Archives for August 2013

Cyber Safety-National Organization for Victim Assistance-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. Back at our microphone is Will Marling. He is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Len, thank you. It’s always great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Well, the show today is on cyber safety. We’ve done a variety of shows on cyber safety but two things first. What is the National Organization for Victim Assistance? I’ve been working with NOVA for well over three decades. So first of all, give me the overall view of what you have done in the past, and then I’m going to ask you why you got involved in cyber security.

Will Marling: Yeah, thanks. NOVA started in 1975. It came out of the Victims Rights and Services Movement, and it stands as the oldest National Victim Assistance Organization of its kind in the nation. So we’ve been involved in crime and crisis, and serving those harmed by those two issues. Of course criminal justice is our specific focus here, and dealing with criminal victimization and victim assistance, and so that really is the heart of what we’ve done. We work with victim advocates and training. We also of course want to educate political leaders and community leaders on policy issues related to the needs of victims. So that is our core, that is our history, and it remains as such even as we move into the cyber age.

Len Sipes: And the core has been garden-variety street crimes, rapes, robberies, burglaries, those sorts of things, violent crime. That’s been the principle point of NOVA, and NOVA acting as an advocacy organization for victims of crime, and anybody who hears this show can simply contact and they will be assisted, correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right, yeah. They can go to our website. We try to have a healthy amount of information on there but we also have a toll-free victim assistance number – that’s 800-879-6682 – and for victims specifically, we would rather they just call us if they’re able to because email itself, you know, it’s not efficient when talking about the complexities of criminal victimization.

Len Sipes: I agree.

Will Marling: And it’s not secure, quite frankly, for especially people at risk, domestic violence victims and the like.

Len Sipes: I agree.

Will Marling: So that’s why we encourage that, you know, when they get to a safe place, to give us a call, and we’re happy to help them.

Len Sipes: We’ll give that number again — 800-879 –?

Will Marling: Yeah. 800-879-6682

Len Sipes: — 6682.

Will Marling: And that’s 800-trynova. 800-T-R-Y-N-O-V-A.

Len Sipes: Okay. Why did NOVA get involved in cyber security?

Will Marling: Cyber security, cyber safety, came on our radar really about three years ago, a little over three years ago, when we started taking calls and we were getting victim assistance calls in this arena. It started with kind of identity theft and some other things, and we were looking at this issue not really knowing how to help people directly, not knowing what to do with them specifically.  We had some idea but, you know, it’s a complex issue, and we moved into that arena and we started training up ourselves, our staff, and then training victim advocates out in the field. We go out and we provide training on victim assistance, cyber crime remediation techniques, and then we’ve moved into an education of consumers as well because we know that we need to get on the front end of this and not just deal with the back end of it because of the scale.

Len Sipes: Everybody has cell phones, everybody has computers, everybody has tablets, or a lot of people have a combination of those, and so these devices are not part and parcel to our lives, and when we use them, we place ourselves at risk.

Will Marling: We do. I want to keep it in perspective because I don’t want to create an unnecessary sense of fear. It’s awareness of risk just like anything we do but what people don’t realize is for us, we kind of principlize these things to help people get their head around them because it can get murky especially for people who aren’t tech-savvy or tech-focused but we are today, we are our data. You are your data, and that means that we have to think about ourselves as electronic bits. When we start thinking about it like that, then that kind of changes our perspective about how we protect ourselves in this arena with technology.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s extraordinarily complex because I consider myself as tech-savvy as the next person and yet it confuses me to no end, and I’ll give an example in a little while about how one of my websites – I can’t give it out doing this broadcast – but one of my personal websites was hacked and I had to go through a process of getting it unhacked, and it was a real pain in the tuckus. But before getting to that, before getting to a larger discussion on cyber security, I always am interested in NOVA’s take on the Constitutional amendment, a U.S. Constitutional amendment for victims of crime. There are a wide variety of state constitutions that have amendments for victims of crime, not all of them. I think the last time we discussed it, it was like 32, 33 states have state constitutional amendments, but there is a need for a United States Constitutional amendment for victims of crime. Can you give me a two-minute summation as to where we are regarding that?

Will Marling: Sure, and thanks for asking about that. It’s is an important issue for the nation. House Joint Resolution 40 was introduced into the House of Representatives during National Crime Victims Rights Week, the third week of April of this year, and House Joint Resolution 40 is a proposed Constitutional amendment for victims’ rights. So with the introduction of that amendment – or, I’m sorry, with that resolution – there was a hearing, and it’s kind of the basic I don’t want to say perfunctory but in a sense that’s where it has to start, and then it’s going to need to move from there. So we are currently seeking co-sponsors in the House of Representatives who would sign up to co-sponsor that and to build momentum. You know, we both live in the Washington, D.C., area, we work here, and so you kind of get a sense of this. Other people certainly who track would know this as well but it really is – there are over 10,000 bills that are introduced in any Congressional session, and so people think it might be the greatest but that doesn’t mean anybody even knows about it because there are so, so many bills that can be introduced. So what we’re trying to do is educate our Congressional leaders on the bill that is as a resolution, and then have them sign on as co-sponsors so that we can build momentum and move it forward.

Len Sipes: Okay, so it’s starting in the House.

Will Marling: It’s starting in the House, that’s right.

Len Sipes: And I would imagine if there’s any non-partisan issue out there, it’s going to be protection of victims of crime.

Will Marling: It’s a totally bi-partisan issue if you’re talking politics. For the rest of us who aren’t representatives, it’s a non-partisan issue, and it touches every aspect of society. A simple primer on this is if you get accused of a crime in this country, you could have up to 23 protections that you could seek as rights for justice of your case. If you’re the victim of that very same crime, under the Constitution, the United States Constitution, you have no rights and yet you’ll be drawn into that system most likely as a witness or trying to track it in the justice process because of yourself or your loved one who was harmed, and so we believe that it is clearly appropriate to address this from a Constitutional level.

Len Sipes: And something that would apply to the federal criminal justice system but in a sort of a de facto way would eventually apply to all the rest of the states that do not have constitutional amendments, or their constitutional amendments are not as strong as a U.S. Constitutional amendment.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly right, and I would add one key area is the military because the military, you know, sexual assault is a big issue.

Len Sipes: A huge issue.

Will Marling: It’s being discussed right now and it’s very important that we should be discussing it but most people don’t understand that specific to this issue under the Military Code of Justice that there are not victims’ rights as such, so this would afford a very important population that we all respect —

Len Sipes: A very good point.

Will Marling: Yeah, and they would fall under that category as well.

Len Sipes: That’s a very good point.

Will Marling: So it touches every American.

Len Sipes: And I thank you for that segue. Okay, let’s get back to cyber safety. Somewhere along the line, I do want to do an update, an entire show on the Constitutional amendment for victims’ rights because I think it’s so extraordinarily important, but back to cyber safety. Again, I go back to what I said before – all of us are electronically connected. Our grandparents are now on Facebook, they have computers, they have cell phones, they have smart phones.  The last data that I saw, that smart phones now exceed feature phones or regular phones, and I think now 60% of all phones in the United States are smart phones. They are the equivalent of the computer sitting on my desk just a couple years ago. They are that powerful. So now we have implications, we have real implications in terms of our day-to-day lives as to the devices that we have, and it strikes me that as we go through a 20-year decline in crime in terms of the crimes reported to law enforcement and as reported by the FBI and the National Crime Survey done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice, basically if you take a look at the last 20 years, there’s been an overall decline in crime. I know it’s blipped up slightly this year in terms of FBI data but while that’s been going down, cyber crime has been going up, and I’m not quite sure that anybody has any real idea as to how much it’s increased over the course of the last 5, 10 years.

Will Marling: Yeah. It’s a difficult statistic to track specifically because it’s not tracked. It’s not part of uniform crime reporting unless it falls under a category that is already there. So if it’s, you know, some kind of bank fraud and then attached to it is the use of a cyber tool, then that could be part of it, but in terms of good, consistent data, we know we have to extrapolate from a lot of different sources, and there are good sources but they’re showing that it’s a huge problem, and the FBI would affirm that.

Len Sipes: Well, I think the FBI and everybody else who’s been measuring it would affirm it. Okay, so on a personal note, I have a website, and I can’t give out the website address because I can’t mix personal with federal, but it received malware. I had to clean it up. I had to have somebody go in and be sure that it was cleaned up, and that cost me more than a little bit of money, and now it’s clean and up-and-running, and I won’t get into the details of that but I was hacked. My website was hacked. They had malicious malware installed on the site, and it was brought to my attention, and like I said, I had to go through more than just a couple of dollars to get it cleaned up. So, I mean, this happens to us all! I have this conversation with my wife about electronic banking. I can’t talk about the specifics and I shouldn’t be talking about the specifics – I’ll give out one, Google Wallet – but all the different internet providers have a version of Google Wallet so I’m just not promoting them, whereby you can take care of all of your monetary transactions from your smart phone, from your computer, from your tablet. Banks have them as well.  And I’m always concerned, very concerned, about having my entire financial history either hacked by somebody because I or my wife uses a WiFi shared by lots of other people and they can easily get into our data and they can easily get into our pass codes, or we would lose the phone, or lose the tablet, or somebody would break into our house and steal the computer. They just don’t have our photos, they just don’t have our documents, they have our financial history.

Will Marling: That’s right, and you know one of the principles is if it’s convenient for you in terms of use, it’s probably convenient for a perpetrator to access, and we have to think differently about this. For instance, we encourage people with this principle: if it has a lock, use it. Use it. 33% – and it varies depending on who the population is – but cell phones, smart phones, have a lock-screen on them, and 30% to 33% of people don’t actually use that.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, 33% don’t use it or do use it?

Will Marling: Don’t – don’t use it.

Len Sipes: Oh, I thought the majority didn’t use the locks.

Will Marling: Well, people are getting smarter but that’s still 1 out of 3 just on that issue so that tells you that just from something so basic as locking our phone. Now when we think about all of our physical keys, Len, I mean, do you have one key that unlocks your office, your car, your house, your bank?

Len Sipes: Nope. Nope.

Will Marling: No! We have multiple keys. Why? – Because we want to make it a little more complex than having a master key but what happens is – and this is kind of that password thing – password attitudes are, “Well, it’s a master key.” We use the password for everything, or we use the same email address as the identity, and we’ve just simply got to change that. Why do we do that? – Well, it’s convenient. Why do we need to change it? – We need to create a little bit of inconvenience for ourselves, yes, but more so for a potential perpetrator.

Len Sipes: The bottom line is that we’re making it ridiculously easy for people to rip us off.

Will Marling: That’s it! That’s it.

Len Sipes: By weak passwords, by not locking our phones, by not locking our tablets, by having, again, weak passwords in terms of our computers.

Will Marling: That’s right, and so it really is changing our thinking. I believe we can do that because once we realize that it doesn’t have to be always this complex and always this inconvenient, but sometimes it’s just changing our behavior slightly like, you know, I quickly now unlock my phone. It automatically locks after a minute. I can quickly unlock it. Is it an inconvenience? – Well, only slightly because I don’t think anything about it now. It’s rote muscle memory, and so boom, I unlock it.  We had a phone that was lost by actually the repair company that was fixing it, and that’s a completely separate irritating story. It’s my teenage son’s phone that we had repaired and they lost it, and you know it was interesting that his reaction to that, he immediately got the implications of somebody having his phone. He was concerned that they would put information on his, you know, Instagram and social networking information and this kind of thing. I mean, he was far more concerned about that threat to his personal information as he was to the actual device. I, of course, was thinking about both because these devices, you know, can cost us some money.  But there is this emotional concern, and it’s an understandable one, and when we get that as a victim assistance organization, we get that this stuff creates trauma for people and that’s why we’re always very validating. – And in our world today, quite honestly, sometimes when people hear about a cyber crime, they call it a white-collar crime or a paper crime as if it’s less harmful, and quite frankly we’ve dealt with victims of these things that their lives have been absolutely destroyed.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and that’s a big part of it that we’re not recognizing.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Len Sipes: But let me re-introduce you, Will. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re halfway through the program, Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance – www.trynova. org. – 800-879-6682. 800-879-6682 for the National Association for Victim Assistance.  We’re doing a show today on Cyber Safety but what we’re talking about is fraud. We’re talking about personal safety. We’re talking about child safety. We’re talking about computer safety, and when I say computer safety, your Smartphone is a computer. Your tablet is a computer. It’s just as powerful as the PC that sat on my desk just a couple of years ago. So we’re talking about a brand new day and age and, you know, when we are talking about the old issues, Will, years ago regarding the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the solutions would be ridiculously simple. The most burglaries happened through unlocked doors and unlocked windows. When they used forced entry, the locks were inadequate or the doors were inadequate. So it was close your doors, close your windows, put on decent locks, take the key with you from car because a large percentage of car thefts involved keys in the vehicle.  So there were very, very, very simple types of explanations that helped you stay safe. There were simple explanations in terms of violent crime, that most rapes happened, the perpetrator knew you, you knew the perpetrator, and often times they happened at residential settings which means the victim often times willingly went into the house of somebody else or invited somebody into their house so the point was don’t do those sort of things unless you absolutely know and trust the person.  Does it become that simple in terms of cyber security? I know lock your computer, put on a strong password or pass code – those are the simple steps that people can take that really do help protect them from cyber security. Are there others?

