Archives for May 2013

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The Changing Role of Parole in the US-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, our program today is on the changing role of parole, and we’re honored to have Patricia Cushwa. She is a commissioner of the US Parole Commission. The web address there:, which stands for “United States Parole Commission.” Pat Cushwa, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Pat Cushwa: Good to see you again, Len.

Len Sipes: Alright, Pat and I go way back, full disclosure. She was chair of the Parole Commission for the State of Maryland when I worked as the director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. We had a load of correctional and law enforcement agencies, and Pat was chair of the Parole Commission, so Pat and I go way back. Pat is what I consider to be a pioneer within the criminal justice system because, quite frankly, it’s a male-dominated field, and there simply weren’t too many women executives around when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety. And Pat Cushwa was not only the chair of the Parole Commission; she was a leader in the criminal justice system in the State of Maryland, as she continues to be a leader with the United States Parole Commission. Pat, did I get all that right?

Pat Cushwa: I think you did, and we’re going back twenty years, and yes, when I came in to Parole in Maryland, there were very few women there – one other person on the board – and then I got to be chair, as you know. And the world changed for me and, I hope, for the better for Maryland’s criminal justice system.

Len Sipes: Well, you did an extraordinarily good job. You have the grace and the knowledge to smooth over ruffled feathers. I think that was one of the things you did extraordinarily well. You treated everybody with kindness and courtesy, but at the same time, you made some extraordinarily good and hard decisions with the Parole Commission, both within the State of Maryland and with the US Parole Commission. What was it like, switching over from the State of Maryland to the US Parole Commission?

Pat Cushwa: Well, as you know, I did serve in the State Senate in the State of Maryland, so state government was a big love of mine, but after twelve years there, getting a presidential appointment through my US senators really has been the capstone of my parole career. And what you learn in the states really informs what you’re doing with the federal government. It’s all local, it’s like politics. It’s all local.

Len Sipes: Everything’s local. Everything’s local. And what was it like? Did people…? Did you have an issue, did you have any issues being a woman leader in the correctional system, in the parole system? Because Parole had to interact with so many other agencies, so it wasn’t in isolation. You were part of the Maryland Department of Public Safety, so I sat there many a staff meeting with all these agency heads, and you were the epitome of reason. And again, you had this ability, a lovely public-relations ability and sense of personal class, but what was it like, being a woman in charge of a major criminal justice agency? Were there any issues for you?

Pat Cushwa: Yes, there were some big challenges, and I don’t think I knew until I got there how many that there would be, and I came into parole just as women were starting to break glass ceilings or break prison doors everywhere. At the end of the day – and I think you’re right – it’s how you communicate with people, it’s your business. There was a lot of skepticism at first. I really felt I had to prove myself. But if you’re a woman at the table, and you’re able to speak up, and you know what you’re talking about, and you work just a little bit more, once you gain the respect of your male colleagues, then they really come forward and help you. And that is what happened.

Len Sipes: So many women I’ve spoken to within the criminal justice system have told that it’s been a little difficult for them, that getting accepted was a bit of an issue. So, I don’t want to belabor this point, but I just want to acknowledge the fact that you were a pioneer in terms of coming in and being commissioner and eventually being the chair of the Parole Commission of the State of Maryland. So, somebody had to like you, somebody had to respect you to give you that responsibility.

Pat Cushwa: Well, I was the first woman in Maryland to chair the Parole Commission. I was the first woman in my hometown of Williamsport to be elected to a town council.

Len Sipes: Williamsport, Maryland.

Pat Cushwa: Yeah, little Williamsport, Maryland. But yes, I was made chair by Governor Glendening, who actively was recruiting women for cabinet positions, and he was looking for somebody with administrative experience – if you’re going to run an agency of some ninety people. And mostly victims’ issues were coming into Parole, and everybody thought it would be the death of Parole. Victims’ issues saved Parole. And I had started a spouse abuse agency in Washington County called Casa.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pat Cushwa: And he knew I was very involved in women’s issues, domestic violence, and in victim issues, and it worked out well, both for victims’ issues and for me. And as you know, Len – and we do go back, you travelled the state without our Lt. Governor – people had bad ideas about where domestic violence was. They were focusing on a city, and you get into the rural areas, you get where there’re sex offenses, incest. You’re looking at rural areas and where you should put money, so policy became a big part of it, but not a lot of money in the state – you better allocate your resources correctly.

Len Sipes: Okay. We were talking today, the title of today’s show is The Changing Role of Parole in the United States. One of the things that I find a bit interesting is that, if you take a look at data over the course of years on how well people do when they come out of the prison system, there is no question that those paroled versus those not paroled – either mandatorily released or come out under supervised release but they’re not paroled, they basically serve a percentage of their sentence until the state or the federal government can no longer legally hold them – and then they come out and the people paroled versus the people non-paroled, there is a substantial difference in every single year. I’ve seen, of data that I’ve seen, there’s a substantial difference. Parolees do better than those not paroled, yet the dichotomy is that, for years, parole was almost a dirty word.

Pat Cushwa: And it’s still almost a dirty word in some areas, but you know, what parole – the old parole is gone and it should have been. There wasn’t risk-assessment, there were people just trying to make judgments based on their past careers. Nowadays, the sexy new word for parole is “reentry.”

Len Sipes: Is “offender reentry,” right.

Pat Cushwa: Yes, it absolutely is. And you’re right, in state and in the federal government, people that go out under parole, even if it’s only two years at the end of their sentence, you have somebody to supervise and guide.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: They’re not coming back with violent crimes. So the buck has to stop somewhere. Without a parole agency looking at what happens right before release and right after, you’re just going to have recidivism.

Len Sipes: The question is whether or not you want the person supervised upon release or not, or assisted upon release or not. That’s the bottom line. We should explain what parole is, because there are going to be different people listening to this program. Parole is a discretionary release from prison. A mandatory release is, you’ve hit the time that a state can legally hold you – that plus whatever credits you get in prison – you have to let the person go. So, there’s a difference between saying, “I release you at fifty percent of your sentence, but I release you with these conditions: substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, you have to make restitutions,” those sorts of things. So, there, generally speaking, seems to be conditions attached to the parole for the privilege of getting out before you could legally get out. Is that right?

Pat Cushwa: Yes, that’s right. You’re making an important distinction, because any time you pick up a newspaper, it will say, you know, “Parolee on a rampage.” Most of the time, well, sixty, seventy percent of the time, that person has not been released by parole.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: They’ve been released through law, through the prison system.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: So, “parolee” became a generic term.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pat Cushwa: And people shouldn’t use it and they do, and it’s a big, I think, a public relations issue to let people know how people are getting out and what is a safer way to get out.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: So, ninety-eight percent of people in state and federal prisons are going to be released at some period, no matter who they’re released by. So, you know, “do the crime, do the time” means do eighty-five percent of the time, or get some good credits to get out. I think where parole is better is, some of the worst people in the system know how to do time. People leave them alone. You know, they don’t want to be near you, they’re afraid of you, so you can have a perfectly clean institutional record, no disciplinary actions. That doesn’t mean that you’re not a risk for reoffending, and that’s what parole does. The federal parole board was the first to ever have risk-assessment, the salient factor score, so that you have something to guide you. Just like the Sentencing Commission has guidelines, we have guidelines based on the person’s personal history, as well as the severity and the type of the crime. So, a parole commission can say, “This person should get every bit, every day that we can get until we’re ready to supervise, because prison is for people like this.”

Len Sipes: The other thing that I do want to clarify is that, at the federal level, parole ended. Parole ended when?

Pat Cushwa: 1987.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so now, offenders, when they go to a federal prison, they serve eighty-five percent of their sentence and, interestingly enough, offenders within Washington, D.C., when they’re committed – when they’re convicted of a D.C. Code violation, they also go to federal prison and you have jurisdiction over them as well.

Pat Cushwa: Exactly. We have jurisdiction in the federal system, anybody who committed their crime before 1987.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: So, there are people and Mafia figures, big figures, big crime areas where the conviction doesn’t happen until after ’87, they’re still under our jurisdiction, and we have about 2,500 still in federal parole. And in D.C., it was 2,000. Anybody, any D.C. Code offender who committed a crime before the year 2000.

Len Sipes: Right, August of 2000.

Pat Cushwa: Yes. And then we took over supervised release, and that’s where we work with CSOSA, with your supervision agency sometimes.

Len Sipes: Well, and that’s the other point that I wanted to emphasize, is that even though parole is ended, even though that they are coming out by law at eighty-five percent, we or federal probation, we supervise these individuals, and if there’s an issue with that last fifteen percent, you are the final arbitrator of issues.

Pat Cushwa: Yes. With D.C. supervised release, those that are going out under new law that were sentenced after ’87, the courts oversee that part of the supervision. They have to be paroled for US Parole to oversee on that level.

Len Sipes: Ah, so even the “mandatories” go back to the courts for…

Pat Cushwa: After ’87, yes.

Len Sipes: After ’87, okay.

Pat Cushwa: But if you look at our… There are about 22 thousand federal offenders that are out on release —

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: — that we have jurisdiction over. That’s our jurisdiction. And I think the good thing is, here you ask about recidivism – they’ve done, they’ve had careful supervision, they’ve done longer sentences. The last I checked, there were only 300 warrants out on 22 thousand people, so you’re looking at about a two percent recidivism. In your business, you know, that’s darn good.

Len Sipes: That’s wonderful. Alright, so you’ve been chair of the Parole Commission in the State of Maryland. You are a commissioner with the United States Parole Commission at the federal level. You’ve seen everything. This has been your bread and butter; you’ve been in a leadership role. And I’ve mentioned before the difference between the recidivism rates of people on parole versus people who are legally released, they’re mandatorily released. You know, so parole obviously has a role, and now, you know, the states are really complaining that they can no longer afford to build more prisons. Parole is now coming back in vogue. Parole, philosophically, people are saying, “Hey, they do better under parole, and we can’t continue to build prisons in the way that we have, and we do want to be sure that we have the prison beds available for the violent offenders and the people who pose a clear and present risk to public safety. We’ve got to be sure that those that don’t fall into that category are somehow, some way released earlier, under supervision, and that includes paroles.” So it’s been a bit of a 180 degree turn in the ship of state and public opinion in terms of the concept of parole.

Pat Cushwa: I don’t think people ever like the concept of early release, but I think you hit the point there. The difference between violent and non-violent offenders. The public overwhelmingly would rather see a drug… druggie treated and go on the streets clean than to go into a prison and come out and go through the same old cycle again. And I think, again, I think that parole will begin to exist. It is a changing role. There’re going to be review boards, there’re going to be prison safety valve boards. They’re going to go out and they’re going to perform a reentry role. And I think that you’re going to see parole boards across the nation changing their names to reflect what they honestly do, that “parole” no longer really says what it is they’re doing.

Len Sipes: Yeah. It’s not going to stop newspapers from claiming “parolee does this” or “parolee does that,” but I understand what you’re trying to say. Will break now. We’re just about half-way though the program. This program is flying by very quickly. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Patricia Cushwa. She is a commissioner with the United States Parole Commission – www.justice (J-U-S-T-I-C-E). gov/uspc, which stands for “United States Parole Commission.” Pat Cushwa has been around as commissioner of the Parole Board for the State of Maryland, as well as a commissioner with the United States Parole Commission.  She has done just about everything there is in terms of parole. So, do you think we should rename it – to pick it up from where we were before the break – instead of “Parole,” it should be “The United States Board of Reentry”?

Pat Cushwa: Well, I think perhaps in the case of the federal system, where parole has been abolished and we’re doing supervised release and beginning to look at non-violent offenders, yes, it should be “The US Board of Sentence…” “The US Sentence Review Board” is what I would call it. It’s that you’re reviewing a portion of a sentence to decide what is going to be the best public safety release.

Len Sipes: What about at the state level? I mean, do we do away with the name “parole” and go back to “reentry”?

Pat Cushwa: Some states have. I would say there are probably twelve to fourteen states who have prison review boards who call themselves by what they’re actually doing. And you shouldn’t be playing games, but you should label yourself as you are, and if ninety percent of what you’re doing is not a discretionary release, why are you claiming you’re doing it?

Len Sipes: Right. But I mean, that’s that heart and soul of people’s objection to parole. It’s the fact that the offender goes to prison for a five-year sentence – and let’s just say he’s a burglar –and he does only fifty percent of the sentence, maybe two and a half years. Maybe he does two years on five, which is not unusual for a quote-unquote non-violent offender. He comes out, even under supervision, you know, there’s still every possibility that he could be rearrested, he could be reconvicted, and we can have somebody standing there and saying, “Why in the name of heavens was this person with a criminal history before this burglary, why in the name of heavens was this person released early?” And that’s a very legitimate question. I mean, if we’re talking about victims and being sensitive to victims’ issues, that’s a very legitimate question.

Pat Cushwa: Well, you went through this with state parole, and probably that was one of your bigger challenges in Maryland, is trying to get these issues across. You have to look at non-violent offenders and assess them and release them differently so the violent offenders stay in. When you meet with victims, when you talk to victims, most of the time, in Maryland, if we say, “If we parole them, they’re going to go out with three years’ supervision and they’re going to be on this kind of a registry with stay-away orders, or we can say no and they’ll go out through the prison system and there won’t be any supervision. What do you want?” Well…

Len Sipes: Right. Right. But that needs to be explained. It needs to be explained in a way that the average person can understand, and also making room for the truly dangerous. I mean, somebody suggested to me some time ago that we have to distinguish between those people who are a pain in the butt to society versus those people who are dangerous to society. And we cannot afford – and states are saying this, all throughout the United States. I mean, they’re being abundantly clear that we cannot continue the massive prison-building program that we’ve had, thus we come to a conundrum. How do we protect public safety and not spend massive amounts of tax-paid dollars to build more prisons, and how do we do it in such a way that increases the odds for public safety? We can’t say “eliminate crime” because there are no guarantees under community supervision. Parole and objective risk instruments, and experienced people making experienced decisions, seem to be in our best interest.

