Archives for June 2012

High Risk Offenders and Crime Fighting-Governing Magazine-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are celebrating our 150th radio show.  We’re currently up to 133,000 requests per month for the radio/television blog and transcript at  Our program today is going to be a focus on high-risk offenders with John Buntin.  He is with Governing Magazine, www.governing, G-O-V-E-R-N-I-N-G, .com.  I want to focus on three particular issues during the interview—a different way of administrating the criminal-justice system, incarceration levels must be sufficient, but the real impact of an article that he wrote is a focus on the truly high-risk offenders.  What John did was write an article called, How Game Theory is Reinventing Crime Fighting.  It is probably, in my 42 years within the criminal-justice system, one of the most readable and one of the most interesting and one of the most impactful articles I’ve ever seen and that’s out of reading tens of thousands of articles.  John Buntin, Governing Magazine, welcome to DC Public safety.

John Buntin:  Thank you for having me Len.

Len Sipes:  All right John, how game theory is reinventing crime fighting.  Give me an elevator speech as to what that means.

John Buntin:  Well, we’re at a really interesting moment.  State and local governments have, the last few years, been squeezed by falling revenues—by the recession and as state policy makers have stepped back and looked at their fiscal situation, they have realized something, which has been obvious to those best who covered the criminal-justice system for a while.  And that is that for the past decade, corrections and healthcare costs have risen dramatically.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  Twenty years ago, the state spent about $12 billion a year on corrections.  That’s now over 50 billion.  And in response, they’ve had less money to spend on things like education.  States across the country are feeling the squeeze, and they’ve starting looking, as a result, for innovative solutions—ways to incarcerate fewer people and to supervise offenders more effectively.

Len Sipes:  Now, let me go back to a premise.  In the last two years, the principal story that I’ve seen from the new services that I subscribe to is—are cutbacks within the criminal-justice  system or cutbacks in government across the board, but specifically, you know I’m only interested in the criminal-justice  systems, so I see Illinois laying off 500 state troopers.  I see dozens of stories of states closing prisons.  I see public defenders complaining bitterly that they don’t have the money to conduct business.  I see the same thing from prosecutors.  The system is being squeezed from all sides, so this becomes a philosophical discussion as well as a fiscal discussion.

John Buntin:  That’s right.  In public safety agencies, like all agencies, you know, had been squeezed in cuts, and you know, in particular, areas.  I think the court system is one that comes to mind.  The cuts have really had a very negative impact, you know, on the ability of the courts to provide justice.  You know, I think there’s also been, over the course of the past four or five years, another discussion and I think that discussion really started in Texas back in 2007.  You know, Texas, as you and your listeners know, is a state which does not shy away from punishment.

Len Sipes:  No.

John Buntin:  It has—

Len Sipes:  Fairly conservative state.

John Buntin:  —a very high incarceration rate—the highest of any big state and you know, during the ‘90s and into the [INDISCERNIBLE], you know, expanded capacity with great enthusiasm.  You know, but in 2007, as a result of an unusual, kind of, bipartisan coming together of two legislators, in particular, the legislators decided not to appropriate funding to further expand the state prison system.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.  The governor wanted to build three more prisons.

John Buntin:  The governor and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice wanted to add 14,000 beds to the system.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  Instead, the legislature decided to spend $240 million on treatment and diversion programs and there were two things that were really striking about this.  You know one is that it marked a kind of break in the partisan war over crime and going back to the ‘60s—I think 1968 was the year that crime emerged as the primary concern in voter’s mind.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And it really sustained that position until about 1994.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  It was a very politicized issue.  You know, what happened in Texas in 2007 showed legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, that this was something they could work together with.  The other striking effect of what Texas did was, you know, their diversion—their investment and treatment worked.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  The inmate population leveled off—fell slightly.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And demonstrated to states elsewhere that there was a way to be smarter, while still being tough.

Len Sipes:  Right, but states our doing this—I don’t think from a point of view of a philosophy.  I don’t think they’re looking at it criminologically.  I think they’re saying to themselves, we’ve gotta stop spending so much money on prison system.  Is there a better way of doing it?  And then you have groups like Pew and the Department of Justice and other organizations coming in and saying, yeah there is a better way of administrating the criminal-justice system, right?

John Buntin:  There’s no doubt that finances is driving the desire to reexamine the criminal-justice system and that the way that politics—this issue has become depoliticized.  It’s also created a kind of space to talk about it in a more creative way.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the other really interesting thing because now you have conservatives and Democrats coming together, and they’re speaking from the same wave length.  They’re speaking from the—singing from the same sheet of music because they want money to build bridges, they want money to go to colleges, and they want money to go to schools, and if you keep pouring money into corrections, they don’t have that money to spend on other issues.

John Buntin:  As difficult as it is to operate an environment of cuts, you know, I really think that the criminal-justice system and some of the reforms that are playing out in the sector are a unique bright spot in American government.  It is one of the few areas where legislators, chief executives from both parties, have been able to make really meaningful changes.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And everybody is basically saying, there’s got to be a better way of doing this.  Okay, if we’re going to making all these cuts, if we’re forces to be making all these cuts, what can we do and what can we do better and from that, there’ve been an array of programs that have shown a certain level of success.

John Buntin:  There have been.  And the literature is fairly clear that, you know, certain interventions, you know, are successful.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  One of the most widespread interventions are, of course, drug courts.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  They’re cost effective.  We’re fairly clear on that.  There are now about 2500 drug courts serving over 100,000 people.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  Drug courts—they do work.  They’re also challenging to ramp up.  They’re very personnel intensive and one of the interesting things that I noticed, which prompted me to write this story, was the way in which there are some other types of interventions, which really make a virtue of scarcity—of limited resources in which sort of suggest a very effective and very different way to thinking about and responding to public-safety issues.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that I’ve noted about your article is that it takes a multi-decade approach—just not talking about recent events.  You go all the way back to the 60s; you go back to incarceration levels, you basically state that there’s a certain point where incarceration levels fell beyond a certain point; a point that they were back, I think, in 1962 before crime started skyrocketing and there’s a certain point, within the late 1990s, where we’ve reached those incarceration levels that existed back in the 1960s, but the question was, do we need to continue that?  I mean how many people do we need to lock up?  The criminal-justice system in the United States holds about 7 million people, 2 million under incarceration on any given day, a lot more than that in the jail system.  So, the question becomes, okay, if we cannot afford to sustain that level of incarceration, looking at it from the standpoint of decades and in terms of how we got there, what’s the better way of doing it?

John Buntin:  Well, our society has started to have a conversation about mass incarceration, and it’s a very overdue conversation.  In particular, there has been a great deal of completely warranted discussion about mass incarceration’s effect on the African-American community, particularly, when it comes to young African-American men.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  The statistics are truly breathtaking.  You know African-Americans make up about 15% of the population, but account for 40 to 50%—40% of the prison population.  One in nine African-American men under the age of 34 is in prison.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  The Children’s Defense Fund estimated, about a decade ago, that one in three, you know, black men born in 2001 would, you know, on current trajectory, enter the prison system.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  It’s horrifying and I think that the argument that made by, among others, David Kennedy at John Jay that we are destroying the village in order to save it, is correct. Where I am somewhat at odds with the mainstream discussion is why it’s happening.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  Probably, the most influential book and voice in this debate has been Michelle Alexander.  She is the author of, The New Jim Crow and at the risk of simplifying her book, she does make the argument that mass incarceration is—should be seen as, kind of, the next step in a long history of American impression of minorities.  I see it as something which was born of policy decisions taken for understandable reasons in the 1970s and kind of a story of unintended consequences, and you know in the 1970s the argument was made by, among others, James Q. Wilson, Gary Becker, that U.S. society had made a wrong turn.  Faced with arising crime, we were shutting prisons.  The punitiveness level, which is what academics calculated was falling, and so, in many ways, the decision to respond to a crime wave by increasing incarceration was a reasonable one.  What isn’t reasonable, what hasn’t been reasonable, is the decision to continue to increase prison capacity, you know, past the point of diminishing return.

Len Sipes:  And if you take a look at Department of Justice statistics, half of the states are—the population of their prison systems are declining, but half are increasing.

John Buntin:  Yes.  I mean the punitiveness level of the early ‘60s, you know, was matched in about 1996.  So, by 1996, we were punishing people at the same rate we were in 1963, which is the year that Jim Wilson, kind of, famously described as the epic where everything went wrong.

Len Sipes:  Right, well, where crime just took off—I remember in criminological school once—I left the law enforcement profession, and looking at a trend line and it went up like a rocket in 1963.

John Buntin:  Yes, it’s, you know his identification of that is as a year to study is certainly correct and in addition to my work at Governing, I recently wrote a book called L.A. Noir, which is about the LAPD in this era.  It’s a biography of former LAPD chief William Parker.  And so, looking at what happened there, to my mind, it’s, you know, inescapable that there was a crime response and that the public demand that there be some public-safety response, was warranted.

Len Sipes:  Oh, it was on every—the cover of every magazine in the country, hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  The crime issue was the dominant issue in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s and the’80s.

John Buntin:  But now we’ve reached a point where, you know, even people like Professor Becker, who were influential on laying the groundwork for thinking about—for applying sort of the Chicago School of Economics to criminology, I have concluded that we’ve gone too far.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  So the question is, you know, how do we pull back, and I think—

Len Sipes:  Noting that we have no choice but to pull back at the state level because they can’t sustain the level of funding.

John Buntin:  States are fed up with sacrificing spending on things like higher education and education in general, to build prisons, particularly, when the evidence mounts that there are more effective ways to address the problems.

Len Sipes:  Okay and that’s a good place to break.  We’re halfway through the program, ‘cause I do, in the second half of the program, want to talk about those more effective ways.  We’re talking today to John Buntin.  He is with Governing Magazine, www.governing, G-O-V-E-R-N-I-N-G, .com.  John wrote, you know, an article that is being thoroughly discussed within criminal-justice circles and very few people ever have the influence that John’s article has had because it’s not only extraordinarily well written, easy to read, it goes over a multi-decade worth of research in just four or five pages and comes to some pretty interesting conclusions.  His article, How Game Theory is Reinventing Crime Fighting, again, in Governing Magazine, February of 2012, and I’ll have, in the show notes, the direct link to the article.  So John, let me go back to the—okay, so, we’ve all come collectively through osmosis to a point in the criminal-justice  system where we say we probably have a level of incarceration we need.  The states can no longer afford to really do anymore.  So, we now have a programmatic approach.  We’re now trying to figure out, within the criminological community, led by the Department of Justice, led by Pew, led by lots of organizations; we’re now coming to grips with an alternative way of conducting business.  So give me a sense of Project HOPE in Hawaii.

John Buntin:  Well, so, a lot of the tension is paid, in these discussions, to the prison system—to the 2.3 million people who are incarcerated in prisons, understandably so, but often we ignore the fact that a larger number, about 5 million people, are in community supervision.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And one of the fascinating things about Project HOPE is the way in which, in a very cost effective way, it’s a sketch shot in approach to dealing with probation, which allows the system to address a very large number of offenders—a much larger number of offenders than a typical drug court can address, in a strikingly effective way.  It also has a really fascinating personal story.  So back in 2004, Judge Steven Alm got interested in his—in the caseload that he’d been assigned.  He’d been on the bench for about three years.  He was a very unusual—is an unusual figure.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  He was a former U.S. Attorney.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  He is an ex-boxer.  In fact, he had even fought, in his youth, at the central jail in Hawaii.

Len Sipes:  Interesting.

John Buntin:  Yes.  If you ever encounter him, ask him what episode of Hawaii Five-O he was on.  And when he looked at his docket, he asked a kind of obvious question that only a relatively new judge, who’d had a broad experience, would ask, which is you’re asking me to remand all these people to prison custody after they’ve amassed, you know, 20, 25 violations.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  Why am I only dealing with this now?

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  He said, you know, think about parenting, you know.  If you have a kid when you’re—what would happen if when your kid was acting out, you didn’t do anything?  You didn’t do anything; you ignored violation after violation, and then suddenly and arbitrarily, the hammer came down, and you inflicted an extreme punishment on the kid.

Len Sipes:  Right, right, right, right.

John Buntin:  It wouldn’t work very well; it’s not a good way to parent, and your kid would feel like they were being mistreated.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And that is basically what he argued that the criminal-justice system was doing.  So he came up with a different approach, which was guided by, you know, a couple of simple precepts.  You know one was that punishment should be swift and certain, but not necessarily severe.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John:  So, you fail your drug test, you miss your appointment, you know, you’re gonna go into jail, not for two years, for two weekends perhaps.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John:  If you have a job, well, then you’ll serve your jail time on the weekends.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And because he had been a U.S. Attorney, he was able to call in some favors, for instance, appealing to the U.S. Marshals to make warrant enforcement a priority for his court.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  In other words, to make good his threat.

