got the award. It was for relentless pursuit or advocacy for correctional education. So I figured she’d be the right person to ask. Denise, why in the name of God do we do correctional education? A lot of people are out there. There are a lot of other priorities. There’s the elderly. There are people out of work. I mean, there are a lot of issues in the United States today. Why should anybody care about correctional education?

Denise Justice:  There are a lot of issues in the United States and we are clear about that, but when we have an incarcerated person in the United States, they are about 99.9% sure that they are going to get released at some point in time.

Len Sipes:  At some point in time.

Denise Justice:  At some point in time. Very few people go to prison and never ever come out again and when they do come out, they don’t move far away from each one of us. They’re in our neighbourhood. They’re five minutes away from us. They’re next door, wherever the case may be. They’re going to come home. Many of them were incarcerated because they did not have the skills – educational skills, employment skills – in order to be able to be a taxpaying citizen.

Len Sipes:  The research says that we interact with people caught up in the criminal justice system every single day whether we go to a restaurant, whether we go to the auto store, whether we go to the tire stores, whether we go…it doesn’t matter. We are encountering individuals who have been caught up in a criminal justice system every single day. So if they’re constantly around us, doesn’t it make sense to be sure that when they come out of the prison system they’re as best prepared as they possibly can be to live a productive life?

Denise Justice:  Absolutely because it does save us money. If they can come out and get a job and pay taxes and stay out of the criminal justice system because that costs taxpayers a lot of money, too.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Denise Justice:  Then we are actually saving ourselves money. We also…you need to think about do you want your neighbor to have some skills to be able to get a job and pay those taxes or do you want to force them into a situation where all they can do is go out and cause another crime? And maybe the crime is robbing your house, taking your VCR, your TV.

Len Sipes:  So what we’re talking about is lessening the crime rate for individuals listening to this program. They become safer because of correctional education programs.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. You can look at any recidivism study that you want to and if you don’t know, recidivism is basically the rate at which people come back to prison or come back into the justice field and you can look and see no matter what study is done, it tells you that people who are involved in education or getting employable skills are going to be less likely at whatever rate – there are different rates, you know – 10%, 20%, 30% differentials, but whatever it is, education makes them less likely to come back to prison.

Len Sipes:  Well, the guest before you, William Byers, Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System, I mean he claimed a 25% reduction. That’s large. I mean in a world where you’re happy if you get 7% and you’re satisfied if you get 10% and you’re ecstatic is you get 20%. By heavens, 25% is a huge difference. I mean, if you have seven hundred thousand people come home every year in this country from prison, 25% of that lopped off, 25% of these people going on to be taxpayers instead of tax burdens. That saves states millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, in the long run in terms of construction costs, in terms of operating costs. It saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. We found in the 80s, a lot of states got into prison-building booms. They tried to build themselves out of prison overcrowding and what we discovered was it was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you build it, they will come. So we were building double and triple the number of prisons maybe we had in our state and instead of getting down to a 100% capacity in our facilities we still found ourselves 125%, 150%, 200% over capacity.

Len Sipes:  Regardless as to how many prisons we built, they were still overcrowded.

Denise Justice:  Regardless of how many prisons, absolutely, and so now we are looking more at the fact that what we need to do is to start the day that people come into our system and to start planning for their reentry, looking at getting them their GED if they have not completed a GED or a diploma. Looking at getting them career tech skills and employability skills so that they can go out dealing with their addictions, dealing with their anger, issues of child abuse and all of those areas and getting them ready to go back out on the street. Getting them to know what linkages is out there that can help them. Whatever areas they needed to stay out.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So quick answer on this one because we need a quick answer. We’re just about out of time. So the Correctional Education Association is designed to advocate that throughout the country, is to bring likeminded people…there are over five hundred people at this conference today and over the course of the next couple of days. That’s a large gathering, especially in these economic times. So everybody’s coming together to do what?

Denise Justice:  Everyone’s coming together – particularly at our international conferences – is to come together to share problems that you’re having, to come up with solutions, share solutions you maybe came up with at home, to find materials and resources that we can use because of budgetary cuts.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, my guest today has been Denise Justice. She is the Correctional Education Association Past President. She’s the Superintendent of a Correctional School System for a state and the award recipient today for the President’s Award at the Correctional Education Association Conference. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

This is DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host Leonard Sipes as we broadcast from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. I really have a lot of pleasure in reintroducing because he’s been to our microphones before, Steve Stuerer. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association – Steve, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Steve Stuerer:  Thank you for having me again.