Pat Cushwa: Yes, and a lot of these people have to come off the street even for a short amount of time. So, it could be a half-way house that you’re putting somebody in. I think that it’s “build it and they will come.” You could build prisons forever and you could fill them up with people, and let’s just say a lot of them are not even people that even should be in a prison. Prisons inherited – when we got away from civil commitment, guess who got people with mental challenges?

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: And certainly, a prison is to punish people and put them away, and help if you can, but they are not capable of doing mental health treatment. They’re not drug treatment facilities.

Len Sipes: Part of this philosophy is that, if you want parole, a counselor in a prison system sits down with you and says, “Alright, John, you have a history of mental illness, you have to be in this program. You have a history of substance abuse, you have to complete this particular program. It wouldn’t really hurt if you got your GED and your plumbing certificate. And oh, by the way, don’t act out in prison, don’t hurt anybody, don’t threaten anybody; go along with the rules.”  So that when that person is up for parole and they come to you, then they are saying, “Hey, I got my GED, I got my plumbing certificate, I completed these programs and I’m more than willing to complete these programs out in the community,” you say, “Okay, either we’ll reconsider you so you can finish up your programming, or parole you at the fifty percent level, but you have these conditions.”

Pat Cushwa: Exactly. Well, you’re pointing out something that people often overlook. It’s that parole can be a management tool within a prison. How do you take a prison with 3,000 men in it, or 2,000 women, and get compliance? You know, they’ve got the stick – what’s the carrot? So, if you behave well, if you do right, if you go in these programs, the carrot is, you’ll get out a little bit early. And it helps the prison system. So, parole and the prison administration can work very well together.

Len Sipes: It seems a relationship made in heaven, because those of us who have been in prisons – and I know I have, hundreds of times; you have, hundreds of times – we know how chaotic and how difficult running a prison can be. If you have hope for the future and you have hope of improving yourself, that creates a much calmer correctional institution, which is really important for those people who work in correctional institutions to keep it as calm and as orderly as humanly possible. So, the parole and the possibility of parole increases that level of safety within prison systems.

Pat Cushwa: It’s a good way for oversight. You’ve got somebody completely getting a file ready, looking at somebody, “Will you be parole-ready?” Then you have parole officials, who go and say what you said: “We’ll let you out in two years if you do this, if you do B, if you do C.”

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: So, all along the line, they’re preparing people to go out to earn some money and to not lapse back into crime, because even if you are locked up for a non-violent drug crime, if you’re desperate for drugs when go out, you’re going to do something violent.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: So, you’ve got to have somebody who understands the system overseeing the system. And “parole,” “sentence review,” “reentry,” whatever terminology you’re using, is reducing recidivism. You know, it’s costs, but human costs as well as dollar costs. We can’t just go on the way we’ve been going on. And I’m hoping that you will have us back, because we have just finished a pilot program that is looking at how we can handle non-violent offenders differently. It’s, when we put people back in, how long we have to keep them, what they’re doing to get them ready, and this will be the first study on recidivism that’s really done with only an urban population. You see all these state-wide studies, and they’re wonderful. This is going to be with only D.C. Code offenders, so we’re going to get a good snapshot in time of evidence-based program for D.C. Code [PH] then.

Len Sipes: The offenders who are under our supervision —

Pat Cushwa: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: — Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency. Okay. And you’ve got preliminary – a sense as to how that’s turning out?

Pat Cushwa: We sure do. We’re looking at 800 cases that we will have done in a year and a half. The recidivism rate is drastically lower. They’re serving four months instead of sixteen months. We’re able to get them out and keep them out. We have – the people that do come back are for low-level violations. They’re not reporting, they haven’t connected with the program, they’re not coming back with new offenses. And we have avoided about fifteen million dollars in bed days at the jail and supervision costs by doing this.

Len Sipes: I’m confused. Are these people who were on supervision and are close to going back, and you…?

Pat Cushwa: No. Okay, these are people who we put back in prison who may have been on supervised release —

Len Sipes: Right…

Pat Cushwa: — who weren’t in compliance. They’re all administrative violators.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: These are not people who’ve committed new crimes.

Len Sipes: Understood.

Pat Cushwa: They’re people who were released —

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pat Cushwa: — or who were on supervised release through the courts, that never did go into jail —

Len Sipes: Alright.

Pat Cushwa: — that we are now handling because they were having low-level violations.

Len Sipes: And what did you do, what did the US Parole Commission do?

Pat Cushwa: We started a program that we call SIS, Short Intervention for Success.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: Very similar to Project Hope out of Hawaii.

Len Sipes: Ah…!

Pat Cushwa: That we’re looking at drug offenders, we’re looking at people who don’t know how to get to an appointment at time.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: We’re looking at people that we’re putting back in for sixteen months, like we did with the old Federal Offender, but not getting bad recidivism, we’re not getting good results.

Len Sipes: So this is something that happens in prison, or is this principally something that happens in the community upon release?

Pat Cushwa: It happens in the community upon release, and then US Parole would take these D.C. Code offenders, along with CSOSA, and we would lock them up because they weren’t reporting, because they were using drugs and testing positive.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: And we were putting them back in a prison for sixteen months, and they were sitting in a jail for five months, waiting for a hearing.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: And it wasn’t doing any good. So we called in Dr. Jim Austen, who does research.

Len Sipes: Yes. The famous Jim Austen.

Pat Cushwa: Very famous Jim Austen, that we wanted a pilot program that we wanted evidence-based. What could we do that would stop recidivism, what could we do to shorten a term that would actually help instead of hurt the recidivism rate?

Len Sipes: So they would come out of the correctional institution earlier, be under enhanced supervision by my agency.

Pat Cushwa: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Ah, and that enhanced supervision and that enhanced provision of services reduced the rate of recidivism.

Pat Cushwa: And when your agency said to our agency, “You know, this woman” – there are women in the system – “is not reporting, she isn’t paying her rent,” in the old days, we’d put her in for sixteen months. Now, we’re going to connect her with your agency, we’re going to put out a warrant and do a hearing within seven days instead of seven weeks.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: And we’re going to say, “What does this person need? Does she need drug treatment, does she need a job?”

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Cushwa: We will maybe put her out on time served and connect her with what she needs to be successful.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pat Cushwa: And rather than the jail being overcrowded and the courts screaming, you empty half the beds and put these people where they need to be.

Len Sipes: They get the supervision and the services that they need to be successful.

Pat Cushwa: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And that’s able to lower the recidivism rate considerably in terms of your comparison group.

Pat Cushwa: Oh, oh, yes.

Len Sipes: It’s amazing.

Pat Cushwa: Yes, and we’re going to come back. Dr. Austen has the report ready; he’s going to present it at a national conference and Dr. Calvin Johnson, your researcher, has been working with him, been a great cooperation, so that we can both say, “What can we do that’s better?”

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Pat Cushwa: Instead of pointing fingers at one another, we’re kind of holding hands.

Len Sipes: Do we do that…?

Pat Cushwa: No, no…!

Len Sipes: Alright. You mentioned women offenders a little while ago, and I think this is extraordinarily important. What the parole commission can do is to do surgical slices and dices, depending upon that kind… that individual’s problems, whether it be alcohol, whether it be mental health, whether it be – in some cases, women offenders, because women offenders have their own unique needs and their own unique trauma, and we’ve documented that extensively here at the national level, at the local level here at CSOSA. So, with women offenders or with any other sort of “surgical interventions,” the Parole Commission can tailor programs specifically for that individual. And to try to be, again, evidence-based and as successful as humanly possible.

Pat Cushwa: Yes. We call them now “justice-involved women,” and up until very recently, there was nothing that assessed women differently – the fact that they seldom ever come back, that they don’t come back with violent crimes – yet we were holding them to standards that were based only on males. And we’re not starting new risk-assessment, and CSOSA, I have to say, your agency, with its yearly program, with its Dress for Success, with its emphasis on job-placement, has really helped Parole to realize what we can do. So, yes, we’re just now – and thank God – we’re looking at women in the federal system. That’s our next focus.

Len Sipes: This is a terrible question because we only have a couple of seconds left. You and I have been through incidents in the state of Maryland where a person has gone out under parole and committed another crime, and that’s something, I just want to say, at the end of it, that neither you or I – it’s never cavalier. We do feel it personally, correct?

Pat Cushwa: Len, a commissioner once said to me, “When do I start to feel comfortable about making these decisions?” I said, “Well, the day you do is the day you retire, because…” No, there’s nothing worse than to think that somebody that’s been released, no matter how, is going to go out and endanger one of our citizens.

Len Sipes: There’s no guarantee even [PH] on community supervision. There are no complete guarantees.

Pat Cushwa: We can just do better.

Len Sipes: Our guest today has been Patricia Cushwa. Pat, I really appreciate you stopping by and look forward to you, in the future. Patricia Cushwa, commissioner US Parole Commission, www.justice (J-U-S-T-I-C-E).gov/uspc, it stands for “United States Parole Commission.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. We really appreciate all the comments we get from you, and even criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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Green Corrections’ Impact on Cost Savings and Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen. We have a show on green corrections which is more than the concept sounds. What we’re talking about is economic development, what we’re talking about is saving millions of dollars for state correctional facilities throughout the United States. We’re also talking about inmate training today and using green corrections as a way of transitioning offenders from the prison system to the larger community. We have via Skype from the State of Washington, Washington Department of Corrections, Dan Pacholke. He is assistant secretary, Also, we have Stephanie Davison. She is a senior program officer for FHI360, Again, both Dan and Stephanie are here to talk about green corrections. Dan and Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dan Pacholke: Thank you.

Stephanie Davison: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. Good. Before we start, what is FHI360, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison: FHI is an international development organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals internationally.

Len Sipes: Okay and you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections which is the producer of today’s show, Donna Ledbetter, was kind enough to set up this show today. So you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice, correct?

Stephanie Davison: Yes, we’ve coordinated several activities for green corrections through NIC for the last few years.

Len Sipes: All right. Stephanie, the first question goes to you. What in the name of heavens is green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Green corrections is a series of programs in which correctional system can operate the prison system to be more environmentally friendly and hopefully save money and then also operate education and training programs for offenders geared toward job placement once they exit.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty interesting because we’re talking before the program, Dan, that the State of Washington had save, what, well over $3 million by implementing green corrections?

Dan Pacholke: Yes and between the years 2005 and 2010, we saved about $3.5 million by using basically, you know, environmental greening principles.

Len Sipes: And give me a sense as to what you mean by environmentally friendly principles?

Dan Pacholke: Well, I mean – I mean some of it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint. We have zero waste garbage sorting centers, composting. We’ve done a lot on different energy packages, strategies to save water, strategies to save waste water, so just in some of those bulk areas about, you know, ways in which you spend money that aren’t wise or unproductive so we’ve reduce a lot of expenditures in those areas and ultimately we’ve asked questions about why we buy things only to throw them away and try to eliminate those items upstream also.

Len Sipes: People don’t understand, Dan, that the correctional systems are like big cities and I don’t know how many prisons that you operate there in the State of Washington but each and every one of them – when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had 23 correctional facilities throughout the state. They all held between 2000 to 3000 individuals. I mean they were operating like little cities so there are, I would imagine, endless opportunities to go green and save any state a tremendous amount of money.

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely. I mean there’s what, 2.3 million people incarcerated in federal state and county prisons and jails across the country.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: And as you look at some of these strategies that, you know, as we’ve kind of talk about it, at least a couple of them, you know, we’re giving you examples of a relatively mid-sized prison system so if you apply that you know across the country I mean there’s lots and lots of money that can be saved just in the sense of savings and on top of that you can begin to use prison as a mechanism to assist a community in meeting other needs as well.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s an amazing concept. I’m really enjoying this because in this day and age where all of us within the criminal justice system are charged with saving taxpayer dollars. I mean we would do that regardless but nevertheless. I mean this is one way of saving tax paid dollars and providing job training for people coming out of the prison systems. Stephanie Davison, why don’t you tell me a little bit about that concept of training people – training inmates for jobs in green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Right. So training individuals for green jobs is very similar to training individuals for regular jobs. You’re just tweaking what you’ve done.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: For example, FHI has worked with the State of Minnesota to green their programs in which we worked with their teachers to think about how to use green products and green training concepts…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …to connect inmates to jobs in green fields after exiting.

Len Sipes: But give me a sense as to what sort of jobs are we talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Sure [PH] jobs. So almost any job can be made green.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: A common one would be carpentry. You may be using green cleaning products green finishing materials. You’ll also learn how to produce your products where you create less waste.

Len Sipes: Okay. But are there specific training like an electrician, like a plumber, like any other person involved in hard skills. I mean is there green corrections that would lead to a career path?

Stephanie Davison: It can, yes. There are a lot of green certifications. They’re valued in different ways within different communities throughout the US. For example the US Green Building Council has a lead certificate to do construction in green manners.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That can be great. It requires some time so it’s not necessarily valued in every community.