Len Sipes:  They track the guy down and put him in jail.

John Buntin:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  For a positive drug test.

John Buntin:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And they did it over and over and over again until they stopped pulling positive drug tests.

John Buntin:  Well, you know two things happened that were interesting.  One was he decided instead of just having a drug test every now and again, everyone in my court is going to call an 800 number every morning and that 800 number will tell you whether you have to come in for a drug test that very day.

Len Sipes:  Interesting.

John Buntin:  And if you were called in, you were tested on the spot, results were generated on the spot, and if you failed, you can even go into custody on the spot.

Len Sipes: That day?

John Buntin:  That day.

Len Sipes:  That day.

John Buntin:  And it was a rather shocking innovation and one of the things that resulted from this was a dramatic falloff in positive drug tests.

Len Sipes:  Well, a dramatic falloff in positive drug tests, a dramatic falloff in the behavior that sends people to prison, and startling, in terms of recidivism rates with recidivism as defined by new arrest or new incarcerations, that dropped dramatically as well.

John Buntin:  It did yes.  I mean the drug test positive falloff rate was in the vicinity of 80%.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  Recidivism dropped around 50%.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  And there’s another component of the HOPE experience that’s really fascinating, and it was this—once you demonstrated that the threat, if you will, was credible, you didn’t have to enforce it very frequently.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And most people quickly got the message this was real and as a result you didn’t have to expend a lot of organizational capacity enforcing.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And that has allowed him to you know expand the number of people supervised.

Len Sipes:  And so, basically what we have here is a set of circumstances where literally, over time—literally, over time, thousands of individuals who were headed back to the prison system didn’t go back to the prison system.  You have literally thousands of crimes, over time now considering the length of the program, of people who did not come back into contact with the criminal-justice system.  I know not all crimes are reported, so that’s a very iffy proposition, but we certainly know and can speculate that there were a lot of crimes that were not committed because they stopped drugs, and they also got themselves involved in treatment.

John Buntin:  And what connects to the wonderful world of game theory, is the way in which Hawaii, or at least Judge Alms caseload, moved from an unsatisfactory equilibrium with a lot of frequent offenders, to a very virtuous equilibrium where you didn’t have to do much enforcement, you didn’t have much offense.  And you know that’s something that we’ve seen, you know, not only in programs like HOPE, but in other parts of the criminal-justice world.  You know, particularly with some of the operations, cease-fire-style drug market interventions.

Len Sipes:  Right and that’s the other thing I wanted to bring up.  David Kennedy and a variety of others, including ourselves here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, what we have tried to do is to focus on the bad actors.  And here it gets by—and one of the things with Project HOPE—these were high-risk offenders.  These were not low-risk offenders.

John Buntin:  Yes, these were high-risk offenders, and you know, Judge Alm in recent months, years, has said something very interesting as well.  I believe that he is currently in the process of bringing a drug court, you know, into his caseload as well.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  And in effect, he is—one of the striking results has been that a surprisingly large number of people in his system are able to stop using without undergoing the type of expensive drug treatment that, you know, drug courts typically provide in an earlier stage.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  So, Judge Alm has sought to sort of used the drug court in the more intensive treatment for that subset of offenders, you know, who he believes is actually quite a small subset who really don’t respond to these swift, but certain, sanctions.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.  [PH] Vrand, a long time ago, basically said that many offenders take vacations from drugs.  I mean, we have this sense that drugs are, you know, the—you cannot kick drugs.  And offenders stop using drugs all the time, so.  And drugs are heavily correlated with the amount of criminal activity that you do, but get back to David Kennedy because one of the things that Kennedy seemed to be—have done, and others throughout the years, is to say, you know, one of the things that we should be doing is focusing on, again, the high-risk  offender.  Not everybody within the criminal-justice system, but the really bad actors and going after them, correct?

John Buntin:  Correct, I mean one of the—one of, I think, David Kennedy’s insights has been that in most cities, people talk about problems like gang violence or talk about problems like drug markets, but that when you convene the players, the agencies who are trying to address the problem, and you ask let’s drill down to the individual level, you know, typically a fairly small subset of people are responsible for the most violence.  And, you know, Kennedy, you know, first originally in Boston, back in the early ‘90s, came onto the scene of, you know, a preexisting, kind of, intervention and the Boston Police Department, Court Probation, The Department of Youth Services, you know, a kind of group had already come together and was working across agency to deliver a message to certain violent offenders that if they persisted in doing violent things, they’d get a lot of attention.  Unwelcome attention.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And Kennedy, to his great credit, recognized that there’s something very interesting happening here.  I mean most academics will tell you that criminals are not highly rationale.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  Crime doesn’t pay well.  We know that, you know, contrary to public perception, drug dealing, for most people, you know, is basically a minimum-wage job.

Len Sipes:  I’ve never seen such poverty in my life then in a drug dealer’s home, yet every television show I see, shows just the opposite.

John Buntin:  And so the notion that, you know, gangbangers, who, as we know, police frequently refer to as knuckleheads, will respond in a rational fashion, was a little bit of a stretch.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  But, you know, in Boston, David tried it.  You know the first element was concentration, which he described as focusing on the high-risk people.  You know, David and his group added to that something interesting, which was a direct message.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

John Buntin:  You know, that was probably best illustrated in High Point North Carolina, which had a very robust open-air drug market in the African-American west end.  The police did traditional police work.  They got all the information they needed to, you know, round up a group of the biggest dealers.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  But instead of arresting them and seeing them replaced by their understudies, they called them in, and they delivered a message saying, we know what you’re doing, we have these binders, we’re ready to prosecute, but instead we’d like to suggest something else.  You shut down the drug market.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Buntin:  And, you know, identifying exactly who the actors were communicating a clear threat, was very effective.  You know it shut down High Point, and in Boston, at least for a while, you know, it shut down the kind of epidemic levels of youth violence that were making news throughout—

Len Sipes:  And the threat was that in either one instance within the article that an offender had a bullet in the pocket, which is a felon in possession of a bullet, which is prohibited, and he goes to prison for 15 years.

John Buntin:  Kennedy brought in the U.S. Attorney, which is very supportive, and they decided to make an example of one gangbanger, so yes, he was found with a bullet, and he’s—

Len Sipes:  And that influenced everybody else.

John Buntin:  Federal time was a powerful threat.

Len Sipes:  So in essence, we have to wrap up.  We’re really about a minute and a half left before I have to close.  What the article says, looking at it from a multi-decade point of view, looking at a variety of philosophies, a variety of points of view, it says principally what?

John Buntin:  The article says that we should concentrate our resources on the worst offenders.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.  We should bear in mind that the world is dynamic, and we should think about how we can tip criminal activity from a bad cycle, which we’re all familiar with.  The cycle of reoffending, the cycle of recidivism, the cycle of, you know, failed probation visits.  A third of prison—of the prisoners going into the prison systems are there because of probation violations, and we should think about ways to create virtuous circles.  And then if we communicate our expectations clearly and carry through on those on our message, you know we can see some really startling changes in behavior.  We can move to a virtuous equilibrium, which doesn’t require a great deal of resources to maintain.  And very importantly, we can also create a sense of fairness.  The system seems fair because while I’ve talked a lot about deterrence, that sense of fairness is also very important and a lot of the most interesting work now in criminology I think is occurring around those issues of fairness and legitimacy.

Len Sipes:  We’re approaching the criminal-justice system with surgeon’s tools instead of a sledge hammer.

John Buntin:  Exactly, yes.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today has been—it’s been a pleasure interviewing you John and reading your article.  John Buntin, Governing Magazine,, he wrote, what I consider to be a groundbreaking article, How Game Theory is Reinventing Crime Fighting.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We really do appreciate all the cards, letters, e-mails, phone calls suggesting new programs, comments, criticisms.  If you have suggestions for new shows, we would love to hear ‘em and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Motivational Interviewing in Corrections-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capitol, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, today’s program is going to deal with motivational interviewing in corrections.  The whole idea of motivational interviewing is something that is really of interest to people throughout the criminal justice system, especially in corrections.  It’s a way of gaining the trust of the people that you’re dealing with, the offender population, the client population.  It’s a way of motivating that individual to do the things that that person should do.  We have two national experts with us today.  The show, by the way, has been arranged by the National Institute of Corrections.  We have Bradford Bogue.  He is Director of Justice System Assessment and Training. He has been a motivational interviewer trainer since 1993.  His Web address is  We also have Anjali Nandi.  Anjali is currently the Program Director for the Center for Change, a state licensed adult outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility in Colorado. She’s been a member of the International Motivational Interviewing Trainer, a network of trainers since 2003 and to Bradford and to Anjali, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Anjali Nandi:  Thank you.  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Bradford, what is motivational interviewing?

Bradford Bogue:  Motivational interviewing is really a form of holding a conversation with somebody to draw out their and help and find their motivation for changing some of the things that are troubling them.  We talk about it as being a style, and it’s sort of situated somewhere between following and listening on the one hand and directing and teaching on the other hand.  It’s kind of an integration of those two very common conventional styles for holding conversations.  And we talk about that place between those two as being guiding.  It’s a place where we guide someone to find their own solutions.  And it’s particularly adept at helping people work through their ambivalence to change, which is a very normal part of changing behavior.  So that’s it in a—

Len Sipes:  Anjali, what is your take on motivational interviewing?

Anjali Nandi:  I think Brad captured it well.  The only thing I will add is that there are primarily two pieces to motivational interviewing, one is a real focus on relationships and then the other is being strategic about what we’re looking for as the client is giving us information about themselves, looking for particular language and things like that.

Len Sipes:  Okay one of the—

Anjali Nandi:  So that’s the only thing I would add.

Len Sipes:  I want to point out to the audience, “Motivational Interviewing in corrections, a comprehensive guide to implementing motivational interviewing in corrections” is available from the National Institute of Justice – I’m sorry – The National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice, and we’ll have the link within the show notes. But the bottom line to both Bradford and Anjali is to try to get the individual who is caught up in the criminal justice system – and I understand this goes way beyond the criminal justice system.  But in terms of our bailiwick, what we’re trying to do is to prompt change in that individual and this is a method of prompting that change, correct?

Bradford Bogue:  Yes, that’s right.  I would say it’s with that person and emphasize “with” rather than “to” because prompting often is something we do to somebody but it’s working with and holding that conversation and structuring it in a way that the person is more likely to come up with their own reasons for change.

Len Sipes:  And, Brad, you’re the one, you’re the author of this document that I just mention from the National Institute of Corrections, correct?

Bradford Bogue:  I’m a co-author with Anjali.

Len Sipes:  Oh, both of you were involved in this, okay.

Bradford Bogue:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Now the part of the document that I like the best is comes on page 52.  It says, “People make their best efforts to change when motivation comes from within and maintaining one’s autonomy of choice.  The notion that people ultimately decide for themselves whether they will change a given behavior is universal and an important attribute as a human being.”  So basically, unless it comes from that person it’s not going to work.  Whatever we in the criminal justice system try to do with that individual that unless it comes from that person, unless it comes from deep inside that person that they want to change, that they want to get involved in change, it’s not going to happen, correct or incorrect?

Bradford Bogue:  Anjali, what do you say?

Anjali Nandi:  Well I’m hesitating a little bit because it’s not entirely correct.  I don’t want to give the impression that if the client comes in and says, “You know I don’t really want to do this.”  But we say, “Okay, well then leave and come back when you’re motivated.”  Motivational interviewing is actually helping the person find these motivators.  Even if there are things that the client doesn’t want to do when they first come in.  So oftentimes when a client comes into our agency they don’t want to do there.  They are upset about being there.  And we look for what their goals are and sometimes they’ll say to me, “Well my goals, my only goal is not to see you any longer.” And to me that’s an excellent goal.  And it’s something that I will absolutely help them work towards because it works in the larger perspective as well to keep them away from crime.

Len Sipes:  It’s the matter of breaking through a barrier?  Help me understand this.  Is it a matter of breaking through a barrier?  We can’t – we, and as far as the criminal justice system, cannot just sit in front of a person and read them the riot act.  We cannot just sit in front of a person and tell them this is what you need to do.  This is how you need to do it and now go out and have a pleasant day.  This involves somehow, some way, breaking through that person, reaching that person, understanding that person, figuring out what motivates that person and to try to get that person to understand that there’s a better way of doing things.

