Archives for June 2013

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Corrections Monitoring and Re-Entry-DC Public Safety Television

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:  Hi.  Welcome to DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes and ladies and gentleman, today’s show is on corrections monitoring and reentry featuring the work of the Corrections Information Council of Washington DC.  This is really interesting.  They’re the only civilian body authorize to go into the institutions of the Federal Bureau of Prisons throughout the country.  So to talk about the work of monitoring what goes on inside of correctional facilities, we have two guests with us today, Michelle Bonner.  She is the chair of the Corrections Information Council and Reverend Samuel Whitaker.  He is a board member of the Corrections Information Council.  And to Michelle and Reverend Whitaker, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Thank you, Leonard.

Michelle Bonner:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  This is really an interesting concept because you have government bodies throughout the country that go into correctional institutions and they inspect and they certify but this time, Michelle, it’s a civilian body doing it.  So give me an overview of the work of the Corrections Information Council.

Michelle Bonner:  Sure.  The Corrections Information Council is a civilian body as you said with two members appointed by the Mayor and one by the City Council of the District of Columbia.  And our mission and our mandate is to inspect and monitor the prisons’ jails and halfway houses where DC residents are incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Now, we’ll go over that a little bit because this is interesting and we have to explain this for the audience throughout the country.  The people who go from the District of Columbia, in this case, just because they are violators of the local law, they go to a federal institution and that all goes back to August of 2000, correct, in terms of the Revitalization Act?

Michelle Bonner:  Yes.  And that’s how the Corrections Information Council was actually formed back in that 1997 Revitalization Act where DC does not have a prison.  And so all of those residents who are convicted of felonies are sent to over 100 different Federal Bureau of Prison facilities throughout the country.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And this was to ostensibly take the burden off of the District of Columbia and to put it along to whether it would be ordinarily would be ostensibly a state function.  So Baltimore, Baltimore doesn’t have its own prison system.  Baltimore has the State of Maryland that takes care of corrections.  In this case, due to budget constraints within the District of Columbia, certain functions were federalized and part of that were DC code violators, people who are convicted of DC crimes, they go to federal prisons throughout the country.

Michelle Bonner:  Exactly.  And as DC is not a state, we don’t have that state system to which to send our residents who have been convicted of crimes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Michelle Bonner:  That’s why we have our DC residents sent to Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.  And right now, we have about 6000 DC residents who are incarcerated, and like I said, in about 100 facilities across the country.

Len Sipes:  Reverend, now, they’re spread all throughout the country.  Now, they’re supposed to be what?  Correct me if I’m wrong, 500 miles of the District of Columbia that was the original intent of placing DC offenders into the Federal Bureau of Prisons – I think within 500 miles.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  To my understanding that was their original intent…

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  …but since then it just sort of grew and mushroomed and they sent them out at least 33 states.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  All over the place, like Michelle said, over 100 institutions.

Len Sipes:  Now, that’s impossible for the families to connect with the person who is incarcerated and makes it extraordinarily difficult to keep the family and community ties when your hundreds of miles away from the District of Columbia.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  You’re right.  It is impossible, henceforth, the Corrections Information Council because that’s what we do.  We will go visit where families can’t visit and we will oversee where the families – nor our government could oversee.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  We have a small board that we are working with.  Preferably we’ll grow more but we are just instituted it this past summer and I think we are making good headway as of beginning.

Len Sipes:  And Michelle, that gets to the larger point of the mission of Corrections Information Council because as Reverend Whitaker just mentioned, they represent the families.  If the families can’t make it down there, somebody from the District of Columbia who goes into all of these different prisons to make sure that the prisons are operating with.  I mean, first of all, there is a security issue and that’s got to be taken care of.  I mean they are there because they’ve committed a crime but, nevertheless, there are programmatic issues to be taken care of.  There are family issues to be taken care of and that’s I think hints at the work of this civilian body, the Corrections Information Council, in terms of what you do.

Michelle Bonner:  That’s exactly it.  And we consider ourselves the eyes and ears of the DC residents, of the citizenry of the District of Columbia to go into the facilities to ensure that the constitutional and the human rights are protected and beyond that, we do look at beyond the bricks and mortar or the standard policies of the institutions to look at some of the programming and how DC residents connect back to the District of Columbia prior to coming home.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michelle Bonner:  Because, as you know, reentry starts on the day that you enter prison not on the day that you –

Len Sipes:  And that is something the Federal Bureau of Prisons makes very plain.  That’s their goal is that reentry starts the day you walk into the door.

Michelle Bonner:  And so we provide that perspective for the DC citizens, the average DC citizen and although there are government inspections, there are others, you know, corrections accreditation agencies that go in and inspect.  There are actually may be lawyers who go in and inspect and legal cases, we provide that perspective from the ordinary citizen on what would we want our relative to have if, unfortunately, they were incarcerated understanding that it is incarceration.  We are not expecting Club Med, but just that the basic needs are met and beyond that that people are prepared to come home when they do return home.

Len Sipes:  And Reverend, I think that that’s a very important part of all of these because programs do play such a role.  I mean, I’ve taken a look at a variety of pieces of research that said that programs, whether they be GED or plumbing certificate or welding certificate, learning how to read, focusing on substance abuse or focusing on mental health issues, all of those are extraordinarily important to keep that person out of the criminal justice system when they come out of that Federal Bureau of Prison facilities in Arkansas or North Carolina, that they come back prepared and that’s one of the things that you go into those institutions to look at.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Yes, and that’s one of the things we do look at because when we talk to returning citizens, we ask them are they meeting your needs or are they giving you any skills or vocational skills to help you when you leave this place.  And sometimes, they will say yes, but sometimes they would say no.  And if the answer is no, we would shed light on why isn’t this person getting the vocational skills he needs that’s going to help him when he gets outside of these facilities.  So that’s a very important question and it has been answered in positive and negative.