Len Sipes: Right. But I mean there are hard and fast jobs where that inmate can come out into the community and find himself or herself employed as a result of being involved in green corrections.

Stephanie Davison: Yes. Some of the solid ones would be landscaping.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That’s considered a green job. It’s something you can be trained within the correctional facility especially states like Washington have gardens that could be used to train offenders.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And then they can be – enter those sorts of jobs once they exit.

Len Sipes: Okay, Stephanie. Dan is not light up. So you’re going to have to answer this question. Why would the National Institute of Corrections, which is part of the bureau – Federal Bureau of Prisons, part of the US Department of Justice, why would the National Institute of Corrections care about green corrections? Why would they’d be involved?

Stephanie Davison: I think there are two reasons. One is it can save the taxpayer’s money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …and, two, it can have benefits to the offender upon reentry.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: There are jobs. There are also some behavioral aspects that we can talk about different programs that can benefit an offender when they leave.

Len Sipes: Okay. Talk to me about the behavioral aspects.

Stephanie Davison: So there are some programs and I’ll let Dan jump into this little bit more such as dog training programs that they’ve learned or from experience can find that offenders within the yard are calmer. There’s less incidence of violence and then when they exit, reentry is often smoother.

Len Sipes: Dan, you mentioned in the pre-show about this concept of making safer correctional facilities. In the 14 years that I spent with Maryland Department of Public Safety, our philosophy was anything that made that day productive for that inmate created a safer prison facility. I would imagine you will go along with that thought?

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely and I believe that’s one of the reasons why NIC is interested. In addition to cost containment and cost savings for reentry, on top of that what you want to do is make for a safe operating environment in the prison both for the staff that work there and the offenders that live there as well. So part of what can be done, I supposed, in the greening effort is to create opportunities for an inmate to contribute and I use that word opportunity to contribute because it’s meaningful activity in the sense – from the sense of an inmate. So whether it’s dog restoration or training dogs or whether it’s working with endangered species, both plants and animals, or whether or not it’s contributing to scientific research, what the inmates gain from that is the sense that they’re contributing to a broader social need. It’s something your family can benefit from. It’s something the community can benefit from and what we’ve found is that inmates that are involved in those kinds of activities tend to be less likely to violate rules. It makes them more – a more therapeutic environment in that regard. So it does enhance institutional safety and ultimately begins to change the nature of prisons so that community partners and organization see a prison as a benefit to someone that can contribute to local geographic community needs and there are several states that are doing environmental restoration today.

Len Sipes: How many states are involved in green corrections, either one of you?

Stephanie Davison: I would say a large proportion of states are involved to one degree or another.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, many states are involved just because the governor has set forward executive orders that reduce the set goals for energy reduction over time.

Len Sipes: Right and, Dan, give me an honest answer here. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years and somebody came to me and said, Leonard, you’re now going to be doing green corrections. I would have sat there and went, eh? What is green corrections? Because the order came down on high from the governor’s office to reduce expenditures but when – after talking with you and talking with Stephanie, I get the sense that this has major payoffs economically, major payoffs in terms of the safety of the institution, and major payoffs in terms of reentry upon release.

Dan Pacholke: It does. I mean when you think of corrections, the center of the plate is always like evidence-based practices, doing things that reduce the likelihood that inmates reoffend upon release. Over the last five years, we’ve been in extremely lean economic times nationally…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Dan Pacholke: …and so we tend to engage in issues that are more on the margin that are complimentary to an evidence-based framework. So on the one hand, its low cost opportunities to program offenders, to get offenders involved in meaningful activity. Engage more offenders to make the prison safer. There is the environmental economics to it. They’re going to reduce the operating cost over a long period of time, over life cycles, and then, of course, you know there is the benefit to the community that kind of goes along with that, the reentry, the job training, the skills upon release. So it’s really complimentary to that framework and it begins to broaden kind of the scope of corrections in a way that we wouldn’t have done in good economic times. I think it is the product of tougher economic times where partners are reaching out for each other in order to accomplish a goal.

Len Sipes: All right. It’s taking lemons and making lemonade.

Dan Pacholke: Correct.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah I like that. Now, but help me with this sense and a lot of people that are going to be listening to this program today may not be familiar with the inside of prison systems. I have always maintained that you can walk inside of a prison and either feel that lack of tension or feel the tension almost instantaneously as soon as you walk in through the front door. Feel free to correct me, feel free to disagree, but a lot of the institutions that I’ve walked into in the past that have been based upon a therapeutic environment, based upon the inmates involved in lots of different things, their days are filled with different issues where – that they find humanizing. You can walk inside of that prison and immediately feel it. You can immediately feel the lack of tension because the inmates there are – again, they’re involved in constructive activities. I’m getting the sense that some of the things that we’re talking about with green correction fills that bill. Am I right or wrong?

Dan Pacholke: No, you’re absolutely right and you can certainly, you know, feel the difference in institutions that have a lot of activity than those that don’t in such attention. So, yes, you know green corrections are the philosophy of a sustainable prison. Certainly aids to a much calmer operating tone, a much more pro-social environment, you know, in area that has greater humanity which really is an environment that’s more conducive to the educational, vocational training, or cognitive behavior change…

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: … is that the context to prisons begins to change in a humanizing sort of way.

Len Sipes: If all the states of the United States employed green corrections and I am going to come back to you guys for more – for a larger number of specific examples as to what green corrections is because I’m still a bit confused. I understand landscaping, I understand dealing with animals, I understand mulching, I understand that sort of thing, but I’m getting a sense that it does go a little bit beyond that. I may be missing that but in essence what we’re dealing with here is stakeholder buy in. We’re talking about is that you don’t do this on your own. I would imagine the state of Washington and other states have to reach out to other people to help them implement a green corrections program. Either one of you can talk to me about that?

Stephanie Davison: So when we worked with several states, they find external partners both from other state agencies and then community-based organizations are critical.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, in Maryland, they used the Department of National – Natural Resources…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …to give inmate opportunities to do restoration projects within their community. That’s critical.

Len Sipes: Okay. So they take the prelease offenders and they go out and they do restoration projects.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. So, again, help me with the cynical side of spending 40 years in the criminal justice system. Okay. So they go out and dig holes and put in trees. I mean but we are talking about the possibility of jobs upon release. So anybody can go out and dig a hole put in a tree.

Stephanie Davison: Right.

Len Sipes: So help me understand that.

Stephanie Davison: So they’re learning how to maintain the tree and either an urban forest or a traditional forest over the long term.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So that’s an important skill. Another example in Maryland is right to know they were leaning how to deconstruct an old prison and then they’ll build signs made out of the old bricks.

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: It’s an interesting project.

Len Sipes: And that’s – and that’s the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup?

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Yes. That’s the prison you’re talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Yes, I am.

Len Sipes: I’ve been in there a thousand times under – under nasty circumstances.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: And I’m so happy when they closed the prison down. So they’re taking the – their dismantling the prison and they’re doing what with it?

Stephanie Davison: And they will be using the bricks from the prison to create signs within the community.

Len Sipes: That is neat.

Stephanie Davison: It’s a cool project and it’s great because the old building won’t be going into the waste stream.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And all of those products will be in a very visible way contributing to their community.

Len Sipes: Well that’s neat. Maryland should start a buy-a-brick program. This is an authentic brick. You know what we used to call that institution?

Stephanie Davison: No, I don’t.

Len Sipes: The cut.

Stephanie Davison: Oh.

Len Sipes: Yes and it has a world famous because it was an old prison it was called the cut, some people say he was named after the railroad cut that ran by it and the other people say it was nicknamed the cut because of the all the stabbings at the place. So it has a very, very – just in case the listeners are remotely interested, it has a very unique background. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on green corrections and I find this really interesting. Dan Pacholke, he’s the assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections, Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360. It’s They are a contractor to the National Institute of Corrections of the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the US Department of Justice and they’re trying to implement this concept of green corrections throughout the United States. There is a website that I do want to say which is a website at the National Institute of Corrections specifically focusing on green corrections, I’ll give that one more time now and at the end of the program, Donna, I hope I got that correct, okay. I’m getting a thumbs up. All right. Where do you we go to with all of this? I mean are states really buying into this? Are states really – I mean you said the bulk of the states, Stephanie. Is this is something that they’re enthusiastically pursuing or they’re saying, oh, my gosh, here’s another mandate from the governor, another mandate from the federal government although I don’t think it’s a mandate. I think they’re simply guiding. So as you go out and talk to hard bitten state correctional administrators when you talk to them about green corrections, what sort of reception do you get?

Stephanie Davison: It really varies on the state and it depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to someone who needs to save money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …then they buy into it right away.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Stephanie Davison: They understand it. If it’s an officer working the yard, it’s a little different.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: And we found that buy in is really important with those individuals.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So – and I’ll let Dan speak to this a little bit more but we found it’s important to have an understanding of why green is important when you’re trying to do it at a grassroots level. When you’re trying to get the officer to get on board that they have to understand the why.

Len Sipes: Right. But they do see the obvious. I mean look, I’ve been in, as I said before, some prisons where there are a lot of programming and the officers within the prisons with lots of programming are much happier human beings because the level of violence goes down and, Dan, quickly correct me if I’m overselling this concept but in those institutions where there are lots of programs where they are meaningfully engaged in doing pro-social things throughout the course of the day, either GED programs or substance abuse or they’re doing work-related programs, because I think this is part of correctional industries. Dan, is this part of correctional industries in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: No, it’s actually – well, it is but I mean it’s part of the Department of Corrections as a whole and certainly correctional industries is involved in sustainability activities also.

Len Sipes: Right and we should explain what the correctional industry is. It’s job programs within prisons.

Dan Pacholke: Correct. I mean it really does two or three things. It mimics real world business activity inside the prison.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: So they create real world jobs. On top of that they provide, you know, job training and then ultimately they produce products that are useful to state governments and certainly our department as well.

Len Sipes: Right. But to Stephanie’s point of some of the correctional staff – I mean they may not get it, they may not understand it at the very beginning but if it calms the institution and makes their day more productive and makes their day safer, I would imagine there is a certain point where they say, oh, okay, now I get this.

Dan Pacholke: I think in the last five years that a lot of correctional staff that have been sold on the cost containment aspect of it.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Dan Pacholke: It does save money and it takes it out of areas where stuff like garbage or energy and it allows us to buy equipment or training or whatever the case maybe for line level staff. So on the one hand, I think they get the cost containment. On the other hand, as you’ve indicated, correctional officers know that meaningful activity to an offender gets them out of the housing unit, gets them involved in something and in most cases, with few exceptions, they are less prone to act out, less prone to violate rules.

Len Sipes: Now, the other thing that comes to mind is that all – most of the prisons that I’ve been in, either in the State of Maryland or beyond the State of Maryland, are pretty stark places. I mean it’s barbwired, it’s concrete buildings, it’s not designed to look nice. It’s designed to keep inmates in the prison. The first rule of corrections is I shall not escape. So we’re talking about a pretty stark environment here and I would imagine if you start using the common areas of the prison system and start landscaping them and start doing things with them that brings an environment. I mean, look, the average correctional officer has got a tough job. They are in there for 20 or 30 years. The average inmate could be in there for 10 or 20 years or longer. So they’re all in this very confined area. It’s stark. It’s not the prettiest of areas. I’m guessing that if you green up these areas and teach inmates how to sustain them being green, I would imagine that cannot transform but it can certainly add to the pleasantness of the interactions of inmates and staff throughout the course of the day. It makes simply – makes a nicer environment.

Dan Pacholke: Well, it certainly changes the culture or context of incarceration. Even in high security facilities, you can find places to create green space or you can do organic gardening or you can co-locate dog training areas next to housing units and certainly bringing dogs into living unit adds an element to it that is not typically there and will bring a calming aspect. You’ll see them laughing or smiling which is not always the case. So you know part of what you’re doing in bringing nature inside prison is you’re creating more of therapeutic environment and it’s not missed by the offender population and certainly, it creates a better environment for staff as well. So there’s great examples out there how you can do it in very high security prisons and you know all the way down to low security prisons. There are some model 2000 prisons out there today that are doing everything in the areas of gardening and garbage sorting and composting and raising tilapia, dog training, and bicycle restoration that have highly programmatic routines you know, 100 inmates involved in activities that would be greening activities.

Len Sipes: Bicycle restoration, that didn’t even cross my mind and as a fairly avid bike rider, that intrigues me. Tell me more about bicycle restoration?

Dan Pacholke: Well, once again, I mean once you adopt a green principle or sustainable principle in your mind that you want to do things that are sustainable and also that you wanted to contribute to the community, I mean, you start outreaching a little bit. We probably have four prisons that receive bicycles either from police departments or from special interest groups in the community. They bring them in. They often times contribute money. We set up an area where offenders will do bicycle restoration and then typically, they’re turned back over to community and they give them to children in need. So once again, it’s an opportunity to contribute to something larger than themselves. It’s an opportunity to give back to children. It’s an opportunity to work with community partners that are interested in the outcome that you’re going to achieve. So essentially a community begins to see you as a resource rather than a black hole behind a big wall that we just throw money into.