Len Sipes:  It’s a really interesting conference. Again, Tim and I have been to conferences…Tim Barnes and I have been to correctional conferences throughout the country and we’ve been to government conferences throughout the country dealing with social media and this is by far one of the largest conferences I’ve seen. You have well over five hundred people in attendance.

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’ve been very lucky. West Virginia is terrifically supportive of correctional education and people, I think, the people are bringing themselves together and it’s a tough time. I think it’s actually drawing us together rather than pulling us apart and pulling us down.

Len Sipes:  Well, it is a tough time and I do want to emphasize that this is a national conference not necessarily a West Virginia conference. You have people from all over the country. We have a couple of people from around the world and education programs in correctional facilities, correctional systems, throughout the country they’re hurting. California sliced out the entire education program. You have different states that are cutting back significantly.

So what you’re going to do for me today is to put it in perspective. Where are we in terms of correctional education in the United States – whether it’s GED programs, whether it’s vocational programs? Where are we? Are we gaining? A lot of states are saying, “Hey, the way to reduce recidivism and control our costs is to put more programs on the table.” Some states are saying, “I’m sorry. We can’t afford it. We’re in a budget jam.” Where are we? Put it in perspective for me.

Steve Stuerer:  On a national level, we’re losing. We just lost all our post-secondary money that we had from the federal government – $17.2m was going out to the states on a formula basis. That’s gone. Not likely to be getting that back any time soon. Some of the states still support post-secondary education – vocational primarily, but with credits – through state funding of various sorts or some inmates actually pay their own way if their families can afford it. So we lost that. GED, we’re hanging in there, but we have a whole new challenge because GED is going on computer and within two years it will be computer-based.

So that’s going to present a real problem financially for a lot of systems trying to retool. So the whole basic education, GED, it’s holding in there, but we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to meet this GED challenge; vocational education, probably losing there, too. The Perkins Act, which has been around for decades, is being severely cut. So a lot of that money would go into corrections as well as into the community. Vocational programs, we’re cut with that. So I think generally speaking in just about every state we’re having some real stress.

Len Sipes:  Is that why you have such a good turnout at the conference, though? I mean, I see a lot of enthusiasm and the people that I’m talking to today certainly aren’t down in the mouth. They are enthusiastic about what it is that they do. They’re hopeful about what it is they do. They see the value in terms of what it is they do. So there’s a dichotomy here. On one side, I agree with you that we are struggling in terms of maintaining the number of programs and the quality of programs, but on the flipside is the enthusiasm I see from the membership of the Correctional Education Association. They know the value and they want to move forward.

Steve Stuerer:  Yeah, I think it’s kind of descriptive of our membership to see that kind of enthusiasm. They’re used to working in tough circumstances. They’re used to working with people who no one else wants to work with; who have given up on them. So when problems come along, they can gripe and groan just like everybody else and some of them just give up and shake their heads and wring their hands, but I think most of the people respond accordingly: Well, we don’t have much to begin with. Let’s figure out how we can do it a different way. Let’s see if we can find some more resources. Let’s see if…

Len Sipes:  Is there a different way of doing it?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’re trying to see what different ways can be done. I mean, with the GED, for example, we’re going to work very closely with the GED Testing Service, which is owned jointly by GED Testing and American Council of Education and Pearson VUE, which is a company that does a lot of vocational assessment. So we’re going to see. There might be ways to deliver things a little bit differently. At CEA one of the things we do is we train teachers to train inmates to be tutors and what started out was a kind of collaboration between Maryland and Ohio ideas, the concept of tutor training, we put it into a national program.

There’s like six states now that we’ve gone in, we’ve trained thirty… anywhere from thirty to eighty teachers at a time in three-day seminars, how to train inmates to be their aids and most states will allow inmates to act as aids. In Ohio we’re…in the last five years or so, I think it is, they’ve trained over thirty-five hundred inmates who in turn work with the teacher and tutor others in the classroom, so they’re not running around in some disorganized fashion. It’s a little army, so to speak. In Louisiana, they’re about three years into this. They’ve trained over five hundred inmates. In fact, the job is one of the best in the system. Inmates have to be highly qualified to do it and then they get some special privileges. They might get sent to another institution.