Len Sipes:  But I just find this so unique because it’s a civilian body.  I mean, when I came from the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had tax paid employees from the state that would go out and inspect the correctional institutions of the counties I mean.  So the idea of people going into correctional facilities and taking a look at them and taking a look at how they operate is not unusual but you guys, it’s a civilian body, so are you welcomed with open arms?

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Let me share this.  Recently, I was in Houston, Texas on a business – church business and I have called out program analysts and I let the chair know that since I was close enough, I was going to visit Beaumont, Texas where USP Beaumont is.  And in two days, I’m calling the BOP office, my program analyst got me accessed to go visit Beaumont which I got to see some of our inmates that were in there.  So they do respect our authority and they know what we’re about when we come in because through Charles Samuels and his office, they gave us access and they were very pleased to have – our inmates, the DC inmates were very pleased to have somebody from Washington DC to come visit them.  I mean after they got over the shock, they started giving me their attention.

Len Sipes:  It’s that connection, isn’t it?  It’s a connection with whom the research seems to indicate that connection with home is very important in terms of that person either continuing a life of criminal activity or the person becoming a tax payer instead of a tax burden, having those home connections.

Michelle Bonner:  And I think that it’s a public safety issue.  The DC Corrections Information Council, we are under the Deputy Mayor’s Office For Public Safety And Justice and we take that very seriously in that the preparation that people get while they are incarcerated from when they come back home, we know that it’s important to obtain employment and obtain housing and to have those stable job and stable housing so that it does reduce recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michelle Bonner:  And that decreases the number of people who go back to prisons.  That decrease the costs of further incarcerations of people who go back to prison and also by reducing recidivism, it makes our community safer.  And so we all, the families of those incarcerated as well as the rest of the community, find it very important to see and make sure that people who are incarcerated come back to a more stable situation when they do come home.

Len Sipes:  Sure.  Now, you also inspect not only the institutions of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, you also inspect the DC jails.

Michelle Bonner:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Michelle Bonner:  We have two jails in the Department of Corrections here in DC and we are mandated to inspect both of those facilities as well as the halfway houses and we have had a few meetings with the Director of the DC Department of Corrections and have gained access and have been on tours of the facilities and also have monitored the video visitation and we will be issuing a report on that shortly and so, yes, we are mandated to do that and as those facilities are local, we will be doing that on a regular basis.

Len Sipes:  Here’s a question.  I spent 30 years in corrections.  I started off at law enforcement and I’ve spent 30 years in corrections mostly community corrections, but when I was at the State of Maryland, we had a variety of prison systems.  Now, you guys are not part of the formal criminal justice system as I have been over the course of the last 30-40 years, what’s your impression as to what you see?

Michelle Bonner:  We come from different backgrounds.  Our third board member, Catherine Huffman, has a legal background and she is a consultant and she does consulting work on legislative affairs, some involvement of criminal justice system, so she does have some experience there.  And Reverend Whitaker can of course share his connection and I have had experiences as a criminal defense attorney and have done criminal defense work in my past. So I come to it from a perspective of an attorney in doing legal visits but it’s very different going in as an independent civilian monitoring persons who goes in and is looking at all aspects of the facilities, not just the legal visiting hall, but looking at the kitchens and looking at the medical facilities and looking at the programming.  It is very different.

Len Sipes:  You just gave me a lawyer’s answer, Michelle.  What is your gut sense?  Reverend, I’m going to give you a shot at this call.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Well, being a native Washingtonian as I was younger; I was running from law enforcement most of my time.  Okay.  But you know, as I started pastoring and go in ward 7 and a whole lot of the incarcerated come back to ward 7.   My impression of law enforcement is that they are really trying to help.  They are really trying to help those that need help.  They are really trying to help them once they do come back from incarceration because they know who they are.  So when they see them on the street, they would stop and they would have conversations with them and let them know they don’t want to go back to where they’ve been so they help try not to have them return to the same lifestyles that got them in there in the first place.

Len Sipes:  That I understand but I’m talking about your impression of the correctional facilities and we have only a couple of minutes left.  When you toured these institutions, what is your gut reaction?

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  My gut reaction is that those law enforcement officers are doing the best they can to help those inmates that are incarcerated.  That’s my gut reaction.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Michelle?

Michelle Bonner:  Well, my impression is that when we come, so far we’ve only had announced visits and announced tours.  The staff has been very accommodating and we had the opportunity to speak to DC inmates at the facilities and I think that’s very important.  I understand that there is some cleaning up that’s done before we arrive.  But to be able to speak to DC residents one-on-one and we’ve been given the opportunity to do so when we do the tours is just that we’re able to do that, just that we are able to enter the facilities to conduct the work of the CIC, I’ve been very impressed by the access and accommodations.

