Archives for March 2012

Intelligence and Information Sharing in the Criminal Justice System-UMUC-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting program for you today, ladies and gentlemen—intelligence, intelligence sharing, what’s happened within the criminal justice system, the larger arena of national and local and state intelligence sharing, the lessons we’ve learned since 911, the lessons we’ve learned in terms of an exchange of information between law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, and the national intelligence apparatus. We have at our microphones, back again, Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan, or Bill Sondervan, is the executive director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. They have an astounding 94,000 students there at the University of Maryland University College. And also joining him at our microphones today is his colleague Peter Oleson. Peter is an associate professor of intelligence studies. Let me give you a little bit of background about Peter. Senior intelligence policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Assistant Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was a CEO for his own consulting firm for quite some time. So we have a true expert to talk to us about this whole issue of intelligence and intelligence sharing within the criminal justice system, in the larger society. And with that introduction, Bill and Peter, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Thanks, Len.

Peter Oleson:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  Alright Bill, let me give you the first go round. Just set up University of Maryland University College. You have students throughout the world. 94,000, that’s quite a few people.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Yes, actually we do. UMUC is one of the 11 universities in the University of Maryland system, and we have classes all through Maryland. We do most of the on-line learning for the university system, and we also have an agent in a European division. We have people on the ground teaching in about 26 different countries, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. Peter, you’re an associate professor there at UMUC, so you have this mix of people that you and your other professors teach in terms of intelligence studies. Give me this larger sense. We were discussing before the show that the listeners to this program may be a bit confused in terms of intelligence studies. What we have is the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency. We have the FBI, we have lots of organizations throughout the country at the federal level who gather intelligence information. But we’re principally, today, talking about criminal justice system, how agencies share information with each other. My agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, we share information all the time regarding high risk offenders, regarding those offenders who pose an obvious risk to public safety. We share that information with the metropolitan police department, we share that information with the FBI, we share that information with the Secret Service, we share that information with the U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies. So the bottom line in all of this, I’m presuming, is the public safety; despaired agencies getting together and sharing information to protect public safety. That, to me, is the bottom line. Am I correct?

Peter Oleson:  Oh, I think very much so. I mean, the whole investment in intelligence in the United States really was an outgrowth of the surprise at Pearl Harbor, and you know, the conviction that we should never let that happen again. And yet, of course, in 911, it did. There are really many communities when you think about intelligence. You mentioned CIA and the FBI, both of which are probably the best known for the simple reason that that’s what you see on TV and in the popular novels. But I like to think about their being indeed four different communities that deal with intelligence, and certainly the national intelligence community is one of them that comprises those that you mentioned, as well as the intelligence activities within the Department of Defense and the military services, and several other department levels of the federal government. The second community I’d really think about is the Homeland Security Community, which of course is headed by the Department of Homeland Security, and which uses intelligence, of course, for very specific reasons of keeping not only the United States safe, but our citizens overseas and our allies. The third is really the law enforcement community, which has traditionally used intelligence in limited senses to drive intelligence-led policing, but which of course has expanded greatly since 911, when we have learned that we really need to deal international terrorists, and also with international criminal organizations that will deal in drug trafficking and money laundering and many other illicit activities. But what a lot of people, I think, don’t recognize is that intelligence also is used very extensively in the private sector in large corporations, in international corporations to understand their environment, to understand their market, to understand their competitors; and in a defensive sense, to protect their own intellectual property and products from espionage by others. The Chinese seem to be particularly adept at this at present.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And also against counterfeiters.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  Yeah, I’ve worked with a large international pharmaceutical firm that uses intelligence to identify who is counterfeiting their products so that they can go after them with law enforcement; so that when you open a bottle of whatever is their medicine, you can be guaranteed that it’s not gonna poison you.

Len Sipes:  And we go on for the next half hour in terms of the IT community and Apple computer and all the rest –