Len Sipes:  So we really are squeezing that rock for…

Steve Stuerer:  We’re squeezing it…

Len Sipes:  We’re being as innovative as possible, but one of the other…a question I asked to another person at our microphones this afternoon was why can’t you have a person centrally located somewhere in the United States teaching inmates any place else in the United States through a long-distance learning?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, you could possibly do that with some of the folks. I mean, a lot of folks do things online, for example, but I daresay, because I teach online for the University of Maryland University College; it’s an open university and some students have a great deal of difficulty because a lack of sufficient writing skills, reading skills, etc. They are much better served with some face-to-face assistance, whether it’s a mentor or hopefully a teacher, but people need assistance who have a lot of severe deficits and the correctional population, typically, come in…

Len Sipes:  Is filled with people who have severe deficits when they come to the education…

Steve Stuerer:  All kinds of deficits and complications.

Len Sipes:  But before we end the program and we’re in our final minute of the program, I do want to get around to the results because people listen to this program and they’re going to say to themselves, “Okay, you’re the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association. Sorry, Mr. Executive Director, we’ve got elderly people. We’ve got school kids to take care of. We have so many people unemployed and now you want me to give money and support to this whole concept of correctional education,” and to these people you’re going to respond how?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, if I were to talk to a group of elderly people, I think I could get some of them to understand the situation. Things are tough and what are you going to do? Why can’t you reach out to other folks who are in bad situations? What is it about us that we in the United States that we tend to just incarcerate somebody and want to throw away the key? Why isn’t the concept of community, of helping each other, people who are down, who are quite capable if they get the right kind of assistance…why do we want to do that?

Len Sipes:  But there are tangible benefits to taxpayers as well.

Steve Stuerer:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Look, they’re not going to…their chances of being mugged, their chances of their house being burglarized are significantly reduced if these individuals are trained in prison.

Steve Stuerer:  Right, but the reason I bring out this other issue is that we’ve made that argument for years – the reduction of recidivism. We did one of the significant studies in the field and so that really brought the attention of politicians, but right now, all bets are off. You see, what’s happening in states and at the national level. They’re not looking at research in any area. They’re cutting programs. They’re cutting this, cutting that. So I’m trying to see if we can appeal a little more to people’s consciences because there is a big conscience in the United States. Some of the biggest givers in the world in terms of charity and in terms of helping folks and so we’ve gotta take a little bit different tack because right now nobody cares about the recidivism study, you know? So we need to create some sympathy on a humanistic level. So that’s one of the reason why I think the social media, we need to take a good look at it and see how we can reach people. Not just in the dollar in their pocket, but their own feelings about helping others.

Len Sipes:  Steve, you get the final word. You had the final word. Steve Stuerer, the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association, at their Annual Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We continue to broadcast from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Again, well over five hundred individuals from all over the country – some people from all over the world – looking at this whole concept of correctional education, looking at correctional programs, looking at reentry programs, looking at what makes a difference in terms of the impact of how people come out of prison. Are they successful? What programs are they engaged in? What programs did they participate in? What programs are successful? What programs aren’t successful? That’s the point of the Correctional Education Conference and before our microphones, we’re going to continue this discussion on research. Cindy Borden, she is with a private company and the private company was under contract to the Correctional Education Association to do some research. Now, needless to say, we can’t endorse a private company, but these are the people who were in charge of the research. Cindy Borden. She is with the Northstar Correctional Educational Services. They are Correctional Education Consultants and the interesting thing here is that what we’re talking about is post-secondary education, i.e. college. A four-year piece of research that shows that one-third, after they’re done a two-year period, one-third are enrolled in college and three-quarter are employed. So those are pretty, pretty, pretty significant findings. Cindy, let’s talk about this. Now, how did you end up with the contract with the Correctional Education Association?