Len Sipes: That’s an interesting concept. I mean that is – I’ve never heard of that. I mean I’ve been in part of this system for – again, for decades and bicycle restoration, what a great idea. How long has that been going on in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: Oh, you know, I think we started the first one probably 6 or 7 years ago.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Dan Pacholke: We probably have half a dozen prisons that are doing it today but along those same lines, it’s the same thing we’re going canine rescue. We have canine rescue in 12 different prisons across the state and, of course, there are many, many dog advocates and training everything up to assistance dogs. Once again, a community has a need, it’s tough environmental times, they need help. They provide training to the inmates. It is a therapeutic activity and then in the end, of course, the community, you know, gets the animal and we have 100% adoption rate. So as you start going down this line about a being a good community partner, I mean there are several states and we’re one of them that are doing environmental restoration projects whether it’s raising the endangered Oregon spotted frog or the Taylor checkerspot butterfly or endangered puri [PH] plants that there are community partners, scientists, biologists, US Department of Fish and Wildlife that need assistance in taking care of or nurturing or growing these creatures or plants. They lack funding and, of course, prisons are full of people that have nothing but time.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: Many times they are pretty talented as well so – once again, it’s another way to bridge and to give inmates an opportunity to contribute and certainly give a community partner a different view inside the prison where they begin to see you as a resource that can help solve local problems.

Len Sipes: You know the more I talk to the two of you about this the more encouraged – the more enthusiastic I become because when you first hear the term green corrections, Dan, you’re not quite sure what it means and where we’re going with this but that’s true. I mean if you’re doing a lot of community restoration for inmates at the pre-release level who can safely go out, if you’re doing things like repairing bikes or taking care of wounded animals or training dogs, I mean, my heavens, how many millions of dogs are there in this country that needs some sort of intervention or they’re simply going to be put down. So it sounds as if the State of Washington is being really innovative in terms of coming up with not just pro-social things for the inmate population to do but a way for the prison to contribute to the betterment of the larger community.

Dan Pacholke: Yeah. I think that is part of what you’ll find across the country. I mean Maryland is doing steps around Chesapeake Bay, you know and Ohio is doing stuff with the Cincinnati Zoo and I think they’re about ready to start a restoration project on an endangered salamander called the hellbender and so there are different examples out there where people are beginning to engage community partners in a way that provides opportunities for inmates that are therapeutic, they teach empathy, compassion, and responsibility. At the same time, you’ll have scientists or biologists or both that are interested in these projects and ultimately, you know, we have a controlled environment where we can develop protocols around some of these science restoration project so you begin to expand the kind of agenda of greening a corrections. I mean you start with something simple like cost containment, certainly moving areas to training and jobs and then, of course, you bridge into more local geographic community needs and we’re certainly in need of many, many more environmental restoration projects across this country.

Len Sipes: It’s an amazing thought. Okay, we’re in the final couple of minutes of the programs Stephanie. Well, tell me more about – I’m hearing all these wonderful things coming out of the State of Washington and so you’re telling me that other – and Dan did mention that Maryland is doing some stuff, Ohio is doing some stuff, does everybody get green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Not everybody…

Len Sipes: Do they understand it?

Stephanie Davison: … gets green corrections but they could.

Len Sipes: They could.

Stephanie Davison: I would encourage people to go the NIC website…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …and look an example of – and look at a guidebook called the Greening of Corrections: Creating a Sustainable System.

Len Sipes: Right. Okay.

Stephanie Davison: We have examples from all over the country from the deep south to the progressive west and you can see how it can be done anywhere.

Len Sipes: Okay and we are talking about, as Dan said, $3.5 million worth of savings. So if you do it for no other reason besides saving taxpayers – you know, 50 times, 50 states, and seven territories x $3.5 million that’s a lot of money and I’m going to give the website out one more time before the close that will give greater time for the close,, Okay. We’re in our final minute of the program, who wants it? Stephanie, any final wrap up?

Stephanie Davison: One final word, I’d like to say in the next few months, we’ll be releasing a challenge on so that…

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: …State Departments of Correction can share their activities with us and then we’ll be able to broadcast them and share them with a larger community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So keep your eyes peeled for that.

Len Sipes: So you’re going to pit one state against the other and see who’s doing the best, right?

Stephanie Davison: A little bit. We want the examples of the best work that’s being done.

Len Sipes: And, obviously, some of the best work that’s being done is being done by the Washington Department of Corrections. So, Dan, how’s it feel to be known for something else besides the day-to-day grind of corrections? I mean the people come to you and say, hey, tell me more about green corrections in the State of Washington.

Dan Pacholke: Well, I think it’s – on one hand, it’s fun. I mean it is in activity that started kind of on the margin and has worked its way more to the center of the plate. It’s really encouraging for us, I supposed all of us, just to see more growth in the area of people like Stephanie, you know NIC, other states like Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon and California. I mean there’s lots of people doing different activities out there so, you know, one of these days, we’re going to see a new prison design that’s based on sustainable principles that articulates or identifies everything that we’re talking about here. So I’m just interested in seeing more best practice come of it and learning from others and hopefully continuing to push this in a way that’s both economically beneficial as well as humanizing corrections and making the operations of prison safer.

Len Sipes: Dan, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a show today- have done a show today on green corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections. Our guests today have been Dan Pacholke, assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections; Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360, Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, letters, concepts, criticisms, and please yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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Supervising and Treating Mentally Ill Offenders-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.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, our show today is on the supervision and treatment of mental health offenders. We, within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we say that 37% of our offenders have had contact with mental health providers or claim a mental health issue. Reports from the Department of Justice several years ago, they suggest a self-report figure of over 50%. To discuss this emerging issue within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and throughout the country, we have three guests today. We have Ubux Hussen, she is the Mental Health Program Administrator; a Community Supervision Officer – Supervisory Community Supervision Officer Marcia Davis; and Supervisory Community Supervision Officer Robert Evans. And to Ubux and Marcia and to Robert, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Female: Thank you, Leonard, for inviting us.

Female: Thank you.

Robert Evans: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. You know this is an extraordinarily important topic for us. It really is and it’s an extraordinarily important topic for every court, every parole commission, every parole and probation agency throughout the United States. It really is an emerging issue because it seems to – it seems to me that the numbers increase – continuously increase. Every time I read a piece of national research or local research, they tell me that they’re sort of astounded by the high numbers of people who have had contact with mental health providers and who claim to have a mental background. Like I said, there was a Department of Justice report that suggested that over 50% of the individuals who they interviewed caught up in the criminal justice system; they claimed to have a mental health problem or had contact with a mental health system in the past. So, Ubux, the first question is going to you. How many people out of the 15,000 individuals that we have on supervision on any given day, both parolees and probationers, how many are involved in our mental health unit?

Ubux Hussen: In our mental health unit, approximately 2068…

Len Sipes: That’s a lot of people.

Ubux Hussen: It is a lot of people spread across six or seven mental health men and women’s teams. The observation you made about the number of people – you know, back in the ’70s and ’80s, we did this deinstitutionalization from state mental health hospitals and a lot of those people have cycled through both state, federal, and local jails and prisons which really have become very innovative in mental health service delivery because of the need of the people under their care. So there are a lot more people who probably qualify than the 2068…

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: …who are currently assigned to our branch. So I’ll stop there.

Len Sipes: Well, that is an important piece of context for people to understand that one time we had within this country a fairly extensive community-based and hospital-based mental health system. They went through a process of deinstitutionalization, I think, back in the 1970s and at one time, there were thousands of people caught up in community care and in terms of intuitional care, but they’ve taken down most of those institutions from various states and they did not support the community component. So, in essence, we’ve heard individuals suggest that the criminal justice system is now the de facto provider of mental health services to a lot of people caught up who are in the system who are mentally ill and that’s shocking. You know, to me, it’s shocking. Marcia, who gets to be on our mental health unit? Describe that kind of person.

Marcia Davis: Okay. So the individuals who come to supervision come to us by way of the United States Parole Commission after they have been placed on supervisory list of parole or through the DC Court System after being placed on probation.

Len Sipes: Uh huh.

Marcia Davis: And in most cases, they’ve been either court ordered or ordered by the USPC to either undergo a mental health assessment, participate in mental health treatment, or be supervised by the mental health unit.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, so they come either from the courts or they come from the US Parole System.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: Can a community supervision officer– what most people throughout the country call parole and probation agents, can a community supervision officer here within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency can they mandate that a person receive an evaluation? Robert?

Robert Evans: Well, not necessarily mandate but one thing that is important to know is that we kind of train our staff to be very observant. We train them to have a listening ear and also be observant of when someone is experiencing some sort of breakdown or issue. And so what they’ll make – what they’ll do is make a recommendation and they will make a referral. So they will refer to our mental health program administrator to review a situation, most likely try to get this person a mental health assessment so that we can kind of gauge what this person is going through. So anybody who has a mental health assessment and assessment basically says that they have a current issue they’re dealing with, a mental health diagnosis, then we’ll take another look at that to see if they qualify for our unit.

Len Sipes: Well, from the beginning of the show, I do want to establish two things: a) Because an individual has a mental health issue does not mean that they’re going to be part of the criminal justice system and I want to make that abundantly clear.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: There are endless millions of people floating throughout the United States, throughout the world, who have mental health condition who never come into contact with the criminal justice system. However, if you are schizophrenic, if you have one of dozens of mental health diagnosis, if you are depressed in some ways that does correlate, however, with substance use that does correlate, however, with a contact with the criminal justice system. Did I phrase it correctly, Ubux?

Ubux Hussen: Absolutely. There also other environmental or psychosocial factors – poverty, low educational level, a fragile limited or non-existent family or social support network.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: In terms of poverty, access to health insurance whether you’re able to get the medication that allows you to have stability in your life so that you’re not engaging in criminal activity. So there’s both the diagnosis and then there is what’s called the ecology of the person’s life.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: So who else is in your life and what else is in your life that serves as a prosocial stabilizing factor?

Len Sipes: But we have to establish as well in terms of a baseline for this discussion people on parole and probation supervision both within Washington DC and throughout the country. It applies equally across the board. They come often with substance abuse backgrounds.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: They come often with multiple contacts with the criminal justice system.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: They come often with tough upbringings, oftentimes single parent family, often time I’ve heard dozens and dozens and dozens of people caught up in the criminal justice system describe the fact that they raised themselves, that they were basically on their own, that they basically got up, fed themselves, and took themselves to school. Individuals caught up in the criminal justice system have dozens of disadvantages. Most of the female offenders that we have do things, number one, the large number have children so it’s not just taking care of themselves as they come out of the prison system. Somehow someway they want to reunite with their children. My heavens, when you start stacking deck – when you start considering all the different things that an individual caught up in the criminal justice system has to deal with and you throw mental health issues on top of all those things, it becomes scary. It becomes what some people have claimed almost to be a school to prison pipeline because they’re saying how do you overcome all those obstacles?

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: Anybody feel to comment from a mental health point of view?

Robert Evans: Yeah. I’m glad you’ve mentioned that because you know we – we throw the word mental health around and it’s kind of – there’s a stigma that comes along that word just mental health.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And we need to be clear that everybody has mental health. If you have a brain, you know. So everybody has health that they’re dealing with and you know, issues face us all. If you have death in the family, if you are struggling in life, so all these things that people have come along with, they deal with them differently.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: You know and how do they – how do they deal with it. And so, one thing that we have to mention is that – especially here in DC, there are services that people can get…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …as a result of having “mental health issue” and so that can also add to why people are getting into this system – the mental health system because, for example, you have people that are in – who are locked up and once they realize that they can get special treatment for being in mental health now that they want to fake issues. So there’s another, you know, a sort of layer of the whole mental thing that we should visit because it’s more than just you know people have in “mental health issue.” It’s a huge sort of box that they can be opened up. You know, people can get SSI checks, people kind of once they get a diagnosis they kind of rely on at some time.

Len Sipes: Okay. So it’s a fairly complex issue.

Robert Evans: It’s very complex.

Len Sipes: All right. Let’s start from the beginning then now that we’ve laid this groundwork. So a person either comes from the courts or comes from the parole commission with a mandate that we evaluate them for mental health services. What happens when we receive that piece of paper?

Marcia Davis: And then let me also add because we kind of touched on it a little bit but I want to add sometimes, like you said, people go to general supervision and while they’re in general supervision, the CSO may notice that there’s some things that may not be totally right with this person.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: So they will refer them for an assessment and once they get assessed, they could be deemed appropriate for the mental health unit and be transferred over.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. What happens when that happens? Either through the CSO in general supervision or the parole commission or the courts? So somebody says I think this person has an issue, what happens?

Ubux Hussen: Usually, either through a supervisor or the actual CSO, I will receive an e-mail…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: …with an attached mental health assessment.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: That has to be current and not older than 12 months.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: We want the most current information about the person. That assessment is reviewed for whether the person has what mental health clinicians call a severe and persistent mental illness.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: And so that’s your schizophrenias, that’s your bipolar disorder, etcetera.

Len Sipes: Right. Right.

Ubux Hussen: We also, however, supervised other people who have developmental delays, who are mild to moderately what used to be called mentally retarded. We now have a – I’m noticing a trend as everybody is getting older, we have an older population of supervisees who have age-related cognitive deficits and so it is in just do they have a serious mental illness, it’s what else is going on that might impede their successful supervision.

Len Sipes: Okay, fair enough. But we get an evaluation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Ubux Hussen: Yup.

Len Sipes: We get an evaluation from a mental health clinic. Do we do our own evaluations?

Ubux Hussen: Yes, sometimes.

Len Sipes: Okay. So who does those evaluations?

Ubux Hussen: We have consultants that we contract with.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: One of the things in the DC area that’s really hard to get is a psychological evaluation.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: And so the agency pays for those. If the information is conflicting, if it’s inadequate, if somebody for example has experienced trauma to the head while they’ve been in the community and we just need more information, we will pay for those services for them to get this assessment.