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  – that are very jealously guarding their secrets and making sure that their products that are released without their competitors knowing about them.  Bill, let me go back to you for a second. One of the things that you mentioned in prior conversations with this sense of sharing intelligence within the correctional community, you were the Commissioner of Corrections for the – the Division of Correction – for the Maryland Division of Correction, part of the Maryland Department of Public Safety. Both of us worked there in terms of full disclosure, and Bill, you, in terms of running the prison system, you discovered a lack of intelligence sharing and sought to rectify that with both federal and local law enforcement agencies for a wide variety of reasons.—Number one, to keep your prisons as safe as humanly possible; number two, to share that information with law enforcement and community corrections, to be sure that those people coming out of prison, who again posed a clear and present risk to public safety, that that information was shared and that the law enforcement and parole and probation community knew how to keep an eye on that person.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly right, Len. You know, I retired from the military police in the Army, and the last job I was on the joint staff when General Powell was the chairman. And you know, we share a lot of information, a lot of intelligence all the time. And then there was a point that initially, as Assistant Commissioner for Corrections, in charge of security operations, and I came to Maryland, and it just really dawned me, it just hit me right between the eyes, that we had so much going on in these prisons. We had 27 prisons with 24,000 convicted felons, and they were doing all sorts of things, but we all worked in stovepipes.  The prisons didn’t talk to each other. The prisons didn’t talk to parole and probation. We didn’t talk to the jails, we didn’t talk to the local police, we didn’t talk to the federal authorities, and it was all in stovepipe. All the information that we gathered was very informal and it was through informants and snitches and things that the warden would pick up. And there were several big incidents that happened that just really embarrassed me as being responsible for security, and I go into a lot of them. But one of them specifically, I had one of the federal agencies came to see me, and they closed the door, and they said, “Did you realize that one of your contract chaplains happened to be an imam who was also a co-conspirator in blowing up the World Trade Center the first time around, is working in your prison as a chaplain, and he’s recruiting disaffected inmates to be terrorists.” I just about fell out of my chair! We confirmed that, and that was going on along with several other things; and we got to the point where we decided we had to do something about it. So we partnered up with the high intensity drug trafficking area, the Washington-Baltimore area, and they helped us with funding. The whole idea was to collect the intelligence, to analyze it, and disseminate it the best we could. So they gave us money, we hired two former NSA intelligence analysts to help us get going. I started a security threat group office, I appointed a captain, hired a civilian. We hired two retired civilians from the National Security Agency to help us, and we appointed a lieutenant in every prison. We started this whole process of finding out what was going on in prisons, finding ways to deal with it, taking a look at it and disseminating to others. So we were able to do a lot of really important things. Just a couple of examples, but one of the things we did was we were able to take back the inmate phone system, which goes out on a bid to the Department of Budget and Management.  We were able then to record inmate phone calls, and once you record inmate phone calls, the software exists to be able to go in and use it for intelligence purposes, to capture whatever you wanted to do. So we started doing those things, and from there, it all kind of grew, and we all started working together. We went out and we talked to police departments, we talked to the other prisons, we talked to the jail administrators, and we started partnering with everybody. We started getting onto intelligence committees. We started finding ways to work with each other, and it was really a start, and it’s really grown since then. One of the things we also did is we were able to validate gangs in the Maryland prison system. Just as an example, what we would do is every month we would put together a list of validated gang members who were going home to particular communities, and we would share that with parole and probation, and with the local police.

Len Sipes:  You know, the bottom line in all of this is because an individual hearing this program, who is not part of the criminal justice community, may say to themselves, “Oh, wait a minute, this sounds very oppressive. This sounds almost scary.” We are talking about, and I think we need to constantly bring the program back to this focus, we are talking solely about individuals who are engaging in acts while in prison – still engaging in acts, organized crime, still ordering homicides, still ordering murders, still ordering people to be victims of violent crime while in prison. And at the same time, through that intelligence apparatus, we knew that once they were released, we could no longer legally hold them when they went back into the community. We know through intelligence that they were gonna go straight back to being involved in very violent crimes, to the point where we had people followed through the law  enforcement community. So I think the focus on the whole program has to be in terms of the criminal justice or the corrections community, to remind everybody, again, we’re talking about some bad actors. We’re not talking about everybody within the prison system. We’re talking about people who pose a clear and present danger to our either national security or to our local security, correct?

Dr. William Sondervan:  Absolutely, Len. And –

Peter Oleson:  And I would add a point, Len, if I could [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  Yeah, Peter, please.

Peter Oleson:  – Bill, is that, you know, for those who might think along the lines of civil libertarians, that you know, once a person has been convicted and put in prison, he does not have the same rights as you and I would, as law abiding citizens in our homes. Being monitored by the appropriate authorities is both legal and most appropriate, as I think you’ve pointed out.

Len Sipes:  And something we’re obligated to do.

Peter Oleson:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To, once again, protect public safety.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Some of the issues that also came out of that, is, you know, once I retired after serving 10 years in corrections and being a Commissioner of Correction, I came to University of Maryland University College, and was asked to put together a state of the art criminal justice program for practitioners. So the way we did that is we established an advisory board with very, very senior people in the community. And we took a hard look at our curriculum, and one of the things that everybody said unanimously is that we don’t have an intelligence component for criminal justice. We really need to have that. We need to get out of stovepipes. We need to trust each other, we need to work with each other, and we have to start collecting, analyzing and sharing intelligence if we’re gonna win and the bad guys are gonna lose. So that’s kind of – that’s what we did. And as a result of that, we put together a certificate program in our undergraduate criminal justice program that focuses on the art and science of doing intelligence. And by going through that process, that’s where I met Peter Oleson. My background is police and corrections, and I’m not really an intelligence person, except for being a consumer of intelligence while I was in the military. I had the good fortune of meeting Peter Oleson through mutual friends, and Peter then came on board, and he became the advisor of UMUC in terms of intelligence, and he’s been a great help to us in not only perfecting that undergraduate certificate in intelligence, but also a master’s program in intelligence management.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m sitting here in what is affectionately known by those of us who work here, ground zero. I’m sitting one block away from Pennsylvania Avenue, I can see the Washington monument, I can see the Supreme Court, can’t see the Whitehouse. The Congress is hidden by a building in front of me, but this is – you know, we within the Washington community, are extraordinarily grateful of everything the intelligence community does, because we know that every day, every single day when we come into downtown Washington DC—and I would imagine New Yorkers feel that way, I would imagine people through the country feel this way—is that we are extraordinarily grateful to the intelligence community in terms of protecting us. And that larger intelligence community extends to parole and probation agents, extends to police officers, extends to middle management. It extends to the national agencies, and there are many. I mean, if it wasn’t for the intelligence community, our lives would be at risk.

