Archives for March 5, 2012

Sexual Exploitation of Children-US Dept. of Justice/FBI-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here today to talk about sexual exploitation of children and when I say that we have two of the premier national experts to talk to us today, I’m not kidding. Francey Hicks, National Coordinator of Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction from the United States Department of Justice and Nickolas Savage, Supervisory Special Agent Acting Section Chief of the Cyber Division of the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. One million people – that’s the estimate – one million people are online at any given time and they’re looking for your child or they’re looking for images of your child; a million people online and your children online. Your eight-year-old is online. Your twelve-year-old is online and you’ve got a million people to contend with. It’s a bit of a scary problem, but one of the really interesting things is that for the first time, the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has put together a national strategy and has convened a whole bunch of meetings with a whole bunch of experts and we’re here to talk about that. So that’s a long introduction to reintroduce Francey Hicks and Nickolas Savage. Welcome to DC Public Safety.

Francey Hicks:  Thanks for having me, Len.

Len Sipes:  All right. Francey, first of all, the national strategy, we now have for the first time a national strategy under the auspices of the U.S. Attorney General. Tell me about that.

Francey Hicks:  Well, Len, not only do we have a national strategy, but we’ve seen its gradual implementation over the last year. Back in August of 2010, as you said, the Attorney General launched the first ever-national strategy for child exploitation prevention and interdiction. It’s the first of its kind anywhere in the world and in that document, which is available on our website at

Len Sipes:  Thank you.

Francey Hicks:  We have three different parts. So the first part is the first ever threat assessment that was conducted to gauge the threat our children face from a variety of harms on the internet and in the physical world as it relates to child pornography, as it relates to child sex tourism, as it relates to being enticed online and as it relates to child prostitution.  Second part of the national strategy is a full review of all the actions of the federal government at every level with every agency possible that you can imagine who have a piece in child protection and that includes the investigative agencies. That includes the grant funders who are funding Internet safety programs, for example, and that includes all of those who are engaged in tracking sex offenders. The third part of the national strategy is, if you will, our pledge. Our pledge of how we are going to tackle this problem going forward and we’ve spent the last year attempting to fulfill the pledges in the national strategy to collaborate better with our federal, state, local and international partners. For example, to collaborate better with industry to come up with new technologies to fight the scourge of child exploitation, to equip our investigators and our prosecutors with more sophisticated and innovative training. Those are just a few examples of the things that we promise to do that we have carried through on this last year.

Len Sipes:  So the whole idea is an across the board cooperation of federal, state and local agencies. So we’re all pretty much singing from the same sheet of music. We’re all pretty much moving in the same direction. We’ve all uniformly defined the problem. We all uniformly understand what it takes to deal with the problem. That’s the whole idea behind what Attorney General Eric Holder has done, correct?

Francey Hicks:  That’s right.  So many people were engaging in great work fighting child exploitation, but they were doing it separately. Now, we’re doing it together.

Len Sipes:  Right and we’re going to switch over to Nickolas because, Nick, the cyber division of the FBI, I can’t imagine a more exciting division to be in and in a more interesting division to be in. I mean I’ve been in my entire life, professional life since the age of 18 in the criminal justice system and I would think that it would be the profiling division, profiling hard core very violent criminals or it would be the cyber division. Those two, to me, seem to be the two tech premier organizations within the FBI. So what is that you guys do?

Nickolas Savage:  Well, the cyber division certainly has grown a lot over the last decade. I mean, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody the number of computers that are now in the home and how it’s really just revolutionary in the sense that it’s just changed our everyday life.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Nickolas Savage:  Unfortunately, as technology emerges, we have individuals out there that use that technology to exploit our children.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Nickolas Savage:  And certainly the FBI has taken a stance to really to protect our children and to echo what Francey has just said, in today’s day and age, there are so many more children that are online than ever before. There are more offenders that out there. So certainly there are more opportunities for them. It is through this coordinated effort and this way of doing things more effectively that really is ultimately what we’re here to do and to try and thwart this problem.

Len Sipes:  Now, your program, I think, is Innocent Images?

Nickolas Savage:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about that.

Nickolas Savage:  Innocent Images is an undercover operation and we have currently 43 throughout the United States that specifically go online to target those individuals who are targeting our children. We work those individuals who attempt to meet children online. Either travel to meet children or to get children to travel to them. We also work with matters regarding child, images of child abuse – child pornography. Those are predominantly our two biggest areas that Innocent Images really addresses.

Len Sipes:  So the whole idea is that the perpetrator is online, searching for a minor. He could be talking to an FBI agent. He could be talking to a member of the State police. He could be talking to a member of the local law enforcement agency.

Nickolas Savage:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  That, to me, is wonderful.

Nickolas Savage:  It’s a very good thing and certainly we try to, you know, we want that to be in the conscience of the country because I think it gives parents a feeling knowing that law enforcement has taken this effort to protect your children as well as letting individuals who want to target these children. It certainly plants this seed that, in fact, they could be talking to a law enforcement officer.

Len Sipes:  I’ve been this program, this kind of program, for a lot of years and I have talked to people under supervision who have said, “I saw the TV program.” Not necessarily the one we did, Francey, but I’ve seen a television program. I’ve listened to a radio program and that worries me, the fact that Sally who was 12 years old could be an FBI agent and so, obviously this is a deterrent. It plants something in the mind of the offender of, number one, I shouldn’t be doing this to begin with, but number two, who am I really talking to.

Nickolas Savage:  I think it’s a deterrent for some. Unfortunately, it’s not enough of a deterrent as anybody is familiar with some of the shows that have highlighted this problem, many…

Len Sipes:  Some of the television shows, yeah. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

Nickolas Savage:  I think it did a good job of highlighting this problem, but also the sense that when these individuals are caught, they’re often not surprised that it is law enforcement. I think the dangerous thing that we need to take away from that is the fact that these individuals, even knowing or thinking that it could be someone in law enforcement, still decided to take the chance and travel anyway.

Len Sipes:  Well, then let’s get down to the larger problem and then this becomes a more interesting part of the program. We do need Francey to get to deterrents. We do need to talk about prevention and we do need to talk about new technologies, but the average parent listening to this program, whether it’s a Mayor of a city or somebody from Congress, I mean they’re going to be parents too and they’re sitting there listening to this program going, “Wait a minute.” I mean my eight-year-old is online. My twelve-year-old is online. A million people out there are trying to target my kid, what in the name of God do I say to my kid? What in the name of Heavens can I do to prevent my child from being sucked into this because sexual predators are extraordinarily powerful in terms of how they conduct their business? They can suck that child in pretty easily. They know what to say. They know the buttons to push. So isn’t this all about first of all, from a prevention point of view, parents sitting down with their kids and letting their kids clearly know without scaring them half to death, letting them very clearly understand that there are people online who can do them harm, Francey?

Francey Hicks:  Well, you’re right, Len. That is actually critical and what I would say first is that we’d rather have a whole lot of prevention and a whole lot less investigation and prosecution. We’d rather see fewer victims rather than see more cases, obviously. So the more we can prevent, the fewer cases there are. The most important thing I think for parents and educators to take away is that it’s actually not that difficult. They just have to have a conversation with their child. The most important, the single most important thing they can do as a parent, is know what their children are doing online.

Len Sipes:  But they won’t. Let me stop you there. I’ve seen the commercials. I run the commercials on my television program where the father walks into the bedroom. People don’t do that and handheld computers are now called Smartphones.

Francey Hicks:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So, okay, so the eight-year-old, nine-year-old, ten-year-old, twelve-year-old’s walking around with an iPhone or Droid and so they can access whatever they want from that little device. How can a parent control that access?

Francey Hicks:  Well, a parent needs to understand what their child is doing and what the smart parent is doing is going in after their child and checking to see what it is their child is doing. In addition to having the conversation that you mentioned, that is actually arming the child with the knowledge that will help the child be a more sophisticated consumer, be a more sophisticated user and be armed with sort of the defense against a predator who would prey upon, but also they need to make sure they understand what their children are doing and while you’re right. There are definitely going to be some parents, unfortunately, who simply will not talk to their child or will not go behind to see what their child are doing, I hope the large majority of parents, in fact, will. I mean this is your child’s innocence, sometimes tragically their life at stake. So what’s more important to you?

Len Sipes:  Well, you know, Nick, every child is vulnerable to a certain degree. You can have a perfectly fine stable child doing good in school, respectful, everything about that child is fine and yet that child will find vulnerabilities in their lives and the offenders that you deal with are experts at exploiting whatever vulnerabilities they are and in the life of every young person, there are going to be vulnerabilities.

Nickolas Savage:  Well, Len, you make an excellent point and one that I was going to make at some time later on down the line. I like to tell people that we’re all vulnerable, not just children. All of us have vulnerabilities to some point and you’re right. These individuals are very good and they’re patient at exploiting those vulnerabilities and, unfortunately, I can remember years ago I worked a case with a little twelve-year-old girl that was just simply gorgeous, was a straight A student, had a perfect home life. Unbeknownst to her parents, she in fact was victimized from an individual from Georgia. The shame of it was, was that she had developed early in her life and people didn’t see her as even a potential victim. The problem was she was seen as a sexual object by many of her peers and along came an individual that just simply wanted to “love her,” that didn’t treat her like all the other boys and it was just a way for him to exploit that vulnerability and just to follow up something that Francey had said, I think we have I think three, at least three problems. One, with respect to home is parents often look over and they see their children in the confines of their own home and there is a certain safety associated with being able to see my children in this environment, in that home environment. So parents think that my child is safe because I can see them. The other thing is that parents of this generation really think they’re tech savvy. I thought it was dangerous a generation ago where parents knew very little and kids could run circles around their parents. Today, I find that parents are often much more in a bad situation because, well, they’re not afraid by technology and they use it themselves. Therefore, they think they’re as equal as or even smarter than their kids. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Kids today can run circles around most adults when it comes to the internet and what’s going on and I think parents are just simply afraid to ask the tough questions.  I often tell parents, if you don’t talk to your children, there are a lot of people online who are willing to talk to your kids.

Len Sipes:  Bottom line, I think, in terms of this long decades discussion of child safety is to keep an open and honest conversation going with your kids and have an open and honest conversation. The second thing is is that as you have both said this is not a one shot deal. This is the person who is going to be working your child piece by piece by piece. This not a one-contact event; this is a multiple, multiple contact event, which should give a parent an opportunity to figure this out at a certain point, correct?

Nickolas Savage:  Well, oftentimes, kids are reluctant to even say anything for two…they have two fears. Number one, that that computer, which is often their lifeline, is going to be taken away from them.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Nickolas Savage:  The other thing is that parents often rush to judgment that somehow the child did something wrong, not that their child was a potential victim. So children are afraid to say anything because oftentimes when they do, parents over react and assume that the child did something wrong.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program and the program flies by like wildfire whenever we touch the subject. Francey Hicks, National Coordinator Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction for the United States Department of Justice –, Nickolas Savage is a supervisory special agent with the cyber division at the FBI –, By the way, if you’ve never been on the FBI’s website, they are probably the most sophisticated of any of the criminal justice agencies, whether it’s federal, state level in terms of the amount of information that they put out there – really good in terms of social media. So let’s pick up with some of these larger questions again. We just went through an incident. Joe Paterno, University Penn State or…I forget.