Len Sipes:  And Michelle, you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentleman, stay with us as we go with another round of experts on the second half as we discuss this very interesting concept of civilians doing corrections monitoring and looking at the focus on the reentry in correctional facilities throughout the country.  We will be right back.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes:  Hi and welcome back to DC Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to discuss corrections monitoring and re-entry in the United States, the work of the Corrections Information Council here in Washington DC and, again, I find this so unique, it’s a civilian body throughout the rest of country, they have government employees that go and inspect correctional facilities here at the District of Columbia and throughout the country where we have District of Columbia offenders housed by various institutions within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  They go throughout the country and they visit these institutions, they visit the DC jail and they interact with the community and that’s supposed to be the conversation we will have on the second half.  Cara Compani, she is a program analyst for the Corrections Information Council and we also have Courtney Stewart, he is the chair of the reentry network for returning citizens.  And to Cara and to Courtney, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Cara Compani:  Thank you.

Cortney Stewart:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Cara, work at the community, I mean we have this civilian body that goes into correctional institutions that’s so unique and so different in the United States and we talked to Michelle and Reverend Whitaker on the first half about this but the community component, working with the community is very important, correct?

Cara Compani:  Correct.  Yeah and I think that’s one of the things that makes our body so unique is that the community, their experiences, and their concerns are of the utmost importance to this body.  Our job is to inspect and monitor conditions of confinement and it is – we are unable to do so without hearing from formerly incarcerated individuals, returning citizens to their families, their loved ones, and also advocates in the DC community to tell us really, hey, this is what’s going in certain facilities and you need to look at these issues.

Len Sipes:  And that’s difficult though because somehow someway you’ve got to explain what these correctional facilities are capable of from a budget point of view and what the expectations of the community are so that I can see there being quite a gap between those expectations and what correctional facilities are capable of doing.

Cara Compani:  Yes.  And so an independent body, we look at all those concerns.  We hear from citizens.  We also talk to people at correctional facilities, at the Federal Bureau of Prisons or DC Department of Corrections and we take all that into account and make the recommendations that are best suited to serve our residents across the country and here in the district.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Courtney, now you represent a re-entry community.  And so you’ve been doing this for quite some time.

Cortney Stewart:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You have impressions.  You’re a part of the council.  You work with the council.  You probably bring a more authentic point of view that anybody sitting in this room because you’ve experienced and you’ve lived it and you worked with people coming out of the prison system every day.  What’s your impression of the work of the CIC and what’s your impression about the correctional facilities that people are coming from?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, my impression of the CIC is that it’s a need especially now and the community, they are concerned with people returning that are unemployed, for instance, or are walking around the neighborhood with nothing to do or they can’t get housing and the shelters are all crowded.  So the community is very concerned about this because they are the last line of defense, so to speak.  So the CIC’s mandate is very important to the community, actually the community needs to know more about the CIC so that they can be involved and help to support the things that they are going to be doing.

Len Sipes:  But the question goes either to one of you, again, like the question I asked Cara, you live between two worlds.  I mean there are the people coming back out of the prison system who are re-entering into the District of Columbia, but they are going re-entering into every city of the United States.  They all have the same issues.  We want programs.  We want substance abuse programs, mental health programs, training for jobs within the prison system.  They want reentry programming but these prison systems, not just the Federal Bureau of Prisons, any prison system, I mean we’re all taking budget cuts.  It’s very difficult to provide that programming.  That was not their mission 10 years ago.  Their mission was to constitutionally incarcerate.  Now, suddenly we are coming along and saying reentry, preparing individuals in the prison system for their successful transformation from tax burden to tax payers.  That’s now important.  That’s a brand new mission for them.  Isn’t that difficult in terms of explaining that to the community?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, we made changes from reentry to humanity because DC specifically, these individuals are all over the country and in some instances and so family members, people even their lawyers, people who are supporting them cannot get to them.  So a lot of times when they do return back to the community, they haven’t had any contact, any connection with anyone so this is critical specifically to the District of Columbia.  And it’s an issue.  It’s an issue of when you have a loved one that you have not seen or been in contact with it’s almost like out of sight, out of mind.  So when these individuals return, a lot of them are unskilled.  A lot of them are trauma, you know, they’re dealing with different types of emotions and disabilities or mental relapses or whatever you want to call them and so the support system wasn’t there.  So you can see the disconnection.  They come back, they’re a lot of the property and a lot of changes have been made throughout the cities so to re-integrate is almost – you know, where do they start?  So I think that when you look at the District of Columbia, it’s a little different from other jurisdictions.

Len Sipes:  It is different from other jurisdictions but I think there are far more commonalities and then there are differences in this.  What you’re describing applies to just about every correctional facility in the country.  Go ahead, Cara.

Cara Compani:  The real difference is this – it’s the distance.  We have DC residents in California and Texas, Washington state, all over the country, they don’t have the same connections to services that returning citizens need to employment services, to their families, to their loved ones.  I get letters from people and they say, I haven’t seen my kids in five years.  That same problem does not exist around the country in the same way it does because DC residents are transferred to Federal Bureau of Prison custody.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so everybody who is watching – who is watching this program is now saying given themselves passionate answer, Cara.  Does the work of the CIC, is it effective?  Does it transcend that distance?  That 500-mile distance between the District of Columbia and that prison?  And I’ll disagree with you a little bit.  When I was with the Maryland System, if you have somebody in Baltimore and they are incarcerated in Cumberland, that’s like the other side of the moon.  I mean even 200 miles is 200 miles versus 500 miles.  So this is – I still think this is common – a common discussion throughout the country to a large degree but what’s the impact of the Corrections Information Council?  Why is it important?  And how does it transcend those boundaries?

Cara Compani:  Well, our goal is to make recommendations so there can be a bridge there.  So there can be a bridge to services that people need when they return to the district and also so that their family members and loved ones and the government of the district can know what’s going on at these facilities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cara Compani:  So concerns as medical care.  Just really basic human concerns, we need to make sure that those are being met in addition to programming and everything else because we’re so far away, we don’t have the ability to do so as a state would.  So that’s why the Corrections Information Council is so important.