Peter Oleson:  Oh, absolutely, and I think what he public doesn’t know, of course, is the number of times when intelligence has in fact frustrated a plot that could have resulted in significant casualties or damage to Americans. You know, the challenge of course is that you have to be on top of it all the top, and you know, a terrorist only has to be successful once. You know, that is a very high standard. It’s one of the issues we always have in intelligence, you know, when you’re accused of an intelligence failure, that sometimes people apply an impossible standard to what’s success and what’s failure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the – oh, I’m sorry, Peter, let me just cut you off for a second.

Peter Oleson:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me re-introduce the both of you, and hold that thought for a second. Doctor William Sondervan, Executive Direction of Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. Peter Oleson, associate professor of intelligence studies, a man with an extraordinary, extraordinary background, probably the most senior intelligence person I’ll get to talk to in my career. I want to thank you both for being on the program. Both can be reached at;  I’m sorry, Peter, I interrupted you. Go ahead with your thought please.

Peter Oleson:  Well, I was talking about how do you judge success.  I think one of the important things for anybody thinking about intelligence, is to realize that intelligence is prospective. It’s looking at what might happen in the future, and trying to give decision makers the information they need to take the appropriate action. You know, it’s not an investigative ex post facto activity.  And so you’re never always fully knowledgeable of what might happen. As a matter of fact, in intelligence analysis, I always like to use the analogy with students that it’s like putting together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – only somebody tore the picture off the cover of the box, so you don’t really   know what the picture’s supposed to look like. And when you open up the box, you find that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the pieces are missing; and yet your job is to describe in detail what is that picture.  That’s the challenge that intelligence faces.

Len Sipes:  And Bill, that same intelligence package comes down all the way to the local level in terms of people in prison who we know. I mean, we had, when I was working for the Maryland Department of Public Safety while you were there, there was all sorts of instants, all sorts of times where we had individuals followed as soon as the person was released from the gate because we knew, we had hard, strong intelligence that person was headed straight towards a series of violent crimes in terms of an associate or in compliance or – he had accomplices; that as a group, they were gonna go out and commit violent crime. So it’s just not keeping a dirty bomb from going off on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s keeping individuals who are avowed violent criminals from going out and hurting other human beings.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Well, it’s even deeper than that, Len. It’s not only when they leave, when they go on the outside, it’s also like you alluded to earlier, what they’re doing while they’re still in prison. They can commit crimes from behind bars, and I think a lot of people in the police field think that when an inmate gets locked and he goes behind the walls of the prison, he automatically puts on a halo and he becomes a good doobie. But that’s not the case at all. What we uncovered is that people were running drug empires, they were putting hits on people, they were intimidating people, they were defrauding people, and it goes on and on. So a big piece of that as a corrections professional–and that’s really my expertise–is to prevent that from happening while they’re in there; and in being able to share the intelligence we have with the parole and probation people, with the police people in the community, so that they can prevent the violent acts when they go out.

Len Sipes:  And I just want to be, again, re-emphasizing certain points, that what we’re talking about is not all prisoners. We’re not talking about 50 percent of prisoners. We’re talking about a sub-set that we know are engaged in acts that are obviously dangerous to public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  That’s true. A lot of the inmates don’t do that, but it’s a small percentage of them. But that small percentage can cause a lot of damage.

Len Sipes:  Well, one of the interesting things about the custodial setting, the prison setting is that the best sources of information we have are fellow inmates, because they don’t want the problems. They don’t want any trouble. They don’t want violence erupting, nor do they want violence erupting in their own home communities. The best source of information we have are the inmates themselves, because they see the intelligence sharing process as something that keeps them safe, and something that keeps their community safe.

Dr. William Sondervan:  You’re absolutely right. The majority of inmates just want to do their time. They want to be safe themselves. They want their families to be safe, and they just want to do their time, be productive. A lot of them want to work, they want to go to school. So quite frankly, a lot of the inmates want to be informants, and a lot of inmates tell prison officials what’s going on, and it’s really a good source of intelligence to put together that piece of the puzzle that Peter was talking about. You know, you have to gather intelligence from a variety of different sources, and try to make it all fit, and try to get a good picture of what’s really happening.

Len Sipes:  Peter, now, you know, there are so many intelligence related agencies that we have in this country –

Peter Oleson:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  – ranging anywhere from probably a dozen federal agencies—I think I read at one –

Peter Oleson:  17 actually.

Len Sipes:  17 federal agencies, all the way to the New York City police department that’s sending their own people overseas to gather intelligence. And they’ve been able to stop crimes, acts of terrorism from happening in New York because of that. So it’s a huge –

Peter Oleson: Indeed.

Len Sipes:  – apparatus, and the criticism before 911 is that we weren’t sharing information. Are we now sharing information?