Len Sipes: Okay. So CSOSA does their own evaluations when necessary.

Ubux Hussen: Yes, that’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Marcia Davis: And we also use the Department of Mental Health.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: The DC Department of Mental Health Agency does assessments, too.

Len Sipes: Okay. So the person comes in, we diagnose them, we figure out on what level of deficiency they have and then they’re placed in the mental health unit with well over 2000 people under supervision. Right?

Ubux Hussen: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. So what happens at that point? So you get this person, not only does he have to make restitution, not only does he have to get a job, not only does he have to get his GED, not only does he have to get his plumbing certificate, not only does he have to obey all law…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Len Sipes: …he now has to go through some sort of intervention in terms of his mental health problem and I’m assuming that that ranges in terms of the degree of severity of the mental health problem, right?

Robert Evans: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, talk to me about that.

Robert Evans: So, basically, the guy comes from my unit and he’s assigned to community supervision officer to supervise him. Now, this supervision officer has been trained to make sure that this person is connected with the mental health services. They’re going to make sure that they connect either for Core Service Agency. This person is going to be connected with a case manager or a therapist if necessary depending on the person’s need. Once they go to that Core Service Agency, the agency would do an intake and they’ll see what this person needs and so, now, this officer needs to follow up with the case manager or whoever they’re connected with…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Robert Evans: …to be sure that they’re following through with that.

Len Sipes: And that connection could be authorities from the District of Columbia. That connection could be with the Veterans Administration.

Robert Evans: Correct.

Len Sipes: That connection could be with lots of different agencies. So okay.

Marcia Davis: Correct. Private organization…

Len Sipes: Private organizations. It could be a private counselor. Now, but do all of them get the counseling they need? I mean, you know, all we hear are budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts and my guess is that not everybody is going to be getting counseling – not everybody is getting counseling, not everybody is going to get “therapy.” My guess is that people on the high end of the spectrum with serious mental health issues such as bipolarism or schizophrenic – or being a schizophrenic, they will get it and the people at the lower end don’t. Am I right or wrong?

Robert Evans: Well, you’re right. You’re right. In DC especially, you know, people are overwhelmed with clients. You know, the case mangers that we deal with have extremely high case loads so they’re trying to do the best they can to make sure that they meet these individual’s needs. Bu in most cases, the people that need the intensive service, what they’ll do is get connected with what was called the ACT team, which is Assertive Community Treatment.

Marcia Davis: Assertive Community Treatment.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Robert Evans: So this ACT team is going to be assigned to this client who has a very severe issue.

Marcia Davis: A severe need.

Len Sipes: A severe need, right.

Robert Evans: And so what that would do is get this person more specialized treatment but even in those cases, it’s very difficult. The difficulty that we face is we have to make sure that this person is following through with the recommendation but we can’t hold their hand, we can’t take them to treatment, we can’t pick him up from their home and take them to the case manager so –

Len Sipes: But in many cases – and that I want to get to this right after the break – in many cases, we are the principal pro-social entity in that person’s life which I find astounding…

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: …in terms of doing previous radio programs about this topic.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentleman, we’re talking to Ubux Hussen. She is the Mental Health Program Administrator. We’re talking to Marcia Davis and Robert Evans. They’re both Supervisory Community Supervision Officers with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, here in Washington DC. We are a federal independent agency offering parole and probation services to the great city of Washington DC. Our website is, Talking about the issue of mental health and how parole and probation agencies treat mental health problems and again getting back to the issue that I’ve brought up right before the break that for so many individuals under supervision, we are, in many cases, the sole stabilizing pro-social force in their life, coming into contact with them and asking them: a) Are you taking your medication?; b) Are you going to the counseling clinic but we have liaisons, we know whether or not they’re complying with this counseling clinics; and c) To sit with that individual and we’re not therapist…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: We’re not therapists but we do talk with that individual and try to help that individual through the various crises of their lives, and d) often times when they find themselves in crisis, we’re the first people that they turn to. So I talk to be all that.

Marcia Davis: Okay. So what we’re seeing now with the co-service agencies is that collaborations work tremendously. In the female unit, we have a group of women with unique needs. When we look at the pathways to crime for our women, these are women who have a history of childhood victimization. They’ve been –

Len Sipes: Childhood sexual assault.

Marcia Davis: Right. They’ve also been sexually assaulted as adults. They have a history of trauma. They have serious chronic mental illnesses. They are homeless.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Marcia Davis: They have low education, low appointment.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: They’ve been separated from their children. Their self-esteem is low.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: But with this population, the collaborations between the different agencies, with CSOSA, with the Core Service Agency, with the treatment staff, with the faith-based mentoring staff. If we come together and we work as one, we can see how those collaborations work. Just yesterday, we had a case, a high-risk offender who has a serious mental illness. She is 7-1/5 months pregnant. She is using substances and we had a team, a multidisciplinary staff, and where we had her Core Service Agency case manager, we had our mental health administrator, Ms. Ubux, we had the CSO, we had the individual from our central intervention team who provides substance abuse treatment, and we had our mental health treatment specialist and together, we came up with a plan to help this individual. So we see as – if we work together it’s so much better than each entity trying to do it alone in this –

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: It takes away from the offender’s ability to play one agency against the next because working together we come up with one plan. We’re all on one co-work and it just works out better for everyone involved.

Len Sipes: I do want to point out to our audience that we do have a variety of special emphases. Am I correct? Saying that am I grammatically correct in terms of three groups. Number one, we’ve reorganized around women offenders, we’ve reorganized around high-risks offenders and now, we’re in the process of reorganizing around young adult offenders.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: And, we’re finding mental health problems in all three groups.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: And with – especially with the high-risk offenders and especially the young adult offenders we’re finding real problems in that group with both recidivism and mental health problems. We have to prioritize…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Len Sipes: …what it this we do to the highest risk offender. Correct?

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to also go back to your point because I think it’s really important to really highlight that even in my serious case, her community supervision officer was the one that orchestrated all of that.

Marcia Davis: Yes, because –

Robert Evans: Because, you know, when the offender comes home, they’re reporting to the CSO and the CSO is between them and the releasing authority and that’s the freedom right there. So, now, it’s up to that CSO will be the one that can try to connect…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …with all these other people .

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And so, like you said, that community supervision officer is a lifeline…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …in most cases.

Len Sipes: Well, I have talked to a wide variety of people in going on 10 years now with the core services and the federal supervision agency, they’ve been – women offenders, Marcia, you and I have talked and the people under supervision have talked and I’ve talked to more than just a couple who are on the mental health program and they basically say, you know, Mr. Sipes, if it wasn’t for that CSO, again, community supervision officer, I don’t know where I’d be.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: He’s the one – she’s the one who constantly says, are you taking your medication, show me your medications, show me that you have your prescription in hand, show me that you’re not abusing this drug, are you going to counseling, or are you hooking up with your faith-based mentor, where are you on your life. And that provides a lifeline. Again, I’m making the same point twice but I do want to reemphasize it. The employees of this organization become sometimes the lifeline…

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: …in the life of that individual and becomes the major difference as to whether or not that person succeeds or does not succeed.

Robert Evans: Right. And that’s gonna be really heightened when you’re talking about the young population because this is a population who’s in a predicament and most likely because their family may not be there…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …or they have turned their back on them.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So, now, you have somebody who is playing that role in addition to authority but now we have the sort of kind of train you up, you know, and teach you to be an adult. You know, so that…

Len Sipes: It’s cognitive behavioral therapy, restructuring how they think about things in life.

Robert Evans: It’s all [indiscernible]

Len Sipes: Do we do group therapy with some individuals in the mental health unit?

Ubux Hussen: We do. There are – we have two types of groups. We have mental health intervention groups, for example, where Marcia is located. There is a trauma group that targets women and then we do what are called sanctions groups which is for technical violations of your supervision agreement.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: We’re now restructuring ourselves because at the base of everything – what you were saying earlier about people raising themselves and so forth – is underlying trauma that hasn’t been addressed.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: And so we’re reconfiguring the group so that we’re offering more treatment-oriented groups and fewer sanctions groups.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: You know, it’s interesting, the average person listening to this program especially if they are familiar with their parole and probation agency and people are more than welcome to write me,, leonard.sipes. Call me, send with a nasty letter, do what they will but what we’re talking about is unrecognizable to them because: a) we have a ratio where we come in of community supervision officers, a lot of parole and probation agents and people under supervision of somewhere in about ballpark of 50:1. For mental health teams, it’s less than that but we come into contact with individuals at higher levels of supervision at least four to eight times a month, two of those have to be community contacts and, at the same time, they have all the mental health contacts. Most parole and probation agents in this country, you know, at the highest levels, come into contact with that individual two times a month and when it comes to mental health services, they say go to your mental health clinic and report in. That’s it. That’s most jurisdictions’ response to people with mental health problems. What we do here at CSOSA as cumbersome as it is at times and as frustrating is at times is generally leaps and bounce better than most parole and probation agencies. Now, am I right or wrong?

Robert Evans: You’re absolutely correct and it’s unacceptable if we see anything less.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Robert Evans: You know, because, you know, the bottom line is the consumer. We’re thinking about the offender, you know. We say that but really we’re looking at them like the customer and our job is to assist then through the process. We’re trying to help them get the supervision so that they don’t come back.

Len Sipes: Well, we’re trying to protect public safety.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Len Sipes: If we get them through supervision that means they’re not out there committing crimes.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: It means they’re not a burden to society.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: That means they’re no longer tax burdens and they’re tax payers.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Len Sipes: So a lot of people have a lot of investment in making sure that that person succeeds under supervision including us.

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Absolutely.

Ubux Hussen: Right. Not the least of which the one million children whose parents…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Ubux Hussen: …at various times are involved with criminal justice systems. So it’s really in societies enlightened self-interest at some point, budgets are finite, and people have to come home and –

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry. Finite and declining.

Ubux Hussen: Finite and declining and so people have to come home and we have to be able to, in terms of those of us charged with public safety, be creative in identifying the reasons for how you got involved in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you say creative and so many of us in the criminal justice system, people sitting all throughout the country, listening to this program going creative shamative [PH]. It takes money. It takes resources to do this and – and that’s – that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Robert Evans: I would say that’s false. I would say that, you know, when we talk about being creative, we’re talking about being evidence-based and what the evidence says is that you don’t need money to show empathy.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And so – and that is what our unit is all about. You know, we train people to be able to build a rapport. A big huge part that you were talking about is this person sitting in front of me has to build trust.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So we’re all about trying to make a connection with this person so that this person will respond to what we’re trying to put in place for them to be successful.

Len Sipes: But this is a difficult population to supervise because I’ve did what you’ve done with your lifetime and they come out of the prison system in many cases and I do note that 65% of our people on our supervision are probationers, not coming out of the prison, but those who would come out of the prison have – what I say a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana.

Robert Evans: Big time.

Len Sipes: And you add mental health to that. You’re breaking through that barrier and so to the point you can get them to point – that person to the point where you can help them is a monumentally difficult task. How you break through that barrier?

Robert Evans: You don’t personalize it. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is to not to personalize it, you know. Just to give you a real life example, a young guy, you know, they – like you said, the chip on your shoulder, I’m seeing that more and more with the young population.

Len Sipes: Yep.

Robert Evans: He comes in. He’s cussing out his officer. This officer called me. Mr. Evans needs you. He came to the cubicle. He’s cussing me out.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So he said he was done. I let him walk out. Ten minutes later, he came back.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh.

Robert Evans: And he had a different attitude. Now, a typical person may have taken it personal, may have said, you know, what? You walked out, we’re done. But we have to not personalize that process and we have to realize that he is here, we’ve got a body to work with, and let’s rock and roll.

Len Sipes: That is I think the only way it can be done in terms of breaking through. If we do not break through their lives as individuals, we might as well just give it up. We might as well just send them back to prison.

Robert Evans: Right.

Marcia Davis: Now, when it comes –

Len Sipes: Go ahead, either one. We have one minute left.

Marcia Davis: When it comes to female unit, the females appreciate the programs that we have developed on the female unit that are geared and unique to addressing their needs. So they’re participating in these programs and they’re saying that, okay, finally, our needs are being addressed because, for so many years, their needs were never addressed and they haven’t been able to address the issues that they need to address in order to stop the cycle. So just then seeing that we’ve taken the time to develop these programs that were develop for – specifically for females, they appreciate that and they see the direction and appreciate the direction at the agency is doing.

Len Sipes: And I am – never in my 42 years in the criminal justice system have I been as impressed with anything as impressed as I am with the women’s unit and the fact that they come out with so many strikes against them but yet, at the same time, they succeed in greater numbers than I would ever expect and considering the efficiencies that they have to deal with. All of you, who deal with the female population, should be congratulated and all of you who deal with the mental health population should be congratulated. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Our guests today have been Ubux Hussen, she is the Mental Health Program Administrator; Marcia Davis and Robert Evans, they’re both Supervisory Community Supervision Officers. Ladies and gentleman, again, DC Public Safety. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your e-mails. We appreciate your phone calls and all of the suggestions in terms of new shows, even criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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GPS and Offender Supervision in Washington, D.C.-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.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s program ladies and gentlemen, Global Positioning System Tracking in Washington DC. What we do to electronically monitor offenders under criminal supervision on the case load for my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Our guest today is Carlton Butler. He is the program administrator for the GPS program. The website is There you will find links to our radio and television shows and there you will find previous radio shows on GPS tracking of criminal offenders and television shows. We also have an article summarizing all of this. Carlton Butler, Program Administrator for the GPS program, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Butler:  Thank you for having me Len.