Will Marling: Well, I would affirm what you’re saying that we can start with the basics and that is important. The unique dimension of the cyber world, of course, is that we can be attacked by somebody who lives 10,000 miles away while we’re sleeping. It happens overnight, just like you were describing with your website. So yes, it starts with that. More sophisticated criminal activity can result in sophisticated harm for victims just like with actually some violent crimes and other physical crimes. One thing I want to affirm in the process here is we separate out, like cyber crime is its own thing, and it’s whatever we want to say to the mystery of it, you know. We see the outcome. People think it’s just about lost money. The reality is that cyber crime is also used as a tool to create harm in other ways including violent crime. I talked with a woman who, as a professional victim advocate, she informed me that somebody had assumed her identity on Facebook and built a relationship with a man, and he came to her house and sexually assaulted her.

Len Sipes: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Will Marling: Yeah, so there’s an identity theft, there’s a Facebook engagement, and then there’s a sexual assault, and she was telling me this, and I’m a seasoned professional like you, and I was working hard to keep my jaw up. Having thought that I had heard everything, this was standing in front of me. So there are risks there. I’m not trying to raise an alarm as if this is happening to everybody but it does happen, and so let’s start with the basics. Let’s, if it has a lock on our device, use it because this is the one day that we get out of the car and we drop the phone, and the wrong person picks it up, you know.

Len Sipes: Okay, we have an issue with personal information given out on Facebook, given out on other social media sites. I’m told by some pretty knowledgeable people that they no longer run algorithms to figure out your pass codes. Your pass codes can easily be figured out by what you place on your Facebook page and other social media sites. Sometimes we simply give up too much information on our social media sites. The best example of that is, “Bye, everybody. We’re heading out to Cancun for the next two weeks. We’ll talk to you when we get back.” If that’s not an invitation to go and burglarize that house, I don’t know what is.

Will Marling: Well, that’s exactly right, and we’re putting information on, as you described, at too high a levels, and people don’t realize what personal information means. Since perpetrators many times know that people use their pet’s name as a password, for instance, when you put your pet’s name on your Facebook page or your social networking site, you’re giving them that much more. There are algorithms as well but we also address the low-hanging fruit.  Since perpetrators know that if they hack an account – let’s say they hack a database of emails and they get passwords – they will find out where else you might have accounts and they’ll start with using that same information because a good percentage of people do that. That’s why we say, you know, not the same lock. Use a different pass code. And a simple tip, if I could give that since we’re talking about this?

Len Sipes: Please.

Will Marling: You can change your password for every account. You just need to use the right code in your own thinking. For instance, if you create a 10-number/symbol core password, and maybe it’s the first letters of your kids’ names and dates of birth in there all mixed up but you’ve memorized that, that becomes your core, and then you change the front and the back as it’s associated with a new account.  Just to be simple here by illustration, let’s say you have a Gmail account, so you can start with capital G on your password, your core of 10, and then at the end capital L. So you know you always have the core, but in every account you go to, you know that then if it’s a Yahoo, it starts with a capital Y and then the last word is capital – Yahoo – O. So you never actually have to remember anything more than your core because your account triggers, “Okay, I always do this with every new account.” So every password is different but every password is similar. You see how that works?

Len Sipes: Two-factor identification was introduced by Google and it really is wonderful. – And I’m not going to try to explain two-factor identification beyond the fact that once you’ve entered into two-factor identification, and they send you that code through your phone and you plug it in, it reads the cookies of your site so it doesn’t ask it for you again but so that means every time somebody comes into your Google accounts or your email or anything else, if you have Gmail, then that person not only needs a password, they need two.

Will Marling: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And Twitter and other organizations are starting to introduce two-factor identification.

Will Marling: Yep, and two-factor identification of course can be helpful. In the meantime, we’re recommending in dealing with this that people change, they have a different password for every account, and of course that’s when this discussion is, “Oh, I’ll never remember,” and hence the tip I’m giving – figure out the pattern that you want to use. The thing is a long password will be hacked eventually if somebody wants to camp on it or run a high-powered device to figure out what the password is but nobody’s going to bother because there’s so much low-hanging fruit with password as P-A-S-S-W-O-R-D and that kind of thing that, you know, people aren’t bothering.  So we tell people, “Well, raise your fruit. Just do even simple things to make yourself a little less obvious, a little less vulnerable.” You know, there are certain places in town that, you know, I wouldn’t go there at 2 o’clock in the morning, there are no street lights available, I don’t feel safe there. You know, you’d make a choice. And so it’s the similar parallel – let’s just make some choices to change our patterns.

Len Sipes: Well, in terms of the garden-variety of crime that we dealt with previously in terms of National Organization for Victim Assistance, it was, you know, the simple steps can keep you safe. They can dramatically increase the odds of you not being victimized by crime. The same message applies in terms of cyber safety.

Will Marling: That’s right. We commonly tell people too, especially with this data era that we’re in – and it’s different with that because of, like I said, the connectedness that we have – but we tell people when asked for – so people say, “I want some information from you,” it’s okay to ask them, “What for? Why are you asking for that?”  I go to hotels, I travel a lot, I check in, I’ve made a reservation or I might have prepaid – I want them to verify my identity but I don’t want them to take my driver’s license and make a color photocopy and stick it in a little plastic file box on the front counter, and that’s what I’ve experienced. I tell them, “I won’t let you do that.” Why? Because you’ve just taken that, and I ask them, “Why do you need to do that?” “Well, it’s just what we do here.” “Well, not with me. I’m not giving you a color digital copy of my driver’s license for somebody to steal.”  And when you ask for, we need to move into an age, without being belligerent, but we need to say, “Okay, since this is my stuff,” like if somebody said, “I want to borrow your car,” we would say, “Well, what are you going to do with it? Are you insured? When are you going to return it to me?” Or in the digital age, “How are you going to delete or destroy it when you’re done with it?” – And we/re not asking those questions.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple minutes left. The other part of it is that when somebody contacts you, regardless of what organization they say they’re from – and we all get these emails – then to disregard that email. Don’t go back and use them as contact points. But if your bank sends you an email, just go to the number in terms of looking it up on the computer or calling directory assistance. Call them up and say, “Okay, I supposedly have this email from you. What’s up with this?” Do not use the information provided to do the transaction. Call the organization directly through another channel.

Will Marling: That’s right. Yeah, that’s the age-old phishing but quite frankly, it still works. We’re a National Victim Assistance Organization, Len, and we get people that try to scam on a regular basis.

Len Sipes: Yes. Yes. Yeah.

Will Marling: It’s interesting.

Len Sipes: Just do not willy-nilly give out information just because somebody is asking for it.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Ask, “Okay, what do you want it for?” –Because we need to actually verify who’s on the other end of just a phone or an email. There are ways to trace emails, by the way. We can’t address that here but mostly, you know, if people are asking for something, they don’t really need to have it or they wouldn’t be asking, actually.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Well, that’s true but the weird part about it is the fact that I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over four decades. I am as cynical as a cynic could possibly be after 40 years in the criminal justice system and yet I was three-quarters of the way through filling out a form and realizing it was fraudulent, and I was just, “Oh, my God, what am doing? Am I an idiot?” So if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.

Will Marling: Yeah. Well for one, Len, I’ve known you for a few years now, and you are not a cynical guy. You’re skeptical.

Len Sipes: Okay, skeptical, skeptical.

Will Marling: There’s a difference because you have that hopeful spirit that we can get stuff done, which is why you have me on, which I appreciate. But, you know, the skepticism is a bit of what we need. There is nothing wrong with being a bit skeptical especially with strangers, unknown email, blank cold calls. We’re allowed to ask questions so let’s do it.

Len Sipes: All right. Will Marling, Executive Director for the National Organization for Victim Assistance, you had the final word. 800-879-6682. 800-879-6682.  What we talked about today is use good passwords. Lock your portable devices. Lock your computers. Do not provide personal information on social media sites. Change those passwords for every account that you have, and don’t comply with every request for information over the internet.

Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate your calls, we appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Police-Parole and Probation Cooperation-Indiana University of Pennsylvania-APPA-DC Public Safety

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 DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The topic of today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, is Police-Probation and Parole partnerships. The question is whether law enforcement agencies cooperate with parole and probation agencies.  We have two guests today. We have Bitna Kim. She is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology in Indiana, Pennsylvania. We also have Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the Council of State Governments, the American Probation and Parole Association. – And to Bitna and to Adam, welcome to DC Public safety.

Dr. Bitna Kim: Thank you for having me here.

Adam Matz: Yeah, thank you.

Len Sipes:  I’ve in the criminal justice system for 42 years, and I had 6 years of law enforcement, and in the 6 years of law enforcement, I do not ever recall ever having any contact with a parole and probation agent, and it really strikes me that parole and probation and law enforcement have been behind a line. They really haven’t talked to each other that much. They really haven’t cooperated with each other all that much.  Now within the course of the last 5 years, we see some real interest from the research and from the practitioner community as to law enforcement  getting together with parole and probation agencies, sharing information, looking at re-entry, looking at making sure that people who come out of the prison system do as well as humanly possible so they don’t re-enter the criminal justice system. Adam, I’m going to start with you. The American Probation and Parole Association has taken the lead in all of this.

Adam Matz: Yes, and actually what’s kind of gotten us sort of interested in the partnership specifically is we have various sort of grant projects that we work on for the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and one of those programs is Project Safe Neighborhoods. Now Project Safe Neighborhoods or PSN has been around for a while, since 2001, but the interesting thing about that is that it’s heavily influence by prior programs, and one that stands out is the Operation Ceasefire that a lot of folks have heard of or are familiar with from Boston. Part of that Ceasefire or that gun project that happened there was really one of the first formalized partnerships between probation and police officers, and it was known as Boston’s Operation Night Light, and that’s really where we kind of tie together and that’s where APPA’s interest has really grown even more. – And then also IACP, International Association of Chiefs of Police, we’ve worked with them and they’ve had various focus groups on this topic as well.

Len Sipes: But the American Probation and Parole Association, certainly that’s the organization that has taken the lead in not just police and parole and probation cooperation but has taken the lead in terms of virtually anything involving parole and probation agencies throughout the United States, correct?

Adam Matz: Yeah, that’s true. APPA is a national and international organization. We have a membership of over 35,000 members. It’s comprised of probation and parole officers and executives from all over the country. We do two annual institutes, a lot of trainings, a lot of grant-based projects, so definitely a very big organization.

Len Sipes: All right. The website for the American Probation and Parole Association – Bitna Kim, Assistant Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania there at the Department of Criminology, you were involved in research in terms of police officers and parole and probation agencies working closely together, correct?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: And can you give me a sense as to what your research had to say?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Okay, so our research is – first I have to admit our limitation of the study so we focused on only probation-police partnership in Texas so it’s really hard to generalize what is involved in the United States however this study can be one of the good examples as the need for more research. So in terms of the research findings, what they found is – so this study generally test how police officers or the leaders from the police office or sheriff department, how they think about the partnership with probation or parole, so whet we found is actually they are very positive in their relations or positive experience with the probation and parole, the officer. That’s the good side for future.  However the negative finding, what we found is most of the partnerships we found in Texas is that they are informal.

Len Sipes: Is what now?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Informal – so in other words, the partnership is never formalized across the agencies. This is based on just the individual personal relationship between police officers and probation-parole officers. The problem is even though sometimes we really needed those informal partnerships however once those key people in the agencies retired or moved to another agency, the partnership is gone as well.

Len Sipes: Okay. So in other words, what you found was more of an individualized approach between the parole and probation agents and the police officers in the state of Texas rather than an organizational approach.

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s true. So what we found is actually we surveyed the random sample of almost 700 police office agencies. Among them, over 75% of the agencies had just the informal or no partnership at all. Only a few agencies had established the formalized the partnerships so that is one issue we need to look at for future study. So what they found is again the consent is the police are leaders. They think we need those partnerships between police and probation-parole however the current status of partnership what they have is informal.

Len Sipes: Okay. Well, let me see if I can summarize. You took a look at 700 law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas and you found that 70% of those agencies had an informal relationship with parole and probation, and about 30% had formal relationships, say even memorandums of understanding, and that it really comes down to the leadership of both the parole and probation entities and law enforcement as to whether or not these were really viable, working relationships.