Francey Hicks:  Penn State.

Len Sipes:  Penn State, thank you. You just saved me. And the allegations…and I know we can’t specifically about the allegations, but the allegations are that employees saw child sexual exploitation at its meanest, nastiest, basest level.  Saw it and didn’t report it. Now, whether or not that’s true or not true is not what I want to discuss, but there’s a certain point where we tend to gloss over or afraid to touch some of these issues regarding exploitation of children and sometimes I get the sense that that’s our biggest problem. It’s not necessarily technology. It’s not necessarily parents. It’s not necessarily music. Sometimes we’re just scared to death to deal with this issue.

Francey Hicks:  Well, I think that actually brings up a great point. So we talked a few minutes ago about the dangers children face online and how absolutely determined, as Agent Savage said, these pedophiles and some predators are to make contact with, travel to see, encourage your child to produce child pornography etc., but the danger, at least statistically, is much greater to your child from someone within your child’s circle of trust.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Francey Hicks:  And that I think is the thing that is most difficult for us as parents or community leaders or educators to recognize and to do anything about and that is that the people who have multiple contacts with your child all the time, whether it’s the teacher or whether it’s the police officer, whether it’s the soccer coach, whether it’s the football coach and whether it’s the karate instructor. These people all have access to your child and vast majority of all of those people are dedicated to making your child’s life happier, more full, enriched, etc., but there is certainly a certain portion of them that are in those positions because those positions allow them access to children.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Francey Hicks:  And that’s the danger here and I think what you’re talking about, at least what the news report’s saying…I’m not commenting on the facts…

Len Sipes:  Of course.

Francey Hicks:  Of the case and what’s true and what’s not, but if you look just simply at what is the right thing to do versus what is the legal thing to do, I think all states, have mandatory reporting laws and that is people who are medical professionals and education professionals and certain others are required by law to report suspected child abuse. It’s not even reporting confirmed child abuse. It’s if they suspect child abuse they are required by law to…

Len Sipes:  Right and I want to make clear it’s not Joe Paterno that’s alleged to be involved in this directly. It’s that he was part of the chain of people who supposedly knew about this and didn’t report it.

Francey Hicks:  Right.  Well, so obviously I’m not commenting specifically on that –

Len Sipes:  Of course.

Francey Hicks:  The facts of that case.

Len Sipes:  But it just wanted to make it clear. I brought up Joe Paterno’s name and he’s not directly involved in the actual act. He was involved in not reporting it. That’s the allegation.

Francey Hicks:  Right. So you have laws that require people to report, which are slightly different in every state, but fairly basic and then you have what really boils down something that makes, I think, people sometimes uncomfortable is the moral question of what’s the right thing to do. There’s the legal thing to do and what’s the right thing to do and  I think that’s what’s driving the conversation from this particular scandal going on at Penn State is, what was the right thing to do and was the right thing done? And for those people who believe the right thing wasn’t done, that is that act of sexual abuse, if it was occurring, was not stopped and that act was apparently, at least allegedly, not reported to the police and so when it comes to other cases that are similar, I think we all have to ask ourselves are we prepared to do the right thing no matter how difficult it is and I think part of the difficulty is in accepting that your child’s molester may very well be someone you know well. It may be someone you’re living with. It could be your spouse, your brother, your mother, your sister. It could be an aunt or a coach and oftentimes those people are in such positions of trust. It’s very difficult to accept they would do it, much less that they did it.

Len Sipes:  And, Nick, this is why again we get back to the age appropriate conversation with the child because Francey is right. I mean the great majority of the individuals involved in sexually exploiting a child. Here we are talking about online individuals, strangers if you will, but the majority of victims, they know the person who is doing the victimizing and so we have to have those age appropriate conversations with the child. We cannot scare the child. We have to keep an open line of communication at all times, but somehow, some way, we got to convey to that child that people who know you may do you harm. They may look innocent. They may act innocent. They may befriend you, but they could do you harm. That’s an awfully difficult conversation to have.

Nickolas Savage:  Well, I think we’ve, to some degree, almost done a disservice to our children. We’ve always warned of stranger danger and we never really have to worry about kids around strangers per se. It is often these pillars of the community who have access to our children that everybody is shocked when the allegations are made public. That they just can’t conceive of an individual whether it is somebody in a trust…most who are in a trust of position actually having done something like this. An interesting thing with respect to being online is that we found a lot of our victim who were victimized online, again, getting back to these individuals being good at befriending these victims. Oftentimes, these kids don’t see their victimizer as an individual who was a stranger. They often associate them…

Len Sipes:  Good point.

Nickolas Savage:  As a friend.

Len Sipes:  Excellent point. Excellent point. All right, so the general three things – deterrents, prevention, new technologies, what haven’t we covered, Francey, in the final ten minutes of the program?

Francey Hicks:  Well, I think it’s important to note that recently the Attorney General hosted a call to action, a summit, discussing child exploitation where we brought together three separate panels of internationally renowned experts to discuss preventing, deterring and interdicting this crime and when it came to prevention, we talked specifically about these kinds of problems and how do we address this and everyone agreed that while there are lots of great prevention programs out there. We’re obviously missing the message because children are continuing to be sexually abused by people in their circle of trust. So we need to inspire a movement and treat this much more as a public health issue and make a much stronger push to educate children properly, not with the old stranger danger model – not that there’s not some validity to it. There certainly is and children need to beware of strangers, but we need to pass the message along to children about the circle of trust and make sure they understand what it is that they need to arm themselves against.

Len Sipes:  Okay and I think we also get to yell at the larger society for some of the quasi issues in terms of movies and advertising and music that sort of, to some people, in their own minds, sort of gives them a bit of a green light, that if it’s perfectly fine to put this image on a billboard in Times Square, it’s perfectly fine for me to do what it is I’m thinking about doing. I mean, what’s the stronger message to society? You’re a complete jerk and if you act on these thoughts…

Francey Hicks:  Well, I think it’s very important to note that sexualisation of children is a big concern. It’s a big concern of researchers. There’s been lots of research done about the early and too young sexualisation of children. What exactly that is, we could debate, I think, for hours.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Francey Hicks:  But there definitely is a concern that media and industry should at least be aware of the message that they’re sending in sexualizing young children.

Len Sipes:  Talk about the new technologies. I mean one of the things that really interested…either one of you can take this. The photo DNA. I think, we have new technologies that are coming on board that allows us to identify people involved, allows us to identify the children involved, allows us to identify the offenders involved.  So there’s new technology coming on board. Some of it was can talk about. Some of it we can’t talk about, but to offenders who would happen to be listening to this program, we have developed an array of new tools to track you down.

Francey Hicks:  Well, that’s right and one of the most exciting to come in a long time was a tool that was developed by Microsoft in conjunction with a man named Dr. Hany Farid at Dartmouth College. It’s called photo DNA and it’s very exciting because it takes images that we know are child pornography images and allows a company like Facebook, which has just adopted the technology and started using it on their system, to search out and find on their system, images of known child pornography that are the worst of the worst in a way that we were never able to do before. So old technology was sort of like a digital fingerprint, but if one tiny little pixel was off, that digital fingerprint was different and we couldn’t necessarily find the very same image even if they were sitting next to each other. Now, this new technology allows these companies to search for these images in a much more efficient and much more thorough way and we’re already getting cases from those.

Len Sipes:  So we can identify both the victim and we can identify both the perpetrator, Nick?

Nickolas Savage:  Well, it’s certainly one of the things that we’re working toward. One of the goals of law enforcement is to try and identify who these children are so that the abuse, the exploitation stops. So we’re very excited to be partnering with non-government agencies with the private industry to be able to use this technology to, again, just to help keep children safe.

Francey Hicks:  Well, and to interrupt the traffic and I think it’s important to note just a little bit of a scary statistic, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children charged by Congress with trying to identify children has reviewed more than 35 million images of suspected child pornography over a period of time and these, unfortunately, these numbers are simply getting larger every year. So technology that will aid industry and law enforcement in interrupting the traffic of these images, which of course just perpetuates the abuse of the children, is going to be critical to our effort to clean the internet up and, hopefully, one day eradicate this kind of image from the internet altogether.

Len Sipes:  Well, there’s a certain point where this person lives sort of anonymously. We do know that every case that comes to our attention is certainly not the full degree of this person’s involvement. For every case that comes to our attention, we speculate certainly that this person has been doing it to other children as well. So one person, one case oftentimes with one victim does, in fact, represent multiple victims in terms of the past. I can’t imagine a person who has that view of life, who takes these steps, are just out there doing it once or twice. Nick?

Nickolas Savage:  I’d agree. I try to couch it in terms of adult sexuality in that it would be like saying, “I’ve only had one girlfriend or one boyfriend or one partner throughout my entire lifetime.” Individuals who are sexually attracted to children are attracted to children.

Len Sipes:  And that sexual attraction to children doesn’t go away.

Nickolas Savage:  It does not and if you are working in an online undercover capacity, if an individual happens to be engaged in conversation with an undercover law enforcement officer, it is more than fair to assume that there are other kids that are being targeted by this individual. It’s just not happenstance that an individual attracted to children just happens to engage their first conversation with a law enforcement officer.

Len Sipes:  Alright, so let me summarize because we only have a couple of minutes left in the program and that is you need to have age appropriate conversations with your kids. You gotta, gotta, gotta know where your kids are going on the internet. I mean you’ve really do have to do that. If you’re going to be a good and responsible parent, you have to get thoroughly involved in the life of your child and if your child doesn’t like it, tough. You’ve got to be a good parent, but still have…to keep open that line of communication. A lot of kids don’t report this because they’re afraid the parents are going to take away the computer, so that could be part of it. That there’s a wide array of new technologies that we’re bringing on board, a national strategy that we’re bringing on board to hunt down the perpetrators, to bring them to justice, to put them in prison, to take care of it. What am I missing here?

Francey Hicks:  I think that’s pretty summary, Len. I think it’s important for offenders who might be listening to this conversation to understand that we are doing everything in our considerable power to find you and to bring you to justice and to see that you don’t sexually abuse children and that’s our main goal and it always will be.

Len Sipes:  And across the board, I forgot one thing. Again, it is not simply a matter of stranger danger. You’ve got to have that conversation with that child in terms of making sure that he or she understands that the person close them, that they know, could be the victimizer.

Nickolas Savage:  Parents can’t start too early. I mean if there’s a take-away that I’d also like to mention, it’s that parents shouldn’t be afraid of technology and the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful thing and we need to teach our children to be good cyber citizens. So it’s a matter of parents, they cannot start too early. Engage them in conversation as soon you can.