Len Sipes:  Courtney, do you agree with that?  Do you think that it’s powerful enough to have that connection?

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely, when you think about the community, the community feels like they have been dealt a bad deal you know what I mean.  Especially within the last five years with the r-entry being highlighted in all of these different areas of concern especially since you talk about budget cuts and the city does not have the safety net that it used to so the community is almost – you know this has dropped in their lap of families and community organizations and CBOs and things of that nature.  So it’s a big concern.  The CIC helps bridge that concern, helps support, you know, put these individuals at ease, so to speak, when it comes to their families.

Len Sipes:  But I think that that may be the best summation of the CIC is work and the larger message for people watching this from throughout the United States and beyond the United States, it is the community.  The community is that entity impacted by people coming out of the prison systems unprepared.  So you are that bridge.  You are representing the community.  So you’re not just representing the District of Columbia, you are representing the community and that’s something that anybody can identify with.  Cara.

Cara Compani:  Yes.  As I started out with the DC community is of the utmost importance to us and that’s who we looked in for information.

Len Sipes:  But that’s the impact.  They’re the recipients of people coming out of the prison system.  We are all the recipients of people coming out of the prison system.  So you are actually the representative, the direct representative of the citizens of the District of Columbia or for that matter, the citizens of any city throughout the county through this conception.  You’re the representative of the citizens.

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely.  Reintegration, I mean right now, I heard you mentioned programming.  You know reintegration for the DC residents in particular, I mean, we need reform.  A lot of these individuals, if you think about someone post incarceration, for instance, the CIC getting involved with someone after they have been sentenced and then finding out what their destination is, a prerelease – a prerelease plan.  Because right now, you have individuals who are coming back to the city, they don’t have the skill set because they might have been mopping floors in one of these federal institutions and they come home and they cannot get a job as a janitorial or they may have been doing hair, you know, a bob [PH] or, you know, something that requires a license.  You could not get that license based on having a felony, for instance, so we could – you know these individuals are going to need some help.  They’re going to need some additional support so it would do us great to understand going to these facilities and finding out whether or not our residents are receiving the proper –

Len Sipes:  So now people watching this program is saying, well, are you having an impact?

Cara Compani:  I believe we are.  And what I hear from the community is that we are, too.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Cara Compani:  We’ve already been to several facilities and Federal Bureau of Prison facilities, halfway houses here in DC, and also DC Department of Correction Facilities.  We’re writing up our recommendations and serving our residents here and I do believe we are having an impact.

Len Sipes:  Is there any commonality in terms of the recommendations as you go from one facility to the other.

Cara Compani:  That’s something that we can’t report on yet because we haven’t been to enough facilities.  As Michelle stated, we are in over 116 facilities in 31 states.  So we haven’t reached a large enough portion of those facilities yet to make that determination.

Len Sipes:  All right.  And in the final two minutes, I’m going to stick you guys with the same questions I had to Reverend Whitaker and to Michelle.  What is your impression as you walk – I mean I can remember the first time I walked to a prison.  And I’ve been in prisons hundreds of times.  And I always have a certain impression when I’m in and out of a correctional facility.  What is yours?

Cara Compani:  Well, I really enjoy speaking with our DC residents wherever we are.  So that’s actually my favorite part of our visits is talking to them and seeing what’s going on.  But I really enjoy it.  We’ve had really great visits so far and just to see what our residents are up to.

Len Sipes:  Courtney, what’s your thoughts about – well, you’ve been in there before so what’s your impression about going back?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, you know, I’m not going back but my impression is that they’re very clean, that’s for sure.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons, they do a very good job of keeping them nice and clean.  I think that they need more improvements though.  We are in the 21st century and so a lot of things -you know when you talk about budget cuts and I don’t think that that is a good substitute for someone who could end up in the prison industrial system the rest of their life, you know what I mean.  And so these institutions, they could do – reform to me is the key.  You know when I went to prison, I studied, I did went to Control Data Institute.  I was in UDC and various other programs.  Yes, the University of District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  And those were important to you.  We have to close.

Cortney Stewart:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Right?

Cortney Stewart:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea of the programs meant something to you and meant something to your successful life.

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been watching DC Public Safety as we discuss the work of corrections monitoring and reentry of the Corrections Information Council here in the District of Columbia.  Watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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CSOSA’s Youthful Offender Program-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.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentlemen, our program today is on youthful offenders and it’s extraordinarily interesting. A topic that not only resonates within Washington DC, but it resonates throughout the entire country. We have three guests with us today. We have Lisa Rawlings. She is the Special Assistant to the Director here at my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have Supervisory Community Supervision Officer Rosa Lara. She is again, one of the people who have been instrumental in terms of putting together this program. We also have Supervisory Treatment Specialist Sheri Lewis. And to Lisa and to Rosa and to Sheri, welcome to DC public safety.

Lisa Rawlings: Thank you.

Rosa Lara: Thank you.

Sheri Lewis: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, you know, one of the things that the audience needs to understand from the very beginning is that our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we’ve prioritized within the last couple years in terms of two different groups. One, woman offenders, two, high risk offenders, but now we’re gonna be talking about youthful offenders. Now we’re gonna be specializing or taking the idea of high risk offenders and pushing it over towards youthful offenders. So I find this to be an extraordinarily important topic because people throughout the entire country are wrestling with this. So Lisa, the first question goes to you. Why create a special supervision team for young adults?