Bradford Bogue:  Well to try to be motivationally adherent with motivational interviewing you can do that.  You could read them the riot act, but you’re not likely to get results related to changing behavior.  The results you’re likely to get from that is a possible reaction effects from the client which they dig in deeper, because all you’re offering them is the very thin side of the argument.  If you’re taking on the side that why they should change when you’re reading them the riot act, all you’re giving them is the side why they may not want to change.

Len Sipes:  Right.  So there is going to be almost immediate resistance to that sort of encounter?

Bradford Bogue:  It would create discord, yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so what are the techniques?  What is the secret sauce in terms of getting through to a person who’s resistant to change?

Bradford Bogue:  Well, Anjali, how about I start out with a couple big chunks and then you follow up.  How would that work?

Anjali Nandi:  That sounds great.

Bradford Bogue:  Okay.  Leonard, a couple – looking at it very globally, motivational interviewing is about two basic components.  One is what we call the motivational interviewing spirit, the spirit of MI, and that has to do about how – really how the individual practitioner, the staff person is with themselves, how they relate to themselves, and how they relate to other people in general and it’s as much unconscious as it is conscious.  It’s just how you hold yourself and how comfortable are you in your skin and what do you project onto the world in terms of your view of other people.  So that’s kind of the foundation piece and we talk about that as being the music in MI, and then the lyrics are the technical skills that we learn.  And many of the technical skills are used in many other therapeutic strategies as well.  But some are unique to MI.  And they have – we scaffold them up and I think Anjali could – I’d like to hear her chime in on this too.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, Anjali.

Anjali Nandi:  So, yes, Brad has sort of laid out the larger picture.  There’s the spirit and then there’s the skills. Within the skills, I would say there is some, what we call, basic or micro skills like open questions or affirmations or reflections which are really at the heart of motivational interviewing.  But I think an important piece here is learning to listen to what the client is saying and listen for change or listen for their own motivations, listen for discrepancies as they’re talking.  So while a lot of it are these kind of skills that we can teach, a huge part of learning motivational interviewing is learning what to listen for and how to work with what you’re getting from the client.

Len Sipes:  And if you’re getting – so help me out because I’ve done gang counseling on the streets of the City of Baltimore.  I’ve done a year of running a group in a prison system. I’ve done jail or job core kids.  These kids and these younger individuals are oftentimes very difficult to reach.  It’s very difficult to find that magic moment in their lives that you can reach out to them and draw them in the conversation and have them truly interact with you in a meaningful way.  Many of these individuals come from extraordinarily difficult backgrounds, harsh backgrounds. They don’t trust you.  They don’t trust us within the criminal justice system.  What breaks through that barrier?

Bradford Bogue:  Well part of it is relational.  Just building – going through a very set process of engaging people.  I shouldn’t have said “a very set” but a kind of a natural process of engaging someone and helping them work through their ambivalence about even – as Anjali suggested earlier – about even being there in the first place, about working with you.  And so, learning to work with that and touch on and be willing to draw out from the client, what their doubts are, what their hesitations are and ambivalence about being there and then as you build a relationship and find that the person is getting more engaged, then you can begin to focus where you want to go and where the client wants to go, most importantly, in your engagement and what’s troubling them.  And as you begin to get a focus on that, then drawing out from the client very deliberately what their motivations might be, some of the things that – what their strengths are around that particular change target and the reasons and their needs and some of their desires and so that process – we talk about — the new way that we’re looking at MI is really talking about four processes and we talk about engaging, focusing, evoking and planning.  And it’s these are kind of like stair steps and one builds on the other so that at any given time there might be a need to go back to the earlier previous process and then move forward.  So it’s kind of recursive in that way.

Len Sipes:  Is this basically sales?  Is this the same central point that sales people learn about in training when the sales person is training, actively listening to the individual, being really in tune with what it is that they’re interested in, being reflective of what it is that they have to say, all of these are basic sales techniques, correct?

Anjali Nandi:  Well, there is a sales component to it I think except there’s a fundamental difference.  And, to me, a part of that difference is that what I’m selling them on is their own motivation, their own reasons, their own strengths and ability rather than what I want.  I mean if I’m selling somebody something, I have a real goal there to get them to buy this particular item.  Whereas here I’m trying to look for what it is that will support them the most.  So I think that’s one of the differences.  Bard, maybe you can see some others.

Bradford Bogue:  Well I think, I agree with Anjali that there’s some similar aspects but one of the – when you’re selling, I don’t believe you’re having compassion for the other person and having their best interest at heart is really necessary to sell somebody. It might be necessary to collaborate with them.  It might be even necessary to draw out from them their reasons to purchase something, but it isn’t necessary to really respect their boundaries and to appreciate them.  And that’s where – those are aspects of the spirit I mentioned earlier.  They’re really essential for motivational interviewing to build that – to find that trust for people to do the heavy lifting necessary to make some changes in their life.

Len Sipes:  Motivational interviewing has been around for quite some time.  This is nothing new, according to the document.  It’s been around for decades, correct?

Bradford Bogue:  That’s right.  Well it’s been around but it’s still not well known within many sectors, and if it is known, it may only be known nominally and not practiced at a deeper level of proficiency yet.  It takes some doing to learn how to use motivational interviewing.

Len Sipes:  But from reading the document, I got the sense that it’s used within the psychiatric profession, the medical profession, a lot of the professions where it’s vital to maintain or to establish a relationship with an individual within the medical model that this concept has been around for a while.

Bradford Bogue:  Yeah, the development of MI, it’s ARC.  It’s really interesting.  It started out originally just for people with alcohol problems.  It quickly – and it was developed in response to some of the kind of polarizing or punitive approaches that we were using back in several decades ago in the addiction’s field here in this country.  And then it spread quickly to other chemical and then non-chemical addictions such as addictions or anorexia or other disorders.  And then, after that, it continued to spread much to the amazement of the originators, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, and into healthcare and to a wider – much wider variety of problem behavior issues than they ever imagined.  Post surgery, renal patients, male on male, unsafe sex, all kinds of things, diabetes, and often there’s been clinical trials that have followed the interest and found the evidence that it’s working in these areas.  So motivational interviewing is spread like top seed to many different kinds of social service sectors and continues to spread now.  But now, unlike many of the previous sectors where there might have been small agencies, if there were any agencies or individual therapists, now it’s motivational interviewing is coming into corrections.  The significant different is it’s coming into large bureaucracies.  Typically for corrections you don’t just have one corrections person working corrections in some jurisdiction.  You have organizations and quite often they’re very large involving thousands and thousands of people.  And that entails their organizational culture and all the intrigue and levels and filters and red tape that comes with that.  And so it’s a new kind of engagement to implement motivational interviewing in these larger sectors.  And it’s really an interesting wonderful one too because it’s looking like it’s bringing in a kind of humanizing effect on some of our very punitive or correctional organizations.

Len Sipes: I want to reintroduce our guests, more than half way through the program, Bradford Bogue.  He is the Director of Justice System Assessment and Training.  He has been a motivational interviewer trainer since 1993.  The address is  Also at our microphones today, Anjali Nandi.  She is with the Center for – currently the Program Director for The Center for Change, a state licensed adult and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility in Colorado,  All right. So the idea is that this has been around for a long time within the medical profession, and it works.  I mean that’s the point — either Anjali or Bradford, that is the point is that this has a long history of success in terms of motivating individuals within the medical model, correct?

Anjali Nandi:  That is correct.  I think what Brad was pointing out also is how the implementation though is different and difficult, more difficult I think in the corrections field and that’s why this first part of the book focuses on implementation issues in corrections.

Len Sipes:  Yeah and that’s one of the reasons I want to bring – but first I want to fully establish the fact there is a strong body of success.  So if we’re moving this from the medical model into the correctional model, the folks within the correctional system need to understand that there’s a strong scientific basis for this being a practical and workable and successful application.  So we have to agree to that first.  And then we move to corrections.

Bradford Bogue:  Leonard, absolutely true.  So motivational interviewing is on the SAMHSA registry for evidence based practice as well as some others.  And there’s been over 200 random clinical trials on motivational interviewing and the volume of research continues to expand progressively around motivational interviewing.

Len Sipes:  Right and so that’s the principle fault.  It has a long history of success within other fields and now we’re bringing it to corrections and, Bradford, you mentioned that there’s some times a bit of a difficulty in terms of bringing it to the correctional system.  Probation and corrections, I mean it’s a huge entity. I mean there are seven million people under the custody of correctional agencies, either in prisons, jails or in parole and probation supervision.  So and we’re a hard nosed cynical lot and we certainly want the best for the individuals that we deal with.  We certainly want to see them succeed.  But what you’re saying is that it’s time for those of us, if we want to be successful, if we want to get drug addicts into treatment, if we want to get mental health people involved in treatment, if we want that to be successful, if we want them to find jobs, we’ve got to do motivational interviewing because – not because it’s the right thing to do.  We do it because it works.

Bradford Bogue:  Well, yes and it works in a few ways.  It works first of all and foremost with our clients and we need to do a lot of research in the criminal justice system.  Not much has been done with motivational interviewing at this point.  There’s only – but so more of that needs to follow.  But from the research that has been done in other related fields like addictions, folks with cocaine problems or opiates or what have you, we know that it works.  The other thing that it does, though, that makes it the right thing to do, is it’s looking like it helps people that are practicing it as well.  And so there’s evidence that people practice MI, for instance, in the prisons in Sweden who adopted six or seven years ago, I believe, motivational interviewing across the whole nation’s system, they ran some trials and found that with clinical trials that it reduces the cortisone or stress levels of people that are using it as opposed to people that weren’t trained in it.  So it gives people that are working in the system a better sense of agency in what they’re doing day to day and working with other people.  It gives them a purposeful – it clarifies and helps them within in terms of what their mission is and one interaction to the next working with different people.  I like – you know there’s a line from Shakespeare, that kindness is the one virtue that does double duty.  It’s good to the person it’s bestowed on and it’s good for the bestower.  And I see that every – each experience I have training or coaching in motivational interviewing.  Anjali, what’s your take?

Anjali Nandi:  I think you’ve captured it. Not sure what to ask [INDISCERNIBLE] twice given for sure and impacts the clients and in a lot of way makes things easier for me as a practitioner as well.  In trainings, after delivering a training, I will receive a follow up email from people who have been in the training who say it used to feel like I was boxing with a client the whole time and now it feels like I have this conversation and then I leave and it really is up to the client to take the next step and there’s the sense of calm that seems to be experienced by the folks who are using motivational interviewing.

Len Sipes:  But I’m still struggling to find that secret sauce, that magic moment in terms of your interacting with a person either on parole or probation or within the correctional setting what it is that we’re trying to do.  I mean we’re trying to find that spark, that interest in that individual and we’re trying to find that glimmer, that hope, that sense of – you know one of the things I always wanted to do is to become a carpenter or one of the things I always wanted to do was to shake this drug habit of mine but I’ve never been able to do it.  But it doesn’t come that easy.  It doesn’t come that straightforward.  They’re just small pieces of humanity that you latch onto and reach out to and investigate. I mean is that what we’re talking about?

Bradford Bogue:  Well I think it’s experienced in moment to moment in a myriad of ways but the common theme across that is that people – when someone is working with them and applying a motivational interviewing a style or engaging on I should say is that they get to hear themselves think and they get to reflect a little bit and that reflection brings up quite often those ah-ha moments for the individual.  But they get to reset, recalibrate who they are and where they want to be with their – so there’s lots of small little opportunities to be had in a conversation.  And I think motivational interviewing it is fascinated with what the language is that we use.  We’re always looking at the kind of language that we use with the clients and the kind of language that they use in turn and how the language we use influences the language that they use and based on that kind of understanding and knowledge we can then begin to more systematically kind of help them focus and find the kind of solutions that they might want to find.

Len Sipes: It’s interesting that you should say that because just last week I did a radio show with Garrett College in terms of a very successful juvenile justice program where two thirds were successful where ordinarily 70 to 80 percent are unsuccessful.  So they had a wonderful result, and I kept hammering away what was the secret sauce, what was the key ingredient, and she kept coming back to the fact that it was the way that we address them, the way that we treated them, the way that we interacted with them.  It sounded as if she embraced the whole concept of motivational interviewing from the very beginning.  She said it was the way staff approached the juvenile population.  Instead of from a custodial approach, it was from a helping approach, a humanistic approach, and she said that that made a huge difference in terms of their rate of success.