Dr. Bitna Kim: That is correct, but once they have – so those who had the formal partnership, they dearly enjoyed the partnership. They think that they got a lot of the good relationship with the probation and parole agency.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Matz: Yeah, actually if I can add just a little extra context too that’s been kind of interesting is when you try to look at, okay, ones that are formalized, sort of why are they formalized, and what you’ll find a lot of times is that there was some sort of federal funding, grant funding that supported that sort of formal partnership. So a lot of those maybe are left over, and I know Dr. Kim can speak to it more with Texas, but they had the Project Spotlight there for a while which sort of motivated those agencies to develop these formalized partnerships.  Now we’ve talked about the Night Light in Boston when it originated in the early ’90s, that was considered the first formalized partnership, but when you think about informal, there’s been these sort of individual associations between officers for, you could probably stretch if back to the ’50s or something. So these always been these sort of informal networks that kind of occur in just a natural sort of organization setting but it’s really the past sort of 15, 20 years where we’ve started to see these formalized partnerships, and that’s really important for a couple of reasons. One is if you’re going to evaluate it and determine what kind of impact it has, it has to be formalized. It has to have some sort of logic model, if you will, to go with that.

Len Sipes: Well, but it strikes me as something that is fairly recent, I agree with you. It’s probably been on an informal basis between individual police officers and individual parole and probation agents, but you know here in Washington, D.C., we have an extraordinarily highly-structured relationship with not only the Metropolitan Police Department. We have it with the U.S. Park Police. We have it with the FBI. We have it with the CIA. We have it with the Secret Service.

We have all of these very specific involvements in terms of them and us, and when I say all these other agencies it’s 80%, 85%, 90% going to be with the Metropolitan Police Department. We meet with them on a leadership basis. Our top leadership meets with their top leadership. Our people in the field, branch chiefs meet with commanders of police districts, and there is also, I’m very proud to say, a lot of interaction because of the fact that there’s leadership from the top, a lot of interaction between individual police officers and individual community supervision officers. That’s what we call parole and probation agents in Washington, D.C.  So in D.C. it’s very structured, it’s very robust, but I just get the sense that outside of the District of Columbia, there’s really not a lot of agencies that have this type of formalized structure in terms of the relationship with law enforcement and parole and probation. Am I right or wrong, either one of you?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. And why is that, Dr. Kim? Why is there a reluctance of law enforcement and parole and probation to sit down at the same table and to forge these cooperative understandings with each other?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Actually, that’s the need for future research. We did not find what prohibit the formation of a formal partnership so in the near future I hope we can initiate more research. However I can say what we found is those who had the formal partnership had a strong organizational culture within the agency which emphasized the importance of working closer with the other agencies, recognizing parole or probation as an integral part of the larger community rather than simply threat to public safety, the single greater predictor for success for police-probation-parole partnership.  And also the other important thing is implementing formal partnership requires strong leaders endorsement to change the organizational culture or implement the formal partnership, nurture them, grow, and be successful over the long-term.

Len Sipes: Well, that was the key finding, I think, out of the first summation that you gave of your research in the state of Texas, that it really was the leadership between law enforcement and parole and probation that really kicked off on these 30% or so of formal relationships and 70% informal. It was the leadership aspect of that that really propelled these formal relationships.

Dr. Bitna Kim: Yes.

Adam Matz: I think that’s right too. The leadership aspect is really important. There was qualitative research actually where there were some interviews done with not only police chiefs but also probation chiefs to get an idea, and also the officers within those organizations, and what kind of came out of that research was basically that if you didn’t have the support from the top, then those partnerships were never going to develop, and I think that matches with Dr. Kim was saying.  The other thing too, to think about the police organizations and Dr. Kim mentioned culture. If you think about sort of the community policing movement that happened kind of in the ’90s, that really kind of opened the door for more dialogue between police and probation and parole.

Len Sipes: Agreed.

Adam Matz: That really kind of made police a little bit more flexible, a little bit more – what’s the word – accepting of the probation and parole officer’s sort of mission which is to help. I mean, on one point it’s accountability but on the other it’s also helping these folks kind of get their lives put back together, and so that’s a big part of that. – And I think what’s interesting with these informal and formalized partnerships, the formalized are kind of concentrated in more urban areas also; and then if you think about what sort of agencies are more likely to have sort of a community policing drive to it versus maybe militaristic – and there are still a lot of militaristic type of police agencies out there that may or may not be sort of willing to partner with probation and parole, or at least not in the aspect of re-entry as we think about it typically.

Len Sipes: Well, there is also a lot of parole and probation agencies that are organized amongst law enforcement lines. They are police officers, they carry guns, so there’s a lot of parole and probation agencies that fall into that category as well.

Adam Matz: That’s exactly right, and that’s exactly a good point, and that was my thought. You took it right out of my head. You’re exactly right on that. There is a lot of diversity in probation and parole across the country. There are some places that do have a law enforcement orientation whereas others have more of a social work orientation, and I’m not sure there’s any research that really gets at which one of those two sort of camps are more likely to partners. It’d be interesting to find that out.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I’d love that, because it would strike me that those parole and probation agencies with the law enforcement orientation would cooperate on a greater degree with the law enforcement agencies because the missions become very similar, and that’s what I want to get into in the second half but I’m going to reintroduce both of you with this whole question as to how good are these partnerships, and how good are these partnerships for people coming out of the prison system, and how well people on probation do but let me reintroduce my guests one more time.  Bitna, she is Bitna Kim, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology, Adam Matz, a Research Associate with the Council of State Governments and the American Probation and Parole Association, the leading agency in this country representing parole and probation issues. Adam’s website is  All right, so the question now becomes we have law enforcement and parole and probation cooperating with each other. You know, from the standpoint of warrant service, from the standpoint of enforcement, from the standpoint of GPS, from the standpoint of accountability, that part of it I get and that would flow back-and-forth. We work with MPD all the time on all those issues if there’s a high-risk offender or individuals under GPS supervision. By the way, the folks from the Metropolitan Police Department can track our people on GPS through their own computers in their own cars.  So from the law enforcement end of it, that I get; but from the reentry and from the assistance end, I mean it’s pretty clear from the research that successful parole and probation is one part accountability but a second part of treatment so I’m not quite sure that our law enforcement friends are going to be that supportive or that understanding on the treatment side of it. Now, am I right or wrong?

Adam Matz: You know, that’s actually a really good discussion point and it’s a really broad discussion so it’s kind of tough to kind of narrow that down, and I think to just back up just a second too, there’s multiple different types of partnerships and multiple ways to even think about this. One of them is enhanced supervision which is a joint patrol, and that’s really where you get the police officers and the probation-parole officers who go out together to do these house visits and kind of —

Len Sipes:  That’s what we do in D.C., yes.

Adam Matz: Yeah, with the accountability tours, I believe.

Len Sipes: Yes, and very successful.

Adam Matz: Yeah, and I think in that sort of example if you can get the police officers, their presence kind of does help to provide a sense of accountability. It also helps to reinforce the probation’s authority, I guess, with the offender, or the probation or parolee, and that’s probably where I would see more of the assistance in terms of the reentry as well. There were some anecdotal accounts when it came to Boston that having the officer there, they could maybe help coordinate services, suggest services for folks, also with the families in those areas.  But it’s never really clear on anything that’s been documented so far how far that really goes, and obviously I think that’s the area that needs a little more examination because, like you said, it’s very clear that accountability, the police are used to that, and probation and parole working with police on that is really probably the easiest part of it, and a lot of that can be done just with information-sharing which is another type of partnership.

Len Sipes: Well, here’s the conversation I had with a friend of mine in the Metropolitan Police Department here in D.C when we had an offender who got himself into trouble. They said, “Well, he had several drug positives, why didn’t you revoke him?” – And my response was that if we revoked everybody with drug positives or if we revoked everybody who had problems under supervision, we would revoke a lot of people. We involve intermediate sanctions where we get in, and we are progressive in terms of how we respond to an individual in terms of what we have that person do, all the way from community service work to going to a day reporting center to putting the person under various forms of GPS, and those forms of GPS can be tightened and tightened and tightened.  And what we do is we take a behavior that is inappropriate or drug-positives, and we try to fix that problem. He’s not going to work and he’s not looking for work so fine. He’s going to be on GPS until he finds a job. We find that many people come under compliance pretty quickly once they’re on GPS, and they suddenly go out and get that job, so this whole concept of intermediate sanctions is something that is hard for my friend in law enforcement to grasp but intermediate sanctions is part and parcel to good parole and probation within this country, correct?

Dr. Bitna Kim: That’s correct, I think. I agree potentially between the police and probation-parole agency offering new, really good benefit and opportunity but also both sides of the practitioner agree there are lots of challenges. One of the one is I think, as you mentioned, that this is a mission distortion which means the given professional orientation becomes skewed by the influence or ideology of the particular agency. So law enforcement and correction agencies share the common goal which is the public safety by the crime reduction however each pursue this goal from the different perspective.  So police agency takes the full concern being enforcers, protecting the community by the arrest of criminal suspects in traditionally. Probation-parole agency on the other hand, is expected to both protect the community, and they heavily tag offenders by monitoring offenders and guiding them through treatment to service. Probation-parole officer especially receptive to adapting a law enforcement orientation where official focus solely on the role of the enforcement as the opposite to the probation-parole reintegration need, although by say that police-probation partnership are anticipated to result in stronger mission distortion among probation-parole officer than among police officer. Working with the probation officer within the active partnership also entailed the risk of law enforcement officer suffering from role confuse.

Len Sipes: Suffering from what, now?

Dr. Bitna Kim: Suffering from what kind of a role they have to play, in other words they’re confused in terms of their role. So I think the original research found, they examined the implementation of police-probation partnership and found that the police officer involved in the program, the partnership, they felt what they should do by this the partnership.

Len Sipes: I would imagine a lot of this is going to be an opportunity for the parole and probation agent to explain to the law enforcement officer what his or her job entails and what’s important to them, and the fact that the offender under supervision successfully completes supervision, that is extraordinarily important to the parole and probation agent. I would imagine to the police officer, he just does not want that individual to engage in any law-violating behavior at all. So it’s an opportunity for both to sit down and explain to the other person what their jobs are and the fact that those jobs mesh in terms of the long-run, which is public safety, but in the short-run requires a bit of understanding from each other.

Adam Matz: Yeah, and I think you’re right about the communication part there and the two agencies. They have to communicate which each other’s mission is, for one. I mean, they have to have some sort of inner-agency meetings to basically get to know each other and understand what the goals are. – And you mentioned intermediate sanctions, graduated sanctions, those strategies that probation and parole uses, well, the police officers are not going to be aware of that, and there’s going to be certain aspects of probation and parole that simply police just aren’t going to be in tuned to, and that’s where that communication is really important.  And part of the thing, and it’s kind of an interesting dynamic, is that for probation and parole, when you increase supervision, particularly if it’s not necessary, if it’s low-risk type offenders or moderate, however, you basically increase the odds that you’re going to revoke or there’s going to be a new offense, etc., and it’s sort of ironic in a way that if you do too good of a job, you actually make things worse for those offenders because when you revoke them, you put them back in prison, it’s like starting over, and you have to go through the whole process all over again.

Len Sipes: For those lower-level offenders in particular, yes.

Adam Matz: Yes, yeah, and that’s something I don’t think the police officers – I know they’re aware of it because there’s all kinds of examples where they’re frustrated with seeing the same folks go in and come back, go in and come back, the revolving door. You know, police officers talk about that pretty regularly, and I don’t think they quite understand everything from the probation and parole perspective on that, so really that’s just I think the communication between the two.  But I think if it’s communicated effectively, the way that the police officers can really help probation and parole – and this has been sort of talked about and written about – is really sort of functioning as extra eyes on the street because the reality is probation and parole, they’re not on the street. They do home visits somewhat regularly but it’s not every day, it’s not every week. It may not even be every month in some cases.  So the police officers, if they communicate with probation and parole, they’ll know who these folks are, and they’ll be able to reinforce with the probation officer so if they see someone out, they don’t necessarily act on it but they can report that back to the probation and parole agency, which is very helpful.