Len Sipes:  Nick, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’ve been your host, Leonard Sipes. Our guests today – really, really, really honored to have them both at our microphones – Francey Hicks, National Coordinator of Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction with the US Department of Justice,, Nickolas Savage, Supervisory Special Agent Acting Section Chief or an Acting Section Chief for the Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and again, thank you. We really appreciate your calls, your letters, your comments via email for future show suggestions and whatever else that you have on your mind and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio End]


Faith-Based Efforts to Assist Criminal Offenders-DC Public Safety Radio

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]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on faith-based initiatives. You know, we have a very large faith-based initiative here in the District of Columbia under my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve had 2,000 offenders participate since the program began in 2002. We have 326 offenders participating now. We have 108 faith-based institutions. They are joined by 86 community organizations, and 500 mentors. So this is an extraordinarily large program. Christine Keels, who is the program manager of the faith-based initiative, she is the person who has put all this together, done an extraordinarily good job, an amazing job, of really making this program sing. One of the things that she’s done is to create special emphasis programs, special programs that go along with the faith-based environment. I’m gonna list just a few–women’s empowerment, a relapse prevention, grief counseling, job coaching, parenting skills, family reunification, relationship restoration, housing assistance and a reintegration support group. Joining Christine Keels today at our microphones is Marvin. We’re not gonna use Marvin’s last name. He’s currently under the supervision of my agency—again, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington, DC.  And Julia—we’re not gonna use Julia’s last name either—again, she’s currently under supervision of CSOSA, my agency. And to Christine, and to Marvin, and to Julia—welcome to DC Public Safety.

Marvin:  Thank you.

Julia:  Thank you.

Christine Keels:  Thank you for inviting us.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Christine. How in the name of heavens did you put all this together?  I mean, this isn’t a program, it’s a nation! I mean, you’ve got a lot of programs here that in the time that you’ve been in charge of the faith-based program, that you have pretty much instituted, and the amount of people, the amount of faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques—the amount of organizations, the amount of people, the amount of community organizations–that have been involved in this, have grown substantially. So how did you do all this?

Christine Keels:  Well, I have a very awesome team working with me of three cluster Lead Faith Institutions–Israel Baptist Church, Greater Mt Calvary Holy Church, and Covenant Baptist United Church—and they are very, very supportive, as well as all the staff here at CSOSA.  And so what we have done is looked at what are the needs, and we have developed programs to meet those needs, and classes and workshops. So we’re actively engaged in helping to make people’s lives whole.

Len Sipes:  Now, the whole idea behind the faith-based program—and we have to say this right from the very beginning—because you go and join a mentor from a faith-based institution, it doesn’t matter if that person is Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, a member of the Islamic faith, that person is not asked to buy into that faith. He or she are simply receiving services from a mentor from that organization. So there’s no pressure whatsoever to involve that person under our supervision in their religious life, correct?

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely right. There’s no proselytizing, but we are focusing on the fact that the faith institution is the number one institution in the community. So we want to reconnect people to those institutions that are in walking distance from where they live. But again, no proselytizing and no pressure.

Len Sipes:  But, you know, the interesting thing is what you just said, the faith-based organizations—the church, the mosque, the synagogue—they are the center points of any community in this country. They are the power sources. They pretty much have an amazing array – some of these churches, mosques and synagogues have an amazing array of services that they can provide. They’re out there as a mentor. We hook them up with somebody who’s currently under our supervision, and they can get an array of services. It’s just not a friendship, it’s just not mentoring, it’s just not helping that person. These organizations also provide a massive array of services!

Christine Keels:  That’s correct—from food to housing, clothing, mentoring, support, counseling. So it’s a natural connection.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a long tradition here in Washington DC, and I would imagine every city in the United States would make this claim, that again, the faith-based institutions are the rocks that their communities are built upon. And you know, offenders come out of the prison system, they generally tend to hang out on a corner, which gets them in trouble. They generally tend to hang out with other organizations or gangs, which gets them into trouble. The faith-based organizations strike me as being a gang for good. So instead of, you know, that person needs companionship, that person needs guidance, that person needs people to embrace him or her; wouldn’t you rather that person be involved in a faith-based organization than hanging out on the corner? Isn’t that the whole idea behind the program?

Christine Keels:  Well, Leonard, let me update you on your terms. We now call it “pro-social”, we don’t call it a “gang”. And so we’re looking for excellent pro-social community support, and the faith-based institutions provide that, from counseling groups as well as activity groups and events that our offenders can attend.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Alright, Marvin, it’s your turn. Now, you’re working. You’re no longer involved in the faith-based program. All of your goals have been pretty much accomplished. How did you do that? Can you tell me a little bit about your story? How did you get involved in the faith-based program, and how did you accomplish all your goals?

Marvin:  Oh, well, I met my mentor through SRTP, a program I was at, Ducie Soza and I come in contact with him for—excuse me—maybe a couple, maybe a month or two.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  After that I lost contact with him. I just decided to do, [PH] it was supposed to have been done anyway, to try to stay out from going back and forth to jail, and be a better individual and a father.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So I just stayed away from the past crowds and spent more time with my family.

Len Sipes:  Did you find the faith-based program to be helpful?

Marvin:  Yeah, I found my mentor, he was real helpful. He was like somebody – he called and tried to keep in contact with me, basically like somebody that really cared, even though I just met him.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And I’m really not too good with just associating with people like that, but the [PH] Lord time that I did know him though, he was okay.

Len Sipes:  Now, a lot of the people coming out of the prison system, they’re pretty suspicious of everybody and everything. How did you find – how comfortable were you with your mentor? You just said that you were a little uncomfortable with this. I mean, most people feel that – you know, coming out of the prison system – feel that everybody is out there, even if they’re trying to help them, they’re doing it for a reason, they’re not really doing it because they really want to help; they really don’t want to help the person under supervision, there’s gotta be another motive. So, did it take a long time for that person to break the ice, to get to know you, to get to talk to you, to build up your confidence?

Marvin:  No, it was just – I guess it was just conversation, the way he spoke, the way he – he didn’t seem like this was a job. This was like something he wanted to do, like he wanted to help me, he wanted to look out for me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So, I decided to start talking to him a little more, and the times that we did talk, it was more like a friendly conversation than this is something that I have to do, or somebody that I have to talk to. But it was more genuine. We was more basically like friends almost.

Len Sipes:  Got it. And how important was that to you in terms of making your transformation from prison to the community? How important was that relationship?

Marvin:  I mean, it was important, ‘cause he tried to make sure – he called and checked up, and made sure my kids and everything was okay. That type of motivation just help me motivate to do what I was supposed to, done what I did, come on the streets.

Len Sipes:  If you, if everybody who came out of the prison system had a mentor like you did, do you think that it’s gonna cut down on people going back to crime, going back to drugs, going back to the corner? Do you think it would be a big help? Do you think it would be of marginal help? How much of an impact, if everybody had a mentor, what do you think the impact would be?

Marvin:  I mean, it could help, but it’s all on what they do, what they mind frame is.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Marvin:  ‘Cause as much as a mentor try to help, if you don’t want no help –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  – you gonna still do what you do, to go right back the way you just came from, or whatever you wanna do.

Len Sipes:  Right. But a lot of people coming out of the prison system, their lives, 80 per cent have histories of substance abuse. A lot of folks coming out of the prison system have mental health issues. A lot of people coming out of the prison system don’t have a job history. I mean they do need help. They do need somebody to guide them, don’t you think?

Marvin:  Yeah, they probably – I think they do need help. A lot of people do need help, and a lot of people need to help theyself by they’s thinking. If they don’t come out wanting to do it, no matter how much help you give them, they not gonna do it.

Len Sipes:  And you know what, Marvin? In 20 years of doing programs—radio and television programs–interviewing folks caught up in the criminal justice system, everybody has pretty much said that, is that you’ve got to have it inside your heart that you really want to change, that you really are going to change. So you’re right. What you’re saying is –  I’ve heard from everybody else. It’s not necessarily the programs, but the programs do help. I mean, you’ve gotta have that intestinal fortitude, you’ve gotta have that determination that you’re gonna succeed, but some people, you know – how many people have I run into in  life who said, “I’m not going back to prison” but ended up back in prison? You know, sometimes a mentor can make all the difference, and I’m just wondering if that’s right or wrong?

Marvin:  No, they get – I mean, you right, you absolutely right because a lot of people need help regardless, and just with somebody they can sit down and talk to, that could be a start. There might be individuals that didn’t like to listen, and they pay [INDISCERNIBLE] or sitting down and listening could help them in their future now. So somebody wanna sit back and speak to you, it ain’t – they not telling you what to do, they talking to you.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:   They ask you and they trying to help you, so that mean a whole lot than somebody saying “go do this”.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And you like, “I really don’t want to, so I’m not” instead of “C’mon, let me go with you while we do this.”

Len Sipes:  Right. All right, Julia, I’m gonna go over to you. I’m not gonna use your last name. You’re currently under supervision. You’re a homemaker. You have three grandchildren at home, so thank you very much for having the fortitude to take your three grandchildren. You said that your goals were to get sober, to be a better parent, and you’re looking for work. How are you gonna find work and take care of three grandkids at the same time? That’s a huge job!

Julia:  Well I’m actually, at this present time, all my grandchildren do not reside in the same home as I do, but I do babysit them a lot, and I do spend time with them, a lot more now than I have in the past. As far as finding work, when I completed the Lifetime Makeover, which is a faith initiative based group, it gave me more confidence in myself, and then someone will probably say, “Well, why would you need to go to a group, you know, to believe in yourself again?” Because sometimes in life, when you’ve been in the criminal justice system, and you’re already labeled by society that, you know, this person got locked up, and you know, they’re just no good, and they can’t re-enter back into society and they can’t, you know, do anything but the same old things again, these groups help. Personally for myself, it helped me with my self-esteem. It made me believe that I always wanted to be a homeowner, that I know one day I could be a home owner. For all the goals and dreams that I ever had in life, I believe now more so than ever that I can do these things; and it was all from being a part of that group.

Len Sipes:  Now, if the group wasn’t there, if you came out of the prison system and the group did not exist and you were entirely on your own, you would have what most agencies call a parole and probation agent. We call them community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. But if you didn’t have the auspices of the faith-based group, if you didn’t have all of these various programs that we talked about at the beginning of the program, where would you be now?

Julia:  I think it goes back to the statement that Marvin made, it’s all up to the individual. But I found within inside myself, with the group, it helped. It’s like unity. It’s like a small family. It’s a lot of support. It just gives you that initiative that you want to do better, you know? And you’re not labeled. And it’s like a family, you know, and it’s just so many things that you know you always probably could do, but you know, you really know now that you can do it, because there’s so much support. You know? And it’s people that really care, it’s not just groups that they’ve thrown together and they say, “Well, you have to do it because you’re on probation, or your probation officer suggested this.” You’re selected, you know, for these groups, and it’s because you’re in compliance and you’re doing the right things. And also, even if you’re not in compliance, some of the groups are there to help you, because they want you to get in compliance and be able to get back out in the work world, in society, to be able to live your life, you know, as a normal person without drugs and alcohol –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  – and all of the things that we should do anyway.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So, I just think it’s awesome. I really do personally. A lot of people probably would say, “Well, you know, I don’t want to do this and that, I already have to report. You know, I have to do your analysis test. You know, they got me doing enough things, so why should I do this?” But that’s the whole secret to it, that one thing that they want you to do is the answer to everything.