Peter Oleson:  Well, I mean before 911, there were actually legal restrictions in sharing information–that you weren’t allowed to do it. And part of that grew out of the investigations of the intelligence community in the 1970s with the Church and Pike Committees, the subsequent executive orders and laws. And nobody in the intelligence business wanted to be criticized for doing things wrong, so, you know, they were overly conservative, in my view. Much of that has changed. The prohibitions and sharing certain kinds of information, such as grand jury information with intelligence people, has been swept away with subsequent laws. The imperative to share is being emphasized very much by senior managers. The current Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, his major theme for managing the federal intelligence community is related to integration, which really means sharing and getting the information that somebody needs to them, either for analytical purposes or for making some kind of executive decision. And I think he has pushed that ahead rather well and rather dramatically. Jim’s a strong manager. I’ve known him many, many years. The importance about sharing really has two things, and in my view, if you spent a lot of time and effort collecting intelligence and you don’t use it, you frankly wasted that time and energy.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And worse yet, you may be sitting on something that somebody else really needs. The ex post facto investigations that we have had, of 911, even back of Pearl Harbor, we had the information oftentimes that we needed, but we just didn’t put it together properly; and it didn’t get into the right hands.  That was truly the case at Pearl Harbor because neither General Short nor Admiral Kimmel, who were the commanders out there at the time, were privy to the fact that we were reading Japanese diplomatic communications, and that clearly indicated that hostilities were…

Len Sipes:  About to break out. Yes, yes, yes.

Peter Oleson:  And so they were caught unprepared, and pilloried for it, and I think somewhat unjustifiably.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, they turned out to be scapegoats, yes.

Peter Oleson:  But, you know, this is not a unique problem. It’s happened many times. In the intelligence business, you also – you always have a conundrum between the secrecy of your source and your desire to protect that source –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – whether that be an individual or a technical means that can easily be thwarted, and sharing the information. And frankly, the risk of revelation or leak goes up with the amount of sharing you do. You know, that’s the inevitable problem you have, and how you balance those takes decisions every day by a lot of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, the same thing, we have the same problem here, that a community supervision officer—what is commonly known as a parole and probation agent in the rest of the country—will gain information and it’ll be that a person is about to engage in a series of violent crimes, part of a gang retribution, share that information with MPD, at the same time having to protect their source. So, all of us at all levels of the criminal justice system suffer through that sort of ethical decision in terms of protecting the source while sharing the information.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely. There’s an interesting observation I would make also, and that is sort of how intelligence and law enforcement activities are merging since 911. I mean, it used to be in the Cold War that intelligence focused on foreign armies and foreign countries, but since the terrorist attacks, and with the growth of international criminal organizations, intelligence is increasingly focused on what the intelligence community calls sub-national groups. You know, you can say it’s individuals or small groups of individuals, which has always been the focus of law enforcement. And what you’re seeing in the case of New York City, as you pointed out, is an organization that is a police organization using intelligence, I think, quite effectively. And I might comment that Ray Kelly’s positioning of New York City police officers overseas, brings the expertise of a cop to the scene of foreign terrorist incidents, which really gives us insight and better analysis than you’re gonna get say from a CIA officer who’s stationed in the embassy, who is not a trained investigator. I mean, his purpose is entirely different. And so I think that that has benefitted not only New York, but because New York does share information, it’s benefitted all of us.

Len Sipes:  We have three minutes left in the program. Either one of you can address this question. To me, the intelligence sharing apparatus is absolutely necessary to protect me, to protect our communities, to protect our children, to protect our welfare, to protect our jobs. It’s absolutely critical, absolutely necessary. The information has to be shared, but yet many within the larger American community are a little frightened and a bit overwhelmed by the intelligence gathering and sharing process. They see it as a bit Orwellian. They see it as overbearing, that there’s a fine line to be walked in terms of protecting the public and being overly zealous in terms of the collection of information. There are endless examples of criminal justice organizations and intelligence communities who did go overboard, who did collect the wrong intelligence from the wrong people at the wrong time. So how do you address that?

Peter Oleson:  Well, Len, that’s why oversight by independent groups is absolutely essential, whether it be from the intelligence committees in Congress or whether it be things like the Intelligence Oversight Board in the Whitehouse, or shall I say, an independent group at a local community level that has all the appropriate access and who can always be a check and balance. I mean, that’s the basic nature of our government is checks and balances, and when you deal with civil liberties, checks and balances are critically important.

Len Sipes:  But I do want to emphasize in the final minutes, is that the individual intelligence officers, the individual police officers, the individual parole and probation agents also understand their constitutional duties in terms of the privacy of individuals and when it’s necessary to gather information to protect public safety. They understand that as well, correct?

Peter Oleson:  They are basically well trained but, you know, you can face ethical questions every day. This is not a simple world. It’s a very complex one, and the fact that we’ve done so well at the individual level, I think, is a remarkable testament to the American law enforcement community and the intelligence officers who support them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, we got about 30 seconds left. Go ahead and wrap up.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Len, I just wanted to add that UMUC, we’ve taken on the mission to prepare people to go into a multitude of agencies, all the criminal justice agencies, and be intelligence specialists and analysts. And part of the program, we’ve incorporated the legal and ethical issues involved in intelligence, besides the theory into practice. So our whole goal is to produce graduates that can go out in the field and be advisors to leaders of agencies and help them do these things, and do them properly.