Len Sipes: Let me toss something out, and again I’m going back to the fact that I was a law enforcement office for six years and I was a spokesman for law enforcement agencies as well as correctional agencies. The Maryland Department of Public Safety was both Corrections and Law Enforcement. The average police officer wants to see the average person coming out of the prison system or the average person on probation, he or she wants to see them succeed, and will report to the parole and probation agent, “Look, Benny’s been hanging out on the corner, and we’re getting complaints from the neighbors that he’s being loud, and I suspect that he’s smoking pot again, possibly being involved. I’ve got intelligence that he’s involved in other things as well. You need to intervene in this person’s life and intervene quickly because I think we’re going to lose him.”  I think in many cases, that’s not an abnormal interaction with law enforcement officers. The vast majority of them, virtually all of them, want to see these individuals succeed under supervision and so they communicate strategies and issues to that parole and probation agent so that parole and probation agent can take the action necessary to get the person involved in treatment or at least, if nothing else, to get them off the corner.

Adam Matz: Yes.

Len Sipes: Am I right or wrong?

Adam Matz: No, I think you’re right on that, and I think in most places that’s the interaction you’ll see. Obviously if the communication is there and they know who those offenders are – there are some places in the country where there’s no communication. They don’t know the difference between people who are on probation and those who are not.

Len Sipes: Right.

Adam Matz: So for those jurisdictions where they know that and they have that information, you’re exactly right. That’s exactly what I’ve seen and that’s exactly the kind of feedback that I’ve gotten.

Len Sipes: Well Bitna, from your research, are we to be encouraged by these burgeoning relationships? Is this something that is in the best interest of public safety, the best interest of the offender? Is this within society’s best interest? Do you think these have a way of increasing and getting better?

Dr. Bitna Kim: I think. I think because state and local government across the entire United States facing reduced budget so law enforcement agency, correction agency, experience residual effects by staff reduction or declining research. However community expectation do not decline with the economy, as you know, so because of that, agencies are challenged to find a new and creative way to more with less. One way, one best way is to share resource and drive control together. I think the answer is the partnership between police and community partnership. Definitely that can be one solution what we can do more with less.

Len Sipes: Well, I agree with you there. The fact that budgets are being cut throughout the country, they’re being cut everywhere, and at parole and probation agencies as well as law enforcement agencies, that’s one way of dealing with the budget cuts, that they’re talking more and they’re creating a more effective environment for public safety, and hopefully they’re creating a more effective environment for the individual offender.  If the that offender, the person under supervision, if he or she knows that they’re being carefully watched by law enforcement, I’m going to guess and suggest that they’re going to be more careful in terms of being involved in anything nefarious. Adam?

Adam Matz: Yeah, I think, well, the budgets and everything, it seems like a few years back, it was particularly bad. It seems like —

Len Sipes: A couple of seconds left.

Adam Matz: — things have been improving but yeah, I would say particularly what’s focused here and where these partnerships can really be beneficial is with your sort of high-risk folks, and where these programs are really paying off with this is when they’re doing these sort of inner-city urban gang problems, street gang problems. That’s where I really see this coming together and [INDISCERNIBLE 00:29:16].

Len Sipes: Okay. So ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Bitna Kim. She is an Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Adam Matz, Research Associate with the Council of State Governments, the American Probation and Parole Association.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your criticisms, we appreciate your comments, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Family Court and Juvenile Justice in D.C.-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, the show today is on Family Court and Young Offenders. We have two guests with us today. Judge Zoe Bush, she is he Presiding Judge of the Family Court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and we have Terri Odom. She is the Director of the Family Court Social Services Division – to talk about the courts’ involvement in terms of young offenders – how they approach them, how they deal with them, what the outcome is, what the challenges are. – And to Judge Bush and to Terri Odom, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Judge Zoe Bush: Thank you.

Terri Odom: Thank you so much for having us.

Len Sipes: Well, this is interesting because in the District of Columbia, like so many jurisdictions throughout the country, you have dual jurisdictions over younger people who are caught up in the criminal justice system the Superior Court of the District of Columbia – now I’m not saying this just because I have a real judge and a real director sitting in front of me – the specialty courts have done such a great job, have gotten such great publicity. There’s a lot going on.  You are an activist court, really moving in a lot of different directions, really doing a wonderful job. People from around the country are noticing what it is that you all do here in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have you in today. Give me a sense as to the process, Judge Bush, in terms of the offenders or the young individuals that you try to assist.

Judge Zoe Bush: Well, I’m not sure I’ll accept being an activist. I think we’re progressive and very thoughtful in our approach to our young people, and I’m very proud of all the work that we do at the Superior Court and in general. We’re the Trial Court of the General Jurisdiction for the District of Columbia, and we’ve got about 90 associate and magistrate judges, and in the Family Court we’ve got 19 judges and we hear cases for juveniles, families with abuse and neglect issues, domestic relations, mental health, and paternity and support.  I’m very fortunate that I have four judges who have dedicated juvenile calendars meaning that’s all they hear. I have one judge who part time hears a calendar that involves young people who are diverted from the juvenile calendar so that they can get special mental health treatment. I have a judge who hears status offender cases. Those are young people charged with offenses that only children can be charged with, and that would be truancy, being ungovernable or running away from home, and then there is one judge who hears the initial hearing cases for juveniles when they are first brought to court.  So we have a lot of resources. Every kid or every young person has a lawyer assigned to them, whether their family can afford it or not, from the very first day they come into court. We have an excellent Court Social Services division. I’m very proud of the work that Ms. Alderman and her team does for us, and I never feel that a young person just gets churned through the system. I know they get individual attention. We look at what their needs are and not just the offense that they are charged with, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work that we do.

Len Sipes: Would you suggest, Your Honor,  that it is unusual for most court systems in the country to have the resources that you within the Superior Court have at your disposal? My sense is that you do things over at the Superior Court in the District of Columbia far more comprehensively than most court systems in most cities in most states throughout the country.

Judge Zoe Bush: We are so fortunate in our leadership. Our Chief Judge is a former Presiding Judge over Family Court, and that’s Chief Judge Lee Satterfield. He understands what we’re doing and we’ve got very strong leadership and consistency. For judges to come into Family Court, they have to volunteer to come to Family Court and they have to be trained in early childhood development and other family-related issues and so, yes, you’re right. We make very good use of the resources that we have.

Len Sipes: But you have resources that other jurisdictions don’t have. I think that’s the point that I’m trying to get to. You know, a lot of jurisdictions in this country – even at the juvenile level which is supposed to be based upon treatment more than it is at the adult level in terms of punishment or re-entry – even at that level, a lot of courts, a lot of agencies throughout the country complain that they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the commitment, they don’t have the judges who are really specializing in a juvenile population. My guess is that you have resources that other jurisdictions do not.

Judge Zoe Bush: I think we’ve very smart with the resources that we do have. Ms. Odom can talk about the drop-in centers but probation officers have to work some place and we choose that they don’t all work downtown. They work in the communities where the young people live so that they are accessible to these young folks and their families.  In all jurisdictions, young people have to have lawyers but the lawyers that we have go through a panel review so that we know that they’re trained in juvenile law, they’re held to standards, and we have training for them on a monthly basis at the courthouse so that we know that they understand the issues and the services that are appropriate for young people.

Len Sipes: Terri, you’re the Director of Family Court Social Services Division so in essence you’re in charge of making sure the individuals are both treated and supervised all at the same time. Oh, and one of the things that we did not say at the beginning is that you deal with the pre-trial as well as a probation population, correct?

Yes, that’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. So give me a sense as to the resources that you have, your philosophy, the philosophy of the people under you, what you do to help and supervise the individuals involved in Family Court.

Terri Odom: Well, I think it starts with having a robust, talented pool of staff that you work with, and I think you build on that talent by doing training. I think that in the current fiscal economy, though dollars to go to training are not available, we do a lot of in-house training. We have a Child Guidance Clinic where we have five fulltime licensed clinical psychologists who provide the psychological, psycho-educational. They provide a host of forensic evaluations like the sexual clinical risk assessments.  So we get a lot of clinical training with our probation officers from our in-house physicians but a lot of it, I think, deals with having a talented pool of POs, of probation officers, and building the kind of logic model that you then support with your resources. I wouldn’t want the viewers to think that the District of Columbia’s court system and Family Court have been sort of saved or spared from the fiscal reality. It is affecting all jurisdictions, and I talk to my colleagues across the country, directors of probation.  But I think that what happens is as you continue to look at how you can build your resources, we’ve relied more on a model wherein our POs are kind of the boots on the ground so we’re not just managing cases and farming out our youth juvenile population elsewhere. We are literally doing a portion of that work.

Len Sipes: Direct service.

Terri Odom: Absolutely, we have a direct service component through our probation model as well. It’s a public/private partnership. So in that regard, I think we leverage our resources better because we don’t have to buy as much because we do a lot in-house.

Len Sipes: Well, there are approximately 1,500 individuals your charge.

Terri Odom: Yes.

Len Sipes: And they range from the ages of 12 to 19. Now the interesting thing is that again, in terms of juvenile offenders, young offenders within the District of Columbia, they are split between the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, which are the more serious offenders, and then they have the Family Court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. That means they’re under your jurisdiction, correct?

Terri Odom: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. So in essence – look. I’ve spent a lot of times when I left the Police Department – now to the fun part of the program, now we’ve gotten through all that – and after leaving the Police Department, I put myself through college. So I was a Gang Counselor in the City of Baltimore, worked the streets, and I suddenly found that law enforcement is a piece of cake compared to dealing with people who are either caught up in the criminal justice system or about to be caught up in the criminal justice system. I found that adults are much easier to work with than younger individuals.  I learned far more than they taught me. They taught me far more than I taught them, rather. Dealing with the juvenile population certainly does have its challenges, and you guys, generally speaking, have a rate of success that is better than the national average. How do you do that? What is the philosophy that you guys bring to the table that is different from what other people are doing?

Terri Odom: I think that we have judges who really understand our young people, and who want to work with our young people, and who have a lot of confidence in our probation officers. I can tell you as a parent that the difference between young people who are successful and young people who struggle is that they have adults who care about them and who try and guide them along the way. Just from raising my own child, she has the same impulses, the same immaturity as some of the young people who would appear before me on my calendar but the difference would be that I was there to guide her along and to make sure she had what she needed.  You can’t substitute for parents but what we try to do is to support our young people. We don’t just treat them as the offenses that they committed but we try and partner with their parents to support their parents to get the services in place so that the young person can then be redirect, so that they can be successful at school and they can cooperate at home and not be a problem in the community.

Len Sipes: One of the things that I do want to repeat is that the philosophy of the Juvenile Justice System both in the District of Columbia and any juvenile justice system throughout the country is treatment. It’s not punishment, it’s treatment, and there are people who don’t like that but it’s nevertheless a reality of how we do criminal justice in this country. Unless the person is charged as an adult, which you don’t have those kind of individuals, your job is to try to restore that individual by working with the offender, the family, the parents, the school, the community, and to try to bring a comprehensive approach to what is it that you do, correct?

Terri Odom: Yes. Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Tell me about it.

Terri Odom: Well, I would say our philosophy at Juvenile Probation is that first and foremost, we want to treat the children the way we would our own, recognizing that they’re not our own but they are entrusted in our care. We see ourselves as the eyes and ears of the judiciary, and the judges rely upon us and the stakeholders to ensure that what is ordered is carried out, to ensure that that which is needed for our young people is accorded to them, and to monitor the young people in such a way that they are less tempted to get into trouble.  So our philosophy is to – we don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach. We don’t believe that the same thing that works for me will work for you and everybody else. A lot of times that has to be tailored, and gathering information, learning about the family is very important, learning about the youth. We gather information that looks at were there complications while the youth was carried in the womb. What were their early developmental years like? How did they fare in school? Were there any traumatic events? Trauma is extremely, extremely significant when you talk about vulnerable populations and populations that are being [INDISCERNIBLE 00:11:41].

Len Sipes: Absolutely.

Terri Odom: So then we look at it from a strength-based approach. How do we best connect with our young people, and that’s why we’re doing the school visits, that’s why we have the drop-in centers. We try to create youth-friendly environments where we can re-norm and re-teach conduct.

Len Sipes: How difficult are the individuals that you service? I mean, Your Honor, my guess is that because of the reliance on specialty courts in the District of Columbia – and I like your word “progressive” – but it is. I mean, the Superior Court has branched out in a dozen different directions trying to bring that sense of end business as usual, really having judges being proactively involved in a wide variety of cases. My guess is that a judge in the District of Columbia is going to see the individual under supervision, the juvenile, the young person, more often than judges in most jurisdictions.

Judge Zoe Bush: I think we have a number of advantages. We’re all located on the John Marshall level which is one floor of the courthouse, and on that floor in the courthouse we have our partners in the Executive. We have a Mayor Services Liaison’s Office so that we can send the families there and they can meet with representatives from Housing, from the schools, from Child and Family Services, drug treatment issues, so that we’re not running these people all over town, recognizing they have limited resources and a lot of responsibilities, and very often they’re in crisis.  We’ve got Court Social Services right across the street, we’ve got the Office of the Attorney General very close by so that we’re able to work as a team because just as no one parent acts along, the court doesn’t have a magic wand. You can write anything on a piece of paper and call it an order but unless you’re able to deliver, and to coordinate services, and to meet the needs, and meet that child where they are, and to partner with their family, you’re not going to have a successful outcome.