Bradford Bogue:  Yeah, Leonard, I’d like to read you something, a quote from a researcher and expert in corrections that says that regarding “how effective any officer is working with offenders will depend to a great extent upon his conviction about people, his respect for them as human beings with all their shortcomings, his appreciation of the uniqueness of each person with whom he is working, his belief in the capacity of people to change and his conviction that true change must come from within.”  That was written 51 years ago in 1961, and I probably don’t need to tell you or probably many in the audience that we’re still struggling with how to bring that part of ourselves to work, you know, that sees the best in other people.  And I think motivational interviewing is not something that’s readily trained.  In fact, we’re not even sure training is the ticket to the movie much less the movie.  The evidence on developing motivational interviewing skills that we have through random controlled trials on training motivational interviewing where we randomly assign different practitioners to different conditions.  You read the book.  You just go to a training and this group over here goes to coaching only for instance, those kind of studies indicate the key ingredients are really getting imperial objective feedback from someone who has trained to code what you’re saying and doing with the client imperially and coaching.  Those are the keys.  And we got into this book – just to give you a quick background in this—

Len Sipes:  We only have a couple minutes left.  Go ahead.

Bradford Bogue:  Okay.  I’ve been training motivational interviewing in corrections for about 19 years and The National Institute of Corrections early on was the only agency that was willing to kind of explore getting tape critiques and giving people feedback through tapes and they began to do that more and more.  At the same time many motivational interviewing trainers were beginning to learn that out approach of train and pray was really bankrupt in terms of bringing motivational interviewing into correctional entities at any significant level and that we needed to shift the paradigm away from just assuming training could do the job and adapt a paradigm that’s more about staff development and following through with tape critiques and coaching.  So we talk about it as wave one, which is the first 10 years that we were trying, experimenting with bringing motivational interviewing into corrections simply through training.  You know send your staff to a two or three day training for instance and then wave two where we still may train, but we’re really interested in the follow up is where the action is and getting tape critiques from folks and then follow up with phone coaching or face to face coaching and get them into a cycle.  It usually takes three or four cycles through that of taping and coaching to get people to a level of proficiency where they really, according to the research, likely to get those nice effects in terms of the outcomes they want.

Len Sipes:  Okay, we have to close with that, Brad.  I guess today – our guests today have been Bradford Bogue.  He is the Director of Justice System and Assessment Training. He has been a motivational interviewer trainer since 1993,  Also joining us today, ladies and gentlemen, has been Anjali Nandi.  Anjali is a Program Director of the Center for Change, a state licensed outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility in Colorado.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We’re up to 133,000 requests on a monthly basis. We appreciate your letters.  We appreciate your emails.  We appreciate your phone calls and in feedback in terms of the program and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Successful Youth Reentry Program–Garrett College–DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  The title of today’s program is Successful Rehabilitation Efforts.  I travel frequently through Maryland’s Garrett County, one of the most beautiful places in the United States, resting on the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, and there I read a local newspaper called the Republican, an editorial, and it addressed a college program by Garrett College and serving youth in the area, actually from Baltimore City at a youth camp in Garrett County, and I’ll read very briefly from this editorial.  The focus of the story is the Garrett Backbone College Program, which affords an opportunity for youth incarcerated at the Backbone Youth Center to obtain college credit, and more importantly, an avenue for productive life outside of the correctional system.  The editorial goes on to say that the recidivism rate ordinarily for juveniles is 70-80%.  However, since the Garrett Backbone College Program has been in existence, the recidivism rate of youth who have been in the program is 38%.  Not only have two-thirds of the participants converted to a law abiding way of life, but a number of them have become highly successful.  To talk about this program today, we have Elizabeth Grant.  She is the Director of Liberal Arts and Justice Studies there at Garrett College.  The internet address for Garrett College is  Elizabeth, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Elizabeth Grant:  Hi, Len.  Thank you, it’s good to be with you today.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m really, really appreciative of you being with us today, because one of the things that I have seen in my 42 years within the criminal justice system is that most programs, when they’re dealing with offenders, the success rate generally speaking is somewhere in the 10-20% ballpark, and when you consider that this editorial says that two-thirds of the people who have attended your program, the Garrett Backbone College Program, that two-thirds have gone on to become successful.  To me, it’s a phenomenal accomplishment.  So I have two questions to start the program: describe the program, and how did you achieve such wonderful results?

Elizabeth Grant:  Oh, you’re going to have a hard time with me keeping me reeled in!  I am so excited about this program, and I love an opportunity to brag on it!

Len Sipes:  Well, brag on it!

Elizabeth Grant:  This started as a brainchild shortly, well actually, prior to my arrival at Garrett College, but I got swept in it in short order, and it was an effort by Mike Lewis, who is currently the principal for the Western Maryland Youth Centers through the department of juvenile services, and our former president, Dr. Steve Herman, and it was centered around an idea that they referred to as redemptive justice.  Now restorative justice is kind of on the scene now where offenders have a duty to make good for the harm that they’ve created to society, and redemptive justice goes a step further and says, you know, you’ve harmed yourself as well.  You the offender have harmed yourself as well, and you need to do what you need to do to get put back together again, whether it’s getting vocational skills or understanding the impact that your behavior has on the larger culture, and so on and so forth.  So they said, wouldn’t it be great if youth that are in the custody of the state have an opportunity to go to college or to have exposure to things that otherwise they may not have, and the youth that we have in Western Maryland actually come from all over Maryland, not just Baltimore, and we do actually serve some kids in DC as well.  So we started out in 2006 with 12 kids, and we were at Backbone Mountain, which is one of the four youth centers in Western Maryland, and decided to start small with two classes, so we offered an English class and a Sociology class, and it was very well received, and since that time, we have actually served 180 students for a collective of over 1,000 college credits.  We’ve offered 368 college courses, and the students are able to achieve graduation with their GED.  So in the short time, which is usually about six months, students are able to get a leg up on getting their GED, so that chapter is accomplished, but then also to move on so that they’re able to see that college isn’t really that scary, and that they have options.  The idea has never been to keep them here in Garrett County and at Garrett College, but that this is an opportunity for them to be exposed to, oh, so this is what college is like, and gosh, I can do this.  And I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a number of the courses, and I tell you what, they wear me out.  I did a course one summer, the summer semesters are condensed.  We meet for a longer period of time over a shorter number of weeks.  So I ended up doing a sociology class that was four hours long, which ordinarily is just punishment for students and faculty alike!  But it was absolutely thrilling to do it up in Backbone, because the students were making connections.  For the first week or so, no butter’s going to melt in their mouth, and they’re just too cool for all of this, and then when they have their first taste of, oh my gosh, I get this.  I’m not stupid, I can do this, then they just catch on fire, and they ask questions, they integrate the material, they actually do their homework.  Now there may be some truth to, they truly are a captive audience, and there isn’t a lot to distract them from doing their assignments, but the reality is, they do their assignments, and they’re, for the most part, an exceptionally bright bunch of kids.  I mean, they’re not there for singing too loud in the choir.  But they’re able to make the connections and connect the dots, and so over time, we were able to offer a couple of semesters, we were able to offer as many as fifteen credits, which is a full load by any college standard, and so students coming out of their six month, what started out to be getting in trouble and getting sent away, at the end of that, they’re able to leave not only with their GED, but with a semester of college under their belt, and then go home to Montgomery Community College or Anne Arundel or any of the colleges that they want to go to, and these credits, we have decided to make them general education requirements so that these credits will transfer to wherever they are going.  They’re not starting cold.  They don’t have to make that leap from, “I don’t know what college is like” and whether I can do it.

Len Sipes:  One of the things I do want to get into is because I have direct experience as a gang counselor in Baltimore City, I did a year of, where the judge said either go to a job corps or go to jail, and so I ran a group within a prison system, and so these are not easy individuals to deal with.  These are not the cream of the crop that you’re talking about, these are individuals that are caught up in the criminal justice system, they’re juveniles, to the point where the state of Maryland has decided to put them into a center.  I’m not quite sure the word incarceration is the best choice of words, but they’ve basically removed them from their homes and put them in these centers, so these are tough kids.  These are not easy kids to reach, which is one of the reasons why traditionally, we’ve had such a high recidivism rate with that particular population.  Tell me why two-thirds succeeded.  What is the secret sauce?  What is the magic formula where — I said at the beginning of the program, these efforts, when they’re successful, generally range in the 10-20% level, two-thirds of your people did well.  How?  Why?

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, you’ve touched upon a really critical differentiation between the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system, and it’s a philosophical different that unfortunately doesn’t always filter down to practice.  The juvenile justice system was created by an act that separated youth, and the term juvenile varies from state to state, but generally anyone under 18, from the adult population because there was this belief that youth are not, don’t think things through as well, and actually a lot of the research on brain development is beginning to bear that out, and that there is a better hope that young people can turn it around.  They make stupid mistakes, and they should learn from their stupid mistakes, but then go on to be productive citizens rather than being a drag on the whole society by being an incarcerated adult.  Now ideally, we could also employ this kind of mindset in a criminal justice system, but the prevailing thought is that, by the time they are adults, particularly as they get into middle age brackets, they’re less likely to be able to change their behaviors, change their mindsets, understand the impact of their behavior, and so forth.  So understanding that the approach to juvenile justice is much different than the approach in criminal justice, has been where, I think, we’ve had our success.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a juvenile justice bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.  They’re all a specialty of criminal justice which, in my mind, is unfortunate, because it’s not the same.  You can’t take someone that has a criminal justice mindset and assume that they’re automatically going to understand the nuances of juvenile justice, particularly when it comes to these concepts of redemptive justice and rehabilitation, and for some of the people we work with, it’s not even rehabilitation, because they haven’t had the skills in the first place.

Len Sipes:  All right, but I’m going to take you back to what I read from the Republican newspaper.  70-80%, ordinarily within the larger juvenile justice system, fail.  The bulk of adult offenders, two-thirds are rearrested after three years, 50% go back to prison.  That’s Department of Justice statistics.  What is the secret sauce here in your program?

Elizabeth Grant:  We take a radical departure from the lock ‘em up and throw away the key, and all they need’s a little discipline, and by god, they’re going to do it our way, and they’re going to learn how to respect authority, and those are the tools of the criminal justice system, by and large, and I’m trying to be careful with the way I choose my words, but we basically want to beat them over the head with, you have been a bad member of society, and we’re going to punish you, and that trickles down into juvenile justice because we don’t have a ready pool of people that understand that you’ve got to say, you know what, what you did was a problem, how are we, how are you going to turn it around?  Let us show you perhaps some options you might want to think about, including education and so on.  And what we have done, and one of the things that puts Garrett College, I think, in the forefront nationally is that we have an Associates’ Degree in juvenile justice, so our specialty and our focus is, this is what it is to work with young people.  It is not the same as working in the criminal justice system.  So for example, we refer to the students that are in the Garrett Backbone College Program as scholars, and there’s this thread that runs through everything we do that we create things by speaking it, and if we expect these young men to be young men and scholars and gentlemen, I mean, when I refer to them collectively in a group and I’m addressing them, I will say “gentlemen.”  And how often has that happened in their life?

Len Sipes:  I don’t know, but I remember my experience in Job Corps.  It was not an easy experience.  These kids were not easy to deal with.  There was, and now again, ours ranged from, say, 16, up to, I think at that point, 22 or 23.  It was the most exhausting job that I’ve ever had, and I will, again, go back to the fact that two-thirds of your people, the people who entered this program, were successful.  That’s phenomenal.

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, and it takes a willingness on the part of the adults, first of all, to be adults to be willing to pay for the crimes of everyone else that’s ever worked with this youth, because we come into the college program, and actually, we’ve established a little bit of a reputation so that some kids will actually stay longer than they have to just so they can finish the college program, but we come into it, and those, none of the scholars in the Backbone College Program have any reason to take us at our word, or to believe that we are there for anything other than self serving purposes, and so we, the adults going on, have to be willing to earn their respect and pay our dues.  I mean, it’s kind of flipping the whole model, it’s like, these, the youth that are in these programs have been through things I can’t even imagine, and probably things that most people don’t even think about, and for us to go in and approach them as, you’re broken, we’re going to fix you, you’re going to do it our way, we’ll tell you what to do, is just more of the same for them.  But when you go in and you address them as “sir,” or you say, all right gentlemen, we’re going to do this, and you expect, of course you can do this, because you’re bright, and it’s –

Len Sipes:  But you mentioned –

Elizabeth Grant:  – it wrecks their equilibrium.  I mean, they’re used to being tough, and nothing’s going to get through –

Len Sipes:  Right, that’s exactly right.

Elizabeth Grant:  – you know, and we disrupt that, and it throws them off balance, so that the responses they’ve always given that are essentially defense mechanisms don’t work for them anymore.  While they’re groping around looking for things, we’re suggesting like interpersonal skills and responsibility and accountability, and that sort of thing.