Len Sipes:  First round and we’re already halfway through the program. Even before we get to go with the question number two, I want to re-introduce our guest today, Christine Keels, program manager of faith-based initiatives from my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. Marvin, who is currently under supervision, who is off the program, he’s just basically accomplished all of his goals, and the last person you heard from is Julia. She is currently under supervision and she is doing extraordinarily well. I do want to give out the web site for Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency,,, and Christine has foolishly decided to give out her phone number, 202-515-0892; 202-515-0892. I do want everybody to fill up Christine’s phone mailbox, and I’ll be mentioning the web site and Christine’s contact point throughout the program. Christine, we do want more people from more faith-based institutions to mentor more people caught up in the criminal justice system. The clusters, although – we’re the federal government, so we can’t accept donations, but our three clusters—the Lead Faith organizations that much pretty much organize the city for us, they can take donations. So if anybody wants to talk about providing donations through this extraordinarily worthy cause, they can get back in touch with us.

Christine Keels:  Yes, and let me correct the phone number. It’s 202-510-0892. That’s 202-510-0892. That’s my government cell phone, and I’d love to talk to you.

Len Sipes:  You know, I’ve got a group of people up in New York, and I constantly make reference to them because whenever I screw up a name, I get e-mails saying, “Leonard, you can’t pronounce a name to save your life!” Now they’re gonna say, “Leonard, you can’t get a phone number correct to save your life.” So, in any event, Christine, you know, the faith-based concept, you know, government can only do so much. Government has always been somewhat limited in terms of what it is that we can do. We don’t have the legitimacy of the faith-based organizations. You go to any Baptist church, you go into any mosque, you go into any synagogue, they’re the power. There is the power.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  Here are the people who have access, the jobs. Here are the people who have access to resources. Here are the people who care.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  And that, to me, has always been the power of the faith-based initiative. I mean, people caught up in the criminal justice systems take a look at people like you and I saying, “Well, you’re paid to do this.” But they take a look at the volunteers and they’re saying, “Hey, they’re not paid to do this, so they’re doing this because they want to help me get over all the ills that I’ve had in my life, and they want to see me succeed.” Isn’t that the heart and soul of the faith-based initiative?

Christine Keels:  Yes, and for me, it fulfills my mission and helps me fulfill my faith journey as well. And to have people in the community who oftentimes our offenders already know, they already know these folks, they’ve gone to the faith institutions, they know them as Miss Suzy next door or Mr. Charles down the street. And to help them to reconnect with those persons is just so important. And our faith-based mentors are very committed. They are volunteers, which means they are not paid. They come to us with a lot of skills and talents from their professional and life skills, and they’re able to bring that back to us and to share, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  – and we’re just so appreciative of that. We do provide training on basic mentoring, communication, and a number of other special emphasis skills.  Marvin referred to our secured residential treatment facility, which is a place where he participated in a diagnosis of his addiction, and that particular program prepared him for a mentor.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  A mentor came in, and then began to help him remember “What are some of the triggers, what are some of the things that he needs to watch out for, how does he prevent relapse?” And so the mentors are just – they’re life coaches.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  You know, we think of the word “mentor” and we think of when we were teenagers, somebody who took us to the circus and took us to the zoo, and I tell our offenders that if you wanna go to the circus or the zoo, we’ll take you there; but the basic role of the mentors is to help them make decisions, find resources and to be able to communicate effectively with their community supervision officers.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  Those are skills that they take into their life, beyond CSOSA.

Len Sipes:  I want to get back to a question to any one of you, but particularly Marvin and Julia. We talked about this a little bit before the program, and that is that people have stereotypes of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Now, again, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, interviewing people caught up in the criminal justice system, both on radio and television, and I said before the program that, you know, people have this image in their mind of criminal, and they have a preconceived notion. They’ve watched the evening news, they’ve read the newspaper, they’ve looked at the cable stations, the programs about people in prison, and they say to themselves, “I don’t want to come into contact with anybody who has been caught up in the criminal justice system. All I hear about are the negatives. Parolee does this, parolee does that.” So how do you break through that in terms of when you go on the job, when you deal with your mentor? And does mentoring help you overcome that stereotype that society has of you? Julia, I’m gonna start with you. So Julia, you’re a criminal.

Julia:  Well, no, I’m not a criminal. I committed a criminal act. I would say to anyone in the criminal justice system, just know that, you know, you’re a human being and you made a mistake. I could use for an example, let’s say a doctor. You know, a doctor could not have done a surgery in over 20 years, and he performs a surgery on a patient and he makes an awful mistake, and it calls for a malpractice suit.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So does that make him a criminal? I mean, do you wanna just take his license from him because he did a poor operation he didn’t do? So, I mean, look at people that have committed crimes in the same manner. We deserve, you know, another chance. And some of us don’t get it right the first time.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Sometimes we get convicted two, three, four times. You know, some of us get it right, and then some of us may never get it right. But it’s up to that individual. You know, it’s up to what you want to do in life. But just society as a whole, I mean, I believe that overall, maybe every state in the United States, there’s one family or more where someone in their family has been in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So if you were to say, “Well, I’m not gonna hire her because, you know, she got caught for shoplifting”, and you know, you have a store. Why not give her that chance? You know, because she did it once, doesn’t mean she’ll do it again. It’s not that every offender is a repeat offender. And for those that are, they still deserve a chance.

Len Sipes:  Now did the faith-based environment give you the strength, give you the confidence, build you up to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t care what the stereotype is –

Julia:  Oh, very much so!

Len Sipes:  – I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of doing –

Julia:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  – I’m not gonna let that stereotype get in my way. I’m gonna succeed.” Now did the faith-based environment help you get there?

Julia:  It helped me in a way that only me and my Higher Power know. And I say that because, as I said before, a lot of people that are in the criminal justice system, they lose faith in their self. They lose that self-esteem. They lose the love that they have for their self as a human being.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  Because, like you said, you’re stereotyped. But I wake up every morning, I thank God for waking me up. I have wonderful children, I have beautiful grandchildren. I have a loving family overall, which was there anyway –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  – before I even got in trouble.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  I mean, I just believe everyone deserves a chance, and that’s just why I used the doctor, for example.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, I’m gonna go and basically ask the same question of you. I mean, people take a look, hear the word “criminal” and they have that vision in their mind, and as far as they’re concerned, that’s it. They say to themselves, “You know, we’ve got people without work, we’ve got elderly people who need to be taken care of, we’ve got schools that need to be taken care of, why am I gonna spend my time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”. So why would people spend their time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”?

Marvin:  Okay, I look at criminal, that’s just a – I guess that’s just a nametag or something you get when you make a mistake. I ain’t so sure, you know what I’m saying, but it’s all on – I mean, if you gotta go to these type of people and that’s the way they look at you, then there’s really not too much you can do about it. It’s something that they gotta work on and change, ‘cause there’s gonna be somebody that’s gonna have – wherever you got that name tag and that, eventually, and then you just gotta do the best at what you can get.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm. And again, I get back to the power of the faith-based program. I get back to that, because in my mind, I don’t care what situation you are  in life, if you surround yourself with positive influences, if you surround yourself with positive people, everybody – everybody listening to this program and everybody in this room, including me, has had tough times. And you need to surround yourself with positive people who are gonna embrace you and lift you up and say, “Uh-huh, what’s happening now is temporary. Here’s where you going.” To me, every time I’ve dealt with a faith-based program, that’s my takeaway, that there are people there who are willing to help people cross that bridge. Chris?

Christine Keels:  When we make mistakes, the most important formula is nurture and care. We restore ourselves from any mistake we make with nurture and care. And so when someone makes a mistake, the rest of the community around that person has to provide nurture and care. In order to be restored again, I say nurture and care. Even when a baby falls from his attempt to walk, we provide nurture and care. We say, “Get up, try it again.” And we tell them the new way to try it. We don’t say, you know, “Fall again”, we tell them a new way to be able to make that walk perfectly. And life is a walk. We all go through this journey from life to death, and so what we do is continue to nurture and care. And the faith-based institution, that’s their number two ingredient—number one and number two ingredient–nurture and care.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  And so we can’t afford to give up on anybody.

Len Sipes:  Well, but people do. We give up on people all the time. We give up and you know, we say, “They’re a drug addict. I don’t have time with deal with drug addicts. They’re an alcoholic. I don’t have time to deal with alcoholics.  They’re people who are just hanging out on the corner, why are they always hanging out on the corner? I don’t wanna deal with that person.” That’s the image that people have. Now admittedly when we first started the faith-based program, it’s not like everybody flocked to our side.

Christine Keels:  That’s true.

Len Sipes:  Okay? And they had to overcome. Even the faith-based community had to overcome that stereotype. But now you’ve built a small army.

Christine Keels:  Well, I did that by making sure people realized that they’re –

Len Sipes:  Even the cluster coordinators –

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry, not the –

Christine Keels:  Not just Miss Keels, not just Miss Keels –

Len Sipes:  – not just the cluster coordinator part of it.

Christine Keels:  – my entire team.

Len Sipes:  That’s right, the entire team.

Christine Keels:  Over 500 people or more –

Len Sipes:  That’s right.

Christine Keels:  – have put this together. What we do is put a face in front of that label. We get rid of the label by putting a face, a personality, and flesh around that, so that people can see it’s a human being–human beings make mistakes—and that we provide nurture and care. And CSISO is very, very strong on support, resources and building. And so putting CSISO with the faith-based community, what a wonderful match of being able to look at “How do you help someone restore themselves, revive themselves?”  You know, someone said to me one time, “How do you revive something that didn’t exist? If the person didn’t have it in them, how do you revive it?” Then you create it, you mold it, you shape it, you introduce it, so that you bring that person back to a level of competency, so that they can live successfully.

Len Sipes:  But the important thing that people need to hear is that these programs do help individuals caught up in the criminal justice system cross that bridge. Because when they cross that bridge, look at in Julia’s case, she’s taking care of three children.

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  There’s three human beings who are now taken care of because she was able to cross that bridge. People go from tax burdens to tax payers. People go from committing crimes to not committing crimes.

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  People go from not taking care of their kids to taking care of the kids. I mean, these are the successes that you pull off routinely. And I mean, Marvin and Julia, chime in here. Am I right or wrong?

Julia:  You’re right. You’re absolutely right—excuse me.

Len Sipes:  Now I know you have to have it inside you. I know it’s just not the availability of the program. You have to have the willingness to change, as Marvin said at the beginning of the program. But if you don’t have the opportunities, if you don’t have people surrounding you who are gonna lift you up, what happens to you?

Julia:  Then you’ll fall astray, and that’s just being honest and that’s facing reality. It feels good with the mentors when they give you their card or their phone number and they say, “You can call me any time—morning, noon and night.” I mean, how many people will do that? I mean, even your best friend. You know, you call the house at five in the morning, “What do you want?”   So for someone to care that much about you, then why should you not care about yourself? If they’re willing to believe in you and give you a chance, why can’t you believe in yourself? It’s so remarkable, and it’s so overwhelming. It was even moments during my sessions at group that, I mean I’m not embarrassed to say it, I even went home and cried.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Because it was just overwhelming that someone loved me that much and believed in me that much. And it just made me know that I can do anything now. I know it takes time. You know, I didn’t make a mistake overnight. My life is just not gonna snap in the instant of a finger and become better overnight. But I’m sitting here today doing an interview with you, so this is a –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, that’s, that’s –

Julia:  – a big plus, you know? I’ve never did a radio interview, you know, so it’s showing growth already with me.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, you’ve got just a couple of seconds, because we have to give 30 seconds to close. So you’ve heard everything that I’ve said in terms of this whole concept of the group coming to your assistance. Does it really make a difference? It made a difference in your life. Does it really make a difference in the lives of others?