Lisa Rawlings: Well, we found that the young adults actually represent just a subset of the high risk offenders and so they are at higher risk for reoffending and that they’re less compliant with some of the requirements for supervision and because of some of their unique needs, we also felt that we would need to design supervision that would better respond to these unique characteristics.

Len Sipes: Okay, and so they go to – Rosa, who’s eligible for the Young Adult Supervision Program?

Rosa Lara: Currently we’re working with a pilot program. So our pilot program consists of general supervision offenders – so those are offenders that were sentenced for a general case. They’re not in any of our specialized units. Ages 18 to 25. And there’s a particular reason for that. With young adults, a lot of experts will say, and will argue that the frontal lobe, the lobe in the brain that develops and is able to make decisions about what’s good and what’s bad is not fully developed until the age of 25.

Len Sipes: Right.

Rosa Lara: And of course, depending on who you ask, that may fluctuate, but for the most part, for males it’s around 25. And so with that in mind, we knew that there was a special need within this population. And so right now our pilot program, there are two teams. One is located in our Northwest field unit and the other one is in our Southeast field – one of our Southeast field units. So those are 25 and under, they are male for right now, they’re general supervision and they’re all supervision levels. So you will see intensive, all the way to really medium for the most part. There are some scattered minimums, but for the most part, when talking about the young adults, we’re talking about the higher intensive and maximum level.

Len Sipes: Right, we’re talking about the higher risk offenders who are young?

Rosa Lara: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, fine. All right Sheri, how will the Young Adult Supervision Program differ from the way that we ordinarily supervise people?

Sheri Lewis: Well, one of the things that we’ve decided to implement with the young adult teams is that we’re going to have close collaboration between supervision and the treatment side, as well as the VOTEE teams to help these offenders, meet their needs, but basically from a strength based perspective. So we’re not gonna focus on the deficits hat they’re missing, but we’re going to work on looking at their strengths and seeing what they need and then addressing those needs based on what they’re presenting with and what they have. And so we’re meeting them where they are as opposed to just telling them, “Go here, do this.” So they’re going to work very closely with each young adult to help them focus on what their goals and what their strengths are.

Len Sipes: Okay, and in terms of VOTEE, that means the vocational unit and educational unit here at CSOSA right?

Sheri Lewis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now that we’ve gotten through these very stiff and formal questions and in terms of an introduction, the bottom line is this: is that in terms of younger offenders, they’re not doing nearly as well within CSOSA and throughout the country from the literature that I’ve read in terms of older individuals under supervision and I think that’s a concern. Again, this program has just as much relevancy; the San Francisco has just as much relevancy to Nevada, as it does to Washington D.C. So the issue is is that younger individuals do not do well on supervision, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Correct. And we’ll actually find that because they represent a disproportionately higher percentage of those cases that screen into the highest levels of risk, that they require more resources from the agency and we’re really not seeing the results for all this investment and time and services. And so we’re finding that there are a smaller percentage of these cases are closing successfully as compared to the older population and that they’re also less compliant and responsive to any of the supervision requirements as well as some of our treatment and intervention services. So we realized that we’re investing a lot and we’re not really getting the return on that investment. So we had to rethink our approach and this pilot is really a way to test out whether this hypothesized approach is really gonna be effective.

Len Sipes: Okay, so the bottom line is that we have said as so many others have said throughout the country, we really have to put more resources, more time and more effort in terms of that young offender. The first thing we do however, the public needs to understand that we have a critical needs and risk analysis to try to figure out where these individuals are in their lives – what their risk is to public safety and what their needs are to help them successfully complete supervision, right?

Rosa Lara: Yes, one important thing that I think that we should set kind of in the beginning is the term ‘young offender’. One of the preliminary, I think it was one of our very first work group presentations, the sub–group came up with totally abolishing the label and it goes back to my previous point about the frontal lobe not being fully developed. And so these young people, they’re really at that stage in their life, we all have been there, trying to discover who they are. And so one of the things that we recommended early on was instead of ‘young’, ‘youthful’ or ‘young offender’, why don’t we just call them young adults. And so that was one of the recommendations but it goes deeper into building that rapport. And so when you, when you’re able to connect on that human level and really call him or her a young adult, it really does establish a openness and an ability to connect and one of the biggest researchers in terms of evidence based practices is that building that rapport is critical for success and so if we’re able to kind of remove the label and meet them and try to connect on that human level, then our probability of being able to address all of the needs are a lot higher.

Len Sipes: That’s what we call motivational interviewing.

Rosa Lara: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And it also goes back to a criminological theory that is decades old called ‘labeling theory.” That people live up to the labels that other people place on them, so that’s all, so it’s very criminological, it’s evidence based in terms of the approach that you’re taking. Sheri, talk to me about that breaking through the barrier. A lot of the young individuals – I mean, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for a long time, I’ve done ‘jail or Job Corp kids’, where the judge said, “Go to jail or go to Job Corp. They were my responsibility, I ran group at a prison system at one time and I used to be a gang counselor when I was putting myself through college. I’ve worked with a lot of young offenders. Most of the individuals that I’ve had contact with really threw up a barrier, really threw up a wall for a lot of different reasons. How do you break through that barrier?

Sheri Lewis: Well, as Rosa mentioned, the rapport is critical. If we can’t even sit down and be civil to our clients, we’re not going to reach them. And we’re never gonna get any information for our screeners, for our assessments, unless we build that rapport. We’re going to take our judgments out of it and meet them where they are. We have to be flexible; we have to understand that for them, a sanction is nothing. They wear GPS like a badge on their leg, they can do sanction group standing on their head, they can go back to jail, but we have to be flexible, we have to be able to listen to what they’re saying and really build that rapport so that they know what we’re doing and they’re able to make their decisions based on knowing for a fact what’s going to happen.