Cindy Borden:  CEA asked us to find a funding source and then to recruit states. Started out with six states to participate in this research who were willing to randomly assign students into either the intervention, which was a distance learning program or a control situation, which was basically business as usual. There are local community colleges or correspondence work. So we found the funding source in the Institute of Education Sciences with the US Department of Ed and then they asked us to conduct the field research.

Len Sipes:  Now, both of you…and you’re the other person from your company. You’re former principals or superintendents? What were you?

Cindy Borden:  We were former teachers and then principals in the prison system.

Len Sipes:  So you have a lot of experience in terms of this.

Cindy Borden:  I do.

Len Sipes:  You have hands-on experience. Now, I do want to explain for our audience that random assignment is the gold standard for research. It’s when a prison…we’re talking about forty-four prisons, right, in seven states?

Cindy Borden:  Forty-four prisons in seven states, that’s right.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so half were given this program and half were not and it happened by chance. So in other words there’s no research bias.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right. They were randomly assigned by computer, generated and half were given the distance learning intervention. The other half continued business as usual.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So that is the gold standard. So tell me about this. So you had…this existed for how long in the post-secondary education is a collegiate program and the college program?

Cindy Borden:  Yes, it was the first two years of academic college, so basically freshman and sophomore year core course – Gen Ed courses. We went out to the prisons for three years, twice a year. We did pre-testing of the students in the fall and post-testing in the spring. For three years running, we conducted focus groups and we interviewed site coordinators and students. We gave the CAP Critical Thinking exams to all the students in the fall and then post-tested them in the spring.

Len Sipes:  Now, believe me. I understand how controversial this is from a public relations point of view. When I was with the state of Maryland I used to do press releases about collegiate stuff, people graduating from collegiate programs and I got quite a bit of pushback from citizens. So there is a concern. People asked me quite blankly…bluntly rather, “I can’t afford to send my child to college, so this guy goes out and commits a violent crime and he gets a free college education. Where’s the fairness in that?” One of the things that I would say in return was that the individuals involved in collegiate programs had the lowest rates of recidivism. That means out of all the things that you could do within a correctional setting these individuals committed fewer crimes, fewer crimes than any other group of individuals and cost taxpayers less money than any other group of individuals. Is that right?

Cindy Borden:  That’s absolutely right. An investment in college education for these students brings a cost benefit to the taxpayer that is tremendous. We invest in their college education while they’re incarcerated and the recidivism rate drops significantly for these people. We have discovered in the course of this study that even exposure to a single college course or a single semester of college courses makes a tremendous difference in their decisions once they get out.

Len Sipes:  Right, but I mean in this case, what I’m asking is is that this program, these post-secondary collegiate programs in the prison settings are more effective than any other program I’m aware of. That’s the question.

Cindy Borden:  They are very effective. Vocational training is also very effective for a separate type of person, but for those who are interested in academic education, yes, college – straight up college – is tremendously effective.

Len Sipes:  And I do want to point out the effects. Now, we’re talking about two years out, but that two-year cohort could be people out for two years or people just entering the cohort and being out for a couple of months.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So when you measured this at a two-year period for people out for an entire period of two years and just entering the cohort for a couple of months you found that one-third were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  Now that’s amazing. I mean…

Cindy Borden:  It’s a pretty good result.

Len Sipes:  Those sorts of statistics are beyond comprehension. I mean, that’s pretty much the best piece of research or the best research findings I’ve ever heard of.

Cindy Borden:  It’s much higher than we anticipated. We didn’t expect it to be that high. We were surprised at what that exposure to college produced in their post-release statistics.

Len Sipes:  And you would say to the average individual out there who has mixed feelings about this that, what? That these finding trumps just about every other finding that we’ve encountered or what do you say to that person?

Cindy Borden:  To the one who says, “I’m paying for my kid’s college. Why should the convicts get it for free?”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cindy Borden:  The investment in these people pays off to our communities. What I say to people who say that directly to me is that these people are getting out of prison and they’re going to move next to you and they’re going to move next to your children…

Len Sipes:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive.

Cindy Borden:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive and who do you want there? Do you want someone who has had some exposure to college, who’s actually earned a college degree or someone who did nothing with his time while he was incarcerated and then was released and moved in next to your children?