Len Sipes:  Everybody pretty much understand the limitations and understand the roles. I think that’s what you’re trying to say. I mean –

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what everybody who’s listening to this radio show needs to understand, that it’s just not Congressional oversight. The individual officers pretty much know where they can go and where they can’t, but they gotta go where they gotta go to protect public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right, ladies and gentlemen, I really want to thank you for listening today. Our guests have been Doctor William Sondervan, the Executive Director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College,  94,000 students, that’s a huge university. Joining him today is Peter Oleson, associate professor for intelligence studies; again, a person with an extraordinary background, and to Peter, you can look at the web site. Once again, it’s the same for the University of Maryland University College, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We thank you for your interest and calls and letters, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


National Institute of Corrections and DC Pretrial-Measuring What Matters-DC Public Safety

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 back after a three-month hiatus due to flipping a motorcycle and being injured, and finally back to doing weekly radio programs.  For those of you who have been kind enough to inquire, “Where you been, Len?”  Well, that’s where I’ve been.  I’ve been laid up telecommuting and away from the microphones, but we do have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen, on pretrial.  The whole concept is measuring what pretrial does, and so pretrial agencies, both in Washington DC and throughout the country can do a better job of pretrial supervision.  We have two experts with us today.  Spurgeon Kennedy, he is the director of research analysis and development of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  WWW.DCPSA.GOV .  I’ll be giving those website addresses throughout the program.  Lori Eville, the correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections, and the National Institute of Corrections is part of the Bureau of Prisons, US Department of Justice, WWW.NICIC.GOV , and to Spurgeon and to Lori, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Thank you Len.

Lori Eville: Yes, thanks for having us.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And welcome back.

Len Sipes:  Thank very much.  Spurgeon, the first question is going to go to you.  There’s a lot of people out there in the criminal justice system who listen to this program on a regular basis, and they’re going to know exactly what pretrial is, and they’re going to know exactly what jails are, but there are people from mayors offices or citizens or community organizations that listen to this program and they’re not quite sure what we mean by pretrial.  What is pretrial supervision?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, simple answer is that pretrial services agencies help their local jurisdictions meet the requirements their state bail laws.  Most bail laws across the country have a presumption of release for most defendants except those charged with capital offenses or very serious crimes.  Pretrial agencies across the country help assess the various levels of risk that these defendants present and offer appropriate releases supervisions conditions that meet those risk levels.

Len Sipes:  Now you do know because I’ve been to community meetings.  You’ve been to community meetings throughout our career.  You go into community meetings and somebody says, “He got arrested, and he was back on the street in six hours, and that’s wrong.  You know, he did a crime, and he’s back in the community.  What gives with that?”  And the point in all of this is it not that people who are arrested are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Until a judge or a jury finds them guilty and sentence has been pronounced, so up until that point, technically, that person is a “innocent” person, and somebody’s got to make an assessment based upon two things, whether or not he or she is going to return to trial on their own with supervision or with bail or with some other arrangement, or B, they’re a risk to public safety.  So do I have – is that summation correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, you’re absolutely right.  There’s a huge difference between a convicted defendant and a pretrial defendant, and what we deal with on the pretrial level are those persons who are still considered to be innocent or presumed innocent until that point of disposition.  What we’ve found over the last decade, especially when you look at the risk of defendants who are released back into the community, and certainly that’s a legitimate concern.  Public safety is always a concern for anybody in the criminal justice business, but what we have found is that defendants by and large who are released pretrial present a low to medium level of risk of failure to appear or to commit another offense while on supervision, so by identifying this risk and offering supervision levels.  Pretrial agencies across the country actually help their jurisdictions manage that risk, and to make sure that defendants who are released are not presenting an overly concern to public safety.

Len Sipes:  And the last question before going over to Lori is the sense that people need to understand, I think, that it is literally mathematically impossible.  There are tens of millions of arrests in the United States every year.  There aren’t tens of millions of jail beds, so it is, even if we didn’t have the presumption of innocence.  Even if we didn’t have a presumption of release on a pretrial basis, it’s mathematically impossible to keep all people arrested behind bars until trial, correct.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  You’re absolutely right.  In 2010, the National Center for State Courts estimated there were 21 million filings of felony and misdemeanor cases across the country at local courts.  Our jail population cannot support that.

Len Sipes:  No, no.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And the risk, again that most pretrial defendants present, and the laws that we live under really don’t allow us to consider jail first.  So again, we need a system that identifies those defendants appropriate for release according to the law and those that should be detained pretrial, and that really is the basis of what pretrial programs –

Len Sipes:  And the final thing I did want to mention in terms of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, one of the things that I noticed years ago, is that you have an 88 percent return rate.  The overwhelming majority of people on your case loads show up for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  True.

Len Sipes:  And it’s a much higher return rate than the national average as measured by The Bureau of Justice Statistics, so first of all congratulations, on doing a very good job.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, thank you.

Len Sipes:  Lori Eville, correctional program specialist for the National Institute of Corrections.  What is the National Institute of Corrections, Lori?

Lori Eville:  Well, the National Institute of Corrections, as you said, is within the Department of Justice, and it’s primary function is to the provide support to federal, state, and local correctional agencies throughout the United States.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lori Eville:  We do that through technical assistance, through education, an information center in which people can go to a vast library to get information that is particular to issues that they’re dealing with, and NIC is also a leader in developing policy and practices, and looking sort of a step ahead.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lori Eville:  Of where corrections agencies and criminal justice agencies need to move or are moving, and give them support, and it’s really one of the primary purposes why NIC is interested in pretrial services because it is a distinct function within a criminal justice system, but it’s an essential contributor to the efficiency of a criminal justice system, as you said.  Not a fiscal efficiency, but as well as a case processing efficiency.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do have to talk about the fiscal part of it because the principle subject of my reading criminal justice literature newspaper articles and radio reports, television reports over the last two years is the fiscals, dire fiscal shape that states and localities find themselves in, so, you know, you just can’t lock up everybody.  It is just mathematically impossible.  It is fiscally impossible to lock up everybody, so one of the things that you did in terms of this report, and the report is measuring what matters from the National Institute of Corrections Outcomes and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field.  What you’re trying to do is to frame this whole concept of pretrial, to get everybody to measure what it is they’re doing so they can figure out how they’re doing and how they can improve.