Len Sipes: But the bottom line, either, any of you can take this question. The bottom line, however, in this program is public safety. The bottom line is making sure that that individual – not making sure – to the best of our ability, reducing the amount of recidivism, making our society safer, so that’s what we’re talking about. I mean, it’s not just people would say, “Oh, well that motivational interviewing, that’s a touchy feely approach.” It’s not, it’s really practical, it’s really the only way that you can break through to individuals and it’s the only way that you can help them cross that bridge.”

Rosa Lara: Right, but within the recommendation, there is a containment model. And so in the containment model, really, there are gonna be young adults that are after building that rapport and after really delving into their life and really trying to understand and un–layer all the layers in this onion, because bottom line is, when people use drugs, there’s an underlying reason. So if you’re able to build the rapport and you’re able to understand that person in front of you, understand the reasons why they use, then the probability of you helping and guiding that person in the right direction grows, obviously.

But you know, one of the things that we do have in the recommendation is the containment model because no matter how much rapport you wanna build with certain people, they’re just not ready and for those young adults, we will be able to utilize some of our resources like the reentry sanction center, which is a 28 day assessment program where we’re able to take them out of the community for 28 days, do a thorough assessment which includes mental health, psychological assessment, to determine if maybe there’s some underlying mental health needs that are contributing to this person’s risk in the community. And so we do have a containment model in the recommendation. It’s not just a touchy feely – there’s also that public safety piece. And one of the very interesting and very different approaches is the role of the supervisor on these pilot programs. So currently we do a case review. When we receive a new intake, as a supervisor, I review the case and based on the person’s history, I give instructions, very specific instructions to that CSO, to the officer.

Len Sipes: Right.

Rosa Lara: In this role, in the pilot program, that supervisor will also be doing an initial case review that will be called a ‘stabilization plan’. So you know, we can talk about public safety, but if someone’s hungry, I mean, the basic needs have to be met, and so it gives in the very beginning of this assignment, it gives that CSO kind of the ability to flag these very urgent needs to ensure public safety.

Len Sipes: Okay, and CSO – most people around the country call, what we call a CSO is a Community Supervision Officer – Parole and Probation Agent. So I just wanted to bring that clarity. If an individual, Lisa, comes out of – let’s just say they come out of the prison system. If they come out with a mental health need, if that mental health need’s not addressed, then the probability of that person going back to the criminal justice system rises significantly. I mean, there are issues here that need to be dealt with, resources need to be applied – correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, and we also recognize that there’s no parole and probation agency in the country that has all the resources it needs. So we have to prioritize. Correct? Okay? And that’s one, that’s why I open up the program with the fact that we have recently reorganized around women offenders, around high risk individuals and now young adults. And that seems to be the natural continuum of placing the resources where they have the greatest need. Sheri, do you wanna play with that?

Sheri Lewis: Yes, and that’s part of what I was saying about the close collaboration, why a treatment specialist is assigned to the teams, so that assessments can be done. Most of our treatment specialists have some substance abuse, if not mental health background, so that they can do brief assessments, they can do a clinical interview with the client to say, “Okay, maybe this client might need to go to the RSC to get a mental health evaluation. Maybe this client is toxic so they need to detox immediately before we start working with the client.” Because if we don’t address those needs in the beginning, we’re going to wind up with seeing them either revoked or back in the system or a public safety risk.

Len Sipes: And we address these needs, not necessarily just through CSOSA, available goods and services through CSOSA, we also aid in agent partnerships with other agencies. We also use our faith based program. We use a variety of modalities to try to get that, give that individual the tools that he or she needs to become tax payers rather than tax burdens, to cross that bridge, right?

Sheri Lewis: Absolutely. And Len, if I could just go back to the touchy feely comment a few minutes ago?

Len Sipes: Please.

Lisa Rawlings: Because I want to dispel the myth that really starting where the individual is and seeing them as a person first with needs and drives and desires is a touchy feely approach, because that’s really gonna drive their behavior, whether it be offending or otherwise. And so all of the staff who will be working with this group have been selected for their really, their sensitivity to this population, for their experience in working with this group and their interest and desire to really work with young people. But also, they’ve been trained on a model called the “good lives model” which really kind of embraces this approach to understand that we all have aspirations, we all have needs, and that our behavior may be ways of getting those needs met and it helps us to better understand what those needs are and to find other ways that might be more appropriate or more effective at actually meeting those needs. And so in essence, this approach rather than kind of just being touchy feely allows us to really meet the person where they are, understand their needs and to help them be more effective at achieving their own goals.

Len Sipes: Well, I totally buy into it because when I did the jail or Job Corp kids that’s exactly what I had to do. You had to approach that person as an individual, regardless of how they acted out, what they did, the problems that they were getting into. I had to connect with that person as an individual. It was eyeball to eyeball. It was somehow, some way finding a connection with that individual, that that person would open up to me so I could begin to help that person. So I – that’s one of the things that people need to understand, is that we need to establish that relationship with that individual. I simply know from my own experience is that it’s a lot harder –

Lisa Rawlings: It is.

Len Sipes: Than what a lot of people make it out to be. Sheri, you’re smiling – you have?