Len Sipes:  Cindy Borden, you had the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re broadcasting from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Cindy is with a private company. Again, we can’t endorse private companies, but she was a contractor to the Correctional Education Association to conduct this research. Northstar Correctional Educational Services at Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your time and effort and listening and look forward next time to another program on the state of the criminal justice system in America. Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends}


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DC Safe Surrender-An Interview With Debra Rowe, Executive Director of Returning Citizens United

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: This is Cedric Hendricks for DC Public Safety.  With us today is Debra Rowe, Executive Director of Returning Citizens United.  She’s here today to talk with us about DC Safe Surrender.  Miss Rowe, why is it important for you to be here today to speak about DC Safe Surrender?  What does it mean for you?

Debra Rowe:  Well, first of all it’s important to me because Returning Citizens United is an advocacy and support services program for those pre and post-incarcerated, but mostly, those who have returned home.  And it’s very important because we, Returning Citizens United, we work with them to move forward.  And this program is critical because a lot of people can’t move forward because they have outstanding warrants or they’re not sure if they have warrants.  So that’s why I think this is very important.

Cedric Hendricks:  And you mentioned to me that you’ve had some experience helping people with outstanding warrants come in, surrender and clear those matters up.  How has that unfolded?

Debra Rowe:  Yes, myself and my partner, my colleague and my partner, Yango Sawer, we have returning citizens come year around and directly to us and turn theirself in because the word is out that you can go to Miss Rowe or you need to call Yango Sawyer.  And what we do, they call us, they tell us what the situation is and we escort them down to the courthouse and downstairs and we inform the person at the desk that this person believes they have a warrant.  They look them up in the system.  They say yes, you do.  And we have had a couple of guys get down there and they didn’t have one.  But just like Safe Surrender, your dignity is intact.  You know, there’s no grabbing you, throwing you against the wall, you know, handcuffing you and all that.  Our experience has been they just tell them kindly to have a seat.  They process a little paperwork and then they say yes, you have it and they call one of the marshals out after they do some processing.  And they say can you walk them back for them to go on and deal with it.  And we’ve had calls or follow up with the attorneys to ask will we write a letter on their behalf because they’re going before the judge and they may be released.  The situation’s very dependent on the person and what the charges are.  But it is very critical for Returning Citizens to move forward.  And if you think you have an outstanding warrant, CSOSA and the Safe Surrender program is very important and can help you to just move on.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now back in 2007 when this took place the first time, there were 530 individuals that turned themselves in and in fact, 98 percent of them walked out that very same day and were able to start putting their lives back together.  And one of the other important things was that at that site that was at Bible Way Church there were resource and service providers on site.  So if an individual needed to make a connection for treatment or for employment,

Debra Rowe:  Child support.

Cedric Hendricks:  all of that, APRA was there, DOES was there and we’re looking to have those same kind of providers there today.  Now last time it was at a church.  This time it’s at a courthouse.  Does that make any difference?

Debra Rowe:  I think it makes a big difference because you’re right there.  It’s like one stop.  You’re right there.  You’re at the court.  I’ve read that there’s going to be attorneys available to assist you.  I mean you can’t get any better than that.  It’s one stop.

Cedric Hendricks: And that’s a good point.  The Public Defender Service which was a great partner the last time, is certainly going to be there the day so that anybody who is going to then appear before a judge or a United States parole commissioner, will have the opportunity to have representation to assist them.

Debra Rowe:  That’s right, yes.

Cedric Hendricks:  Alright, well we just want to close by having you reiterate the value of this if you would.

Debra Rowe:  Yes, it’s very valuable because when you come home, you come home and sometimes we slip and we make mistakes.  But that doesn’t mean to just go all the way down into a pit.  Just go ahead and face it.  Come out if you know you have a warrant, come out and let us assist you to just get it taken care of and move forward with your life.  And that’s the step right there.  That’s a step in moving forward, that you come down and you surrender.  And you’re surrendering safely.  You’re going to be in good hands.

Cedric Hendricks:  We’ve been talking with Debra Rowe, the Executive Director of Returning Citizens United about DC Safe Surrender.  Thank you Miss Rowe.

Debra Rowe:  Thank you.