Marvin:  Yeah, it can; as long as they let it.

Len Sipes:  As long as they let it.

Marvin:  As long as they let it. If they don’t – I mean, it’s basically on the individual. They gotta want it, and there’s help for them. It might take time for them to open up for the help, but as long as they let it happen then it’ll work for them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Marvin, you’ve got the final word. I really do appreciate everybody being here today. I love it whenever I do a program on faith-based initiative and hearing the success stories of the people involved. And so to Marvin and Julia, thank you very much. And to Christine Keels, and to all the faith-based people within the faith-based community in Washington DC and throughout the United States and throughout the world, we really appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. We appreciate your comments. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


GPS Monitoring of Criminal Offenders-Florida State University-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on GPS global positioning systems or electronic monitoring. We have Bill Bales on from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. They just recently completed a study of 5,000 offenders in terms of the impacts of electronic monitoring and global positioning systems, and some of those results were pretty good. We also have Carlton Butler, a program administrator for GPS for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve been doing GPS monitoring since 2003, so the whole idea, ladies and gentlemen, is to take a look at electronic monitoring, global positioning system monitoring, finding out whether or not it works to reduce recidivism. According to the Florida State University study, it does. And with that introduction, Bill Bales and Carlton Butler, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Butler:  Thank you, Len.

Bill Bales:  Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, the first question’s gonna go to you. Now this is an impressive study. We’re talking about 5,000 offenders were part of the study, and then you do represent one of the premier research organizations in the United States, the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. So the thing that I find amazing when I read your report, is that reduce risk of failure by 31 per cent. You’ve reduced – the program, GPS program, electronic monitoring reduces absconding, it reduces revocations, it reduces new crimes. One of the really interesting things that I found is that it’s used as an alternative to prison in about a third of all cases. And considering how states are really struggling with their correctional budgets, I think all of that is a pretty impressive set of findings. So Bill, can you give me a sense as to the larger study and what it really means?

Bill Bales:  Certainly. Yeah, the study involved—and I think this is very important—it involved medium and high-risk felony offenders in Florida. And Florida currently has almost 3,000 people on electronic monitoring. Almost all of those are Global Positioning System cases, and we did a very, what I believe is a sophisticated study of complicated matching of offenders who were placed on GPS versus similar offenders not placed on GPS, and then tracked them. So essentially, we have what we believe is a very equivalent control and experimental group, and the findings are very robust in the sense that just over 30 percent reduction in the likelihood of failure for the same type of offender on EM as non-EM. So that – it’s a finding that again, is very unequivocal from an empirical standpoint, and we believe is very sound from a research perspective. And like you said, Leonard, we also found that about a third of these offenders on electronic monitoring would have been in prison if not for electronic monitoring. And we also found somewhat surprising is that when you look at the effect of EM on outcomes, it’s fairly similar across different offender types in terms of younger versus older, male versus female. Across offense types, we found very similar results, except for among violent offenders the effect was not quite as great, but it was still a significant reduction in new crimes and absconding and violations. So it’s not as though Global Positioning Systems are only useful and effective for certain types of offenders, it’s pretty much across the board. So that was a very positive effect.

Len Sipes:  Now the findings of the research are significant, because all of us read criminological research as it pertains to reducing recidivism, reducing offending, reducing new crimes.

Bill Bales:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And ordinarily, those results, if they are positive, range in the 10 to 20 percent. The outer limits of a lot of the programs that are used around the country are about 20 percent. I mean, you’ve reduced the risk of failure by 31 percent. That makes your study one of the most significant research findings in criminology regarding managing people on community supervision, correct?

Bill Bales:  That is correct, yes. You’re exactly right. There’s a lot of the empirical research in criminology, if we find effects of various types of programs and interventions, they tend to be fairly marginal effects, if any. So yes, this is a very strong finding. And I will also mention that this project was funded by the National Institute of Justice, and the initial report went through a very rigorous peer review process. So these are findings that have been sanctioned and approved by, you know, other experts outside of certainly our college here.

Len Sipes:  Right, you’re a part of the Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice funds research on the basis of – under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice. So generally speaking, whatever research they fund is peer reviewed and methodologically correct.

Bill Bales:  Right. Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct. Yes.

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we’ve been doing – Carlton Butler, program administrator for our program here in Washington DC under the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency–we’ve been doing GPS since 2003, correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. We have been.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now when one of the things that I have found is that there’s just a wide array of evidence, there’s a wide array of stories in terms of the success of GPS. One that comes to mind simply in terms of apprehending an individual, we found that was a person that was involved in a series of sex crimes against young girls. And the picture was put out, and one of our community supervision officers, known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, recognized the face, looked at the GPS tracking system, was able to tie him in to exactly the locations and times that these crimes were committed, worked with the metropolitan police department, and arrested him. So GPS not only has a deterrent value, it has an apprehension value.

Carlton Butler:  Yes it does. Here in DC, Len, we have a partnership program with all our law enforcement partners. We call it the Crimes and Correlation Program, and in that program we offer limited access to our law enforcement partners, and they use crime data to help resolve crimes in the neighborhood. And under that particular case was one of those instances where the Crimes and Correlation Program worked very well.

Len Sipes:  And again, I think the point needs to be made is that law enforcement has access to our GPS tracking data. So not only do we, within the agency, keep track of individuals under supervision, law enforcement has access to that tracking data directly. They can see on any given day, if they have a suspect, where he’s been and where he is.

Carlton Butler:  That is correct, but they also use it for some extended purposes as well. In the District of Columbia, unfortunately there is some issues with gang interaction.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And they use the program to set up what we call global zones throughout the city, to help track who’s actually entering those zones, to be able to match individuals up who might be involved in gang activity, and/or new criminal activities. So they kind of use it to the extent where they do use it for tracking new crimes. But they also use it for crime prevention as well.

Len Sipes:  Bill, I’m gonna go back to you. Now your research shows a reduction in absconding, a reduction in revocations, of reduction in new crimes. Once again, I mean these are just extraordinary findings. It is just – GPS seems to be certainly something that’s gonna be used in the future. You also estimate that five billion offenders are electronic monitoring or GPS somewhere in the United States, correct?

Bill Bales:  I believe that’s the figure. I don’t recall it right off the top of my head –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Bales:  – to be honest with you. Yes, I know that it’s – certainly it’s expanding as, you know, correctional and preventative type of tool that’s available to various states throughout the country. And my sense is that it will be a method used more and more in the future because of its effectiveness, and the fact that it’s anywhere from six to seven times cheaper than sending someone to state prison or federal prison.

Len Sipes:  And we all agree that states are suffering. I’m not going to get into a debate about the efficacy of incarceration, I’ll leave that to others to decide, but we do know that states throughout the United States, virtually all of them, they’ve got to reduce the budgets of state agencies across the board. What I’ve read in my reading of newspaper articles and media reports, the budget cuts have been the prominent point of concern in the media. The budget difficulties with state agencies and local agencies, we have laying off police officers, closing down prisons, reducing the amount of people in the state attorney’s office and public defenders offices, and the states are saying, “Hey, we have absolutely no choice but to do this, because we’ve got to operate within the confines of the budgets that are given us.” So what this seems to say to me is that GPS is a viable alternative to use as those states try to figure out how to protect public safety, and at the same time, how to manage their own budget. That seems to me that GPS is certainly going to be part of that mix.

Bill Bales:  Yes. I would certainly agree with you 100 percent. There’s no question. Every state in the country is under dire, you know, financial straits at the moment, and Corrections, at least in Florida, the current budget is about 2.5 billion a year.  And it’s almost 10 percent of the state budget, and most of that is in the area of prisons. So certainly to the extent that you can reduce the prison population by even a percent or two, you can make a huge dent in the state budget when we have big deficits.

Len Sipes:  And out of pure curiosity, Bill, one of the things, when I read this study and it came out through the Department of Justice mailing list, I guess I’m a bit surprised that mainstream media has not picked up on this, that other organizations have not picked up on this, that again, the significance of these findings are I guess somewhat short of astounding. Are you getting a lot of coverage for the research?

Bill Bales:  Well, yeah, we’ve gotten numerous enquiries from just really a host of entities. Several states have contacted us that are considering either starting or expanding their GPS programs. And so, legislative bodies have contacted us, governor’s offices. Yeah, we’ve received quite a bit of attention because of the policy implications and the possible cost savings of this technology, which in the scheme of things is relatively new as a correctional strategy. So obviously we’d want more attention, but hopefully others will build on this research to the extent that researchers continue to find positive outcomes of this technology. My sense is it will get more and more attention from policy makers.

Len Sipes:  I guess my observation is that I’m personally surprised it’s not on the front page of USA Today. To me, after all of my years in criminal justice and criminology, to me this is one of the prominent, most significant studies out there. But one of the questions I want to put to Carlton, and Bill, you can chime in if you like, but let’s give Carlton the first crack at this, is that we’re not saying that this is a panacea. I mean, offenders cut these devices off all the time. They have to be recharged. You lose the GPS signal if you go inside of a building. There are ways, and we’re not to discuss specifically what they are, but offenders do try to defeat GPS devices. So this is certainly not a panacea. It’s certainly not foolproof, and it takes a tremendous amount of administration. You suddenly have parole and probation agents—in our case, community supervision officers—with a ton of data that they have to sift through. So this is not as easy as simply slapping on a GPS anklet on that person. Carlton, you wanna take a shot at all that?

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree this program is not a panacea. It doesn’t replace the supervision officer with their supervision duties on a particular offender. I would say, however, I think the technology has improved a great deal over the last at least three years, and I think that within the next year or so, we will probably see some more advancement to the equipment. What I mean by that is that obviously there are offenders who will attempt to circumvent the system, and because we know this exists, the GPS practitioners are working very hard with vendors to make sure that their devices are updated to be able to kind of help with those kinds of situations. One of the things that I know is prevalent most now in this industry is efforts to shield the device in efforts to jam the device.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  And I do know that that is on the forefront of the vendors, manufacturers, to make sure that their device has the ability to detect those type of things. And I would also like to say too, there’s a national committee that was conformed by the National Institution of Justice, and it’s made up of 35 members. Out of that group, it’s probably, I would say, about 25 or 27 practitioners on that. In fact, Mr. [PH] Sanifield, who is the administrator, and I’m sure Bill worked with in Florida, is a member of that committee. And in that committee, we’re doing something unlike what has been done in the past, and that is we’re writing national standards for GPS. And the reason why we’re doing that, because as Bill said earlier in one of his statements, we see the technology or need for the technology to be increasing. And because of that, most practitioners right now who are trying to start up programs, don’t have a whole lot of information unless they reach out to one of their – someone that already has done. So, we hope that these standards will help individuals who want to develop or enhance their GPS program, because there will be a lot of data shared in these standards.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me introduce our guests—Bill Bales from the Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site for the Florida State University Department of Criminology is I’m gonna give that out several times throughout the course of the program. Carlton Butler is a program administrator for my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are the parole and probation agency here for Washington DC. We’re a federal agency, We just redid our fact sheet on GPS, which is gonna be on the main page of our web site, so if anybody’s interested in what it is that we do here.  Bill, okay; back to you. You’ve heard Carlton say that there’s a need for national standards, and the committee that he’s working with is there. There’s a need for national standards on GPS. Do you agree?