Lori Eville:  That’s correct, and it’s also distinguishing pretrial outcomes and measures from other criminal justices functions such as probation, jails, and we don’t have a document like this.  We have these established measures for other criminal justice functions, but we don’t in pretrial and as front end of the system, functions are becoming more evident in their need.  That’s why we sought to develop a consistent set of recommended outcomes and measures along with the definitions so we can get to comparing different jurisdictional functioning.  Looking at nation averages, and then also focusing on those things that pretrial services should produce and that is appearance rates.  That’s what a primary function was, a pretrial services should be, is that they have good appearance rates to court, and that they have good public safety records.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Getting them to court.  That’s the bottom line in protecting public safety.

Lori Eville:  That’s the bottom line in pretrial.

Len Sipes:  Before you go on, I do want to mention, the National Institute of Corrections is the place where the rest of us go to get information.

Lori Eville:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  I mean that’s the, you know, I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  I’ve been doing public relations for 30.  I’ve been doing corrections for 20, and it was interesting that when I first became a public affairs officer for a large agency in the State of Maryland that had corrections he as well as laws enforcement, as well as the fire Marshall’s office, as well as lots of other agencies, I realized that I didn’t have any formal training as a public affairs director, and the first thing NIC did was to put me in Boulder, Colorado for a couple weeks of training.  All throughout my career, when we said we needed research, or we needed funding, or we needed to look at this issue, we picked up the phone and called the National Institute of Corrections, so I want to thank you in terms of my own experience, and my own criminal justice career.  I’m not quite sure how, if a lot of people know the National Institute of Corrections.  WWW.NICIC.GOV, but a certainly thank you to NIC for all the help that you’ve given me, and the agencies that I’ve represented throughout my career.  Okay.  So we’re going to get back to larger issues in terms of measuring what matters.  The average person is going to sit back, and he’s going to listen to this program, or she’s going to listen to this program, and they’re going to say, what are we talking about?  This is 2011 we’re, you know, I thought you guys were doing this for decades.  We in the criminal justice system, Spurgeon, don’t do a very good job of measuring things, do we?  I mean most of the criminal justice agencies have a hard time coming to grips with measurement, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  It is, unless you’re a nerd like me, talking about numbers and measures will put you to sleep as quickly as anything.  Here’s the thing though, and you’re right, we’ve been very slow to come to the table.  Businesses across the world have used outcome and performance measures almost since the mid 50s.  This is something that just became popular within criminal justice in the mid 1990’s.  1995, in fact, the American Probation and Parole Association along with the National Institute of Justice put out what I think was the first article about outcome and performance measures or if the probation field.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That was followed by a larger publications looking at outcome and performance measures for the entire criminal justice system that NIJ did.  So it’s really been since the mid 90s that this whole ideas of measuring what you do, especially measuring against what you have out there is as your mission and your goal has become popular within criminal justice agencies.  Pretrial programs, as Lori mentioned, are just getting into the idea across the country, of measuring their performance and knowing what that performance ought to be.

Len Sipes:  Before the program, we sort of set the stage for this.  When the state of Maryland took over the Baltimore City Jail was my first real exposure.  I mean as a former police officer, I’d been in and out of jails.  I’d been in and out of booking situations.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Professionally maybe.

Len Sipes:  Professionally, yes.  Thank you for clarifying that.  But I mean spending a lot of time within a jail, wow, what a chaotic setting.  You’ve got thousands of people being arrested.  They’re moving in the institutions.  They’re moving out of the institution.  It’s chaotic.  It’s dangerous.  You’ve got people who are high on some sort of substance.  You’re processing them.  You’re booking them.  You’re making decisions in terms of who to keep and who not to keep.  It’s a very chaotic, loud, noisy situation, and I sat there as people made decisions based upon instruments as to who they’re going to let go on bail.  Who they’re going to let go on pretrial supervision, who they’re going to let go on their GPS or home monitoring, and, you know, we’re not talking about a business offices where it’s nice and quiet and sedate.  We’re talking about a very loud noisy chaotic place, and in that very loud noisy and chaotic place, we’re making decisions that could have an impact not just on public safety, but as to whether or not that person returns for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Uh-huh.  That’s a wonderful point that you bring up because when we put this document together, and now the folks who helped us draft it, or the people who actually did draft it are the Pretrial Directors Network of NIC.  One of the questions that came us is can you measure performance if you don’t have the things in place to make that performance happen?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  For example, if you are screening defendants for release consideration, if you aren’t using a validated risk assessment…  Something that takes into account factors that have been shown my research to be related.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  The failure to appear and re-arrest.  Can you really make this measure?  And so part of what we’re trying to do with the measuring what matters document is to say to pretrial programs out there, you have to adopt good business practices.  It’s not just putting a number and a target out there.  It’s also sayings, we need to have in place the things that will make us meet these targets and do a job, and so that validated risk scale that helps you identify who the good risks are, who the bad defendants who need to be incarcerated pretrial are.  You have to have those things in place so that that was something that was very much a part of this document.