Len Sipes: But what I’ve found in the District of Columbia is that there is a lot of – I don’t want to use the word “activism” and I’m not quite sure the word “progressive” fits here. Judges are more involved in the District of Columbia in a wide variety of cases than my experience in other part of the Criminal Justice System. Again, my guess is – I’ll go back to this question – my guess is that the younger individuals that are under the purview of the Family Court come into contact with judges more often than they ordinarily do, and I think that contact with the judge, if I’m correct, is one of the main reasons why you have a rate of success that’s higher than the national average. Am I right or wrong?

Judge Zoe Bush: I think you’re right. I think most of our judges, even after the young person has been found involved or enters a plea of involvement, they have continued review of probation to make sure that young person is compliant with their conditions, that they’re getting all the services that have been ordered for them, and that the parents aren’t concerned about their child’s safety and their child’s development. I know that our judges have volunteered to go into the schools to try to intervene early so that young people don’t have to be prosecuted for truancy and so that they can get the education that they need and that the needs of the family are met in partnership with our community collaborative partners who also go into the schools with us.

I know Court Social Service probation officers can always tell the judge – because I was a Head of Juvenile Calendar for four years before I started as the Deputy Presiding Judge – but we can always count on Court Social Service probation officers to tell us, “I’ve been to the school. I’ve talked to the attendance officer. I’ve talked to the teachers. I’ve gone to the home,” and they see these kids in the community, they send them back home, and they have a real responsibility that’s met, and they care about these kids. I haven’t met probations officers who are just there to get a paycheck.

Len Sipes: I’m going to re-introduce my guests, ladies and gentlemen. We’re talking about Family Courts and Young Offenders specifically, though one in the District of Columbia. For the Superior Court, we have Judge Zoe Bush. She is the Presiding Judge of the Family Court for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. We have Terri Odom, the Director of the Family Court Social Services Division. Terri, are you better equipped than most parole and probation agencies in the country? Do you have a smaller ratio of officers to people under supervision?

Terri Odom: Well, I don’t know that I would describe us as better equipped. I think what we have done – and again, this is a testament to our leadership with respect to our Chief Judge, our Executive Officer, and our Presiding Judge of the Family Court, and working with our stakeholders – is we decentralized our probation infrastructure in such a way that it allows us to be more accessible in the community and in closer proximity to the youth that we work with so we have a satellite office in every quadrant of the city. We have one on Martin Luther King and Beach Street Southeast, one on South Capitol across the street from the Nationals, one on Reed Street which is around the corner from Rhode Island Avenue, so that’s northeast, southeast, and southwest, and then we have one on Kalorama Road. So by decentralizing, we are, I think better located; and then we have retooled our whole probation model. We began that back in 2005.

Len Sipes: A community-based approach is what you’re talking about instead of so many jurisdictions throughout the country have a centralized approach.

Terri Odom: Absolutely. We had to decentralize, and what we also had to do is cross-train our staff. So we cross-train our probation officers in a way that once you start a case, you continue to work that case on until it closes, and if that person picks up another charge, you work that case again.

Len Sipes: Do they really get the services that they need? I mean, how many parole and probation offices in this country, whether they are adult or juvenile – you know, I’ve talked to dozens of people throughout the country who tell me that they don’t have those resources. If they have a person with a mental health problem, they tell that person to go to the local community health clinic, and that person waits a month-and-a-half or two months before they get involved in a group, and so in between that time it’s anybody’s guess as to what’s going to happen.  So a lot of supervision agencies, whether they be adult or juvenile, don’t have the resources to immediately get people involved in programs. Do you have sufficient resources?

Terri Odom: I think we have a great deal of resources and access, and I think that has to do with the fact that many of the agencies that we rely on to provide those services under the executive branch, we work collaboratively with. We are on a number of committees. We interact quite frequently, and there is a commitment toward resource-sharing but more importantly a commitment to prevent duplication of effort because, for example, of we had a situation where we couldn’t access public mental health services for our kids who have no private insurance, then we would be attempting to facilitate that, and that’s not necessarily our role.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the reasons why, when I asked Judge Bush is the average judge more involved than judges in other jurisdictions through the country, I ordinarily find that judges in the District of Columbia are far more involved than judges in other sections of the country. That’s one of the reasons why I asked that question because I think having a judge directly involved in the lives of those kids means a judge is directly involved in the treatment and supervision of those individuals under supervision which means people pay attention. They may not pay attention to me as a parole and probation agent but boy, they do pay attention to a judge when a judge wants something done.

Judge Zoe Bush: Well, you know, the Family Court is a model court on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and that’s a collaborative approach to helping families. So we meet regularly with service providers, with mental health, with the schools, with drug treatment, and with other agencies in the city so that as Ms. Odom said, we can collaborate and make the best use of our resources.  On our mental health diversion calendar, the young people who would normally see a judge maybe once a month would see a judge once every two weeks, and the Mental Health Services aren’t just community-based. They’re home-based. The service provider goes into the home. They meet with not just the child but with the child’s siblings and with their parents also because as Ms. Odom mentioned, trauma is so important because a lot of our young people live in under-served communities.  They see a lot of violence and they’re subjected to situations that adults couldn’t even navigate, and so we have to understand that, and so when a child is not able to sit still in school and they’re acting out, it’s not because they don’t want to learn. They’re responding to stimuli that they brought into the classroom with them, and so it’s important to recognize that and to help that young person.

Len Sipes: Well, but that’s the challenge because when I did – I also had Jail or Job Corps where the judge said, “Go to jail or go to the Job Corps.” So I had a youthful population. Like I said, I did gang counseling on the streets of the city of Baltimore. Both populations taught me far more than I taught them because they are involved emotionally with things that they have no business being emotionally involved in – violence, drugs, acting out.  Pulling them back from the brink of getting more deeply involved in those sort of behaviors is very hard to do. It’s not easy. Most of them come from broken homes. Most of them have histories of substance abuse. Most of them, the father was not present. Most of them had anger issues, and what I sometimes say about the population that we have here at CSOSA, “a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana.”  So breaking through those barriers is not easy with a younger population. On every instance, I’ll take a 35-year-old coming out of prison than a 15-year-old who may be going towards prison because it’s easier to deal with the 35-year-old.

Terri Odom: There are a number of practitioners who have said that they would prefer to work with an older population, and if you look at treatment models in the adult world, those programs are based on a typical prototype of someone who is late-20s, early-30s into their mid-40s because that’s a point where you’re kind of settled. There’s less resistance. There’s less fight.

Len Sipes: Right.

Terri Odom: On the other hand, I think that the progressive nature of a juvenile system, and ours sort of very much models the juvenile system that began overseas in Europe, what’s to say we don’t have to wait to that age because you also look at how much life is lost during that period, that you want to get in at an earlier age, and you want to give someone a chance to turn their life around and redirect them, sort of a launching pad.

Len Sipes: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Terri Odom: But not everyone can do it.

Len Sipes: The most criminogenic ages are 15 and 20, so the 35-year-old is beyond their peak of offending. The 35-year-old is far more amenable to treatment than the 15-year-old.

Terri Odom: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Len Sipes: So the challenge that both of you have, I mean, we’ve sat here and described a very bureaucratic system but the challenge that the two of you have is immense.

Terri Odom: Well, I guess the reason I was agreeing with you up to a point is I think that’s true when you look at the traditional treatment construct and logic model that we have relied on in America which is we build it for adults, and then we think we can shrink it and make it appropriate for kids and adolescents, and that will not work. But when you take an adolescent-friendly approach that looks at developmental stages of adolescence theoretically, and then looking at environmentally, and looking at it where particular localities and jurisdictions are concerned, you can create interventions and you can create ways to respond and even ways to prevent that type of behavior that can be far more effective.

Len Sipes: No, no. I agree with you. I agree with you. If you have the resources and the direct involvement on the part of the judges, you have a dedicated, trained team; you have people who volunteer to do all these things, that’s a wonderful thing to have. I never saw that in either Job Corps or my time in the terms of a street counselor. I just saw a bunch of kids on the brink of having their lives ruined, and I reached out to their families, and I found out their families were sometimes the problem, not the solution.

Terri Odom: Well, you can’t treat a child in isolation. You really have to partner with their family, and I think what you find when you really look at the child as an individual, that young person is very open to having someone reach out to them and to see them and to hear them so that they know they matter. Every human being, I don’t care how old you are, you want to know that you actually matter, and when you’re consistent with these young people – because they’ve been disappointed a lot, there are a lot of deficits in their lives – and so when you tell them you’re going to help them and you actually live up to that, when you deliver the services, when you do care about them, and you do provide them with opportunities to express themselves and to be positive, it is paid back ten-fold, and it really is.

I’m so proud of our balanced and restorative justice systems because the young people who are there often get together to get in trouble, and when they can get together and do something that’s positive, their faces shine because we the judges will go over and have dinner and the young people will learn how to cook and they’ll cook dinner for us, and they’ll write essays about their role models and what they aspire to be, and their faces just shine. They love getting positive reinforcement.

Len Sipes: And I don’t want to take anything away from Terri’s folks because I am positive that it’s crucial for Terri’s people to be there but I still go back to what I find an amazing amount of direct contact within the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, the judges being out there in the criminal justice system, talking to the people under supervision, talking to the families, talking to the fathers, talking to the – that’s my sense is that you’re talking to – describing their kids cooking for you. That doesn’t surprise me at all within the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. It would surprise me in terms of most judicial jurisdictions in the country.

Terri Odom: We are also very fortunate that we have legislative parental participation orders so that we make sure that the parents come to court. They know what’s going on with their young person’s case. They know the judge. They have their child’s dates. They know their child’s responsibility to check in with probation. They expect probation officers to come to their homes, and they know that we’re going to be asking them to follow up and to help support their child, so it’s a real partnership.

Len Sipes: We only have a couple of minutes left. What’s the secret sauce? I ask all of my guests that run successful programs, what is the secret sauce? So I didn’t warn you I was going to ask you this question. I want it right off the top of your head. What is the secret to your success?

Terri Odom: I think the secret to our success in juvenile probation starts with the support from the executive leadership of the court, and I think it involves a top-down bottom-up lateral approach of support. In other words, we resolve that we can collectively create a model or a concept or idea, but what really makes it work is when we step back and let the staff take it over and put their own what I call thumbprint or fingerprint on it. That’s the secret sauce.

Len Sipes: Your Honor, you’ve got about a minute. What’s your secret sauce answer?

Judge Zoe Bush: I think when you can see yourself in that child, and you embrace that child and recognize their potential and help them to redirect themselves.

Len Sipes: I saw so much potential, and I reach out to so many kids, and my heart went out to these kids. It didn’t necessarily work. Recognizing the potential and having a success are having two different things.

Judge Zoe Bush: But maybe you planted the seed and it didn’t cultivate in your time but that doesn’t mean that it won’t, and that’s what we have to commit ourselves to.

Len Sipes: It still ripped my heart out to see kids fail and to see kids not succeed.

Judge Zoe Bush: Well, you’re not going to save everybody, and I’m not that much of a, you know, Polly Sunshine. Some young people are going to graduate into the adult system and you will see them over at CSOSA but so many of our young people come through. They stumble, they fall, but they’re able to get back up with some help, and that’s the truth.

Len Sipes: Well, it is the truth. I mean, so many people are willing to write off young offenders as being lost causes. I’ve seen it personally first-hand that so many people have pulled themselves up and have succeeded, and if they have the resources like you all have, the level of involvement on the judges and Ms. Odom’s team, that to me increases the chance for success considerably, which is why you have a better completion record than the national average, correct?

Terri Odom: We’re happy to accept the praise.

Len Sipes: But am I right?

Judge Zoe Bush: I think so.

Len Sipes: Okay. So the part of it is understanding the potential but also part of it is the involvement of the judges, and also part of it is the resources that Terri’s team, that Ms. Odom’s team brings to the table, correct?

Terri Odom: Um, and a commitment that we don’t want to give up on anyone. We can’t save everyone but we’re going to make an effort.

Len Sipes: Right, but I think that’s the secret sauce, the commitment of the judges and being personally involved in the case loads, and plus having trained people who are able to do the job and are committed to the job.