[Audio Ends]


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DC Safe Surrender-An Interview With Willie Jones-First Participant of 2007’s Fugitive Safe Surrender

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: This is Cedric Hendricks for DC Public Safety.  With us today is Mr. Willie Jones, and were talking with Mr. Jones about DC Safe Surrender.  Mr. Jones, you were a participant in Safe Surrender when it was first done in 2007.  How did that come to take place?

Willie Jones:  I had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear and I heard about the program and I thought I would check it out and get involved.

Cedric Hendricks:  And what happened after you came down.  What was the experience?

Willie Jones:  Well, it was a very good experience.  I came in, they got rid of the warrant and got me out right away.

Cedric Hendricks: And how has your life changed since that day?

Willie Jones:  My life has elevated so much.  I got a District Government job.  I got my family back; a lot of things; just, my life has progressed so much.

Cedric Hendricks: Well, now DC Safe Surrender is taking place again and what words would you share with others who are out in the community now with outstanding warrants?

Willie Jones:  I would encourage them to do the right thing.  Turn yourself in.  The decision you make today affects your tomorrow.  If you make a good decision today, you’ll have a good tomorrow.  If you make a bad decision today, you’ll have a bad tomorrow.  I would say to the people out there now, do the right thing, do it now.  I did it.

Cedric Hendricks:  And to family members out there who have a loved one who they know has an outstanding warrant, is there a message that you would offer them?

Willie Jones:  I would tell them to encourage them, come with them, support them, give them the strength and let them know that’s the right thing to do.  That’s the same way my family did with me.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now when Safe Surrender took place back in 2007, it was at Bible Way Church and this time it’s taking place at the DC Superior Court House.  Does that matter in how this should be considered by an individual with an outstanding warrant?

Willie Jones:  Well let me give you a different outlook now because the last time it was at the church.  This time it’s at the courthouse.  And a lot of people think because there’s cells there, it’s the courthouse, just the courthouse itself makes them think.  But I would encourage anyone that I know, I’m involved with this Safe Surrender program, I wouldn’t mislead anyone to do anything that I didn’t think would benefit them.

Cedric Hendricks:  And I think you are right.  I think it’s important to point out that in 2007, there were 530 individuals that came in and surrendered and 98% of them walked out the same day.

Willie Jones:  Yes they did and I was one of the first one.  And I was processed in and out in 15 minutes. So like I said at first, I encourage anyone if you’ve got an outstanding warrant, on the 13th of August, on the 20th of August and the 27th, come on down and make the right decision.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now let’s just say a bit about what happened.  When you saw a Judge there, that matter you had pending wasn’t squashed all together, but you got another date to come back.  What went on after that?

Willie Jones:  When I came in, I saw the Judge; he said “you’ve got a failure to appear warrant; I’m going to get rid of the warrant and give you another court date and I’m quite sure you’ll be there.”  I said, “Yes Sir” because it’s like a second chance.  They just give you a chance to do the right thing.

Cedric Hendricks: Now you talked about how your failure to appear was inspired to some degree by you sitting in that Judge’s courtroom and seeing folks getting sent away.  And that’s what gave you some concern about your fate might be and led you to fail to appear.

Willie Jones:  Yes. I saw a guy that I grew up with that was in the courtroom in front of me.  And the Judge said, “Yes”.  He told the Judge, “I’ve done everything you’ve told me to do”. And she said, “Yes you did, but your past; your history; made me the decision to give you 60 months”. And I got up and left.

Cedric Hendricks:  And then after having left, and then coming and surrendering in the Safe Surrender event, you were back in front of a Judge with your history, some would say, having been made worse by the failure to appear.  But you didn’t get the outcome that that other individual got.  What happened with you when you finally were sentenced?

Willie Jones: I got 18 months probation and she said that since I did turn myself in, it made a difference.

Cedric Hendricks: Well, all right.  That’s really what it’s all about. You know, giving people I guess the benefit of them having come in and surrendered and coming away with it all with a positive opportunity to do the right thing.

Willie Jones: That’s right.  Definitively.  Yes.

Cedric Hendricks: We’ll we’ve been talking with Mr. Willie Jones, who was the first person to surrender back in 2007 when Safe Surrender took place and we appreciate you coming out and speaking in support of this DC Safe Surrender.  Thank you Mr. Jones.