Len Sipes:  But let’s go back before the break in terms of talking about the kids in the program, because most have raised themselves.  Most have gotten up and poured their own cereal at 7:00 in the morning and sent themselves off to school.  Most –

Elizabeth Grant:  And their younger siblings.

Len Sipes:  And their younger siblings.  Most didn’t have a father inside.  A lot of times, the mother is not there, they have a lot of times, not all, but certainly a lot of times, they have grown up, and I’m not making any excuses for their criminality, I’m not making any excuses for their behavior, I’m simply stating facts as they are, a lot of times, they are self-raised, and when you become, when you’re self-raised, you have a hard edge towards the rest of the world that is sometimes unbreakable.

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, I think it’s the rare exception when it’s unbreakable.  The approach that I like to take whenever I’m working with someone that’s going to be challenging is to truly believe they’re doing the best they can, and that their behavior is serving a purpose for them.  Now it may be anti-social behavior, it may be destructive behavior, but it’s serving a purpose for them, and that is certainly true for a number of the students, and almost all of them do have a hard edge.

Len Sipes:  We have –

Elizabeth Grant:  Some of them come from –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Elizabeth Grant:  Some of them come from pretty nice homes that, for whatever reason, something goes south.  But I’d like to be able to approach anyone that I’m working with that I think is going to be challenging with the belief that they’re doing the best they can.  It’s not working for the rest of us, but it is serving some purpose for them, and to be able to get around to what that purpose is, and then as I said earlier, this whole idea of treating them differently than they expect to be treated, kind of throws them off balance.  So now they’re looking for, okay, now what do I do?  And that gives us the perfect opportunity to say, here’s an idea, and it does matter that you’re a member of your community, one of the things that we’re doing very well in Western Maryland, I think, is getting youth from all of the youth centers out in the community to do service in the community.  They get AmeriCorps credit, which they can then later use, but they are all over the county, and in Allegheny County as well, doing a lot of community service type things that give them a sense, I mean, it gives them practice to be pro-social members of the community, which most of them don’t have an experience with, and then the other benefit to that is it gives the community a chance to see these youth as something other than little criminals.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program.  Let me re-introduce our guest, Elizabeth Grant.  She is the Director of Liberal Arts and Justice Studies at Garrett College,, talking about a program that has proven to help two-thirds of the juveniles who are involved in this program lead successful lives, which is one of the best statistics I have ever read, which is one of the reasons why, when I read the Republican newspaper, I knew I had to do this interview with Elizabeth Grant to find out more about this program.  So Elizabeth, we’ve basically established that kids from all over the state of Maryland, they come up to Garrett County, Garrett County is sort of like Maryland’s mountainous county, it’s beautiful forest, beautiful area, the Savage River State Forest is the largest state forest in the state of Maryland, I think 60,000 acres, so it’s a beautiful, beautiful area, so they come from all over the state of Maryland, they come up there, they interact with the college, and you have had quite a rate of success with them, and we’ve talked about the reasons for that success, but the downside of all this is that there is a possibility that the program may go away, correct?

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, yeah, that is a black cloud on the horizon that we’re seeing, and I want to backtrack just a minute.  Our students do come from all over Maryland, and we also serve some students from the District area.

Len Sipes:  The District of Columbia, okay.

Elizabeth Grant:  It’s small, and it’s part of Maryland.  Or it’s located –

Len Sipes:  Right next to Maryland, yes.

Elizabeth Grant:  We have a couple of issues that I’m not sure if they’re budget related, or from whence they come, but one of the huge concerns in my mind is that Western Maryland Youth Centers are the last of the Department of Juvenile Services facilities that will be assumed by the Maryland Department of Education, and this was initiated actually under Governor Ehrlich to have MSDE take the education role with the Department of Juvenile Services, and because of the mandates for MSDE, there won’t be time for students at any of the youth centers to be out doing the AmeriCorps activities that they’ve done, which are thousands and thousands of hours, and it provides them a stipend of about $1,200 hours that they can use then for vocation or continued education after they leave, nor will it allow time for the college program that we have going on now, and the great big fly in the ointment is that some of the students that are served in residential facilities operated by the Department of Juvenile Services already have a GED or a Maryland high school diploma, and in those instances, they would not be eligible for MSDE education, so they’ve got this block of time during the day, this six hours that, what do you do?  And in those cases, the option has been, at least historically with the other facilities, they don’t do anything.  They’re basically housed.  They may go out and work on the grounds and that sort of thing, but some of the stuff that is going to be cut out for the students are things like the aquaculture program.  There have been a couple of initiatives where students have learned to raise fish, either for commercial purposes, like Tilapia, or the Rockfish that they’ve released in streams in Maryland, or the sunfish, and in the process of raising these fish, they not only learn everything from soup to nuts about fish, but they also learn about water quality, and they have done a number of projects where they monitor the streams and do stream cleanup, and they plant native species and help filter the water, and the good thing about that is it translates to a marketable skill once they are out of custody of Department of Juvenile Services, they can go down to, and in fact, we actually have some youth that are placed in programs with Parks and People Green in Baltimore.  They’re able to go to the zoo and say, I can test water quality, or they’re able to work with Department of Natural Resources, and the other silver lining to that is that they’re saving DNR a significant portion of their budget in just man hours, because as they’re learning these things and performing these services, then DNR is freed up to do other things.

Len Sipes:  The Department of Natural Resources, right.

Elizabeth Grant:  – organizations that the youth work with, like fire halls and areas, the food pantry and book distribution things, that they go in there, they’re useful.

Len Sipes:  So the whole idea is –

Elizabeth Grant:  There’s value in being useful.

Len Sipes:  The whole idea is to participate in the program through Garrett Community College for the first time to get a leg up on a college education, and at the same time, to go out and do community service work in such a way that it takes the burden off of Garrett County and any county that these camps happen to be located at, so they’re out there basically serving the community, you said the books program, I do a lot of walking on the trails in Garrett County.  I’m assuming that they’ve maintained some of those trails.

Elizabeth Grant:  Oh yes, absolutely.  And it services the state, actually not just Garrett County, but it’s statewide, the benefits of the youth learning ourselves, and the fact that they can practice being a member of community is huge for a number of the scholars that we have, and the youth that are in facilities, that’s not been their experience.  It’s been looking out for number 1 in a dog eat dog world, which they need to be able to do, because they’ll be eaten alive if they can’t.  But at the same time, they’ve had no experience and no practice in being community leaders, or as being viewed as anyone positive, and there’s tremendous value in feeling like you do have value to contribute to a community.

Len Sipes:  Well that would be an incredible shame if the program was altered, don’t you think?  I mean, it is because of administrative changes, there’s the possibility of the program being affected or the program being shut down.

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, both, and when you say administrative changes, that’s something that the Department of Juvenile Services is chronically having to deal with.  The secretary is a cabinet position, which is political.  Typically, we’ve had a secretary appointed every four years depending on how long the governor’s able to stay in office, so that’s like new leadership every four years, which each leader wants to come in and leave his or her footprint on things, and sometimes that’s difficult for the people who are actually on the front mind to translate, and it’s certainly difficult on the kids, because policies change with each different administration, so yeah, there’s the change in administration, but there’s also the changes that are coming down that are part of regulations of other agencies, for example, the move with MSDE coming in to take the educational piece of youth that are in DJS facilities.  One of the beauties that Garrett College enjoys, and it’s translated to the college program that we operate, and also to the youth centers in Western Maryland, is we’re able to have a degree of autonomy because we are small, and we can put programs into place, and we know the other partners that we’re working with.  I mean, I know Mike Lewis who is the principal, and we can put things together because he knows people, I know people, and people are willing to come and be involved in this in part because of our professional reputation, Mike’s and mine, but because of the reputation of the program.  They’ve heard about us.  They’ve seen our kids out, and so when we say, how about we come out and help you with your fish fry.  Great!  This is a model that’s understood in juvenile justice, but that’s, it’s still just a corner of the whole industry, if you will.  Unfortunately, the prison industry’s the fastest growing, and it extends down to juvenile justice.  I’m also familiar with a program called Rite of Passage that operates nationwide, but they have facilities in five different states, and they absolutely have hit on the head what it takes, and it’s getting kids engaged in a community setting, and exposing them to various options.  And they have the luxury of being private non-profit.

Len Sipes:  You’ve been able, well let me back up for a second.  But you’ve been able to document the fact that two-thirds of the kids are successful.  That is very rare.  That is very unusual.  That doesn’t happen with the vast majority of criminal justice programs, and certainly, well let me ask my question, my question is, certainly others within the criminal justice system, certainly others within government, within the state of Maryland, beyond the state of Maryland, have heard about this program, correct, and the success of the program?

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, anybody that I can get to listen to me!  And I know that various secretaries of the Department of Juvenile Services have been excited about what we’ve been doing.  But I’m not sure that we’re heard as far and wide as what might be useful.  I mean, we have been called by political leaders and educational leaders a model for Maryland, and I might be so bold to suggest that we are a model for the country.

Len Sipes:  You may be!  With that level of success, you may be.

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, the problem is that we need to have a degree of professionalism and autonomy that requires a degree of trust that, in this day and age, and I don’t know if it’s just the way things are, but some of the things that have happened on the grander scheme is getting hard to come by.  We were right on the money to start keeping statistics the moment we rolled this out –

Len Sipes:  Oh, absolutely!

Elizabeth Grant:  – and I’m so glad that we did, but one of the heartbreaks that we have is the number of students that we don’t know where they are, because through budgeting, and we as a country say that youth are our future, and we want to invest in youth, and every governor I can remember since I was voting has come in on the platform of reform for juvenile justice or juvenile services, or making kids, having more kids turn out well, but the reality, when it comes down to having qualified people in the jobs, not qualified, but highly trained, really, people in the jobs that can distinguish between the criminal justice mentality and the juvenile justice mentality, that’s not as supported by funding and by, quite frankly, status.

Len Sipes:  We only have a couple minutes left, so we’re going to have to start getting down into some very basic facts and questions.  Do you see, is there any hope for this program?  Will this radio show, will the influence of others save the program?

Elizabeth Grant:  I hope so.  I hope so.  You’ve given our contact information.  I would be happy to talk at length with anyone that wants me to, and I would hope that people that are within earshot of this program will feel comfortable in contacting the governor, Governor O’Malley, and saying, you know, I heard this broadcast, this sounds like a really great program, but I understand it might be in trouble.  How can we help support it?  And certainly to share that with Secretary Abed as well.  They’re aware of the good things that are happening, but I don’t know that the powers that be are aware of the groundswell of support that really this program deserves.

Len Sipes:  Well anytime that you have a major editorial in the newspaper talking about the success of the program, I mean, somebody –

Elizabeth Grant:  Well, the headline of the editorial that says GC program saves lives, and I absolutely believe that.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Well if two-thirds are successful, if two-thirds of the kids that you’re touching are successful, considering the rates that we ordinarily get out of programs, there’s something unique and something really interesting happening at Garrett College and the Backbone Mountain Camp.  There’s some secret sauce, there’s something really dynamic that is creating this success, and so I was hoping that we would bring out that program, that secret sauce today, and what I hear from you, that it’s commitment.  You on ly have a couple seconds left.

Elizabeth Grant:  Yeah, it is commitment, and it’s believing that it can work, because if you believe it can work, then you’ll do what you can to make it work, and the two-thirds success is couched a little bit, because we can’t just back that out from the recidivism rate, which actually, I’m glad [OVERLAY] –

Len Sipes:  Don’t have much time left.  It’s now 32%.

Elizabeth Grant:  Right, 32%.  But we also have a big chunk of kids, we don’t know where they are.  So the success rate isn’t quite as high as two-thirds.  It might be.  But we aren’t sure, because we don’t know what’s going on with the kids that we can’t track.

Len Sipes:  Our guest today has been Elizabeth Grant.  She is the Director of Liberal Arts and Justice Studies at Garrett College in Western Maryland,  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  We really appreciate your letters, cards, phone calls, emails, all the suggestions in terms of future programs, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Criminal History and Employment-University of Maryland-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s program is about employment and criminal history and we ask the basic question – at what point do people with arrests represent the same risks as the general population. This has profound impact,  profound policy implications for our society when you have an 18 year old and he’s arrested, but yet he goes 15 years and he’s not rearrested. He has no further contact with the Criminal Justice system. The question is should he be denied jobs? The other question is for people like we have, under parole and probation supervision, at what point do they become safe risks? They’re years away from their last crime in many cases. They’re years away from their last substance abuse positive test and at what point do they become safe risks for society and safe risks for people to employ them? I’m very proud today to have Kiminori Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web address is, and Professor Nakamura’s personal website I’ll have those listed in the show notes. With that introduction, Professor, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Professor Nakamura:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  Alright, I just want to read very briefly from the New York Times. You got a lot of press for a piece of research you did with Alfred Blumstein from Carnegie Mellon, an extraordinarily important piece of research that has reverberated throughout Criminology and Criminal Justice and has made mainstream media…I’m reading from a very recent opinion from the New York Times. The title was Paying a Price Long After the Crime.