Terri Odom: Absolutely. Absolutely

Len Sipes: All right, you all had the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we talked today about Family Courts and Young Offenders. We’ve had as our guests today Judge Zoe Bush. She is the Presiding Judge for the Family Court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. We’ve also had Terri Odom, the Director of the Family Court Social Services Division. The web address is Ladies and gentlemen, his is DC Public Safety. We really do appreciate all of your comments. We really do even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Prison Realignment’s Impact on Parole and Probation-Joan Petersilia-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. Back at our microphones, the respected Dr. Joan Petersilia – – one of the best-known and respected criminologists in the United States. I’ll read very quickly from her bio. Dr. Joan Petersilia has spent more than 25 years studying the performance of U.S. criminal justice agencies and has been instrumental in affecting sentencing and correctional reform in California and throughout the United States.  She is the author of 11 books about crime and public policy, and her research on parole reform, prisoner reintegration, and sentencing policy has fueled changes in policies throughout the nation. A criminologist with a background in empirical research and social science, Dr. Petersilia is a Faculty Co-Director for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. The topic today is going to be the extraordinary penal experiment, correctional experiment currently happening in the state of California, commonly known to the rest of us as Realignment. Joan Petersilia, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: You know, this is the biggest penal experiment in modern history, and it’s something that most of us within the criminal justice system throughout the country are completely unaware of. This may be the biggest correctional experiment in the last quarter of a century anywhere throughout the United States and possibly anywhere throughout the world. So what I’m going to do is ask you to start off with a basic overview of what’s happened in the state of California.  Before going to that, I wanted to tell the listeners that this has every bit of importance for parole and probation and local jails as it does for mainstream corrects. So can you give me a sense, Joan, as to a basic, fundamental understanding of the California Criminal Justice Realignment Act?

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Certainly, and don’t apologize for the fact that you don’t know about it. I think what’s the most interesting thing is most Californians are just now, 18 months after it started, just kind of finding out about it. It happened very, very fast here in California. Last May, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs here in California that were arguing that California’s prisons were too overcrowded to provide Constitutional health and mental health care. This was the result of two long-standing class-action lawsuits that began in 1990 here in California urging the state to reduce its prison population in order to be able to treat the mentally ill, the suicidal, and then it turned into overall medical care, getting people medications, seeing doctors, etc.  So that case was going on in the state for nearly 20 years. The plaintiffs felt the state was not reducing prison staff enough. They took it all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ordered California in May of 2011 to reduce its prison population. At the time it ruled, California’s prison population was 172,000, and they ruled that California had to get its prison population down to about 120,000 by this June, of June 2013.

Len Sipes: That’s a 50,000 reduction in population.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: 50,000 reductions. They decided that California had to reach 137.5% of design capacity which California had two choices: either build up capacity – we have 33 prisons here in California. One choice our Legislature could have made is if instead of reducing the prison population because it was all about you must maintain 137.5% of design capacity, which given the current prison population when they ruled meant we could only house about 120,000 prisoners.  So California faced the issue of whether or not it should expand. It had several choices: one, it could expand its out-of-state contracts with private providers; and it chose to do that for about 10,000 prisoners; or it could start a building construction program which we simply didn’t have the money to do. At the time the Supreme Court issued its ruling, California was 26 billion dollars in deficit in terms of its state budget.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: So the legislature then signed a bill very, very quickly. It in fact was signed within 24 hours of being introduced with basically no public comment.  It was signed, passed in May of 2011, and it basically is called California Public Safety Realignment. What it does, in a word, people say that “realignment,” it kind of was by design so that kind of nobody would realize what was going on because it sounds like something you might have done at the chiropractor or something. I mean, people just didn’t understand this was about prisons and about prison reduction at a massive scale. But what the word “realignment” meant was that prison after October 1st – so it was signed in May, it went into full-fledged; anybody’s sentence after October 1st was sentenced in a new penal code regime. 500 felonies, some of them quite serious actually, most drug possession, most drug sale, auto theft, forgery, identity theft, domestic violence, child abuse, things that were lesser levels of all of those crimes, in fact previously that offender would have gone to prison if sentenced for one of those 500 crimes – after October 1st of 2011, they could no longer be sentenced to prison. So if they were convicted of that crime, they had to stay in the county jail, and importantly, it didn’t change the actual length of time that they could serve in jail, it just changed the place where they had to serve the sentence.

Len Sipes: So jails now become the focal point of both people coming out of the prison system and people being sentenced.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Right. Jails in a very huge way now, jails, kind of the workhorse and the unexamined part of the criminal justice has now become a huge focal point in California, as does probation. So the first part of realignment changed the penal code, sent about 30% of historical people who would have gone to prison, they now can’t go to prison. The second major thing they did, which is something that I think everybody across the nation had watched and I personally worked on, I worked on the drafting of this legislation, that if you are violated for a probation or parole, technical violation, you can no longer go back to California prisons. That was a huge—

Len Sipes: You can’t go back to prison.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: You cannot go back to California prisons as of October of 2011 if you are violated for a technical parole violation unless you’re a lifer prisoner. So, for 99% of people, they no longer faced prison at a technical parole violation. For them too, the maximum sentence was a jail term and in this case, the legislature basically did impose a sentence. They could not serve greater than six months in jail where they had, on average, served at least one or two years in state prison. That was a major change. The third major change that realignment did is that California, prior to realignment, was the only state that put everybody on post-parole supervision, and they put pretty much everybody on post-parole supervision for three years. Realignment changed that, and it said, “You’ll only go on state parole if your current conviction is a violent or serious crime,” which was about 40% of all people going out. “The 60% of you are going to be realigned, and you’re going to go to county probation for supervision instead”  And so if you think about the combination of these three things – new felony convictions, probation and parole violators don’t go back to prison, and many of those coming out, 60%, no longer go on parole – you see how the prison population would dramatically decline, and it did. So today, from that height of 172,000 people, we have about 123,000 people locked up today.

Len Sipes: And you’re no longer number one in the country. Texas now becomes the largest penal system in the United States, and California is number two.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Right. And so, when you introduce the subject of the most massive experiment, California in essence has shut down or let out, when you think about 40,000 to 50,000 prisoners, and in California, that equals the size of eight prisons, has basically declined, and the parole population, because of what I just told you on the third element, the parole population has declined by 60%. And so we have now, in terms of state control over the California criminal justice population, basically we’ve reduced it by half, if you add probation and parolees, of who is in charge of criminal defendants, and there’s a lot of reasons we could talk about why that was so important for the legislator to construct it like that.  Part of it was that California’s Correctional Guard Union had in fact priced themselves out of the market. It was so expensive for the state to continue to house prisoners, under all of the litigation and the health care costs that they had agreed to over the years that the cost right prior to it, and it still is the cost of housing an inmate in California, is $54,000 a year per inmate.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing. That is amazing.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: So our litigation costs and the costs of the personnel in California had made that the legislature basically had to downsize the state system in order to save money, if nothing else. So what they decided to do is to take half of the savings – so if you had $54,000 for that prisoner and you would have spent them to house him in state prison, the state basically told the counties, “We’ll give you half of that. We’ll give you $25,000 for each prisoner that historically this county sent to prison, and we’ll give it back to you in terms of a blank check.”

Len Sipes: And that’s either to house them or provide rehabilitation programs.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: So what they did, which is also the most amazing thing that has ever happened, is they didn’t tell the counties how to spend that money. They basically said, “You need to come up with a committee,” and they said, “the committee contains the nine key criminal justice actors in your county.” We have 58 counties in California. They said, “You’ve got to have the police, you’ve got to have the sheriff on it, the public defender, the DA,” so they dictated in the legislation this group that came together, and they basically will have authority to spend the check that you’re going to get, and as I said, in the first year it was $1 billion, in the second year it’s an additional $1 billion. So we are now 18 months into this experiment and $2 billion has been given to the California local criminal justice communities to spend in whatever way they think will best serve their needs.

Len Sipes: All right. For the listeners, what I want to do is just summarize and get on to some policy issues in terms of all of this. Let me see if I can summarize and see if I’m somewhere in the ball park. You’re talking about a reduction of 172,000 offenders behind bars in the state prison systems down to 120,000; that the court ruling had to be 137% of design capacity. This was dealing with the constitutionality of the prison systems, specifically dealing with medical care. It is a prison issue, a jail issue, and a community supervision issue.  But every state in the United States – and this is why I want to broaden the discussion – every state in the United States is having some issue to some degree with the same issues that are going on in California, which is why what we’re discussing has implications for every state in the United States. Every state out there is saying that we can no longer afford the level of incarceration that we currently have, and every state out there is talking about downsizing to some degree. I do realize that prison populations have gone up in some states but not many. Generally speaking, they’ve either leveled off or decreased, so this has issues for the entire country. What are the policy implications of all this?

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, I think you’re absolutely right that this is not California-centric. This is, as we know, 19 states have closed prisons. I think public opinion is that the public is now forcefully voting to get kind of the lower level, particularly offenders who were involved with drugs, out of prison. We’re redesigning penal codes across this country for those kind of downsizing in the penal code. You know, we upsized and now we’re going to downsize, not only in a population but who we think deserves prison.  And so for me the question has always been, and I think this is the question that the whole nation needs to be asking as criminologists and policy-makers: “If not prison, what?” And that to me, we don’t have a good answer to, and we know we don’t like prisons. I mean, I think everybody is now pretty much of the opinion that prisons serve an incapacitation view purpose, and that for some people, we need that, and that’s enough, and we need to keep prison for violent and serious offenders for incapacitation, but we no longer believe that it serves as a rehabilitation or a particular harsh deterrent, and we no longer believe that it’s restorative and serves re-entry, so I think everybody’s got that message.  So now the question is; we’ve got the message; the prisoners are coming home; we think re-entry is important; we don’t have the money to fund re-entry well. The first step is let’s just get people out of the criminal justice system who are low-risk and got caught up in the drug war, and we should just get out of their lives and they’ll do just fine. I was also very involved in kind of, and here at Stanford Law School, we led the Prop 36 Three Strikes Reform that just passed in California, and so we also have people that were kind of caught up in the fervor of these very, very long sentences across the country, and I think states are letting those out.  So on the one hand this is a national story but it’s a story that the ending has not yet been written because if not prison – which we all believe we shouldn’t have so much of – what should we have for kind of the lower level offender, for if we don’t do something, rehabilitation, deterrents, we could take any aspect of law, retribution. What about victims and what they deserve? What is the right appropriate level of punishment to serve the other purposes that we have for the criminal justice system?

Len Sipes: In another program, we talked about the problem of over-promising and under-delivering within the terms of community corrections, and I do want to talk a little bit about that, but I want to reintroduce you. Dr. Joan Petersilia, I am so honored to have her today: Joan Petersilia, the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law, and she is also a Faculty Co-Director of Stanford Criminal Justice Center.  Joan, we talked on another program about the danger of this whole pendulum can easily swing back because we could have a release of individuals from the prison system if we don’t have a good plan in place in terms of dealing with them. If they go out, if they commit a series of violent crimes, if they commit a series of homicides, it becomes a political issue, and then we’re suddenly right back to where we were 10 years ago, so there’s a bit of a danger in terms of all this. You know, it may be wonderful that the experiment is going on and we’re trying different things but unless we get our act together quickly in terms of community corrections, it could blow up in our faces.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, and you’re so right. We have a Republican candidate who just announced this week that he is running for governor against Governor Brown, and his key issue is to repeal Realignment and build up capacity and start building prisons, and so what goes down can certainly come back up, and we’ve got to think about what’s the pressure. Why has the nation kind of lost its luster with prisons? I mean, some of us, I think might say, “Well, prisons didn’t work. We know all the criminogenic effects of prison,” but, for other people, it’s a cost/benefit analysis, and prisons have become so expensive, that in state facing budget deficits, as they have to kind of decide whether to hire a prison guard or a teacher, it’s an easy call.  But the economy is starting to improve and so I think at least again, I’m watching this play out in California. I thought it would take a little longer. I mean, we’re 18 months into Realignment, and we have the first candidate coming out, and we have pictures in the paper. He’s holding a press conference next week. He is now going across the state saying he will appeal Realignment, and he is using those horror stories that you just said that they will use because, of course, people released will commit bad acts. So the question is how to you prepare for that. We all know it’s coming. We’ve lived long enough to know that this is the pendulum swing that we all – how do we kind of fad-proof kind of this better policy that we think makes sense?

Len Sipes: But is part of all of this our fault within the criminal justice system that we have not laid down very clear-cut guidelines for the practitioner community, backed up by very good research and giving them, you know, clear-cut instructions in terms of what works and what doesn’t work? I know the Department of Justice has done this, the Office of Justice programs. I know that others along the lines of Urban Institute certainly are moving in that direction, but practitioners often times will say to me, “Leonard, there is no clear-cut plan. Why in the name of heavens isn’t there a clear-cut plan in terms of those of us doing corrections, community corrections, telling us specifically what to do, how to do it, when to do it, who to do it with?”