Len Sipes:  All right, Carlton, let me do some summation. 500 to 600 offenders on any given day are being supervised, tracked under GPS and global positioning system tracking, satellite tracking, since the program’s inception, somewhere in the ballpark of about 20,000 people have been part of the GPS program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1,600 offenders every year are a part of the global position tracking system. So that’s a lot of people.

Carlton Butler:  It is a lot of people.

Len Sipes:  I mean CSOSA, my agency, your agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we have invested a lot of effort, a lot of money and a lot of time into GPS tracking of offenders.

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and one of the reasons why I wanted to do the program today Carlton is this, is that I get these news summaries from around the country and about crime and the criminal justice system and I am seeing a lot of articles from throughout the country that this offender or that offender was arrested and they had a GPS tracking device and within those newspapers, there were questions about the global positioning system program in those particular cities or in that particular state and I have spoken to a couple of reporters who said, “Well my city oversold GPS tracking. They made it seem as if they’re going to put a huge dent in terms of recidivism and/or technical violations and/or return to prisons”. And one of the things that I do want to start off the program with is at the research. There is now about five significant reports out there that basically show just that; that people on GPS, global positioning system, satellite tracking, ordinarily have fewer arrests,  have fewer technical violations and fewer of them are returned to prison compared to those people not under the GPS program – true?

Carlton Butler:  It is very true and I have read at least three of the reports and the three reports all were very favorable on the technology, the use of the technology. Very well.

Len Sipes:  And so that provides a certain significance I think to those of us in parole and probation to use this and we have been a pioneer in terms of the use of GPS. Again, we have been at it since 2003. I mean quite frankly for many years, until the use of GPS picked up around the country we had more people under GPS tracking in Washington DC than a lot of states had people under GPS tracking.

Carlton Butler:  That’s true. We were the second largest user in the nation actually, California being the first.

Len Sipes:  And since we have been surpassed by Florida and I think a couple of other states but we are still one of the principal jurisdictions in terms of the use of GPS.

Carlton Butler:  Yes we are. We are still one of the principal users of GPS.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So I want to have a very frank conversation about our use of GPS here in Washington DC. We are not, even though the research consistently, powerfully and in terms of research on people under supervision by parole and probation agencies, there is, you know, there is not a lot of uniformity in terms of the results of a lot of the research. Some show reductions in recidivism, some don’t but GPS supervision across the board shows reduction, so there’s promise there, but it is no guarantee that a person is not… under GPS supervision… is not going to commit a new crime.

Carlton Butler:  That’s true. It’s not a panacea. It doesn’t replace the good old fashioned parole-probation supervision model with regards to supervising offenders that require the supervision. It is however a tool that can be used and once used correctly, it can aid and assist the supervision bodies with supervising individuals while on whatever condition they are on.

Len Sipes:  Now, the other point that I wanted to make is that not everybody goes on GPS supervision. We either put high risk offenders, sex offenders or people who are having problems under supervision – say they refuse to get a job, they are not going to drug treatment, they are not adhering to the conditions of their supervision, those are sort of the two general categories of people that we have under supervision – correct?

Carlton Butler:  That is very, very correct and some of it is modeled off trying to control some of their idle time and making sure that we have some notion of where individuals are when they have that bulk of idle time.

Len Sipes:  Right, so if the person comes to us and said, “Well gee, I missed going to my drug treatment program because work held me back” and the GPS system showed that he was at the house, that’s a defacto lie and now he knows he can’t use that excuse because he is being tracked in real time.

Carlton Butler:  Well that’s very true but one of the nice attitudes to that is that through the GPS program we actually have the ability to get an alert or an alarm letting us know that an individual who should have gone to a particular location as been instructed, the system – we can have the system to alert us that he or she did not go to where we told them to go to.

Len Sipes:  Right and the other nifty thing about GPS is that it provides a lot of options for us. We can restrict that person to the city. We can restrict that person to part of the city. We can restrict that person to a block or we can restrict that person to house – not house arrest – but home curfew. We can keep that person in their home and track immediately whether or not they leave their home – correct?

Carlton Butler:  Yes we can but in addition to that we can also bar them from areas that we do not want them to enter for whatever reason.

Len Sipes:  Right, especially domestic violence cases and especially in terms of having a stay-away order and if they are told to stay within – you know, they cannot be within a thousand yards of that house or the victim, that’s one nifty way of enforcing it and knowing for sure as to whether or not he is obeying his stay-away orders.

Carlton Butler:  Well that’s very true but we have also found the technology to be useful as well for exonerating individuals. There’s often times when we may receive reports that a particular individual was at a particular location and we were able to say that he or she was not there based on the GPS technology.

Len Sipes:  Right, and I have heard stories that people have asked to be placed on GPS, volunteered to be placed on GPS to prove that they, you know they were concerned about criminal activity that they have been part of a gang or they were involved in something and they want nothing to do with what used to be their friends and they want nothing to do with the crimes that their friends and former associates were involved in, so they asked to be placed on GPS to prove their innocence just in case something happens.

Carlton Butler:  Yes. We have had a number of cases where individuals have actually requested to be on GPS. One of the statements we have heard, one of the testimonies that we have heard from one of our participants is that it is easier for him to pull his pants leg up and show them that he has a GPS device and they automatically know, or for some reason they feel that we can actually, there is intelligence on them as well and most of the time they don’t want to be around that particular individual so it’s easier for them to separate themselves from those individuals when he wants to.

Len Sipes:  And I have heard that story. You know, you’re hanging out on the corner and you’re with your friends and somebody suggests something nefarious and his absence and his excuse is to pull up his pants leg and say I can’t, I’m being tracked and they are saying, “Oh, absolutely, we don’t want you anywhere near us!” So it is. I mean it’s a way of saying, “Look, I can no longer continue being involved in some of the stuff that you’re involved in and here’s my instantaneous excuse”. All right, but having said all of that, again I want to re-emphasize that just because you have the GPS tracking device on doesn’t mean that it stops you from committing another crime. I remember several years ago we had a case of a person who was sexually assaulting young girls in the North East part of the city and we were able to place that person at those crime scenes at that time and provided additional evidence in terms of his conviction and so we know, we have known from the very beginning that people under GPS tracking, satellite tracking for whatever reason they may be, shall I say stupid, probably not a politically correct word to say but if you’re going to commit a crime while under GPS tracking I wonder about your intellectual ability, but nevertheless it doesn’t stop anybody from committing a crime.

Carlton Butler:  No it doesn’t. It doesn’t stop any individual who would normally want to be involved in criminal activity or new criminal activity to really being able to prevent them from doing anything.

Len Sipes:  And we understood that from the very beginning and we haven’t said anything else but.

Carlton Butler:  No, we’ve been very clear about that.

Len Sipes:  And also, through the other radio and television programs that we have done, we do know that there are people on GPS tracking who do attempt to fool the system and I am not going to talk specifics but we do know that that occurs. We know that its been occurring throughout the country and we have, in terms of the equipment we use now, we get alerts because if they try to say wrap a substance around that GPS device we know and the alert goes immediately when that happens, is that correct?

Carlton Butler:  That is very, very correct. We know that there are a number of circumventing attempts or techniques out there. CSOSA has been on the front working very diligently with the company and coming up with ways to be able to circumvent or not circumvent or be able to detect efforts to circumvent the GPS technology and we have been very, very successful in doing so, so much so that we do have the ability to know when individuals have or will attempt to tamper with the advice.

Len Sipes:  You are part of a national effort through the Department of Justice of getting people involved in GPS programs to talk to each other. Was that correct?

Carlton Butler:  Yes we are a member of probably 34 people, last I count. People from all around the nation that meet, were meeting quarterly. From that we have put together a user manual and we have developed GPS standards, unlike ever in the entire nation ever been developed. Those are in the final stages as we speak. In fact we have a conference call tomorrow where we are going to be discussing some of the final stages and we hope that two documents will be released very soon. So I think as a GPS practitioner I am excited to see both the standards and the user manual because I believe that it would be very beneficial to anyone in the future with regard to GPS technology.

Len Sipes:  Right, but the whole idea when I spoke to the Department of Justice about this initiative was to get information passed back and forth, so if the folks in Idaho were having  a particular issue, they could reach out to you and if you had a particular issue, you could reach out to the folks in California.

Carlton Butler:  Well yeah, and the other good thing about that as well is that we are able to network and exchange ideas but not only that, we all come up with different challenges in GPS so we have the ability to reach out to each other as those challenges become.

Len Sipes:  Now I’m not going to give away the farm here but I do want to make it clear that even though an attempt to block a GPS device, there is another way and I’m not going to say what that other way is, but there is another way of tracking that individual electronically that they don’t know about – correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. There are actually three ways but one of the most prevalent ways is…

Len Sipes:  no specifics

Carlton Butler:  … a technology – I understand – is a technology that allows us to still be able to track a movement of an individual, yes.

Len Sipes:  Right. Okay, so I do want to make that clear that even though there’s – they think that they’re successful in terms of wrapping that substance around a GPS tracking device, there are other ways that we can track that individual and they are probably not aware of the fact that we can track that individual. Let me get onto the next issue.  This is important. I haven’t even brought this up yet. A lot of folks in the law enforcement community, or anybody within the law enforcement community has access to the 500 to 600 people that we track on a day to day basis through the computers in their patrol cars – correct?

Carlton Butler:  Yes they do. We have what we call a crime scene correlation program.  Crime scene correlation program is a program where our agency offers limited access to our law enforcement partners that allow them to be able to have dual monitoring of certain offenders.

Len Sipes:  Right, and when I say law enforcement it’s anywhere from the metropolitan police department here in Washington DC, one of the best police departments in the country, anywhere to Housing Authority, police, anywhere to the United States Secret Service to the FBI.

Carlton Butler:  That’s right, we also have the Park Police, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County as well who are really big users of the program.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and so there are some people on this program because I do want to talk about the fact that we have active and passive and what that means, we do have some people either between our monitoring center, ourselves and law enforcement, we do have people who are tracked in real time.

Carlton Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, we are half way through the program. I do want to reintroduce our guest, Carlton Butler, the Program Administrator for the GPS Program, Global Positioning System, Satellite Tracking Program here in Washington DC. Both of us are part of the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, a federal executive branch, independent of the agency providing parole and probation services to the city, the great city of Washington DC. We are talking about GPS tracking and if you didn’t hear the first part of the program, I asked Carlton to come down and address this because I was again reading newspaper articles throughout the country where the GPS program in other cities where they were questioning the fact that this person who committed a crime was under GPS tracking and thereby questioning the GPS program itself and that is why I wanted to have this very frank conversation with Carlton about what it is that we do here within Washington DC. Carlton I want to go to… to continue this concept of offenders on GPS tracking trying to fool the system and we have already said that we know that it exists, you share that information with different people throughout the country. There are counter measures that we have in place that we are not going to talk about, that offenders are not going to know about, so even if they try to circumvent the system, we can still track them.  Now, but they can just cut the daggone thing off.

Carlton Butler:  Yes, that’s true they can; but again, if they attempt to do that as well, we get an alert letting us know that the device has been tampered with.

Len Sipes:  Right, and in many cases because the people that we have under our supervision are some of the higher risk offenders or people who are not doing well, we have this conversation with our law enforcement partners about this individual so word will go out to not only our own community supervision officers, what most people throughout the country call parole and probation agents, not only to our people to law enforcement as well that this individual, that John Doe cut his anklet, which means that John Doe may be up to something.

Carlton Butler:  That’s very true and one of the interactions that we have is that we often times have to call the police to notify of the tamper. In the District of Columbia, city council and the Mayor enacted an anti-tamper law. That anti-tamper law specifically says that if you knowingly tamper with your device or allow anybody else to tamper with your device and/or, intentionally failing to charge your device, you can now be charged with a misdemeanor crime.

Len Sipes:  That came as a result of the problems that we have been having and people throughout the country have been having.

Carlton Butler:  It has.

Len Sipes:  Okay, the other part of it is that we have people under supervision who simply don’t charge their GPS devices. Every individual has to charge it up when they return back to their house.

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. They are required to charge twice a day.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And they are required to charge twice a day, if they don’t charge twice a day, the alert goes out.

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Let me get down to this whole concept of supervision because I did say that of the 500 to 600 that we have under any given day, they can be tracked in real time and in some cases, are by our law enforcement partners. Now, people need to understand that we are not a 24-hour day, 365-day a year agency. These individuals are tracked by us, by our community supervision officers anywhere from 7 am and 7 pm, correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  So some of our community supervision officers will take a high risk individual that we are really concerned about and track them in real time maybe even in the evenings. Maybe even in the weekends and watch those alerts or get alerts from the central monitoring system that we employ – correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct and we also have as a backup another individual who works late in the evenings helping to monitor as well and of course I am available at any time.

Len Sipes:  Right. So I mean we do this, but the majority of individuals, the 500 to 600 on any given day are what we call supervision that from 7 am to 7 pm the community supervision officers are keeping an eye on their coordinates and/or the monitoring center that we employ, they get notifications.

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, if that person does violate and say a domestic violence order and if we are tracking them between 7 am and 7 pm or on a real time basis they can get the word out to police right away.

Carlton Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Now, workload, and every piece of research that I have ever read, the parole and probation agents who are doing GPS will complain about the workload. Having a person under GPS supervision increases the workload dramatically, correct?

Carlton Butler:  Oh it does because of the usage of the technology.