Bill Bales:  Yes, I think that makes total sense. It is like, as Leonard knows—I mean, as you know and as Carlton knows—it’s a fairly sophisticated technology. But based on our research–and part of that involved actually going out throughout the state of Florida and interviewing those probation officers and administrators, and also offenders—we found that they were well trained, and a lot of that had to do with the vendor themselves, that were very much involved with the community corrections folks that used this technology. And I think that was extremely advantageous, that they have a very close working relationship, and they have mutual goals in mind in terms of, you know, having this GPS system work properly. And the other thing that we witnessed, which was very positive, was there’s continuous efforts to improve not just the technology itself, but just the process of implementing and using this technology to keep offenders from violating. And so I think that’s a critical component of this, is the type of relationships and partnerships that the vendors and the correctional organization has. And one thing—and I’ll plug this just very quickly—the Department of Corrections did in Florida is they determined that so many of the quote “violations” that occurred while people were on GPS, were very very minor instances; like you mentioned, where the GPS device or signal was lost. So they worked with the vendor and implemented a monitoring center that the vendor maintains. And so all the alerts that occur go directly to the vendor, their monitoring center, and 99 percent of them, they can handle and clear without an incident. But the supervising officer is aware of those, but they don’t have to respond to them instantly. So, that’s been a tremendous assistance to the officers in terms of the time involved in working with their GPS case load. So, I think there are a lot of – there are numerous things, initiatives that can be used and expanded as this, you know, capability moves forward.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, that’s one of the things that you advocated and implemented here, is to have the vendor basically take care of all that minor stuff so the community supervision officers can focus on the big part of the violation.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, we did, Len. And also, one of the things that I read in Bill’s report, and that was one of the things that one of the probationary officer’s stated; they would have liked the opportunity to work with the EM program, actually in the unit prior to be given case loads of offenders on EM. I think that’s significant, because one, it gives them the training skill that they need; and two, it helps them to understand what some of the alerts that they actually receive, because oftentimes they get so many alerts and it’s so overwhelming to them, because there’s so much data for them to filter through. This is one of the reasons why we elected to go to the monitoring center, so that we would have someone that was a little more trained and a little more skilled to farm through that data first, before that data would be generated to the probationary officer, so they would know what to do with it beyond that point.

Len Sipes:  I remember talking to a reporter from Massachusetts who basically was a little upset with the system in Massachusetts–and that’s another story for another time–but basically talking about GPS as being over-sold and over-promised. And my sense was that well, how can you possibly over-sell or over-promise GPS? The offender can just snip it off and walk away from the unit. There are no guarantees on GPS, but this is why I was so excited about Bill Bales study, because it basically says, “Yeah, there are endless problems with GPS, there are endless complications, it’s hard to administer, it throws just an unbelievable amount of information.” Remember, the average parole and probation agent in this country sees that offender on a twice a month basis for two 15-minute interviews in an office. That’s what ordinarily happens throughout the United States. Now, you’re getting a ton of data, flow of data, every single day on every single offender who’s on GPS. That becomes difficult to deal with. But let me go back to what I originally said, and Bill, we’ll start with you. I mean, again, this is not a panacea, this is not – nobody should be selling this as something that’s going to quote/unquote “solve supervision problems”.

Bill Bales:  That’s correct, and officers told us that numerous times, that GPS is a tool. But you can never replace the responsibilities and efforts and the things that officers do to keep offenders from violating. And so while pretty much ever officer we talked to thought that GPS was a very effective tool at their disposal, you still have to have that one-on-one contact between the officer and the offender and the, you know, unannounced visits to their homes and their places of employment, and so forth and so on. So, yeah, we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is just one tool that appears to be extremely effective. But we can’t lose sight of the incredible value that these officers bring to the table in terms of dealing with, you know, especially very serious offenders, many of whom, at least in Florida, 75 percent are sex offenders. And so, we can’t lose sight of the incredible work the officers do in this regard.

Len Sipes:  And Carlton, you have essentially said the same thing, that in terms of the individual officers, it’s – you’ve gotta continue working hard supervising your offenders in person. You’ve gotta work with them, you’ve gotta get them involved in treatment programs, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re working, you’ve gotta be sure that they’re following the conditions of their supervision. The GPS system is simply nothing more than a tool.

Carlton Butler:  I agree, that it is simply a tool, and that is it’s data, as you said, it’s a lot of data that you have to absorb and try to dissect. But that’s all that it is, is data. That one-on-one contact with the offender tends to give the supervision officer a whole other realm of information that the GPS device will never be able to provide. What the GPS device pretty much provides is locations and maps of where the offender would actually frequent. But in terms of – and it might give them some information on new collateral contacts where they may have not known where the offender was going, of certain places he was going.

Len Sipes:  Or, if sex offenders are hanging out at playgrounds.

Carlton Butler:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And we also use this as a curfew. We can restrict them to their house, we can restrict them to their block, we can restrict them to a certain part of the city. And we can, as they comply with the methods of supervision, we can ease up on GPS supervision. We can give them more freedom and more flexibility to reward them for complying with the terms of their supervision.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, that’s true, and these are the types of things we’re able to do here in DC, that’s been very effective in my use of GPS.

Len Sipes:  Okay, gentlemen, we have four minutes left in the program, and I need 30 seconds to close, so that’s three-and-a-half minutes. Bill, where do we go with GPS? With your research, it seems to indicate that this has a major impact not only on state budgets, but it has a major impact or potential for reducing crime, for reducing problems under supervision. Where do we go to from here?

Bill Bales:  Well, I think certainly we need to continue to do the research. I mean, our research was but strictly in one state, and it was a population of medium and high risk felony offenders, so as you all know, GPS has been expanding to local jails and other types of correctional facilities. So I think that’s one area. I think the other area is in terms of the application of GPS to various types of offenders, and also the level of discretion that probation officers and administrators have in the use of GPS, because currently, at least in Florida, that’s all determined by the judge. And from what we observed in talking to people, was that something that the states and locals should consider is giving more discretion to the probation offices in terms of the application of GPS, in terms of when an offender needs to be on it, when they need to be off of it; and because they work with the offenders on a consistent basis, and they know when an offender may be going south, and when this tool could possibly be applied to prevent that from getting worse.

Len Sipes:  So more jurisdiction, more authority at the local level to make those decisions in the field based upon conditions and not necessarily what the judge has to say or what the parole commission has to say, to give that flexibility and freedom to the people in the field to make those decisions.

Bill Bales:  Right, yeah. There’s been laws, like the Jessica Lunsford law in Florida where it ties the judge’s hands as to who gets put on GPS. But as I know Carlton knows, every case is different, and what tool we need to bring to the table to, you know, reduce the likelihood of failure, is variable across different types of offenders, different situations. So I think the states, the policy makers, real need to look at this in a very objective way and say, “Okay, this tool seems to be incredibly effective. How can we apply it in a more reasonable, objective and effective manner to the right population at the right points in time of their supervision?”

Len Sipes:  Carlton, we only have about a minute left. That’s basically what you’ve said as well.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, it is.

Len Sipes:  That really, it really cannot be a hard and fast rule. It can’t be a hard and fast application that the community supervision officer/parole and probation agent needs to be involved in this, and really needs to make decisions in terms of when to apply it, when to take them off, how long to keep them on.

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, I agree. I agree with everything that Bill has said. I do know that however with the Jessica law, there is a loophole in it that might present a problem. One is that from the time the individual comes off of probation and have life in GPS, there’s nobody to really supervise them after they come off probation or supervision.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Carlton Butler:  So hopefully they can fix that part of the law, because that’s been a challenge to the industry.

Len Sipes:  Alright, Carlton, I’m gonna give you the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We’ve been talking to Bill Bales, Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web site is Also being with us today, or also on our air is Carlton Butler, program administrator for my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. The program administrator for the GPS program, The research that I’ve been talking about today it’s called “A Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Electronic Monitoring”. Ladies and gentlemen, we do want to thank you for your letters, for your phone calls, for your e-mails, for suggestions in terms of what we can do to improve the show. Comments and criticisms are always welcome, and I do want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Application of Crime Research to Cities and States-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes.  A real treat for us, ladies and gentlemen, today, John Roman, he’s the Senior Fellow of the Urban Institute.  The Urban Institute has been around since 1968.  They offer an endless array of good quality research.  It’s one of the most respected organizations in the United States in terms of dealing with research and urban problems, specifically crime problems.  John is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  He is also a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.  One of the things we’re going to discuss today is the application of crime research to cities and states; what does it mean?

In fact most cities and most states throughout the United States pretty much fly by the seat of their pants in terms of the decisions they make regarding crime policy.  In the District of Columbia, what the city and what the Urban Institute is trying to do is to take a look at a wide array of research, existing research, new research, to guide city government in the District of Columbia.  But it’s not about DC.  The larger issue is, like I said, the title: application of crime research to cities and states, and with that long introduction, John Roman, senior fellow Urban Institute.  Welcome to DC Public Safety.

John Roman:  Thanks for having me on.

Len Sipes:  John, it’s been a real pleasure.  You know, I’ve been reading your research over the course of years, and in essence what I’m getting from all of this is that what the District of Columbia, and this lesson again applies to every other city in the country, every other state in the country, what the District of Columbia is trying to do is to take your research from the Urban Institute, one of the most respected research organizations in the country, and say to themselves:  Is there any way that we can use research to better do what we do to increase public safety?  To reduce our costs?  To make us more efficient?  Do I have it?

John Roman:  That’s it in a nutshell.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do?  What does that mean?  Can you give me a sense as to what it is you do on a day-to-day basis?  You look at existing research?  You’re doing original research?

John Roman:  We’re doing both.  So the idea is that we want to work as a partner to the local and federal agencies who operate in DC, and that’s all the criminal justice agencies and youth agencies and family serving agencies, and think about crime as a problem that exists in a city that’s about the city and about the people there, and it’s not specific to specific actors or specific places or specific kinds of people.  It’s just a phenomenon that exists, and you need to think about it holistically if you’re going to do anything about it.

So if you’re thinking about juvenile justice, you have to think about the schools.  You have to think about families, peers – It’s not just about, you know, the facility that you take the worst kid to and lock them up for a period of time.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So what we try and do is we try and do a couple of different things, so we think about what is going on in the research community at large.  We think about what other people have learned, other places and other times, about what’s been effective for solving particular problems, and we try to figure out what it would cost to do those things in the District of Columbia, and what the expected benefits would be to the citizens of DC if we did those things here and try and make recommendation to the mayor’s office and to all the partner agencies about what we think we could do here to actually have less crime for less money, more public safety for less of an investment.

Len Sipes:  When I was starting off the program, I said most states fly by the seat of their pants.  When I was the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, I was in with the Secretary of Public Safety when the Governor of the State of Maryland called and said, “You know what?  I saw this ABC Special on boot camps.  I really like this thing.  We should do this.”

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And the decision to do boot camps in the state of Maryland was made instantaneously in terms of a 30 second phone call between the Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety.  That’s how most criminal justice, criminological decisions, criminal justice decisions are made in most states and most cities throughout this country.  That’s a guess on my part.  Is there, is it a very large guess?