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, and you know, we can blame the research community but it’s wrongly placed. We spend not enough much – you know, people complain that we don’t spend enough on programs. We spend even less on research, and so the National Institute of Justice budget, for example, spends about $10 million a year on outcome evaluations for all of criminal justice. That is juvenile, adult, probation, parole, in prison, communities, on and on. That is the annual budget of the National Institute of Dentistry that does evaluations of what causes a toothache, so we have our biggest social problem, a mismatch, with kind of the research that in fact would be helpful to these practitioners.

They’re absolutely right. There is no body. If you came into my office today, I couldn’t pull out off my shelf solid, good evaluations to tell a probationer or parole chief what they should be doing with different risk people, and so if you peel back the onion, if you go beyond just kind of risk responsivity and dosage and some of, you know, motivational, some of that – if you go beyond just the boiler plate of that, you know, there’s not much there, and so I think that is the frustration but it’s not that the research community wouldn’t want to be responsive. They’re facing the same problem as people who are trying to direct a good programming.

Len Sipes: So what’s happening at the ground level in California amongst the practitioner community and the 50 or so counties there in California? Are they coming together? Are they discussing this? Are they coming up with a consensus? Are they moving in a unified direction?

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, to even buttress the comment that I just made, California passed this law – $2 billion, as I told you, and not one dollar devoted to a statewide evaluation to look at how this is happening. Now, we were very lucky here at Stanford. I actually have four research grants from private foundations in the National Institute of Justice to look at how this is going, and really it is going to be, I think, an amazing story to tell a couple of years out. If we look at things though from the first year, I think it has been, um – disaster might be too hard a word to say but it has not gone well for the first year.

Len Sipes: Chaotic.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: I think it has been chaotic; that’s a better word, thank you. Partly as the communities were ill prepared for the influx of the serious kinds of offenders that hit probation, and I think people were scrambling to get programs in place, risk-assessment tools. They were scrambling to get vendors funded so that they could provide services. The second year is looking quite a bit more optimistic. We’re seeing community collaborations come together – probation, the sheriff, the police chief, and the department of mental health, four key people that are starting to emerge as spokesmen for their individual communities – and I think we’re getting something that I think is going to begin in some of the smaller communities but hopefully, I mean the real problem in California is of course, L.A. county. It’s a third of all offenders and they also have the most serious offenders coming home.  But I think we’re going to find some smaller and medium-sized counties that will show us how to do this but it will be a story that we need to have a little patience with, and unfortunately, we’re not doing really outcome evaluations, so what I’m doing is just process evaluations, so we’ll still be struggling to find out how this impacted the individual offender.

Len Sipes: But the sense that I get from reading the literature and reading the materials that you sent before we did this program is that you can almost compare them to falling off the life boat, and now they’re swimming and now they’re trying, all together as one to get out of the water and to help each other and to come to a consensus and work with each other because this is a very pivotal moment in not just California’s correctional history but the entire country’s correctional history. If they can all get together, all agree to some sense of standards and practices, and learn from each other and prosper; this may be something that will have an extraordinarily significant impact for the rest of us throughout the country. They seem to be coming together; am I right or wrong?

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, I very much think so, and we have a really dedicated; I mean, even though we’re all kind of, none of us have money, everybody, I mean, I’m amazed at how the research community has come together in California to try to help these counties. I just published an article that came out a couple of weeks ago that I would urge anybody who wants to know kind of how things are going. It’s called “Looking Past the Hype: Ten Questions Everybody Should be Asking about California’s Realignment,” and it’s kind of a progress report It basically says that Realignment – of course if you’re not following this closely, all you’re looking at is the Supreme Court and whether or not we’re going to meet that Supreme Court mandate with prison reductions, but that to me is not where we should be focused solely.  We need to focus on what this is doing to communities, what it’s doing to crime rate, what it’s doing to the culture of probation. I find that a fascinating question. You know, one of the things that’s happening is some probation officers are starting to be armed. We’re training officers to deal with a much more violent offender because now, of course, much of their caseload has been to prison. What does that do to a culture of rehabilitation which probation was the only agency that had that as their mission? What does it do to offenders? Are they getting involved in more treatment? Are they being discharged? What is it doing to jails? We now have jails that are no longer serving short-termers. We now have an offender who’s serving a 45-year sentence in a county jail.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing, and the county jails weren’t built for that.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: And what does it do to litigation? Will the litigation problems of the state now fall to the county jails? In fact, four of our counties are now facing lawsuits under the exact same condition, which led to Realignment.

Len Sipes: The medical issues, yes.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: The whole medical issues, and you know, how much is this going to cost us? So these are the issues that I think drive crime policy nationally, and I think, well certainly California will serve as a test case.

Len Sipes: Only a couple minutes left. On another program you mentioned that sheriffs are now taking the lead in terms of community corrections, so now you have spokespeople before community corrections for the first time in California, locally elected officials who are now getting up and standing up for community corrections. That’s a C-change.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: It is a C-change, and it was a surprise to me because I think the credibility that the sheriff, the county sheriff has, which is an elected position, and they are seen as the chief spokesmen for public safety. When they get behind probation programs, it’s a whole different message to the public, and I’m seeing them be able to garner attention. I’m seeing them be able to – they’re starting to run some of their own programs. They’re starting to be much more engaged in treatment, and what they tell me, we’ve now interviewed over 100 leaders in California who are responsible for implementing Realignment, and what sheriffs constantly tell us, “These were our people. We always knew they were coming home. We basically know how to handle them best, and this is our responsibility. Give us the money. The state never could do it well,” and I think that is what we’re going to see whether or not they can. Can a local community do it better?

Len Sipes: Instead of just throwing it off on the state and saying it’s their responsibility, they’re now saying they’re our offenders; they’re our responsibility, and that would be a huge difference.

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Right, right.

Len Sipes: Where do we go to from here? We only have about a minute left in the program. What should we be looking for over the course of the next year in terms of an evaluation and a policy assessment?

Dr. Joan Petersilia: Well, I think you’re going to start seeing reports starting to come out. I know our first report we will start publishing at the end of this summer on how things are going. We are actually starting at Stanford. The first meeting is in a couple of weeks, an executive session on Realignment where the 20 key actors in California will participate in a two-year process at Stanford Law School, similar to the Harvard Executive Sessions on Policing. We want a place where we’re going to try to create a body that will speak for how Realignment should continue in the future, guided by research and best practice, but also taking into account the practitioner voice. And so I think California’s going to be an incredibly exciting place over the next couple of years for correctional issues.

Len Sipes: And Joan, I’m going to leave that as your final word. Ladies and gentlemen, Joan Petersilia, and she is with Stanford as a Co-Director for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. Heavens, I really appreciate the conversations that we’ve had, clarifying this extraordinarily important piece of research and issues. I’ll put the document that Joan mentioned within the show notes.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we appreciate even your criticisms, and we want you to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


National Conference on Offender 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. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show today. The National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry, We’ll be giving out that web address all throughout the program and throughout the show notes.  We have two guests with us today. We have Bernie Izler, she is a Correctional Programs Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections at the Academy in Aurora, Colorado; and we have Captain Attila Denes. Yes, indeed, I did say Attila Denes. He is with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office there in Colorado. – And to Bernie and Attila, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bernie Izler: Thank you.

Captain Attila Denes: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. This is exciting. This is a national conference on re-entry, but it’s a virtual conference, and that opens it up to anybody whether it is a community person, whether it is a businessperson, whether it’s an aide to the mayor, an aide to the governor, a student, a college professor; it doesn’t matter. You’re inviting everybody into this national conference, correct?

Bernie Izler: Yes, we are.

Len Sipes: All right. Bernie, it’s June 12th from 9 AM Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon?

Bernie Izler: Correct.

Len Sipes: Alright, June 12th, 9 AM Mountain; that’s 11:00 Eastern Time. I don’t know what it’s like, what it is for the rest of the country. 9:00 AM Mountain Time there in Aurora, Colorado, and we go to the afternoon. So this is exciting stuff. What called you to create a national conference on offender re-entry? What caused the National Institute of Corrections to create a conference, a national conference, but in this case, do it via personal computers?

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, re-entry in Corrections is everybody’s business is re-entry, and we also were trying to pick a topic in which we could get stakeholders and others in the community, whoever had an interest in this, that they could be involved, and one of the ways to do that is to go virtual with a conference, and that way, people don’t have to travel. There’s no cost involved except people’s time, as accessible as possible, so that was our two-pronged purpose with a virtual conference.

Len Sipes: And the really interesting thing about this is that a lot of the virtual conferences that I go to, it’s listen-only but in this case they’ll be able to watch and listen and ask questions, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. It’s kind of like there’ll be a thread of discussion with each of the presentations so that it’s kind of like when you’re at a regular conference and the speaker gets done, and there’s that line standing waiting to talk to the presenter. That thread of discussion is that line; it’s where you can ask that question, and the presenters will be able to talk to you, answer your questions. You can ask them a question, and that’ll go on even post-conference, as well as there’ll be threaded discussions where people can talk to each other, talk to their peers. They’ll just be open-type discussions where they can go in and introduce themselves and basically ask, you know, “Hey, I’m doing this kind of work in re-entry. What are you doing? What works for you?” They can throw that question out there, and they can network with each other.

Len Sipes: Oh, that is so neat. That is so neat because one of the most important parts of any conference is the networking. I think in some cases what takes place in the hallways and in the meeting rooms is just as important as what happens during the conference, so people can really have that same experience.

Bernie Izler: Yes, you’re absolutely right, reaching out to other people in the same kind of situation. They may not know each other. I’m sure there’s people, when it comes to one of our presentations on education, I know in looking at the list of people who are coming, there’s other people who are involved in education with this population, and they can reach out to each other and find out what they’re doing and support each other.

Len Sipes: That is really interesting. Give me some of the topics that you’re going to be covering at the conference, please.

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, educational pathways to success, mental health, creating a cross-systems collaboration with that, cognitive behavioral programs with offenders, the victim’s role in offender re-entry.  There’s one particular program that’s called Starting Over Core, and that’s an offender-led group. Justice-involved women and the special things they deal with. Employment is huge where I think we have three presentations having to do with employment. Sentencing, where it starts, and also juvenile re-entry initiatives, and then our keynote speaker, Ed LaTessa will speak on what’s effective on reducing recidivism.

Len Sipes: What works, what’s evidence-based.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Correct.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things, ladies and gentlemen, I think and I see is really taking a lead on is helping the rest of us within the correctional system understand what is evidence-based, what does work, and my hat goes off to the National Institute of Corrections. Boy, in my public’s relations career, they’ve helped me out on a couple different occasions in terms of training and in terms of access, and you’re going to find that the National Institute of Corrections is probably one of the easiest federal agencies to deal with, certainly one of the easiest federal agencies I’ve ever had to deal with. Okay, Attila, where did you get that name and tell me that’s a family name?

Captain Attila Denes: Well, it’s a very common name in Hungary where my parents originated from, and when they came out here, they decided to give me a name to remember my heritage by, and boy darn, did they ever.

Len Sipes: Boy. That’s sort of like “A Boy named Sue,” that Johnny Cash song, I think it was, from decades ago. Now I’m really dating myself.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh yeah. Well, it stands out in a crowd. If there are 300 people in a crowd and someone says, “Hey, Atilla!” – I know exactly who they’re talking to.

Len Sipes: Captain Attila Denes, he’s with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. There again, Colorado is well represented in terms of this program. Where is Douglas County?

Captain Attila Denes: Douglas County is on the southern rim of the Denver Metro area. We’re a community of about 300,000 people, and on the topic that we’re going to be discussing, it’s actually a partnership with the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network which is one of the community mental health centers in the Denver Metro area with a service population of around 600,000 folks. So we’re kind of a mid-sized community on the south end of Denver, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about.

Len Sipes: Now, what you’ve done is be able to go out and put together a collaboration of organizations to address mental health and other issues in terms of people coming out of the jail system there, correct?

Captain Attila Denes: That’s correct. Well, collaboration is kind of a vogue topic right now, and it’s certainly something that everybody’s talking about in the academic, scholarly world, you know, very hot topic of how do we combine all of our resources and thoughts and everything because since we’re all basically working with the same population, just in different silos, how do we break down some of those silos and overcome the resistance to working together that sometimes develops in our organizations so that we can actually accomplish greater things, that synergy that everybody talks about. It’s a pretty exciting topic, and definitely you sometimes get the pushback of well, collaboration is great and synergy is great but if you’ve got no money, how is that really going to help us? – And the reality is that there are really practical ways that it can.