Lisa Rawlings: And I would just say that that’s why we were really careful about who we wanted to be involved in this because it is really tough work and that, we’re really excited about the teams that we’ve amassed so far, that people have expressed a lot of interest and really shown a lot of dedication to this work.

Len Sipes: Okay, we’re halfway through the program. I wanna reintroduce everybody. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re doing a show on youthful offenders. Lisa Rawlins is the Special Assistant to the Director. We have Supervisory Community Supervision Officer, Rosa Lara, and we have Supervisory Treatment Specialist, Sheri Lewis. The website for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is As always, we welcome your comments. Okay, so we’ve established the fact that there has to be a need. We’ve established the fact that there has to be prioritized resources. We’ve established the need, the fact that prioritized resources have to go to offenders who pose the highest risk and we’ve established the issue that we, as human beings, need to reach some pretty tough individuals for that change process to take place. Sheri, where do we go to from there? So we collaborate with lots of other organizations in terms of providing either substance abuse or mental health or we provide them ourselves, educational, vocational services. Rosa, you talk about a containment model. We have all sorts of ways of intervening in their lives either through Global Positioning System tracking or day reporting or a 28 day assessment in terms of residential assessment – there’s all sorts of things that we have at our disposal, but, unless we can break through those barriers that these individuals present, we’re just not going to be successful. So, what is the principle model of breaking through?

Sheri Lewis: I would say, and I always, when I’m coaching my staff, I always approach it this way. You are where you are for a reason, in life, okay? And if you had a carrot, so once we’re able to build that rapport with the young adult and find out more importantly, not only identify the problems, but also identify his or her drive. So once you realize and once you’re able and that person trusts you enough to share with you what their carrot is, use that to your advantage in guiding the behavior. So for example, I’ll give you an example of a young adult, most recently on my team. His biggest, and this was something that I was able to get out of him on day one by just having a very casual conversation about – “So why are you here?”And you know. . . and so one of the things that was very important to him was his mother’s love and acceptance and this case brought shame to his mother and that was what, he said that if there was one thing that he could do, and you know, if there was one thing that he could do, it would be to make his mother proud. So as a supervisor, getting that information day one, I was able to have a one on one conversation with that CSO who would be then supervising that young adult to say, “Whenever he falls off track or whenever he’s kind of you don’t know what’s really going on, say, ‘How do you think your Mom will feel about this behavior?’”

Len Sipes: And you know, in terms of all the criminological theories and all the things that we’ve just discussed for the last 15 minutes, I think that example that you gave really does drive home the important parts of the program. All the programs that we just mentioned, whether it be high risk offenders or women offenders, we have community supervision officers, again, known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, who volunteer for these programs, who volunteer to be trained in terms of that particular modality. People who are sensitive to women’s issues, because women offenders need to be dealt with differently from male offenders. I think we all agree on that.

Lisa Rawlings: Yes.

Len Sipes: But I think anybody listening to this program would agree on that. So why would it be any different for young offenders? We have to be trained, we have to be sensitized, we have to have a modality that works for that particular population, correct?

Rosa Lara: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s the whole idea. We have, how many teams are we talking about?

Rosa Lara: Right now our pilot program consists of two teams, upper Northwest and Southeast quadrants of D.C.

Len Sipes: Okay. And how many, what’s the ratio of community supervision officers according to the research that you’ve given me, it’s about 35 to 1.

Rosa Lara: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that is astounding because the average parole and probation caseload in this country is minimum 100 to 150 to 1. I’ve seen jurisdictions throughout the country where that ratio is much higher. We on average, here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency have a 50 to 1 caseload. You’re talking about a 35 to 1 caseload. That’s phenomenal. So that’ll give the community supervision officer the time and space to deal meaningfully with the individuals on that caseload, right?

Rosa Lara: Correct. And that 35 to one is a ceiling that it shouldn’t exceed that, but they may fluctuate as we again, launch the pilot, as it is being implemented. But the thought really is to be able to have more quality interaction, to not just be able to count the number of face to face visits, but to really, to be able to allow the officer an opportunity to really develop the rapport and to be able to collaborate with their team members who are from other disciplines. The treatment specialists and the vocational specialists, to really understand who this person is, what are their needs, and how can they be supportive of them in this process?

Len Sipes: Because that community supervision officer is not on their own. You’ve mentioned it a little while ago. It’s a team approach, so there’s a treatment specialist involved in this, there’re supervisors involved in this, there is people from the faith community who are involved in this. If there’s somebody on the outside that’s providing mental health counseling, they’re involved in this. So it’s a team approach to each and every individual under supervision, right?

Rosa Lara: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, that’s astounding.

Rosa Lara: One of the other things that we’ve been doing is we also know that some of these young men are also involved in other systems. So some of them may be dually involved in the Juvenile system as well as with CSOSA or some of them may also be in the Child Welfare system and also involved in CSOSA, since in D.C. they can stay in Child Welfare up until 21. And so we wanted to make sure that we’re communicating with these other social workers or other officers so that they’re not being overly committed – that they don’t have to report, you know, they don’t have an agenda that’s overly packed and that it’s impossible for them to meet the requirements of any one of the, any one of these agencies. So really that collaboration within the team and across agencies in the city is really gonna be important to the success of this initiative.

Len Sipes: And that’s what’s worked so well with the women offenders. I mean, the idea of going to one place and getting services across the board in terms of one place, in terms of the group setting. We do a lot of groups for our women offenders and that seems to be powerful. I mean, I’ve had dozens in the 10 years of being with CSOSA, women under supervision before these microphones and they tell me about the power of coming in and having everybody, the team there, dealing with them at one time. So I would imagine that’s the same power that we’re trying to bring to young adults.