Willie Jones: Thank you Mr. Cedric.

[Audio Ends]


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DC Safe Surrender 2011 – An Interview with US Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: This is Cedric Hendricks for DC Public Safety.  With us today is US Marshal, Thomas Hedgepeth, who will talk with us about DC Safe Surrender.  Marshal Hedgepeth, what is DC Safe Surrender?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  DC Safe Surrender is an opportunity for persons who within our community, who have outstanding warrants of judiciary issues that have not been addressed, an opportunity to come in a safe haven type environment, to come in and address these issues in a non-confrontational way that’s beneficial both to the community as well as the defendant and/or respondents.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now how is it beneficial?  Can you be a bit specific there?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  It is extremely beneficial from the standpoint, first of all from a law enforcement perspective, it allows the police to focus on more violent crimes and it doesn’t take away from community and public policing.  This allows us to focus on other criminal elements at large.  It allows us to keep those resources free while allowing other people to come in and voluntarily, of their own free will, and address their issues that are outstanding within the court.  It promotes efficiency within the court system and allows us to marshal our resources on keeping the violent offenders off the streets.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now this safe surrender has been a national initiative of the United States Marshal Service.  How successful has it been across the country?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  Cedric, it’s been an extremely successful initiative.  We’ve had over 27,000 persons who participated in a program.  We have hundreds of success stories have come.  And they’ve had a chance now to address those issues that have been outstanding for perhaps weeks, months or years.  It gives them the satisfaction of knowing they’ve dealt with an issue.  They no longer have to look behind their back, look over their head every time an issue comes up.  It gives them an opportunity to move forward with their lives and it frees up the court docket from dealing with the issue in the future so we can go and address future needs of the community and the citizens for the district or any other community that we’re involved in.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now Safe Surrender was done back in 2007 here in the District of Columbia and it was a truly collaborative project.  And it involved the Marshal Service, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the Parole Commission, the courts.  Why is this type of collaboration essential to make this an extremely successful event?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  It is absolutely essential.   This is a partnership.  The courts, public defenders service, the Marshal, the Attorney’s office, Metropolitan Police Department, we all have one common goal and that’s to keep our city streets safe.  We want every citizen to walk the street and feel comfortable walking the street.  And the way we do that is through a collaborative effort.  It gives us a chance to marshal our resources, as well like to say it, have the most bang for our buck.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  It really gives an opportunity to stretch your arms out and touch a lot more people.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now I understand back in 2007, about 530 individuals surrendered.  Do you have a goal for this Safe Surrender experience?  Are we looking for more people to turn themselves in or not?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  Actually for this one, our goals are a bit less modest.  We’re actually hoping to get a few hundred people to turn themselves in.  We’ve had a couple of warrant initiatives that we’ve actually had the opportunity to go out and do over the past couple of months.  And we have one or two more scheduled for the year.  And of course, our goal is to focus on violent offenders during those initiatives and this gives an opportunity for us to focus on those as well as for other people to come in, do the right thing, get these issues resolved so that when we come knocking, we won’t be knocking on their doors.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now I understand that the Safe Surrender Program is targeting folks with non-violent felonies, misdemeanor warrants and does not include violent felonies or domestic violence warrants.  Why is that the case?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  Well Cedric, actually the primary reason is because we target that audience because unfortunately people may not realize, but the vast majority of our warrants are non-violent offenders.  I mean while violent offenders may get a higher amount of press play, in effect, most of our citizens who get involved within the legal system are brought in for non-violent offenses.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now when and where will DC Safe Surrender take place?

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  It’s going to take place August 13, 20, and 27 of this year.  And it’s going to be held at the courthouse.  And what it’s going to afford is the people to come in, speak to lawyers, counselors, the judges and address their issues, get those issues resolved, be given future court dates to come back if it can’t be resolved that day.  And we’re looking for a really wonderful turnout and a very, very successful event this time around.

Cedric Hendricks:  Well, I want to thank you.  We’ve been talking with US Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth about DC Safe Surrender.

Marshal Thomas Hedgepeth:  Thank you very much.

Cedric Hendricks:  Thank you sir.