“In 2010, the Chicago public schools declined to higher Darryl Langdon for a job as a boiler room engineer because he had been convicted of possessing a half a gram of cocaine in 1985, a felony for which he received probation. It didn’t matter that Mr. Landon, a single parent of two sons, had been clean since 1988 and hadn’t run into further trouble with the law. Only after The Chicago Tribune wrote about his case did the school system reverse its decision and offer him a job.”

It goes on to say that a stunning number of young people are arrested for this country and those crimes can continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Again, Professor Nakamura, University of Maryland, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Professor Nakamura:  Thank you very much.

Len Sipes:  Okay, where are we with this whole research, Doctor? Can you explain what it is that you did, how you did it and what your research conclusions were?

Professor Nakamura:  Sure, let me start with a sort of background where this research came about. So we, me and Dr. Blumstein, recognized two observations, two trends that we see recently. One is that the criminal background checks have become very, very ubiquitous. According to one survey, about 80-90% of large employers now conduct background checks on potential employees and, largely, I think there are two reasons for the increase in criminal background checks use. One is that technology, the information technology, has made background checking very easy and you can do a lot of background checks even on line. The second in observation is that the criminal records themselves are very much widespread and prevalent. About 92 million criminal records are stored in the State’s Repository of Criminal Records and according to the FBI about 14 million arrests are made each year. So you can imagine the sheer number of people with criminal records.

Len Sipes: That’s 92 million total at the moment with every year adding another 14 million.

Professor Nakamura:  Possibly.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Professor Nakamura:  Of course, the same person can be arrested multiple times, but even considering that, it’s a huge number of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, with 80-90% of employees checking criminal histories and with those numbers of records there, it’s almost inevitable that a sizeable percentage of our population is going to turn up positive for a past criminal history.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right and there’s another recent study saying that about one in third people in the United States acquire an arrest record by the age of 30.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Professor Nakamura:  Right. Again, that tells you that a very large number of people are having criminal records.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do say that, criminologically speaking, that involvement in crime reduces with age. So you can have a person involved in the Criminal Justice system at 16 or 17 or 18 or 19 or 20 and be completely crime free a certain amount of years later.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct and a lot of people have very old, single criminal record that had probably occurred when they were young, but still, those people still cannot get a job or get into public housing or getting other sort of social services because of that single, old criminal record.

Len Sipes:  My introduction to the Criminal Justice system when I was a teenager was being picked up by the police and they decided to take me home to my parents. I won’t embarrass everybody and myself in terms of what it is that I did, but they took me home to my parents. Now, if they had processed me through the regular Criminal Justice system, the question is would I be sitting here doing this radio show here today?

Professor Nakamura:  That could have been, yes, if they process you in official channels and you’ve got an arrest record and that arrest record could still potentially show up on criminal background checks.

Len Sipes:  It’s amazing. One-third of the American population having contact with the Criminal Justice system has immense implications. So give me a sense of the research you did with Alfred Blumstein. So you did how many people and it was in New York, correct?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. So we basically got arrest history records, rap sheets, from New York State Criminal History Repository and we basically captured everyone who was arrested for the first time in the state of New York as adults in 1980. So we had about 88,000 people – data.

Len Sipes:  That’s a huge data set.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct and we basically followed up their criminal history for over 25 years. So if their first arrest in 1980, we followed them up until 2007 or so. So we can see their criminal risk history for over 25 years.

Len Sipes:  What was the conclusion that you came to in terms of following these people? Now, that’s a huge data set. I mean I’m used to criminological data sets of 500, 700, 1,000, 2,000. Eighty-eight thousand is a huge number of people. So you followed them up after a certain number of years and you found what?

Professor Nakamura:  So, first of all, we found that those who are…the recidivism risk, rearrest risk, of those who are arrested and, actually, we looked at those where people were convicted in 1980. Their rearrest risk declines over time, which suggests that the longer these people stay clean, stay out of crime, the lower the recidivism risk becomes.

Len Sipes:  Right, so its age of onset becomes an important marker within criminology, but age of leaving the Criminal Justice system becomes an equally important marker.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right. So age is an important factor here. So if you acquire a criminal record when you are young, the recidivism tends to be higher than the counterparts, but the equally important factor here is the length of time clean. So if you stay clean longer, then your risk of being arrested again becomes much lower.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so are we talking about first time offenders, second time offenders, third time offenders? Are we talking about repeat offenders who at one point had a clean history, single offenders who at one point had a clean history or it didn’t matter?

Professor Nakamura:  We basically looked at first time offenders, first time arrestees as well as those who were first time convictees. So we didn’t really look at those people with multiple prior records, but there’s another research paper by researcher Shawn Bushway and others. That paper looks at recidivism risk of those with multiple prior records.

Len Sipes:  Did it show the same thing as your research?

Professor Nakamura:  The pattern is the same, meaning that the recidivism risk declines over time, but those with many prior records, their recidivism risk declines in a much slower place.

Len Sipes:  Ah, okay, so there’s more of a commitment if you have multiple crimes versus singular crimes.

Professor Nakamura:  Right. It takes a longer time.

Len Sipes:  Your research basically said that there’s a certain formula involved here that after…and it depends upon the crime and I think it depends on the age of onset, but I heard different people summarize your research by saying that after seven years of not offending, then your risk is just as the same as that of the regular population. Not the regular criminal population. I’m talking about the American population across the board.

Professor Nakamura:  Right, so in comparison to the general population, the recidivism risk of those who had a single arrest and conviction in 1980 becomes about the same as the general population’s risk of arrest after seven years or so.

Len Sipes:  Okay and then that did vary from crime to crime, correct?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. The crime type of the first arrest and conviction matters to the number as well as the age at first arrest, when they were first arrested.

Len Sipes:  I’m reading from the report from the National Institute of Justice. For burglary, I think it was 3.8 years for robbery. It was 7.7 years…so it does depend upon the crime and it does depend, as you said, upon the age upon arrest.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  In essence, what we are saying here and from a policy implication is that for this particular group, because you were caught up in the Criminal Justice system at one point in your life does not mean that you should be viewed suspiciously by every employer who chooses to look at your criminal history. I mean before we started the show, I talked about a family member. I was at a family affair and a young family member, she was with her counterparts and they were looking at a smartphone. They were taking a look at a court database and this one young lady blurts out to everybody there, “Oh my heavens, you’ve been arrested.” I mean that was a matter of going on a smartphone and plugging in her name and plugging in her date of birth and she was able to find out about the fact that she was arrested. So this is, number one, it’s not unusual, it’s not difficult at all in many states to find out that you’ve been arrested. The second question is – so what? Okay, so because you were arrested at a certain point that means that – in the example that I gave from the New York Times – that means that you should be denied a job for the rest of your life?

Professor Nakamura:  So the problem was that employers, at least in the past, did not really distinguish how old these criminal records are. So if they see a criminal record on their background checks, no matter how old it is, they think that’s an indicator of risk so that they can basically decline or decide not to hire that individual, but what our research suggests is that employers should look at the age of that criminal record. If that criminal record is very old – longer than seven years, ten years – then that criminal record doesn’t have much relevance in predicting future crime.

Len Sipes:  That’s why there are people who will say that after a certain amount of years you should not be asked about your criminal history because it lacks relevance. If it’s been five years, seven years, ten years since the criminal activity and you’ve been clean since that point, there is no need for an employer to ask about that event.

Professor Nakamura:  Yes, but that threshold might be dependent on how the particular employer is risk sensitive. So if you’re talking about jobs at a construction site, they might not be all that concerned about the risk of crime or if the employment includes people working in teams, so there’s sort of like a natural supervision against each other, then they might not be all that concerned about people with criminal records, but if the job is about teachers or other positions that involves contact with the vulnerable populations, then the employer’s that have risk sensitivity is a little higher, so they might need to wait a little longer for someone with a criminal record to be hired by those risk sensitive employers.

Len Sipes:  We’re quickly halfway through the program. Kiminori Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and within the show notes, I’ll have the exact address for the good Professor’s website. Again, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice –, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice for the University of Maryland talking about something that has received a ton of publicity in mainstream media and an awful lot of discussion within criminological circles called Redemption in the Error of Widespread Criminal Background Checks put out by the National Institute of Justice of the Office of Justice Programs of the US Department of Justice.

Professor, if I could get back to what you said before that there has been an updated study that took a look at people with multiple offenses and the finding of that updated study is the fact that they also age out of crime, but they take a little bit longer to age out of crime.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right. So that’s research by other researchers, other professors, but that paper suggests that if you have more than one, if you have more criminal records, you basically take a little longer to go down to the level of general population’s, let’s say, risk of arrest or sometimes the risk of people with no criminal record. So we can use different benchmarks, but regardless of the benchmark, if you have more records, prior records, it just takes a little longer.

Len Sipes:  Professor, do people come to you and say, “Give me a formula?” Say, ten years we shouldn’t be asking. Now, you just answered the question a little while ago. It depends upon the security needs of the individual. I would imagine if you deal with a lot of money, having someone convicted of fraud involving money, you’re going to look at that person suspiciously regardless as to when the crime occurred, but having said that, do people come to you and say, “Look, there’s a certain point when we’ve got to stop asking about criminal histories. It’s just not fair to the individual.” In some cases, you go 20-25 years carrying that burden with you for the rest of your life for an arrest for something minor that occurred decades ago. I mean is there a point when we should simply stop asking?

Professor Nakamura:  So our first suggestion is that we should remove – what we call – sort of ‘forever rules’. So we should avoid a blanket ban on hiring people with criminal records. That’s not really consistent with what our research indicates. So it does not make any sense for employers to have a sort of policy that says, “We don’t hire people with criminal records.” Going from there, we would usually say about 10-13 years, we should basically stop asking for criminal records regardless of age at first arrest or first conviction, regardless of risk sensitivity for most employers, although, there might be some exceptions.

Len Sipes:  So those are the two – a way to avoid a blanket ban and somewhere in the ballpark of 10-13 years – and that gives some guidance and at least it begins to ask the question in terms of the employment community, is there a time that the person should be – I don’t know – held harmless depending upon the security needs of the institution. Again, if you’re convicted of a sex offense, I’m not quite sure I’d want you to be hired for a daycare position even if it was 15-20 years in the past and there are people who will dispute that, but I understand the perspective of employers, but at least we say avoid a blanket ban across the board and look at 10-13 years as guidance.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right and then another consideration for employers is that they might want to look at what kinds of crime are they mostly concerned about. Are they concerned about property crime, like fraud/embezzlement type or they’re mostly concerned about violent crime and depending on the concerns for particular crime types, they can basically differentiate what prior criminal records they should watch out for. For example, if the prior criminal record is something about the violence and you’re also concerned about violent crime at the workplace, then that criminal record should maybe indicate the higher level of risk for a longer period of time paired with prior record of some sort of property crime.

Len Sipes:  You seem to be saying take a look at the circumstances. Don’t just have a knee-jerk reaction that because you have an arrest, I’m not going to hire you. Take a look at the circumstances and apply the circumstances of that individual to the circumstances of you job.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now, in terms of if I can make the big leap over to people currently under supervision. My agency has 16,000 offenders under our supervision on any given day, we know that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals on parole and probation supervision – I’m sorry – actually millions of people under parole and probation situation throughout the country. I know your research doesn’t go in that direction of people currently under supervision, but my experience and we have job developers who work with these individuals and they tell me that they have people three or four years away from their last criminal involvement and three or four years away from their last positive substance abuse check, drug test and that these are perfectly safe, perfectly skilled individuals. They have hard skills. They have been employed in the banking industry, for the love of heavens. I’ve talked to some people. They’ve been bricklayers. They’ve been electricians, but yet they can’t find jobs. At the same time, they are perfectly safe as far as a risk to public safety or a risk in terms of that employment environment. Do you have any comments on that, sir?