Len Sipes:  Right and you will find all sorts of problems with GPS, for instance, they could be inside of a building and it won’t track them. They could be under a bridge and it won’t track them. It’s not a continuous tracking. We don’t have the science down to a continuous tracking. Now again, there are other ways of tracking that individual that I don’t want to talk about but from time to time in terms of satellite tracking or GPS, they do fall off the radar screen – correct?

Carlton Butler:  That’s correct. That is normally associated by way of the industry to environment conditions that do change from time to time.

Len Sipes:  We can track them in a car, but you know, if they’re underneath a 12-storey building I am not quite sure that they are going to be able to be tracked by satellite.

Carlton Butler:  No, you can’t track them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now – and we get these alerts because if they go into buildings, we get these alerts because they don’t charge their device. We get these alerts when they are right on the edge of an area that they shouldn’t be in and that creates a workload problem so we significantly, not solved but we created an intervening measure. We took the company that provides this device and we have them now tracking individuals in real time and if there is a violation they get in touch with this individual. If they cannot resolve the issue, then they turn the information over to our community supervision officers, am I right or wrong?

Carlton Butler:  That is very true. We set all of that up through protocols and we pretty much outlined the intervention process that would go forward by the vendor in terms of the first, as a first responder.

Len Sipes:  Okay,  I do want to emphasize that, that GPS tracking, you take on an enormous amount of workload any time that you have a person under GPS tracking and we have recognized that and the standard recommendation of virtually every piece of research that I have read is that you really should have a central monitoring system and we have a central monitoring system.

Carlton Butler:  I agree, the monitoring center actually takes away a lot of the guessing component with regards to the supervising officer. By the time a supervising officer gets information on the alert, a lot of what he or she would attempt to sit there and try to figure out has been resolved for them. So it prevents them from having to spend long periods of time trying to filter through what might have occurred or what could have occurred. The monitoring center pretty much by the time they call them, there are experts on the other end, they pretty much can tell you what occurred and give you enough information for you to be able to make a decision.

Len Sipes:  In some cases where the individual did not charge the unit, it’s a matter of calling the residents and saying, “Why didn’t you charge the unit?” and that person saying, “whoops, I’m sorry, I forgot.”

Carlton Butler:  Well our protocols require that they call and instruct the individual to place the device on the charger for that period of time and in addition what they do is reinforce what the requirement is for the purpose of the charge to begin with and then report that out to the officer with regards to what they did and what might have been said during the time of the conversation between them and the offender.

Len Sipes:  Right and if there is any indication of slurred voice or angry or negative encounter, that’s reported back to the community supervision officer.

Carlton Butler:  yes but we also have all of that being recorded and they tell the individual at the time that the call is being made, that the conversation is being recorded and any kind of unacceptable behavior, we generate a copy of that recording to show what was actually said at the time to the officer as well.

Len Sipes:  Right, so again, one of the things I like to pride myself in terms of doing, whenever I do radio shows about our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is that taking a look at the national research and I think virtually all cases, we pride ourselves on being a research based agency and an evidence based agency and ordinarily, we employee the national standards which I think is unusual for a parole and probation agency. From what I have read from the GPS research and what I have read in terms of the results of the GPS research and in fact, I am going to have an individual from England who has put out a report who came in and observed what it is that we have done, I am going to have him on the radio show in a couple of months. We seem to comply with all of the suggestions in terms of the research.

Carlton Butler:  Yeah, but we are one of the pioneers. We are kind of helping to write some of the research as well because our program is one of those nationally watched programs in that we get individuals or groups that come in all the time to see our program and to talk to us about the success part of our program so…

Len Sipes:  Right, but the average person listening to this program may not understand. I don’t want to say that we have been pioneering, but we have. I mean I understand that a lot of people come to us but I just want to re-emphasize that you belong to this group. They are the US Department of Justice and whatever standard is out there we comply with that standard.

Carlton Butler:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay and in the final analysis I think that most of the folks within the law enforcement community that I have talked to about GPS have been pleased with the program. I mean it is not fool proof. It is absolutely not fool proof. There is no way that you can say that it is going to stop people from committing new crimes but it does reduce the numbers per  research, per the national research, there are significant reductions in terms of arrest, technical violations and return to prisons and in fact according to national research, they may have the strongest outcomes of any intervention for people under parole and probation. So it seems to be encouraging is the point.

Carlton Butler:  It is encouraging but one of the challenges in the GPS program is making certain that all our law enforcement partners are fully aware what the technology has the ability to do but to also give them some insight of what the objectives are for your program.

Len Sipes:  Right, and there is no way by the way, for people listening, that you can keep a person on GPS forever. I mean there’s just no way that you can keep…. I mean for some sex offenders they are on for an awfully long time but we try to convince individuals that they can work their way off of GPS by… if they are not complying with their terms of their supervision, if they comply, they can come off.

Carlton Butler:  Well, that’s true, I have only recalled ever seeing one case where the individual was actually ordered by a judge into GPS, but for the most part, most of them are conditional and if they meet those conditions, there is a graduated process and they can get off, yeah.

Len Sipes:  Right, so the whole idea is to have those graduated sanctions. You increase – so again, you restrict them to the city, restrict them to a certain section of the city, restrict them to a block, you restrict them to their house. I mean there are graduated sanctions of GPS that can convince the person to fall in line if they pull drug positives or if they don’t go to treatment or if they don’t do the right thing.

Carlton Butler:  Yes it is.

Len Sipes:  All right. Anything? I think it’s a fascinating program Carlton.

Carlton Butler:  Well I’m excited about the program. It adds a lot of benefit to our ability as a tool to be used both by our law enforcement partners and as a tool for our  officers to continue to supervise individuals that they have in their care and custody;  it’s a good system.

Len Sipes:  My guest today is Carlton Butler. He is the Program Administrator for the GPS satellite tracking program for our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington DC. We have prior radio and television shows on the use of GPS. You can see them at There is also an article if you go to the blog on that website, or the general website – you can reach all of our media materials. We appreciate your comments, we appreciate your criticisms, we appreciate your suggestions for new programs and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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Serious-Violent Offender Reentry Research-Research Triangle Institute-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is going to be one of the most important radio shows that I have ever done throughout my career. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the research. We have at our microphone today Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist, Research Triangle Institute. She is from the Crime and Violence and Justice Research program. There was a piece of research, a very significant piece of research again called the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. 12 states did adult programs. 4 states did juvenile programs. It was evaluated twice. Once at the 3-year level and once at the 5-year level and I think you’re going to be surprised at the findings between the 3 and the 5-year level. To Pam Lattimore, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Pam Lattimore: Thank you Len, glad to be here.

Len Sipes: I find this piece of research fascinating. I think that this may be the most important piece of research on offender re-entry in this country’s history. There has been lots of wonderful stuff out there in terms of substance abuse, in terms of GPS, in terms of Project Hope and specialized courts and their findings are encouraging but this is main stream re-entry as we call it today. In terms of providing programs to people coming out of the prison system, services coming out of the prison system. So give me your quick summation as to the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative.

Pam Lattimore: Okay, the initiative was actually funded by congress in about 2000 and $100 million roughly was given to 69 State agencies to do programs, re-entry programs for adults and juveniles and an evaluation was commissioned to study those programs, we looked at all 69 grantees, identified what they were doing and from those grantees, selected 16 programs – 12 adult, 4 juvenile to evaluate.

Len Sipes: But there were many more beyond this so these 16 programs are sort of illustrative and indicative of the experience that happened throughout the country.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And correct me if I’m wrong, it was funded by the Office of Justice programs.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Or the US Department of Justice and so this is significant because it involves – you evaluated and there are far more programs than this, 12 States with adult programs, 4 States with juvenile programs. They provided services, an array of services as they came out. They were guidelines, general guidelines in terms of what it was that these jurisdictions were supposed to provide. Give me a sense at the 3-year level what the findings were in terms of the research?

Pam Lattimore: The findings and they were supposed to provide an array of services but there were core services and it’s the core that I think has sort of been the landmark/hallmark of re-entry programming. It’s a needs assessment, re-entry planning, a re-entry plan, case management to get people into services and the idea was that with any re-entry program the programming begins in prison and then transitions out into the community. The findings were that individuals that were in the programs received more services than those who were not. So that’s always a positive thing.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: You don’t want to be studying people who got the same thing and then see if there’s any differences in outcomes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: And that we saw modest improvements across a variety of domain areas. The initial results at 3 years, basically a 2-year followup post prison release was that although the numbers were in the right directions. There were slightly fewer arrests for the people that were in program. The differences weren’t large enough for them to qualify as what researchers call statistically significant.

Len Sipes: Right, which means that it’s not due to chance.

Pam Lattimore: Right.

Len Sipes: It’s due to program initiatives.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right.

Len Sipes: You had a control group, correct?

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. We had a comparison group that was carefully matched with the treatment groups.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so there’s a certain point within the 3-year program where people sat back and said you know, where there were reductions and we were moving in the right direction, we’re not overly enthused about the results at the 3-year level. Am I in the ballpark?

Pam Lattimore: You are in the ballpark. I mean the actual followup that we had for everyone was in the 2-year range and the thing that is important about that is that 2 years as been considered the gold standard for studies of recidivism.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: So often times people lament, well this program was evaluated but they only looked at the first six months or they only looked at the first year and so 2 years has sort of obtained, sort of a golden hue that you know, it’s like the magic alpha 0.05 in statistics that you know, it’s like, well we need 2 years and that’s what we want to aim for and so that’s what we did here, is we got 2 years. As I say, the results were suggestive and even at 2 years we could see that people who were participating in the program, the further out we went and we’re talking about arrest as an outcome, the people that had been in the programs did seem, the further out we went to be doing a little bit more better.

Len Sipes: Okay, so let’s segway into that. The 5-year study?

Pam Lattimore: The 5-year study we found actually ironically…

Len Sipes: Of the same groups.

Pam Lattimore: Of the same groups with the same people, we found that ironically, shortly after we had stopped looking the first time that the results were statistically significant. The differences in outcomes had become large enough between our comparison subjects and the people who had been in SAVORI programs, a horrible acronym on paper, but that’s what it was called, the SAVORI – Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the people who had been in SAVORI programs, actually the further out you went, the better they were doing. So by the time we got to the end of roughly the 5 years we were following them, there was a pretty substantial difference.

Len Sipes: Now let’s talk about those differences. The differences were better for women and then juveniles and then men.

Pam Lattimore: In terms of, well let’s back up and you and I talked about this earlier. I mean the arrest-recidivism rate for all of the subjects was very, very high and that’s not surprising. I don’t think anyone who understands, this initiative was supposed to focus on serious and violent offenders and what that basically at minimum is these were frequent flyers. They were people that had been you know, they started young and they had been very, you know, consistent in the number of arrests that they had. They had long arrest histories and so, when they were released post release I mean we were talking about 75 to 90% re-arrest rates overall. If you just looked, any arrest within five years of release, basically for the men it was almost all of them.

Len Sipes: Now, at the same time researchers and people within the re-entry community over the course of the last five years have really emphasized this particular group, that we should not be wasting our time, not be wasting our efforts and here yet, as we sit in Washington DC we are looking at some significant budget cuts. People are saying we shouldn’t be wasting our time with lower level offenders, that we are going to get the biggest bang for our buck in terms of these higher risk offenders, the very people that you all evaluated. So you all did what it was that you were supposed to do in terms of looking at this particular group.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and so, you know, like I say for the men and to a lesser extent, but certainly at a very high level, everybody got re-arrested at least once basically, but you know, when we started looking at the time to the first arrest. When we started looking at the number of arrests, we saw substantial and meaningful differences. I mean for the women, as you said, it was about half.

Len Sipes: Right

Pam Lattimore: The women who had been in the SAVORI program had about half the number of arrests as the women who were comparisons.

Len Sipes: To their comparison group.

Pam Lattimore: Right. And…

Len Sipes: So we’re talking about not individual instances of arrests but we’re talking about total arrests.

Pam Lattimore: Total numbers of arrests post release. Yeah, so in the followup period that we were interested in and for the men, we saw a half, 0.7 arrests. Now you might say that’s not…

Len Sipes: What percentage?

Pam Lattimore: It’s like, it was about… I don’t know, 20% or so, I don’t know I’d need to look but the comparison group was about 3.5 arrests on average in the followup period and the treatment group was about 3. So you’re talking about a half an arrest per person. Well you know, you think about the cost associated with the arrest and subsequent prosecution and you know, whatever the punishment is and that’s not trivial.

Len Sipes: So there’s still enormous implications so if you’re talking about a 20% reduction for men in terms of total arrests. If you’re talking about a 45 to 50% reduction in total arrest for women and then you’re talking about a smaller amount for juveniles.

Pam Lattimore: Right, and the juveniles, we were only able to follow them for the original study period. So the smaller number for juveniles was really only within the original study period. There are some research-related reasons for that we don’t need to go into here but there was a difference and it was meaningful and yeah, I’m looking at the numbers now and it was 3.75 for the comparison group, 3.25 arrests for the treatment group.

Len Sipes: Okay, but give me percentages because that’s the difficulty in terms of a lot of people within our audience, they’re not going to be quite sure as to what that means, so if memory serves me correctly, it was about 45% reduction for women I think, and about a 20% reduction for men.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay, we’ll go with that.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, that’s close enough.