Len Sipes:  Lori, we’re going to go over to you for a second in terms of talking about that risk assessment instrument, but amazingly, we’re halfway through the program.  These programs go by awfully quickly.  Spurgeon Kennedy, director of research, analysis and development for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, is our guest, WWW.DCPSA.GOV, an 88 percent return rate here in the District of Columbia, one of the highest in the United States.  Lori Eville, correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice is our other guest, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  Okay Lori, so we’re going to go over to you in terms of talking about instruments.  I’ve been in the system for 42 years.  This whole concept of an objective series of measurement has always confused me.  It’s not my background.  It’s not my forte, but it’s bottom line seems to be from the criminological community, from NIC, is that we really can, through objective instruments, objective questions, figure out who’s a danger to society.  Who’s not.  Who’s a danger as to whether or not that person is going to return for trial?  Who’s not going to return for trial.  These instruments give us a lot of information about that individual, correct?

Lori Eville:  That’s correct, and it gives us objective information that has a body of research or tested, so that we can make statistical probabilities of whether this person will appear in court or they’re a public safety threat, if you will.  You know, I liked your, what you said about jail being this chaotic place in which you’re having to make these very difficult decisions around release, and I think one thing that objective validated risk, assessment tools do for people working in jails and pretrial programs is that they serve to provide some objectiveness to sort of coral this chaos so that people are not left to think own subjective thoughts around a person’s risk.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Lori Eville:  And one of the things that often I think are misunderstood around validated assessments is that we’ve given all of our discretion to this piece of paper.  That this piece of paper, these measures are telling us who’s safe and who’s not, and I think that what we need to understand is that it is a tool within the overall tool box to help make good sound release decisions that are in the public’s interest, and again to make the connection to the document.  If we then have local measures and systems set up, we can then see if in fact we are making good decisions on release.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Just a point of clarification, either one of you can come in on this.  We create these instruments and we do this analysis in this noisy chaotic overcrowded place, and then that information is presented to a Commissioner, an Officer of the Court, and he or she uses that recommendation based upon that instrument to decide whether or not that person is released or kept.  If the person is kept, generally speaking, in most states, you have twenty-four hours to present yourself before a judge, and the judge reviews the evidence, reviews the case, and then makes another decision as to whether or not you’re kept or released or the conditions of the release.  Do I have that correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So it’s not just us within the criminological community or us as correctional professionals, so it’s not us making the decisions.  Basically what we’re doing is preparing the paperwork for the courts.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Right.  We’re helping the court make a more informed decision about release and detention.

Len Sipes:  And in essence, to go back to what we did before measuring what matters in the National Institute of Corrections, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  You can get the document there, is to basically guess.  Is that fair or unfair?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  There has always been criteria that courts have used.  There have always been criteria that pretrial programs have used.  Up until recently, I think you can make the argument, and I would, that those criteria, may not have been related to failure to appear and re-arrest as much as we tended to believe.

Len Sipes:  But unless, Lori would say, that unless it’s a validated risk assessment instrument, a validated instrument uses the board, it’s still guessing.  Now guessing may be an unfair term, but in essence, you know, without a validated instrument to guide us, it really is a matter of presumption, again.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well like to call that clinical assessments, but that’s still guessing.

Lori Eville:  Correct, yes.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And with a we’ve found and there’s about 60 years of research on this, is that a good validated risk assessment beats clinical judgment about these decisions every time.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  It’s beyond a debate now.  One of the things that I’ll put out there, and there’s an organization that would really be helpful for your listeners to know is the Pretrial Justice Institute.  They have put out a couple of publications on the state of science in pretrial programming.  One of them looks at risk assessments and recommendations, and it’s really a summary of risk assessment of research that has been done over the last ten, perhaps 15 years, and it shows you the common factors that have been coming out of these risk evaluations and shows you that the risk levels that have been coming out, and the factors that predict failure really are becoming common among a lot of jurisdictions, and it’s a good read for people who are really interested in what we’re finding out about risk.

Len Sipes:  Well, let’s talk about those because the audience is going to want to know, well what are the findings?  First of all there are a certain category of people who in all probability are going to be kept.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You commit murder.  You commit rape.  You commit domestic violence.  You’re going to stay in all probability.  You’re not going to be released in pretrial.  You’re going to be held in the jail setting.  You’re going to be held in the jail setting, by the way, let me clarify jails.  Jails are also places to hold people on a pretrial basis.  They also are places where people serve short sentences.  Prison is where they ordinarily serve sentences of a year or more, so within that jail, it’s just not pretrial people, it’s people serving short sentences so that limits the amount of beds that you have.  I wanted to make that clarification.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  You also have people, excuse me.

Len Sipes:  No, please.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Who are also waiting transfer to prisons.

Len Sipes: To prisons.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  In jails and that’s becoming a much larger population as state prisons becoming over crowded.