Professor Nakamura:  Yeah, so our research that we just talked about is mostly about this long-term outcome. So people who are just released from prison, they might be able to get a job that is probably not that risk sensitive and he can keep that job for maybe several years and when he wants to move up to a better paying job, that’s when this sort of idea of redemption becomes more relevant because he might be faced with a sort of blanket ban policy that many employers have. That’s when my research becomes a little more important. We always say 10-13 years or 15 years or whatever the number is, that number should not really interfere with the reentry support [INDISCERNIBLE] employment. People released from prison, they should get some sort of job as soon as possible because the research suggests having a job is related to redemption in recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Well, I guess that’s the point. The point is is that we, as an agency, all parole and probation agencies, our job is to reduce recidivism, reduce people going out and committing more crimes, reduce the number of victims. Part of that is through supervision, which is extraordinarily important, but part of that is through programs and finding jobs for these individuals and that job connection is really hampered. I’ve sat down with people under our supervision who are perfectly good risk, yet, employers will not touch them because of their criminal histories, but again, I guess the point I’m trying to make is there may be, based upon age because the average of the people we have under supervision is 31, that maybe there is a point or even people under supervision pose safe risks. I know your research didn’t go there, but is there the possibility that they pose safe risks?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right, especially for, again, employers that are not that risk sensitive.

Len Sipes:  Where do we go to in terms of future research, Doctor, where do we go to in terms of taking this conversation two or three steps further in engaging the American public, engaging the criminological community with these issues that you and Professor Blumstein brought up in your research?

Professor Nakamura:  So we are kind of pursuing two streams of research. One is to look at this redemption idea for people that have been incarcerated. Like I said, in our previous research, we looked at those first time offenders, first time arrestees or those who have been convicted, but now, we’re kind of looking at the data of people who have been already incarcerated. So they probably have multiple prior records and see if their risks of recidivism declines to the level of general population or not. So that’s something that we are looking at right now.  The other strand of research that I’m pursuing is, like you said, looking at the population of people who are under parole supervision and right now, in most states and most jurisdictions, the length of parole is quite prefixed in the sense that when they are put on supervision, they know how long they have to be under that supervision. What I’m exploring is that if they stay clean under parole supervision, their recidivism also declines. So at some point, there can be discharge prior to sort of the maximum sentence date because their recidivism risk no longer poses a significant amount of risk or if the risk level is sufficiently low, then maybe the supervision level can be adjusted and then maybe these guys can be put on either administrative parole supervision or some low-intensity supervision.

Len Sipes:  Well, that would be a huge plus for those of us who run parole and probation agencies because then we can take those resources and redirect them towards the higher risk offender and even do a greater job in terms of protecting public safety.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. Recidivism is at the highest when they’re released from prison. So it makes more sense for supervision agencies to focus on their resources, treatments or supervision resources on the earlier period of time after they’re released.

Len Sipes:  Well, I know, again, those of us in parole and probation agencies are really going to be looking forward to that research because that’s something we wrestle with right now. Do you have a projected date of delivery on that research or are we years away from the findings?

Professor Nakamura:  Well, I started working on that research topic with people from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections here, so we started to collect data and we’re about to analyze the data.

Len Sipes:  Ah, so you’re not that terribly far from the process of coming to some intermediate conclusions.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Well, that would be a wonderful contribution to those of us…I mean for parole and probation administrators, that would be just an enormous piece of research because, again, everyone is struggling with that very question – because of the budget situation, who do you focus your resources on and who do you place on administrative probation or parole or a kiosk sort of program.

Professor Nakamura:  Yup, that’s exactly why we started this research on parole.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m very proud to talk to you today, Dr. Nakamura. Your research, again, for the people listening to this program, it’s really very hard to describe the level of interest that people throughout the country…and it really has caught the attention of mainstream media because I’ve seen your research being referenced to dozens and dozens of times within mainstream media as well as in the criminological community. Dr. Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, I’ll put his personal web page in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate all of your comments. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your emails and we appreciate your phone calls in terms of the program and comments and suggestions. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Identity Theft-NOVA-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program is about identity theft, and back at our microphones, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,  Will’s been at our microphones before, and it’s always a pleasure to have him back. With Will today is Denise Richardson.  She is a consumer advocate, ID theft and education specialist, and, again, that’s going to be the meaning of the show. To Will and to Denise, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling:  Hey, thanks, Len.

Denise Richardson:  Yes, thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  Now, Denise bear with me for a second.  Will and I were talking before the show about a couple things.  Number one, Victim’s Rights Week is coming up in April, and I certainly do want to mention that.  Also, Will, the National Organization for Victim’s Assistant that has been around since 1975.  You now have been given the task of certifying all victims’ advocates within the Department of Defense, correct?

Will Marling:  That’s right.  Yeah, just a recent decision by the Department of Defense is for us to become the secretariat to certify their victim advocate.  So we’re extremely honored, I have to say.

Len Sipes:  That is wonderful.  That is wonderful and that’s a huge undertaking.

Will Marling:  Well, it is.  It’s an important one.  It’s a demonstration of the military’s commitment to victim assistance, and it’s also their recognition of I think the important work that this organization has done historically as well as today.

Len Sipes:  Now you guys have been certifying victim’s rights specialist for quite some time.

Will Marling:  We have.  The National Organization for Victim Assistance is the secretariat for the National Advocate Credentialing Program.  It started in 2003.  So that’s a – it’s similar – it’s credentialing certification.  It’s all kind of — they look very similar but we provide a credential.  We’re the secretariat for that National Allied Professional Credential, and of course we’re honored to be part of that as well.

Len Sipes:  Oh, I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s an immense undertaking.  But I can’t say that this is immense and it’s not that I’m not excited about that but the Federal Constitutional Victim’s Rights Amendment is back on the radar screen, and I find that to be wonderful.  I mean one of the things that the public needs to know is that there are a lot of State Constitutional Amendments for victim’s rights.  36?  Correct?

Will Marling:  33 I think technically.

Len Sipes:  33.

Will Marling:  Three fifths of our nation’s states, that’s right, have it in their constitution.

Len Sipes:  Now, but we tried a federal constitutional amendment, victims’ rights amendment before but it lost just by a couple votes, right?

Will Marling:  Well, yeah, the attempt was to start with the Senate, and it was just two votes shy of cloister in the Senate, and of course that stopped it.  But we think the momentum, the timing, there’s so many things that have come together today, right now, for a victims’ rights amendment, you know, a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution to affirm victim’s rights.  And we’re — to be honest, we think it serves the nation to do this.

Len Sipes:  Well, it’s something certainly the hope for it is certainly something to pray for because you know the fact of victims within the criminal justice system – you know, I’ve been around in the system for 42 years.  We haven’t done the best of jobs in terms of taking care of victims.

Will Marling: Well, yeah, that’s right. I mean, I many times say the system is designed to get the results that it gets.  People just don’t realize that many times it works the way it’s actually designed.  So when you think about redesigning it, that’s one dimension.  Sometimes it truly doesn’t function meaningfully.  And at the end of the day, who’s the biggest stakeholder in this?  It really is the victims.  There are others impacted including communities.  But certainly the victims need to have that voice, and we believe a constitutional amendment in the United States Constitution would provide that social grounding as well as the legal framework for affirming socially the needs of crime victims and the consistent service that they deserve at every level.

Len Sipes:  You know I’ve talked to a variety of people who have been in the criminal justice system who victim’s advocacy was something that they were partial to.  They certainly were not against it.  But it was not first on their radar screen until they or a family member became a victim of crime.  When they walked through the experience directly as a victim or being very close to somebody who was a victim of crime, their attitudes changed remarkably.

Will Marling:  Absolutely.  I mean, it’s the doctor becoming the patient.

Len Sipes:  Yes, that’s exactly right.  That’s exactly right.  All right, but the program today is about undoubtedly theft. It’s one of the things that always is on my mind.  It is always on the mind of people throughout the country.  And I do want to reintroduce Denise Richardson.  She’s a long time consumer advocate and author of “Give Me Back My Credit!”  The victim of identity theft herself, Richardson set out to research the effects of this kind of theft and became a certified identity theft management specialist and trained and certified by the National Institute of Fraud and Risk Management.  Denise, this concept of identity theft, who within this country does identity theft not touch?  You can talk about burglary.  You can talk about sexual assault.  You can talk about violence.  You can talk about theft.  And that affects individual pieces of the population.  Identity theft, that issue belongs to everybody in the country.

Denise Richardson:  It belongs to everyone in our country, and it effects everyone in the world, because, unfortunately, as victims of this crime in this country, a lot of it can come from outside the country, and it makes it really tough on law enforcement to be able to even have the resources or ability to hold them accountable, to stop it.  So it allows the crime to just explode and grow in all sorts of ways.  From across the country, in the country and it hits everyone.  And one thing I’d like to say is congrats, Will, on all of your efforts because NOVA is one of the organizations that stepped out to realize that identity theft is a traumatic event.  And it can leave scars, whether they’re visible scars or not, and those scars can serve as a reminder of the pain that can last a lifetime.  If somebody has your social security number and is able to commit crimes and do other things in your name, it can literally take a lifetime to get through.  So for NOVA to come out and say, yes, this is a traumatic – can be a traumatic crime and there are victims, I just applaud your efforts in doing this.

Len Sipes: is the Website for Denise Richardson.  Denise, now, the people listening to this, they are members of the criminal justice system, members of the public.  What’s the one thing that we need to know straight from the very beginning of the program?  What do we need to understand about identity theft that we don’t understand about it now?

Denise Richardson:  One of the frustrating points that I see over and over when I hear from other victims of this crime is that they didn’t know.  They didn’t know it could be this bad.  They didn’t know this could happen to them.  They didn’t know – they had credit monitoring.  So they thought just by monitoring their credit reports they would have known.  But you wouldn’t know if someone’s hijacked your tax return, if somebody is committing violent crimes in your name.  You wouldn’t know this.  So, to me, the number one thing is more education on today’s identity theft trends and the types of risks and impact it can have, because often I see it downplayed in the media that, oh, if a stats gone down, if there’s a statistic that’s gone down in one area, you would never – if you look at it this way, you would never say to yourself, “Crime’s gone down in our neighborhood, so I think I’ll leave my doors unlocked now.”  And that’s the type of message I think continues to come across because that’s what I hear from the consumers who turn victims and say, “Why didn’t I know about this? I always heard it wasn’t a big thing and the credit card companies would just take care of it for you.”  But there’s the problem.  Not all the crimes that are committed today are credit related.  Yet people are still equating the crime with just America’s credit card and the banks will take care of it for you, so I would say education.

Len Sipes:  When we’re talking about identity theft across the board, we’re not just talking about our credit cards.  We’re not just talking about our social security number.  We’re talking about every little piece of paper that is attached to us.  And I had somebody the other day, a pretty prominent person, came to me and said, “Oh, my God, my name and my – where I live and everything else is available on a Website.  How could that possibly be?”  And I said, “Well, they pull from public records.  Have you bought a house?”  He says yes.  Well, all that information in terms of who you are and where you live is a matter of public information.  That’s startling to a lot of people.  But so there’s – number one there’s a lot of publicly available information on you out there.  We participate in Facebook.  We participate in Google Plus.  We set up a Google profile.  There are public records that apply to us.  So from the very beginning people need to understand that a lot of information is publicly available about you off the internet, and thieves can go from there and get the rest of it, correct?

Denise Richardson:  Absolutely.  And these identity thieves have gotten sophisticated, and if you remember, that’s their job, to sit on Facebook or Twitter or wherever they can get a wide range of information, hack into large databases, whatever it is.  And they can take small bits of information that you have on your profile and put it together with other information that’s public, say, your property records or whatever.  So they use that information.  They sell it to other scammers who use it and then pretend to strike up a conversation with you or know you or connect with you, whatever it may be.  A small little bit of information can turn into the key that unlocks the door to every other bit of information, and you wouldn’t even know it.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now that we sufficiently scared the dickens out of everybody listening to the program, because I think identity theft is huge.  I think it is beyond measurement.  Will, do we have a sense as to how many Americans are impacted by identity theft on a yearly basis?

Will Marling:  Well, we do.  I mean the Consumer Sentinel Network, which is the Federal Trade Commission’s report; they indicate that for 2011 there were 1.8 million complaints.  Now what’s important to recognize—

Len Sipes:  But not everybody complains.

Will Marling:  Well that’s what’s important to recognize.  I mean in terms of uniform crime reporting, identity theft is one of those crimes that doesn’t actually get reported.  You can sort of speculate and extrapolate.  We know it’s a lot worse than that.  I mean, come on, partly because you are obligated as a victim to report.  Secondly, sometimes law enforcement actually won’t take a report, and even if they do, they might not know what to do with it.  But the challenge becomes just even collecting that information. So we always encourage people, tell the FTC, file a police report if you can because at the very least we need to know what’s going on.  What’s important to know is that, with the latest report, credit card fraud is only 14 percent of what’s going on here.  Government documents benefits fraud is 27 percent.  So when people say, “Oh, identity theft is just about credit card, and I had that happen, and the bank said they’d take care of it.”  Well that’s another issue.  The banks not necessarily going to report for you that there was another identity theft even though that’s what occurred.