Rosa Lara: Yeah, and one of the earlier themes of the work group and I think it’s made it all the way up to the pilot and it’s something that we’ve discussed with all of the wonderful officers and supervisors who have taken on this task is that it really comes down to “it takes a village”. It takes a village and our village consists of in-house partners, you know, the supervision side, the treatment side, you know, DYRS, which is our youth rehabilitation program, the Child Welfare system, so it really does take a village, because when it comes to these young adults, it’s really like I said earlier, many layers. And so you know, there may be a time where they were very open with their DYRS, their juvenile probation officer, and they have information that we may not have and vice versa. So having kind of those open lines of communication is in the best benefit of the young adult.

Len Sipes: You know, I apologize for the contrast, going back and forth between women offenders, but I love our Women Offenders program – I mean, it’s just phenomenal. And I’ve loved interviewing people who have both graduated from our program and currently under supervision before these microphones and to hear their enthusiasm, that, “Thank God somebody finally listened to me.” But, when you sit there with them, it’s like they come out with mental health problems, substance abuse problems, they have children. 80% of the people, women that we have under supervision have children. They’re indigent. They come out and they may have burned their bridges with their family. There’s a certain point where you sit back and go, well how many cards in this deck are stacked against this woman in terms of being successful? That’s why I love talking to the women who have been successful before these microphones. Isn’t that sort of the same way with the young adults? They come to us with a wide variety of problems. Most are coming from single family, single parent households. Most are coming from histories of substance abuse. I’m not quite sure of the percentage who have mental health problems, but I would assume that it’s fairly high. So we’re talking about individuals with real challenges.

Rosa Lara: Yeah, one of the things that we did was a focus group, because we, you know, exactly along the lines of what you’re talking about, Len, we wanted to know, not only because as practitioners, you know, we kind of bring a collective experience based on the practitioner’s experience. However, we wanted to hear from the young adults. And one of the things that we did in preparation during the work group was having a focus group. So we held three focus groups in two different quadrants of the city and really asked those questions to the young adults, to ensure that this pilot program really addressed their needs and some of the over arching needs were the importance of their interaction with the CSO, which goes hand in hand with what the evidence tells us is very important to establishing that rapport very early on. Another overarching concern or you know, item that came out during the focus group was their needs. Their needs from housing stability to substance abuse, to something as simple and some people may think it’s simple, but for them it’s a real deal, transportation challenges. And so one of the things that the program has is the opportunity to provide tokens for people that are compliant. And so just you know, we did that in a very human way, by bringing them in and asking them, “What is it gonna take for you to succeed?” And so we had a lot of input and those were recommendations that were actually implemented into the pilot recommendation.

Len Sipes: We have four minutes left. What am I missing here?

Lisa Rawlings: Well, one other thing I would just add into that is that though they do come with many challenges, there’s a great opportunity here. Because many of these young people are somewhat early in their criminal career and if we can really divert that and abort that at this point, it really can save, it can just cut that trajectory off and so we see that their crimes are less violent than their older – they do have lower mental health needs, but we really have a great opportunity here to really intervene before their criminality escalates and that’s something that we’re really excited about being able to do with this initiative.

Len Sipes: The research is very clear – 15 to 25 are the most criminogenic age group, so if we can intervene here, if we can successfully reach these individuals at these younger stages, we can save literally hundreds if not thousands of crimes over time being committed. That’s the bottom line behind what we’re talking about, correct?

Sheri Lewis: Right an most of our, most of – well, all of our participants who are actually on these teams, the treatment specialists, the CSOs, the vocational staff, they’re all trained in CBI –

Len Sipes: CBI?

Sheri Lewis: Cognitive Behavioral Interventions.

Len Sipes: Thank you.

Sheri Lewis: So they’re dealing with the thinking that is behind some of the behaviors that cause our young adults to reoffend or to engage in behaviors that are not engaging them in pro-social or positive behavior.

Len Sipes: And Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the person who doesn’t recognize the term means what? Thinking for a change, helping that person make better decisions through life.

Sheri Lewis: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay? And a lot of people don’t understand that, when I say that in terms of the need for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s one of the most successful modalities we have in terms of community corrections per the research but a lot of people just don’t understand how the training and upbringing that many of us received from our parents may not have taken place in the life of that young individual and that person needs to be cognitively restructured from the very beginning, right?

Sheri Lewis: Right, and it makes for a more meaningful interaction with the young adult, so that in the beginning you might spend more time, but in the back end you’re gonna spend less time because if they’re actually getting the information, you won’t need to meet with them as frequently or as often or for the same length of time.

Len Sipes: And it shortens the time frame of breaking through the barrier, it shortens – I mean, I’ve said that some people come to us with chips on their shoulders the size of Montana and getting, breaking through that barrier becomes an art to itself. The sooner you can do that, the better the intervention and the more effective the intervention’s going to be right?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And we want to get away from just supervising the case and the charges but also supervising the individual so that they are not only successful in their outcomes but they’re also will have better tools to be able to make better decisions down the road.

Len Sipes: Lisa, you have the final word, ladies and gentlemen. This is DC public safety. We’ve done a show today on youthful offenders. Our guests today have been Lisa Rawlings. She’s the Special Assistant to the Director, Supervisory Community Supervision officer Rosa Lara, and Supervisory Treatment Specialist Sheri Lewis. I thank all three of you. Ladies and gentlemen, again, this is DC Public Safety. We really do appreciate all the comments that you provide. We even appreciate the criticisms and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]