John Roman:  Um, that’s absolutely right.  I mean, I don’t think there’s much of a research base in most public agencies, whether they’re state level or municipal.  They don’t have the capacity to do their own research, and in many instances, they’re really not interested in doing their own research, but the problem that you just highlighted about boot camps is sort of just the classic example that for every difficult problem there’s a solution that is simple, intuitive, and wrong.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The thing that is apparently easiest to sell to your constituents are – There are two kind of things, and neither of them work.  One, are these very simple solutions.  Things like Scared Straight; let’s bring some kids into prison and try to show them how bad prison life is.  Let’s do D.A.R.E.  Let’s bring a police officer into the schools and show them how dangerous drugs are.  Boot camps, let’s get kids up at dawn and make them do pushups.

None of that stuff works, because none of it addresses the underlying reasons why kids become involved in crime.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And then you have, on the other hand, you have deep deep-end solutions like mandatory minimums, three strikes, truth in sentencing.  Long prison sentences that lead to mass incarceration that lead to tremendous drains on state and local governments budgets, that miss the entire point of incarceration which is, there’s a huge body of research that says people make decisions about whether they’re going to commit crime or not depending on whether or not they think they will get caught.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The size of the penalty doesn’t matter.  Am I going to get six months, a year, two years, ten years?  That doesn’t make any difference in my decision making.  I just want to know if I’m going to get caught.

John Roman:  Uh-huh.

Len Sipes:  So huge investments in mass incarceration, long prison sentences.  That doesn’t work either, and there’s lots of stuff in the middle that does work.  People have to be open to the research to hear it.

John Roman:  You’re funded by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice.  It’s where the city gets the money to contract with the Urban Institute to do these things.  You know, there’s an awful lot of things that are intuitive.  There’s an awful lot of things that people, from a very gut level, feel that could work, should work. D.A.R.E is one example.  I mean, D.A.R.E is where you have the police officers in the schools.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  You’re teaching them drug education, and we’ve said over and over again that the research indicates that these programs do not work, and yet they’re very popular. D.A.R.E programs, there’s a lot of people who say, “I don’t care what the research has to say, I like it.”  There’s a lot of people out there who say “I don’t care what the research has to say, I believe a person should serve 20, 30, years in prison for a very serious crime.”  How do you overcome that?

John Roman:  Well, let me talk about D.A.R.E because it’s such a classic example of what goes wrong in the system, and let me talk about what we should do to overcome that.

So with respect to D.A.R.E, so what D.A.R.E does is, it depends on where you are, whether it’s fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth graders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And a police officer comes in.  He’s got his suitcase full of drugs.  He opens up the drugs, and he says, “This is cocaine.  This is heroine.  This is crack.  This is marijuana.  These are the instruments you use to smoke these, to ingest this, to inhale them, to do whatever with them.”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And what you are in fact doing is demystifying drugs for young people who have probably never been exposed to them before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it takes some of the fear out of it and makes it just a little less costly for them to start using because they have got some information.  They’re not as afraid.  Now places that like this model will say, “Well, okay, so it doesn’t reduce drug use, but it does have a couple of benefits.  One of the benefits is it reduces, it improves the legitimacy, it improves how students, school kids, see police officers because they see a police officer in a non-confrontational setting.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

John Roman:  And that makes them just a little more open to what the police officers say to them on the streets.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And the opposite happens where the police officers get to talk to somebody who isn’t in trouble with the law.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  Who’s normal, and that makes them a little better at their job.  But it’s solving a problem that it doesn’t intend to solve, and there might be better ways to do that.

Len Sipes:  We have a question for today’s show, very interesting, coming from Robert Pierre, an editor at the Washington Post.  He asked me the other day, via email, the percentage of the DC population behind bars, and throughout my seventeen-and-a-half years in the District of Columbia, first ten years with the two national organizations and 14 years in Maryland, back for seven-and-a-half years, I’ve constantly seen this reference to 60 percent of the population has spent time behind bars, or certainly over 50 percent of the population has spent time in prison.

Is there a valid basis for that observation?  I’ve never seen the methodology behind those observations, and I’ve never seen something come along and say, this is what we base that estimate on.  So how can you prove it or disprove it?

John Roman:  Right, I mean the way you’d have to answer that question is you’d have to get data from the Department of Corrections in DC, which is the DC Jail, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons – if you are sentenced on a felony in the District of Columbia, you go into the federal system.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  If you have a misdemeanor, you go into the local system, so you need to go to a federal database and a local database.  You need to pull decades worth of data, and you need to figure out how many people went in once, and how many people went over and over and over again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The way people do this, to try and answer this question, is they say, well, there were 50,000 arrests in DC, and over a 10 year period, that means half of all DC citizens must have been arrested, and it’s just not correct.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  That’s just wrong.  People get arrested over and over again.  I did a study of the Philadelphia prison system a few years back and found that 80 percent of the people who spent time in the Philadelphia Jail were there more than once.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And so that means a very small percentage of the population gets into jails.

Len Sipes:  There’s a lot of turnover.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And my response to Robert Pierre, that I mentioned, is: There’s a lot of turnover within the system.

John Roman:  Yes, so, let’s say you have these people – they’re referred to as frequent flyers –

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  cyclers, whatever you want to call them.  Now there is a real issue in the District of Columbia, the Pew Charitable Foundation released a report last year that said that 1 in 31 Americans was somehow, on any given day – which is a kind of different question –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  on any given day, was somehow involved in the criminal justice system via they were incarcerated or they were under some kind of supervision, either post release from prison or awaiting a trial.

Len Sipes:  Right, and BJS has put out the same figures, the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

John Roman:  Right, and in some places, they find that the number – that for Africa American men between 20 and 34, those numbers are as small as 1 in 6, or 1 in 7, or 1 in 8.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So clearly in a city like DC, you have lot of young men who are going to be involved in the criminal justice system on any given day, and that’s an important story.  Sort of making up a number to try and, you know, make it seem like a bigger problem than it is – I don’t think this is the way to get this into the debate, into the public discourse, about trying to do something about this issue.

Len Sipes:  The whole idea is to bust myths in terms of using criminology, using criminological data, using hard data, to come up with good clear solutions instead of, again, flying by the seat of your pants.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  In terms of dealing with something that gets you some coverage, it certainly gets you some attention if you come out and say, quote a statistic that grabs people by the intellectual throat, but there are better ways of doing it, and that’s hard, cold, clear, research, and that’s what you’re advocating.

John Roman:  Right, and I think I can give you a bunch of different examples of this, and why this is important.  I heard an add on the radio last night, and I can’t remember the name of the – it’s an alarm company that responds to burglaries, and I can’t remember their name which is good.  I don’t want to give them any publicity, but the add starts with this sort of ominous message from the announcer saying, “The economy is terrible, and crime continues to increase, and thus you should get our product.”

Well, the reality is that crime has been going down since 1991.  It’s been going down for two decades, and the crime decline has actually accelerated the last couple of years.

Len Sipes:  Almost continuously, and that’s a –

John Roman:  Almost continuously, and we are at crime levels now that we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon was President.

Len Sipes:  Since the 1970’s.

John Roman:  Right, or mid-to-late 60’s.  So if you were 40 years old today, you are probably safer today than you have ever been in your life, and I don’t think that message is getting out, and I think it has one particular consequence which is really too bad.  So the if it bleeds it leads on the news –

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And every time there’s a – crime is very volatile.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So you’ll see a rash of burglaries in one place and then nothing.  You’ll see a deadly weekend where there’s three, four, homicides, and then nothing.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And people only hear about these, these little mini crime waves in their neighborhood or their part of the city, or in the city as a whole, and they use it to conclude that everything is spiraling out of control.

Len Sipes:  Spiraling out of control.  Let’s put up the bars.  Let’s put up alarms, and let’s run for the suburbs.

John Roman:  And let’s pay to have people incarcerated for 30 years.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

John Roman:  When we don’t need to.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Well the whole idea is to get over those myths.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean in the District of Columbia, it is like the national crime scene.  Crime has gone down, certainly not by the national levels or the same amount as the national levels, but crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia.  Violent crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia, but if you watch the evening news, if you read the paper, it doesn’t apply to DC; it applies to any city in the United States; you’re going to get the impression that crime is going up.

When I tell my wife that crime is continuously, almost continuously, gone down for the last 20 years, she looks at me as if I had three heads.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  If you go and do a public forum, if you say that crime has almost continuously down for the last 20 years, again, you have gasps.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s just inconceivable to imagine.  If you watch the network, and it’s amazing, and E has it, The History Channel has it.  Lots of these big cable channels have these shows.  Hard Time, or other sort of – Gangland or other sort of shows, if you – your exposure to the media tells you that you are in danger, and you want these people put in prison for the longest possible period of time, and then you can’t blame people for feeling that way.

John Roman:  So I did an interview last month for The Guardian, which is a distinguished paper in England, and going through all the reasons, explanations for why crime has declined, and there’s actually 15 or 20 different things that we could talk about to explain some of the crime decline, and we sort of walked through all of these things, and this article got a ton of response, hundreds if not thousands of comments, and the overall majority of them were “Well, I don’t believe this.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Crime is going up.”  So if you can’t – if you can’t understand the nature of a problem, you cannot solve it.

Len Sipes:  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute.  They have been around, ladies and gentlemen, since 1960.  It is one of the most respected institutions to look at urban problems, study urban problems, study crime problems.  They have been around since 1960.  John is also the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.

What we’re trying to do is look at the application of crime research to cities and states, not just in the District of Columbia, but throughout the United States, and then try to find the lessons learned.  All right John so –

John Roman:  If I might, I just want to correct one thing you said.

Len Sipes:  Please, please.

John Roman:  So at the peak of the crack epidemic in the late 80’s and early 90’s when crime, violent crime in particular, peaked in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  There were little more than 24,000 homicides.  Last year there were less than 15,000.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So that’s a pretty substantial drop.  Not quite 50 percent.  In the District of Columbia, at the height of the crack epidemic, there were more than 500 homicides, almost 500 homicides.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  This year, DC is on track to about quarter, about 108.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

John Roman:  So that’s a decline of 75 percent or more.

Len Sipes:  That’s unbelievable.

John Roman:  Twice as much as the decline nationally, so a lot of good things have happened in this city.

Len Sipes:  You know, I remember this city being, back early when I was working for the National Crime Prevention Council, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and I remember – we’re going back 30 years now, and you were afraid.  I mean, I’m a former state trooper in Maryland, newly minted with a master’s degree, and coming down and working for these organizations, and being afraid to walk the streets.  DC has changed.  A lot of cities have changed.  You have cities like New York.

Len Sipes:  Right, where you can touch and feel it and smell it, but if you go into Baltimore, Cleveland, lots of cities throughout the United States, and again, if you say that crime has gone down nationally, and crime, in fact, has gone down in your particular city which it has in Baltimore, that people are just going to look at you as if you have 25 heads.