Len Sipes:  What do you mean by government documents?

Will Marling:  Government documents, anything pertaining to a government document, for instance, getting a driver’s license in the name of somebody or getting government services in the name of somebody, filing a tax return in the name of somebody to get a $2,000 refund.

Len Sipes:  Do they really do that?  They’ll file tax returns?

Will Marling:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean it’s a great business.  It’s a massive business.  You know we don’t know exactly.  It could be $20 billion worth of business but it’s hard to quantify completely, but absolutely.  If they get your name, social security number — you can go online right now and find people’s PDF’s of their tax returns.  And so commonly in training I ask people you know, “Raise you hands, how many of you have a PDF of your tax return that says “Tax Return 2010″?” And people raise their hand.  Well if you have access to somebody’s computer and you just do a basic search and say “tax return”, and it comes back, I have your tax return plus all your kids, their social security numbers, your spouse.  See, I have all of that right there.  And what’s a simple way to default that?  Well rename that PDF file.  It could be one, call it “Grape Juice Recipe” or actually take it off your computer.  Put it on a jump drive separate but file it up somewhere.  That’s the easiest way to thwart that potential compromise.

Len Sipes:  You now I keep – the amazing thing about when we have these conversations about identity theft I say to myself, I’ve been in this system for 42 years.  I have four college degrees, university degrees, and you constantly come up with stuff that I never would have thought of in terms of discussing this topic, because our taxes are filed on our computer, and we’ve done exactly what you’ve said.  Never crossed my mind to do this.  Never crossed my mind to name it grape juice recipe.

Will Marling:  Well you’re a smart guy, right?  It’s just an awareness issue.

Len Sipes:  It is.

Will Marling:  I mean that’s what this will confirm.

Len Sipes:  That’s what Denise just said.  So, Denise, what are the prevention tips we need to get out?  Is it okay to go to them that quickly?

Denise Richardson:  Well I would just to expand on what Will was saying, to give you an example of how you say you hadn’t heard of this or changing your name.  People do not know that their kids who are on Facebook and Twitter and they have their own iPhones and everything, these iPhones are nothing more than a little computer.

Len Sipes:  Oh, absolutely.

Denise Richardson:  They need to be protected as well.  And if your kids are using your home computer and they’re sharing music, your files could be open for sharing everything.  And that is a lot of how – you know you could be on a network in your neighborhood coffee shop and if your files are set to open and to share, anyone can get your information.  And as far as the income tax fraud, filing fraudulent tax returns, I live in South Florida, and the FDC report that just came out named South Florida as the number one metro area for this type of crime and Florid itself as the number one, again, several years.  And it stills strikes me that we – and the FDC came out and said two weeks after tax season opened identity theft crimes jumped 50 percent.  And the next day – I mean this was on our front page of the paper every day for a week.  In between that time I would read an article online by somebody out there saying, “Do we really have to worry about identity theft?  Is it just fear mongering?”  And in the meantime I’ve got all these emails from consumers saying, “What do I do?  I can’t get my tax return.  I plan to pay my property taxes with it.”  And so I’m seeing one thing that’s reality in my life every day but then when I read this kind of information I think it is harmful.  So I just think we need to send a better message that I think people can learn how to protect themselves better.  There’s no way to prevent it, but you can do things and talk to your kids or your neighbors, seniors—

Len Sipes: Okay, I have to break because we’re way past the half way mark and I have to reintroduce both of you, and then we’ll get back to the conversation.  Our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, been around since 1975,  Our other guest is Denise Richardson.  She is a consumer advocate and a ID theft and education specialist.  Her Website is  Okay, so we’re way into the second half.  Either one of you.  So again, what we’ve done is scared me, scared all of our listeners.  I need to focus on what we can do.  Is there one place that we can go to get information about this?  Is there a one-stop service?  Where do people go to get the information they need?

Will Marling:  Well, yeah, let me jump in here.  There isn’t one place to go.   Of course, the internet offers us access to a lot of different resources quickly, but we try to principalize this so that people build an awareness, because however you instruct people about vulnerabilities, there will always be another tool that’s used by perpetrators, a new technology or whatever.  So we talk about raise the fruit.  Have you ever heard the phrase “go for the low hanging fruit.”?

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Will Marling:  We always talk about raise your fruit because make it even that much more difficult.  Can that stop it all?  No.  But why hand them your tax return on a PDF?  Why keep all your sensitive documents on your computer when you don’t access them regularly and you can put them on a jump drive and lock them up in a box?

Len Sipes:  Well, but there has to be a mantra in terms of all of us simply need to be aware that if our kids are file sharing on computers and the bad guys have access to our computers, there’s got to be a sense that every person that is not known to you, every email, every phone call, every snail mail communication where that person is not known to you, you immediately be suspicious of it.  I mean there’s got to be a grounding that we can start people off with.

Denise Richardson:  I agree.  And I think it is being informed and being alert, being aware that you shouldn’t’ ever give your information to anyone who is soliciting it.  And you shouldn’t blindly trust anyone who calls your house.  You shouldn’t trust your caller id anymore.  You know and I say these things and people will say it’s fear mongering, but there’s where the issue lies.  IT’s just simple education and trying to learn what you can do.  I don’t expect a consumer out there to know fishing, smishing, vishing, skimming, spoofing, cook jacking, tab napping, all the names that people who work in it every day understand, but I’m all for – what my passion is about is just raising awareness to what you can do, what should you do.  You should know about the latest scams.  You should know that you shouldn’t put too much information on your profile.  You should stop and think before you publish anything.  Ask yourself, “If I hit this publish button and it was going to be on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow, would I do the same thing?”  And you might stop and think about it.  You know we tend to hide behind the screen of the computer thinking everything is, oh, just our friends see it.  But that’s not the case.

Len Sipes:  You mean, just my friends read my Google Plus profile?

Denise Richardson:  Well, some people feel that just your friends are getting into your space, into your – you got your settings set one way.  But the settings can be changed.  They can be hacked.  People can use the information you put in your profile.  For example, you love lacrosse.  You do this.  You do that.  And they can pretend to have those same exact interests and send you a note and say, “Hey, what school did you go to?  This is what I did.”  And your guard is down.  We tend to trust, and criminals know that, so they take advantage of that trust.

Len Sipes:  Hey, you and I are both friends with Will Marling, so obviously I’ve got to be legitimate if you and I share a friendship with Will Marling.

Denise Richardson: I would say so, exactly.

Will Marling:  Sure.

Denise Richardson:  And that’s what they think because, oh, she was sent – I can not tell you how many times I get a call from even a friend who knows that I work in this industry.  Just a couple weeks ago somebody called and said, “I think I got myself in a world of trouble.”  I said, “What did you do?”  And he said, “I went to Yahoo! And it said that they were protecting me because I didn’t have – I had to re-put in my information, so I did, and then it asked for my social and I—”  And I said, “Please tell me that you didn’t give them all that.”  He did.  So he spent hours changing his PayPal account, this account, that account because then I found out in asking him a few questions, he has the same password.  So if a criminal gets a hold of – hacks into one of your passwords, and they’re easy to guess because we have – we use combinations that they figured out through our public information.  Just imagine if they hack that one password how much havoc they can create in five minutes time.  Check to see if you have a PayPal account, if you have an Amazon account, anything.

Len Sipes:  You’ve just made thousands of people very uncomfortable because the research says that’s exactly what we do.

Denise Richardson:  And I hope I made them uncomfortable.  That’s the point.  I want them to go out and say, “Oh, my gosh, I need to change my passwords.  I need to strengthen them.”  I did a speaking engagement at one point and I asked the people in the audience how many people use the name of their car or where they graduated or what year they graduated in their pass code.  And over 75 percent of the people raised their hand.  And I then explained why that wasn’t a good idea, and someone said to me, “Oh, my gosh, I do that with all of my passwords.  I’ll use my spouses name, my spouse’s birthday, my child’s name, my dogs name because it’s so easy to remember.”  Criminals are smart, and they know that.  So never – unfortunately you’ve got to come up with ways to have stronger, longer, unpenetratable passwords.

Len Sipes:  All right, but the one thing – to me this is the best suggestion of them all and that is is that anytime you get a communication from anybody that is part of your financial world, so you get an email from your bank saying your account’s been compromised.  You get a call, an email from your credit card company saying that your account has been compromised.  Immediately contact them independently on your own through a number and through a source that you know to be legitimate and then ask that person a question.  So never proceed with that initial contact.  Always go to the source.  I’ve always found that to be the most powerful of them all.  Am I right or wrong?

Denise Richardson:  You’re absolutely right.  You have to do that because a lot of these scams now will appear to come from Go Daddy or Amazon or your bank or even the U.S. Government.  And they’ll provide you with here’s the fraud department number to call.  We suspect something and people will panic and call that number.  What they don’t realize is they’re calling right into the thief.  So always – so never use a phone number, and your bank is not going to email you about something like that.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, but people don’t know.  I mean—

Denise Richardson:  Right.

Len Sipes:  –we got a phone call the other day about our credit card being misused.  And the point is that my wife had a conversation with the credit card company regarding that, and it was very legit and very straightforward, but my wife shouldn’t have done that.  My wife should have hung up and called the credit card company back.

Denise Richardson:  Well because sometimes what happens when they call you, they have quite a bit of information on you already, and that tends to make consumers think, oh, yes, that’s my bank because how would they know that?  But if it really is, your bank is going to understand if you say, “You know what, I’m concerned about identity theft.  So let me hang up and call you through the number that I have for you.  Do you have a particular extension?”  Something like that.  Or if it’s legit your bank should be able to tell you your password on that account, tell you everything you want to know, not the other way around where you have to confirm it with them.  I recently had the same thing happen to me with my bank calling about another credit card fraud.  But today the criminals are getting even more savvy with telephone calls, using the phone to hook you into falling for anyone of their many scams.  So if someone calls you, never give out information.

Len Sipes:  If you post on Facebook that you’re going to Florida and then the scammer calls you up and say you know there’s –evidently you’re in Florida and you have problems with your credit card, you immediately assume that this is legitimate.

Denise Richardson:  Exactly and I always tell people, oh my gosh, stop telling people where you are every minute of the day because people have been being robbed because they watch this.  If they have enough information and they know where you live and here’s a picture of me, I’m sitting a thousand miles away on a sunny beach.  We’re all here on vacation.  There was just a story in the news not too long ago where the teenage daughter didn’t know that she was giving out any information like that that she shouldn’t and said “Oh, we’re at the airport.  She text right at the airport, “We’re getting on the plane.”  Well her friend posted it and a friend of that friend, they tracked it back to because they did catch the people, robbed their house while they were gone.

Len Sipes:  Denise we have one minute left.  What point do we need to make that we haven’t made in one minute?

Denise Richardson:  That there are available – there’s information out there, and the best way that you can avoid becoming a crime victim is to be informed, look out for the risks and know the impact and have a plan of action.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, but there’s so much to know.

Denise Richardson:  There is.  I mean you can’t possibly learn it in one moment. You can go to the site.  They have a lot of information.  Will’s site, I’m sure, does.  My site at – on my site I have areas, categories for the current scams.  I try to keep that up-to-date, the types of risk, what to do if you’re a victim.  So there’s definitely information out there.  And here’s something.  If you’re ever in doubt, you get an email that you think might be a scam, type it in your browser.  Chances are people have already written about it and learned about it.

Len Sipes:  Well that’s a wonderful idea.  All right.  Our guests today and in terms of summarizing and it’s a lot to summarize, Will Marling, Executive Director, National Organization for Victim Assistance,  Also with our theft identity – identity theft expert, Denise Richardson.  She’s a consumer advocate and an ID theft and education specialist.  Her Website is  It seems as if the Federal Trade Commission just Google or your favorite search engine, Federal Trade Commission and look for consumer fraud or identity theft, and there’s information there.  What I heard today was about file sharing in terms of especially in terms of your kids and downloading music or file sharing, relabeling your computer files to be sure that if you’re hacked that the person won’t go and find your important documents.  Be careful with social media in terms of what public information you make public, change your passwords, go to the source if you get a call from somebody or contact from somebody. Don’t continue with that.  Just hang up and go to that source independently so you know that it is legitimate.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]