Len Sipes:  Well, thank you for bringing that up because in a lot of states, it’s a very serious issue.  I mean, 20 percent, 25 percent, 30 percent of your population could be people waiting transfers to state prisons because state prisons are crowded.  Okay, so having said that, what are the other factors?  Okay, so they’re predictive and after years of looking at this, we know that they’re predictive.  What predicts a person returning for trial and not posing a risk to public safety, and I would imagine if he or she has family in the community, owns a home in the community, has a job in the community, that person, more than likely, is going to return for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, community information is not as correlated to failure as we believed.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Lori Eville:  In the early beginnings, that’s correct.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  In the early beginnings of pretrial programs, in the early 1960s, the risk classifications tools that were used relied very heavily on what were very middle class values.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  If you looked like me, and if I was middle class, and you wouldn’t be a risk to be released.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  What we’re finding is that a lot of the factors associated with risk are things such as prior failures to appear, substance abuse usage, mental health issues.

Len Sipes:  Okay, if you haven’t appeared, if you skipped your trial in the past, that indicates that you’re going to do it again.  If you’re on drugs when you were arrested and have a drug history.  That’s then a greater chance of not complying.  I think I saw a statistic from Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia that there’s a huge difference in the success between those on drugs and those not on drugs.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Right.  Those who are nondrug users have much better failure – I’m sorry, appearance rates, and also safety rates.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  than those who are drug users.

Len Sipes:  What are some of the others, either one of you?

Lori Eville:  Well, actually your criminal history is one of them.  Okay.  So if you have convictions in the past, is that on one of them?  The interesting thing you had mentioned about a home.  That is another one that is not necessarily a predictor.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Lori Eville:  And in fact some of the local validated assessments have actually taken that out.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Lori Eville:  Because they have not shown that they have a predictive quality to appearing.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.  What else has a predictive quality?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well those are the big ones.  I think there are about seven or eight that you sees in most of these validated studies, but the question for the local jurisdictions are, A, how do you define these factors.  In Washington DC, for example, a prior failure to appear might be defined a little differently than other jurisdictions depending on how you get data from your court.  The other is whether or not you weight these criteria the same.  A prior failure to appear might be one of the main factors in my jurisdiction.  It might be a lesser factor at other jurisdictions.  So while we see these factors in most risk validation studies, how they’re defined, and how they’re weighted in the final assessment –

Len Sipes:  So one size is not going to fit all in terms of a measurement instrument.  The measurement instrument could be looking at the same variables in Kansas City and San Diego and Washington DC, but yet be interpreted and applied differently.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Much differently.

Lori Eville:  Based on local culture, differences in jurisdictions, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.  So everybody – it’s not just one size fits all.  Everybody gets to take a look at this and measure.  But even with that measurement, there’s still a human being that says, I don’t like this outcome.  I think the person should stay.  I think the person is a flight risk, or a public safety risk.  The person can override the instrument, correct?

Lori Eville:  Absolutely.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  One of the performance measures in our measuring with [PH] Matters Peace, in fact, how often the pretrial program actually complies with their own wrist assessment.  We suggest anywhere between a 12 to 15 percent override rate.  If you find yourself in that range of overrides of risk assessment, we think you’re okay.  Because you’re right, risk assessments tools, as great as they are, do not put all defendants in think proper risk places.

Len Sipes:  Well I imagine it’s also going to be concerns regarding race, gender, income, and objective instruments sort of evens everybody out.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So if you’re suddenly making exceptions for, you know, 30 percent range for income, you get to ask the question, why?  So the whole idea behind all of this is to generate data and ask questions of yourself as to why you’re getting the results you’re getting, and are people showing up for trial, and are we protecting public safety.  It allows the individual jurisdictions to take a good hard long look at themselves and to improve.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Exactly.

Lori Eville:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the bottom line behind what NIC is trying to do across the board in materials of correctional tracking, is to take a good hard long look at yourself and improve.

Lori Eville:  Correct, and you know, this actually – the document, one of the purposes, I mean there are many as we’ve talked about today, but NIC provides a training, as you said, in Colorado for new pretrial directors, and we’ve found that we had new pretrial directors that were being put into these departments and didn’t know really what should they be measuring.  What were their guiding principles, and so it’s part of what NIC is also doing to help bring on new directors and shaping really how pretrial is functioning across the United States.

Len Sipes:  Well, we’re just about at the two minute warning level.  Any final thoughts?  Any quick final thoughts?  Spurgeon?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, only that I really encourage not only pretrial programs, but also any policy maker, or any criminal justice practitioner to take a look at this document.  It should show you how your pretrial programming should work in your local jurisdictions.  It should help you determine what your goals and missions are and how to make sure that you’re doing the best job that you can in order to ensure public safety, and to help the court operate as efficiently as it can.

Len Sipes:  Lori, 15 seconds.

Lori Eville:  I would say go find the document, at the NIC website.  Contact me.  NIC is here to answer any of your questions or help assist your jurisdiction in getting the outcomes that they want.

Len Sipes:  Thank you to the both of you.  Spurgeon Kennedy, director of research, analysis and development at the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  WWW.DCPSA.GOV.  Lori Eville, correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections for the US Department of Justice, WWW.NICIC.GOV, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  The document we’ve been talking about today is called Measuring What Matters:  Outcome and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We appreciate all of the comments that you give us.  The letters, the phone calls, the emails.  Please contact us, feel free to contact us with suggestions, programs, program suggestions, criticisms, comments, and if you please, everybody, have yourselves a very, very, pleasant day.

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