John Roman:  Right, and so it’s really interesting.  If you look at the top – there’s something coming out next week.  I’ll give myself a commercial. WWW.URBAN.ORG, where we look at the top –

Len Sipes:  Oh, I have not mentioned the website, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  It’s one of the reasons I write these things down, so I will repeat that.  I’ll have it in the show notes, and I’ll repeat it a couple of times throughout the course of the program.  Go ahead John.

John Roman:  So Urban Institute has a blog.  I have a post coming out next week where we look at the top 25 cities in the United States, and compare their peak homicide rates to the homicide rate in 2000, to the homicide rate in 2010, and it declines in all 25 cities, and it declines pretty uniformly.  There are some exceptional success stories, Washington DC, New York City as you mentioned, Dallas – are exceptional success stories, but otherwise, you see this incredibly consistent trend across cities in the United States.  You see a couple of cities, like Milwaukee for one, where crime has gone back up since 2000, but overwhelmingly, the crime decline is a national story.

Some cities have been even more successful than the average city in the United States, but crime is down everywhere, and it’s down substantially.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting that there are many in the criminological community who will suggest that crime is an international story.  The decline – that it’s also going down in Great Britain.  It’s also going down in New Zealand.

John Roman:  Yep.

Len Sipes:  It’s also going down in Australia, it’s also going down in Germany, that we have not just a phenomenon for the United States.  We have a phenomenon for the western industrialized world.

John Roman: And it’s a wonderful insight, and it calls into question a lot of explanations that we have in the United States because we only look at the United States for why crime declined, and we miss these stories, and so, for instance, the mass incarceration phenomenon is a US phenomenon.  These other nations you mentioned haven’t experienced it, and yet they see similar kinds of crime decline that we have seen here.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  There’s been a lot of changes in how police – police that occur internationally, and that makes you say, well, the policing story has more credibility to me than the prison story.  Maybe all of this incarceration hasn’t bought us that much because in other industrialized nations, they have gotten the same crime decline without this incredible – I mean we have four times as many as people in prison today as we did 30 years ago.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And the effect on state budgets are just astronomical, and here we are in the midst of this great recession, the financial collapse, state budgets are under tremendous pressure.  The federal government budget is under tremendous pressure, likely to make the state situation even worse, and yet we aren’t talking very much at all about, about state spending on corrections, which makes up an enormous percentage of state budgets in most places.

Len Sipes:  Well the states – virtually every state in the United States is complaining bitterly about the amount of money that it puts into corrections, and states throughout the United States are struggling.  I mean it’s the dominant topic within the media and crime and justice for the last two years, the fact that the states are saying, we can no longer afford the level of incarceration.  Now we’re not going to get into a debate as to – is that good or bad from a criminological point of view.  It simply is saying that the states are saying that they can no longer afford it.  So we within the criminal justice system have to come up with something to kind of guide them, and I think Urban and Pew and the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Corrections are doing just that.

Len Sipes:  And I think, we have learned a lot in the last three decades from a research perspective about what works.  Let’s talk about some of that, because we have been talking – we’re two-thirds of the way through the program, and we haven’t talked about what does work yet.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We’ve talked about what the problems –

John Roman:  Right, and I think, you know, there’s a lot of good things happening in the District of Columbia.  It’s a great example of things that work.  You have a police chief here, Cathy Lanier, who is very open to research.  She reads the research.  She can talk knowledgeably about some pretty obscure pieces that are very important about how you figure out who’s most risky, and who the police need to target their scarce resources to.

I think policing, changes in policing have been effective: more professional policing, more problem oriented policing, more proactive policing.  Hopefully in the next generation, we’ll get into a more forensically oriented police force.

Len Sipes:  You mean, somehow, some way, we live up to all the nonsense that people see on television?

John Roman:  Let me take a 60 second digression.  We could go on for the next five years about that.

Len Sipes:  That’s my pet peeve, but go ahead, please.

John Roman:  And nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  Really.

John Roman:  Nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  It’s shocking.

John Roman:  Yeah, I know it’s shocking.

Len Sipes:  That’s shocking.

John Roman:  So it tends to take months for a piece of evidence to get through from beginning to end, but the most important takeaway is:  In this country, almost no suspects are identified by forensic evidence.  We use forensic evidence in this country –

Len Sipes:  to back up the arrest we’ve already made.

John Roman:  to back up the arrest we’ve currently made.  So coming back, so what else works?  Well, we know a lot about alternatives to incarceration programs.  It’s taken us decades to learn something that should be patently obvious which is that if you are somebody who has a substantial problem that causes you not to be able to contribute to society: You have a mental health problem; you have a substance abuse problem; you have family problems.  Whatever these things are that cause you to commit crimes in support of these problems that if you address the underlying problem, in many cases, you can keep people from committing crime.

Len Sipes:  You are four times more likely to be caught up in the criminal justice system if you have a mental health issue.  I’m not saying that everybody with a mental health issue has contact with the criminal justice system, but the odds, the pure stats, is that they’re four times more likely to become involved.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So why is it, when I take a look at the stats, the overwhelming majority of the stats say that the overwhelming majority of the people caught up in the criminal justice system do not get mental health treatment? do not get the substance abuse treatment?  There’s a dichotomy.

John Roman:  Right.  So the problem is – the story is a little better on the mental health side because correctional systems have a responsibility by law to provide medication to people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Now, there’s a lot more that needs to be done for those folks other than just to medicate them.

The drug story is far worse.  We provide almost no treatment to people while they’re incarcerated, which is a real missed opportunity.  If I get you for two years –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  and can give you residential treatment, your chances of getting out and doing better are just vastly improved.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The problem is that it would take a big upfront investment.  We did a study a couple of years ago, and we looked at what the upfront investment would be to treat everybody going into the correctional system for their drug abuse problem rather than incarcerate them, and the estimated cost – US 10 or 15 billion dollars to create the infrastructure to do that.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The returns though would be 50 billion dollars in terms of crime rates going down even further from where they are, from not needing to use criminal justice resources to investigate, arrest, and incarcerate folks because they don’t need it, because they’re not committing crimes, because they’re not using, and then you have all these other benefits like our correctional systems are places where HIV, aids, tuberculosis, hep-C, all these really chronic horribly expensive conditions, where the rates of – are just, 3, 5, 10 times the rates that you see in the population.

The correctional systems have to spend money to care for those folks, and then they come out, and they have to use public health resources.  And keeping people out of prison, stopping them from using, from sharing needles, and getting hep-C and HIV, all of these things are far more cost effective than just mass incarceration and just housing people.

Len Sipes:  WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWWW.URBAN.ORG.  So it’s basically, we know what to do in law enforcement.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We know what we should be doing in terms of treatment of people caught up in the criminal justice system.  We know that we can probably provide alternatives that are maybe more cost effective and that may protect public safety better in the long run in terms of – depending upon the risk of the offender.  So those
are three things that you’ve mentioned right there, that are lessons learned, that are, kind of can be applied to DC, can be applied to Milwaukee, can be applied to anyplace.  What else?

John Roman:  I mean there’s a laundry list of things we can do.  We have people who leave prison, and they have been inside prison, for a year, two years or more, and they’re completely unprepared.  They come out.  They don’t have any identification.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it’s impossible for them, you know – How do you even get into a government building to meet your probation officer, right?  Much less go and get a job.  They come out without any medication.  So they were being treated for their mental health problem, and they come out, and 48 hours later, they’re in crisis because they didn’t have – they didn’t have a prescription with them the day they left.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but let me take –

John Roman:  They didn’t have a place to stay.

Len Sipes:  you in a different direction in terms of the limited time that we have left.  So we have to have programs for offenders, and they have been proven to be cost effective through a variety of things.  We know that we have to be more aggressive in terms of law enforcement and working with the community, and the way that you apply law enforcement to places and people, specifically targeting –

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  rather than mass efforts are more effective.  Drug courts.  Let’s go over to the judiciary.

John Roman:  Okay, so, drug courts, again, this is a place where I think this is part of the explanation for why DC has been more successful than average, and you see this in New York as well, where they have really – Here they had the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, which is a program that I evaluated back in 1999.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And found that it was effective in preventing recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And it’s been going on here for 12 years, and the basic idea is that if you take drug involved arrestees and instead of incarcerating them for their crimes, you put them through this 12 to 18 month program where they get intensive judicial supervision, intensive treatment supervised by a judge and a case manager, where they work through their – they work through relapses such that if they actually relapse, they don’t just go back to prison like you would under most parole arrangements or probation arrangements.

Len Sipes:  They are supervised by us.  That’s my commercial.  Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Pretrial Services.  Yes, go ahead.

John Roman:  And the idea is, people who are in recovery relapse, and you need to get people through relapse to get long-term recovery, and the data suggests that not just in DC, but around the country, we just finished the National Drug Court Evaluation at the Urban Institute.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  Last month.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  And you know, the story is that it’s pretty effective.  It reduces recidivism 10 or 15 percent.  It’s not a magic bullet.  It’s not going to reduce it by half or something, nothing will.  But if you do all of these things together, you can really reduce crime in a major way.

Len Sipes:  I’m going to stop you right there and ask you the final question before we close the show.  The average person out there says to themselves:  I can’t keep up with all this.  I get stuff from Urban; I get stuff from the different criminological institutes; I get stuff from BJS; I get stuff from the FBI; I get stuff from the National Institute of Corrections; I get stuff from the National Institute of Justice; I get stuff from the Office of Justice Programs.  I can’t deal with all of this.  How can I simplify it?  and how can I find out these lessons learned?

John Roman:  I actually think there are actually some public media outlook, Gangland and Lock-Up, and all those shows infuriate me as much as they do anybody else because if you watch Gangland, you’re looking at 1990 footage, so that’s annoying, but there are actually shows like PBS FRONTLINE that do a terrific job, and they have covered many of those issues over the years, and they do podcasts, and NPR does wonderful podcasts.

Len Sipes:  But the average police chief is not going to be listening to –

John Roman:  Well, but the average police – so –

Len Sipes:  Watching FRONTLINE, the average mark out there in the criminal justice system, how do they keep abreast of all this research?

John Roman:  Well, I would say though, that you could go to NPR or FRONTLINE.  I did a study that found that if you collected forensic evidence, and you use it to aid a burglary investigation, you could ten-fold increase the likelihood that you get an arrest.  I went to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting, 17,000 police chiefs, and we had maybe a hundred in the room.  You have to start by being open to what the research says, and then it’s pretty easy to go out and find places that can tell you what’s important.

Len Sipes:  Are we doing the best job that we can do within the criminological community to distill it down to the barest bones?

John Roman:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  And apply lessons learned?

John Roman:  No, I mean, I think there’s a lot of work that can be done, but there are a lot more groups like Pew and Urban that are trying to be more translators than evidence creators.

Len Sipes:  And I think it’s obvious in terms of the publications you put out and the publications Pew puts out and the Office of Justice Programs is making that transition as we speak trying to make it simpler because the big complaint is that:  I’m overwhelmed by the data.

John Roman:  Right, I mean National Institutes of Justice has National Institute Journal.  Nancy Ritter is the writer there.  She does a terrific job, and it’s a wonderful resource, probably a great place to start.

Len Sipes:  John, you’ve been a blast to have on the program.  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  He is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We do appreciate your calls; we do appreciate your emails; we appreciate your criticisms; we appreciate your compliments, and we appreciate your suggestions in terms of future show topics, and please, please, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]