Len Sipes: And this is, we’re talking about total arrests and in terms of incarcerations across the board because you look at arrests and you took a look at incarcerations, generally speaking, about 50% went back to prison.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: So first of all, a variety of observations. There was a piece of research which still remains the gold standard in terms of recidivism to this day done using a cohort back in 1994, the bureau of justice statistics, of the Office of Justice programs, of the US Department of Justice. Basically they gave rates of somewhere in the ballpark of two-thirds rearrested and 50% reincarcerated and those reincarcerations also included new crimes as well as violations that they committed while out. So in some ways your particular piece of research tracks that 1994 study which followed offenders for three years. So basically, what we’re saying is that across the board, this is going to be a pretty tough group to deal with and considering that you dealt with specifically Serious and Violent Offenders, not offenders across the board, but serious and violent offenders, the fact that you had higher rates of re-arrest but basically the same rates of reincarceration is not surprising. I mean your group was more difficult to deal with.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah and clearly, and we have a number of reports that describe the… you know, as you have pointed out, they’re probably, we’ve got a foot of reports and that’s probably too many pieces of paper to go through but this was clearly, the target population was serious and violent – they clearly and that has implications for what you might expect to see.

Len Sipes: Heavens, I would have a list of implications about as long as this room because what this is saying to me is that, and what its saying to media and what it is saying to policy makers and what it is saying to practitioners is we have got to be in this for the long game. It may not show results at two years, it may not show results at three years. You’ve got to take a look at longitudinal data, long range data. You may have to take a look at five years worth of data before you get a sense as to the impact of the programs that you put in place and most people don’t have the patience for that.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and I’m sympathetic to that. I’ve not been well-known for my patience. So I think you need to look along at how the results are. Our hypothesis with respect to what is going on here, the thinking has always been, well if you do an intervention, if it is going to have an impact, it will have an impact immediately and then it may diminish over time. So that is sort of the thinking that people have and in fact what we found was the opposite. It had a little effect at first and then over time it had a greater effect.

Len Sipes: But what that does is, here’s the drill though. Okay, I represent a federal criminal justice agency; we could have a program in place. Year 1, the results aren’t very good, year 2 the results aren’t very good. So somebody comes along and says, Mr. Sipes, we would like to see the results of your research, we provide those results and somebody declares the program a failure. The program could be a success but we have to extend it and learn from it and get better at it and then after multiple years beyond 2 years, that’s when you have your impact. That’s a tough hoe to row.

Pam Lattimore: And so maybe there are some policy implications here that, you know, things that we need to mindful of.

Len Sipes: row the hoe? I’m sorry I messed that statement up entirely but go ahead.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, but anyway, I mean I think that there are things that we need to be mindful of here and what we… you know, my colleagues who worked with me and there were many who worked with me on the study have speculated is that what we were seeing is sort of post-release, the likelihood that people who have been in prison for 2, 3, 4, 5 years, they get out and they are on supervision so they may violate. They want to go out and hang around with their friends again, they get themselves in trouble and really don’t have time to get themselves sorted out and so if you can think about criminal behavior, recidivism is like a relapsing behavior

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: And sometimes it can take, you know the treatment community says it can take a while for the treatment to take.

Len Sipes: Multiple interventions before you finally get the person on the right road.

Pam Lattimore: And so, you provide services to people that they may not use right away but that in the end, when they finally make it up in their minds that they want to try to do something about their behavior they have got the tools that they need to move forward.

Len Sipes: We are more than half way through the program and this very, very, very fascinating discussion with Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist with the Research Triangle Institute. By the way ladies and gentlemen, the Research Triangle Institute has been around for decades. When I left the police department decades ago and started my criminological studies, wow, the first thing I think I read was a piece of research from Research Triangle Institute. They have been around for a long time, Crime and Violence and Justice Research program – that’s what she represents. and we are also going to be placing a link in the show notes to the report that we are talking about. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. A 2-year study and a 5-year study and it took 5 years to show the true effects of the program. And Pam, in the second half of the show, so people are sitting, listening to this program and they are saying to themselves, okay fine, if we have got to take the program out for that many years, that has real fiscal implications for us, that has real political implications for us, it has policy implications for us. So first of all, there is that basic understanding that results may not be immediate and that is lesson number 1. Lesson number 2 seems to be that you did discrete variables. In other words, you isolated certain things, services that had more impact than others within your report. So that is the second thing that I want to get into because this has once again real policy implications for those of us in the criminal justice system. So you found some interventions that were more powerful than others – correct?

Pam Lattimore: That is correct and I would like to go if you don’t mind.

Len Sipes: Please, please. Feel free.

Pam Lattimore: To finish up on what we were talking about before the break and that is, I think one of the implications of, if the relapsing hypothesis is correct and if the idea is that people may have difficulty adjusting post release from prison – it points and this study is not the only one, a lot of folks have talked about the importance of that first 90 days post release. Now these programs were supposed to provide pre-release services and post-release services and there was supposed to be a sort of a reasonable hand-off. The report that we are talking about primarily today is based primarily on the services that people received while they were in prison and there’s two reasons for that but the most important is probably, our results suggested that people by and large did not receive a lot of services post release.

Len Sipes: Ah, no wait a minute, wait a minute – let’s back up now.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So the bulk of these services came within the incarcerated setting

Pam Lattimore: That’s right

Len Sipes: … and then, and this is a very important point and then the services that were supposed to ease the transition into the community in many cases, those services were not there.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Well how can you do one and not the other? I mean taking a look at all the research that I have looked at, it’s crucial that when you come out of the prison system that it be a seamless continuum of services. So if you’re getting substance abuse treatment within the incarcerative setting then you’ve got to continue it in some way, shape or form whether it’s AA or NA, at least you’ve got to continue that when you come out into the community.

Pam Lattimore: Right and the short answer to your “why” is, because it’s hard to do and there was large variation across the sites in terms of post release – the amount of post release programming and our original report dealt with that more than the new – the 5-year study did and so I mean I think one lesson though from that is that there needs to be continued attention paid to how to make that transition. If you think about this organizationally, re-entry programming is extremely hard to do.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: Extremely hard to do because of the geography of it. So if you establish a program in a state prison and so you have 200 offenders in that program

Len Sipes: And if they are in Kansas they could be hundreds of miles away from that prison.

Pam Lattimore: They could be hundreds of miles away from that prison and so you have these 200 people and they get… and say you’ve got sort of a cohort type of program. So everybody comes in and everybody spends three months or six months or whatever in some core set of services. You let them go and they… and this is all, let’s just say hard as you would know, and everybody – a lot of folks listening would understand how hard it is to know exactly when people are going to get out and to gauge all that. But let’s say you could do that, then these individuals get out in Kansas and you know, 20 of them go to Kansas City and the other 80 of them go…

Len Sipes: It’s hard to coordinate services over a large geographic area.

Pam Lattimore: Geographic area.

Len Sipes: What percent of the offenders that you studied in terms of your 16 states, what percent did receive adequate post-release services in your estimation?

Pam Lattimore: I’m not sure how to define adequate.

Len Sipes: Less than 50% it sounds like.

Pam Lattimore: Oh way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: Okay, so we’re talking about way less than 50% and that is certainly going to have an impact in terms of program findings.

Pam Lattimore: Right. Right. Oh way less than 50%. I haven’t looked at those numbers in a while but yeah, way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: So a crucial ingredient was missing.

Pam Lattimore: Right and I think… and I’ll just say it again. This is hard. If this were easy, it would have been done before. And so, but that’s a very hard thing to say to policy makers, I have tried, Lord knows I’ve tried but you know, I mean I think that until we come to grips with the reality of the fact that this is hard, you know, we’re not, we don’t stand very much of a chance of making it succeed and so I think we need to learn from you know, each iteration of this. If cancer treatment were held and funding were held to the same standard that criminal justice research and evaluation were held to, we would have no cancer research.

Len Sipes: Or drug treatment across the board.

Pam Lattimore: Or drug treatment across the board – that’s correct.

Len Sipes: It’s because there are very defined guidelines in terms of what constitutes good drug treatment. All right, we only have about six minutes left in the program and I do want to get back to that very important variable. Some parts of these program seem to have a greater impact than others. Talk to me about that.

Pam Lattimore: Right. The 5-year study was supposed to be a follow-on to the original study in a couple of ways, one is the longer followup but the other was we wanted to look, not just whether or not people had been in a SAVORI program but at the impact in terms of numbers of services people received and so forth. Well we initially tried to that we were just going to make a scale, a score basically, okay this person got 12 services or 20 or whatever number we were using and this person got 2 and did the person who got 20 do better than the person who got 2 and the results were no. And we thought, hmmm, okay and we started looking at the data. And then we sort of back-tracked and said, well let’s look at the effect of individual services. And once we did that, we found that in a few instances, not only were the services not effective, they were actually having a criminogenic effect.

Len Sipes: A detrimental effect.

Pam Lattimore: A detrimental effect and it’s like, okay, if you add up something that is having a bad effect with something that is having a good effect, it’s not surprising you find no effect.

Len Sipes: What worked?

Pam Lattimore: Education.

Len Sipes: Education. What kind of education?

Pam Lattimore: You know, our education variable was sort of a sum of…

Len Sipes: An eighth grade certificate, high school, GED

Pam Lattimore: eighth grade certificate, high school, GED, you know vocational training as opposed to….

Len Sipes: Plumbing, electrical…

Pam Lattimore: Right, right, vocational training, you know, those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: And there’s good hard research that backs it up outside of your study.

Pam Lattimore: There is, yes, there is some.

Len Sipes: Okay, so what else?

Pam Lattimore: We found that services by and large that were directed at improving the individual as a person and maybe helping that individual learn not to do drugs, to change their criminal thinking, that those services had positive impacts.

Len Sipes: Okay, what we call within the field, cognitive behavioral therapy we’re talking about thinking for change, we’re talking about helping that person come to grips with their behavior and making better decisions which a lot of people think is very common place and very simple because that’s what we were taught by our parents. In many cases, the individuals caught up within the prison system did not have that education.

Pam Lattimore: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right and then we found that to a large extent that the services that didn’t have any effect or maybe had slightly detrimental effects were the practical services, housing, well not housing in this case, but re-entry planning, that was a surprise. Now we think that the re-entry planning variable may have been because people had re-entry planning but then there was, you know, there was either no transition post release or they didn’t have other things.

Len Sipes: Right, the lack of followup in the community.

Pam Lattimore: The lack of followup in the community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pam Lattimore: And so people were disappointed and so therefore maybe they were doing better. It certainly for us, really raised the question of something I don’t think we know…psychologist have begun… the field has started to drift. I mean we have to remember that these programs were established in 2003 and so we are 10 years then

Len Sipes: And we have come a long way since then

Pam Lattimore: We have come a long way since then

Len Sipes: In terms of the research and in terms of our understanding as to what works.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, but clearly there is evidence here to support the CBT

Len Sipes: CBT?

Pam Lattimore: The cognitive behavioral therapy

Len Sipes: Okay, thank you.

Pam Lattimore: And you know thinking for change and those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: We have to go after the core, the individual in terms of how he or she seems themselves as a functioning human being and maybe that is, and that plus occupational training, those two variables may be the most important ingredients in terms of good re-entry.

Pam Lattimore: Right and so, you know, with practical services, helping people do resumes and job skills and yeah so interviewing skills and all that, are those going to be helpful? They may be helpful after people have had, you know, sort of come to terms with themselves in terms of changing their criminal identity.

Len Sipes: Stabilizing the core of the individual and that is one of the reasons by the way, why we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I mean with the serious offenders and women offenders, why we put them in groups with the philosophy of changing the core. Of having that person change the core as to who they are and before they move to on to other services that we could provide. We only have three minutes left and I need a minute to close. Are there any other over-arching lessons that people need to know when they are talking about this piece of research on Serious and Violent Offenders?

Pam Lattimore: Well I want to say, just to follow on what I was saying about the important about sort of criminal identity and change and all of that, we are about to commence on what will be a 9 to 10-year followup on a subset of the individuals who were in the original study and it is a desistant study that is going to look, we are going to reinterview individuals, men and women in two states that participated – about 750 of them who participated in the original study and some of them will be in prison. I fully expect at least half of them will be in prison and we’re going to try to find the other half out in the community and we want to know two things. This study that we have just concluded was really interested in the factors that were associated with recidivism. The new study will look at that but it is also going to look at factors related to individual change, identification of self and those kinds of things, with respect to why people desisted from crime.

Len Sipes: Is there a way of ferreting out those people who did get good after-care services once they were released from prison and look at their recidivism rates?

Pam Lattimore: We have done some of that and it is not really – well obviously it is not in the report. It wasn’t anything that we felt was useful. I mean I think what we need to understand is that the things that may cause people to stop crime are different from the things that may keep people continuing crime. And that we know a good bit about the things that cause continuation, that causes recidivism, drug use and those kinds – hanging out with the wrong people. We don’t know very much about the reasons, the factors that are associated with why people decide to quit and we think that those are associated with an individual’s identity as well as their commitment maybe to family and children and we need to learn more about that.

Len Sipes: You know, I think this is one of the most fascinating studies that has come out of the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and I really want to commend you all for this 5-year commitment to guiding the rest of us within the Criminal Justice System. Ladies and gentlemen, the show today was on Serious and Violent Offenders a 5-year analysis, a Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. Our guest today is Dr. Pam Lattimore, she is a principal scientist at the Research Triangle Institute. She is with the Crime, Violence and Justice Research Program – And a direct link to the research that we have been talking about today will be in the show notes. This is DC Public Safety and we really do appreciate all the comments that you give back to us and criticisms and suggestions for new shows. We really do appreciate the feedback and we want everybody to have themselves a pleasant day.

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