[Audio Ends]


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DC Safe Surrender 2011 – An Interview with DC Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks:  Hello, this is Cedric Hendricks and welcome to DC Public Safety.  Today we’re talking with Chief Judge Lee Satterfield of the DC Superior Court about DC Safe Surrender.  Chief Judge Satterfield, what can people expect when they come to the courthouse this year hoping to surrender during the DC Safe Surrender Program?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Well as you know Cedric, a few years ago we had the Safe Surrender Program.  Before it was at a church, we moved it to the courthouse because of financial considerations and the budget and those issues.  It’s less costly.  But it’s going to be the same type of program.  The judge is going to be in the same mindset that they were in the church.  The other partners are going to be there doing the same things they were doing at the church so we expect to have a successful program just like we had at the church.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now what type of warrants are you focusing on for those that surrender, because I know that some warrants that are excluded from this process?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Well sure, I mean for the program itself, we’re looking at non-violent warrants, you know, misdemeanor or felony.  But you know, as a judge, I’d encourage everybody if they have a warrant to turn themselves in because you’re always going to be looked at more favorably if you take responsibility for that warrant, you take care, then if you don’t and other people have to come out and get you.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now is this just for folks with warrants issued in the District of Columbia?  What about folks in the surrounding communities?  If they hear about this and they have a warrant in Maryland and Virginia, is this something that they can participate in?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  I would encourage you to turn yourself in in your jurisdiction and not at the Superior Court, because we’re looking at warrants that have been issued by the court, people not appearing in court or arrest warrants that have been issued or assigned by judges.  So we’re looking at folks who have warrants in this jurisdiction.

Cedric Hendricks:  Is this for adults and juveniles or just adults?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Just adults.

Cedric Hendricks:  Okay, now is there an overarching public safety benefit here that we really want people to understand, both with respect to individuals and their families?  Cause you know, it’s clear that families can see value in this and bring their loved one in as well.

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Well, I would hope that families see a lot of value in this because a program like this protects the individual that has the warrant.  It protects the family members, because if the police or marshals have to come out to the home, there are chances and risks of the children being scared if they’re in the home, family members getting involved in the process to arrest the offender.  So it helps the family, it protects the property.  Many people live in homes with their relatives and the police come through the home.  They’re there to serve a purpose.  And sometimes property can be damaged and of course it protects our law enforcement officers who are out there trying to keep the community safe.  And so when I hear that as a judge, when I know that somebody’s going to not let those factors come into play by turning themselves in, and that’s something that I’m going to be thinking about favorably because that person has shown responsibility.  I’m going to give that person the respect that’s due based on that decision that’s being made.  But on the flip side of that, when someone does come in and having been arrested by marshal or police officer, then all those factors were in play and I can’t give them favorable attention to those things, taking responsibility.  So when you’re making that decision, family members and others, you know, the best decision will be to come in because we really do look at that more favorably than we do when people are brought in through law enforcement.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now DC Safe Surrender was undertaken a few years ago, I believe in 2007 and over 530 individuals turned themselves in.  What are your expectations for this time around?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Well we hope that we get that number and more, because there are a number of outstanding warrants.  And you know when it was done a few years ago, it was just a very small percentage, under two percent of the people who turned themselves in, were not released.  So if you’re thinking about over 500 people, we’re talking about five or six people who for whatever reason, they may have had other types of warrants pending other circumstances, were not released.  So a substantial majority of folk who came in were back in the community after they resolved their warrants.

Cedric Hendricks:  Now this event is one that involves a lot of criminal justice partners.  Why is this essential to the success?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Oh, it’s absolutely essential from the prosecutors to the CSOSA to our Criminal Justice Coordinating Counsel.  I know I’m going to miss somebody, Public Defender Service, Pre-Trial Services.  All these folk are essential because a number of these agencies supervise individuals who are on outstanding warrants and there are agencies whose recommendations the court values in deciding what to do in individual cases like this.  So their role is very essential as well.

Cedric Hendricks:  And when will DC Safe Surrender take place sir?

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Well it’s going to take place on three consecutive weekends starting on the 13th of August, 20th of August and the 27th of August.

Cedric Hendricks:  We’ve been talking with Chief Judge Lee Satterfield of the DC Superior Court about DC Safe Surrender.  Thank you sir.

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield:  Thank you very much.

[Audio Ends]