Len Sipes: Well, yeah, it can. There’s no doubt that it can but we come, Captain, you and I have been in the criminal justice system for a long time. We’re hard-bitten; we’re cynical, and we are under the mindset that unless government ponies up and actually funds the stuff, it’s really not going to happen. In many cases I’ve heard from practitioners is that they reach out to people and try to form a collaborative relationship with people in the community, and they’re looking at them saying, “Hey, I’m overburdened as it is, and I’m underfunded as it is, and we’re relying heavily upon volunteers, and you want to bring 300 or 400 additional people into my program? We can’t handle that.” So, how do you get around that?

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, well, it’s a challenge, and looking at it from the front end, it looks like this monumental thing that’s almost impossible to overcome but the reality is that the process of overcoming that is pretty simple. It’s not really rocket science. There have been a lot of scholarly articles published on it. You know, the—

Len Sipes: Oh, there’s an endless amount of literature about collaboration. Oh, there is.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, exactly.

Len Sipes: And as my friends in the practitioner community are saying, “Okay, yeah, the research –.” It’s really easy for researchers in D.C. to say collaboration. They’re not the ones who have got to go out and live with this on a day-to-day basis. Try doing it, not talking about it but try doing it, but you’ve done it.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, there are different challenges depending on what community you’re dealing with. I worked with NIC on a crisis intervention team’s leadership program that was spearheaded out here in Aurora in 2010, ’11, ’12, and one of the things that we heard from these leadership teams that came out from state prison systems across the U.S. was, you know, “Collaboration is great and putting together these stakeholder groups is great but we’re kind of a closed system. We don’t really have strong ties with the outside community. We’re pretty much self-sufficient, so what do we do in place of that?” And so sometimes it requires a little bit of work to identify who exactly represents the various components of the stakeholder systems that we want to get involved in. I know that sounds high-level but it’s pretty practical when you break it right down.

Len Sipes: But you, being that you’ve done it and you’ve done it successfully, that’s why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present at the National Conference on Offender Re-entry, and it’s a different name. That’s the name that I gave it. The VC stands for Virtual Conference. That’s one of the reasons why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present because you have cynical idiots like me who can’t get together with the program versus somebody who has done what you’ve done. You’ve done it successfully. So you have lessons for me and for everybody else in terms of the fact that a) it can be done, b) how to do it successfully.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. And, you know, not to bust our arms patting ourselves on the back out here but the reality is that we were, whether it was by fluke or by design, we were able to come up with a system that worked pretty well, and the great thing about it, looking back on it now ten years down the road is that we have accomplished things that we never would have imagined possible at the front end, and that’s the really exciting piece of this.  You know, the way that this all started, back in 2002 was really a patrol-based law enforcement initiative called Crisis Intervention Team’s Training which was developed back in Memphis all the way back in 1987, and it was kind of spreading like wildfire across the western United States, and Colorado picked up that program in 2002 as a result of a legislative initiative. It was a task force that was in panel back in ’99 that recommended that we establish a CIT program, a statewide-coordinated program to roll it out across the state, and that really started up in 2002, and one of the key components of that planning piece for CIT training was putting together a steering committee, a local steering committee comprised of administrative and executive-level stakeholders from all these different groups that dealt previously in isolation with the same population, the population of people that are constantly going through that revolving door of criminal justice involvement, constantly coming into contact with the police and with the jails, and then going back out onto the street, under the supervision of probation or parole or whatever, and how do we impact those people and impact that population effectively, understanding that we all have limited budgets; we have limited staff; you know, how do we try to maximize that impact?  So we brought together these stakeholders who initially were pretty reluctant to talk very openly with each other because we recognized that, “Yeah, sure, we’re dealing with the same population but we have our own rules and policies and laws that govern how much information we can share and how our money can be used and all this,” but what was kind of magical about that process was, as we started going to each other’s steering committee meetings and working taskforce meetings and working group meetings and all these different meetings, and it was the same group of usual suspects, so to speak, showing up around the table, we started to get to know each other. There was this face-name recognition that developed, and we started to understand each other’s roles within the system, and our specific limitations, and what resources do we bring to the table, and things like that/  And that’s when we started to realize, if we start to share some information, share some resources, I can open up a little bit and say, “Okay, you know what? I can bring this to the table, and if we’re rolling out this training program, I can offer up this, this, and this. And then my colleague across the table in a different system, mental health center or the advocacy role, NAMI, whatever, you know, they can pony up something else, and we all start bringing our respective pieces to the table, and we found that we were able to build a really effective program that was originally just designed around that one small concept, how do we build a local CIT training program?

Len Sipes: But the bottom line, Attila, because I’m going to go for the break quickly, and then we’re going to pick back up, but the bottom line in all of this is that, without the community, in terms of offender re-entry, we’re dead. Without collaboration, we’re not going to get it done because we simply do not, in many cases but particularly jail systems, we do not have the budget for mental health. We do not have the budget for employment. We do not have the budget for substance abuse. Without community collaboration, any sense of successful offender re-entry is dead in the water.

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And I would imagine, Bernie, that’s the whole idea behind bringing in people like Attila, bringing in people like Captain Denes is to make sure that success stories from the field and what works from an academic point of view, from a research point of view, is all encapsulated within one conference.

Bernie Izler: Correct. The idea of a collaboration is not just that we have limited resources but also to be effective. We really need each other because most of our population, our offenders, when they go out in the community, they don’t have just one issue to deal with. They have multiple issues, multiple barriers to successful re-entry, and so the collaboration also is a way to be much more successful than working individually.

Len Sipes: I want to reintroduce our guests today and the topic. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections is holding a National Conference on Offender Re-Entry. Everybody should go to this website, and it’ll be in the show notes: V is for Virtual Conference VC. This will all take place on June 12th, coming up real soon, 9 AM Mountain Time and the rest of you can figure it out in terms of what applies to you, from about 9:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon.  It is for everybody. It’s not just for those of us within the criminal justice system. Whether it be a preacher, whether it be a community leader, whether it be the aide to the mayor of Milwaukee, whether it is the aide to the governor of the state of California, everybody is welcome in terms of this national virtual conference. You can watch – it’s just not listen mode. You can watch what’s going on; you can listen in, and you can ask questions, and you can make contacts with everybody else at the conference. Did I summarize it correctly, Bernie?

Bernie Izler: Yes, you did, thank you.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, I would imagine for the National Institute of Corrections, this was a pretty significant undertaking. I mean, you all had to say to yourselves at a certain point that we in the field no longer have the money to go to conferences, and this is probably a more powerful and more effective way to do a national conference on Offender Re-Entry. I’m assuming you’re saying, “Hey, this is a no-brainer considering everybody’s fiscal constraints. Let’s do this virtually through computers where anybody can sit in in their home, anybody can sit in in their office and participate in this national conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes, correct. As you talked about earlier about NIC being focused on service, one of the things that really caught my attention with the virtual conference is that we can reach down to the smallest jail, to any corrections professional; we can reach out to anybody, and when you have walk-in conferences, you only have people there who can afford to be there. So this was another way to really reach out and serve our community as well as corrections.  So .yeah, it was quite an undertaking because it was new and so it was a huge learning curve for us in putting this together and how it works and how it’s going to work for the field itself, just technology alone. How do we make sure that as many people as possible can access it because we know in corrections that we have firewalls and so on that, so, how’s that going to work, and how can we be successful getting to that group as well as the community?

Len Sipes: Well for what it’s worth, I’m going to more and more virtual conferences, more and more instead of attending. Even in Washington, D.C., where I’m located, even in terms of traveling three or four stops by subway and walking three or four blocks, which is pretty easy and pretty accessible, I’m finding more and more of these issues are taking place via my computer, and we’ve got the same firewalls that everybody else has and that doesn’t seem to be a problem, so more and more, we’re going to see more virtual conferences, more virtual meetings, more of these issues discussed via computer.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and the other thing that’s really great is we have, on June 5th, whoever’s registered will be able to come in to look at the site and access the on-demand presentations, and then on the 12th will be the live and the on-demand, and then all of it will be recorded. So that will be available after the conference too, so not only a matter of travel and so on, but time, so if there’s one presentation that you didn’t get to see live, once the recorded versions are up, if you’ve got an hour or so at your workplace, you can say, “Hey, I want to go in and look at that,” and you can still see it.

Len Sipes: But isn’t that, I mean, all of this, in terms of a virtual national conference, in terms of podcasting and what I’m doing, in terms of you recording it and placing it so other people can download, I mean, I ride in from the train from Baltimore to D.C. every single day, and yes, I’m crazy, for those of you who know how long that takes, but I get to read all the stuff from NIC. I’m the best-read person in my organization because I have two hours a day on the train so I read all of your material. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to download that through iTunes or download it through the National Institute of Corrections website and be able to participate, virtually, while I’m sitting, riding on my train ride from Baltimore to D.C. or back and forth? That, I think, is where all this is going. Don’t you agree?

Bernie Izler: Yes. I don’t know that we have that capacity with this conference but looking down the road, we’ve started to think in terms of what’s next and, certainly that’s what’s next. It will be a link for people on our website that they can go to it. I’m not exactly sure that we’re there yet with podcasts or that kind of thing but certainly on particular mobile devices, they’ll be able to access it.

Len Sipes: Oh, I’ll be more than happy to come out and train you on podcasting, not necessarily on Skype with all the problems we had before the beginning of the show. Hey, Captain Denes, again, convince everybody out there in the practitioner community, again, those of us hard-bitten and cynical about everything that comes along, convince the rest of us that this is something that everybody needs to participate in.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, well, I think that just what we gain from each other is something that, it’s hard to picture the end result when you’re on the front end of it, you know. Like I was describing earlier, our collaboration here with the Mental Health Center and with NAMI and with all the other stakeholder groups, centered around just putting together a patrol-based training initiative, a crisis intervention team’s training, and we soon realized that, you know what, where this is really happening is in the local jails where people with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders are over-represented three or four times versus what you would find out in the general population, and so the folks that are working with that population inside really needed those skills almost more than the patrol officers dealing with them on the outside.  And so as we started getting into that, then we started realizing, you know what? Maybe there’s some case management that needs to happen here. Not only are we trying to defer people from criminal involvement on the front end but sometimes these folks do end up in jails and prisons, and, you know, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know there but as we’re getting ready to release them back out into the community, how can we connect them with services in advance of their release so that they’re not going through that revolving door over and over again.  So that whole piece of community re-entry was something we started talking about here in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties back in like 2003, 2004, and so we instituted a real small program at first, just one or two case managers at the re-entry level, working in the local jails, and we found that it was so effective that these same stakeholders started showing up at these conference tables over and over and over again. We thought, okay, what’s next? Where else can we go with this? And so one of the next things that happened was what we initially called Mental Health Court, which was a specialty problem-solving court for people with felony charges, nonviolent felony charges, who could be safely deferred from criminal justice involvement through evidence-based direct case management services and intensive treatment, and so, we now call that program the Wellness Court but it’s enormously successful here in Colorado.  That led to a Metro area, in the Denver Metro area, we had about a year-and-a-half long cross-systems services and gaps analysis that was facilitated for us by the National GAINS Center, and again, huge numbers of people showing up at these meetings, stakeholder groups from all across all different systems, and we realized, again, we’re all dealing with the same population but we’re dealing with them in isolation. How can we break down those walls, break down those silos, overcome institutional inertia, start sharing resources and information so that we’re not dealing with the same people over and over again but instead we’re getting them into effective treatment programs, diverting them from criminal justice involvement, making it so that they’re not filling our jails and prisons. That’s what it was all about.

Len Sipes: But everybody out there has exactly the same problems you do there in Douglas County. It doesn’t matter whether in Minnesota, Hawaii, Alaska, the state of Maryland, everybody has the same issues, so the bottom line is that they can learn from you and they can contact you and you can contact others. It’s a matter of sharing what works at the local level. Is that not the heart and soul of this conference?

Captain Attila Denes: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s one of the reasons why you’re there. So again, Bernie, the whole idea is to share what works at the local level by real people dealing with real problems, dealing with the same circumstances everybody else is dealing with. If Attila Denes can get it right, and the sheriff’s department there in Douglas County can get it right, that means everybody else can do it correctly and solve the same problems, and then again, that’s the whole idea behind this conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Well, and it’s also a mixture of we tried to get two successful programs in different areas as well as some experts in the field, like Professor Latessa, who’s going to talk about evidence-based practices. So it’s a mixture of both because sometimes the experts are like, “Okay, it’s a place to start, somewhere.” And then how does that look in the community? And you’re right; it can look very, you know, you may have the same problems but as Captain Denes said, it can look very different in each community as to what you have available and so on. So yeah, so it’s a mixture of all of those things.

Len Sipes: But the fact that they can reach out to Attila and actually talk to him and email him – Atilla, I’m not quite sure you want me to say this – but the fact that they can is encouraging because all these systems are sharing the same problems and the same concerns, so why not everybody get together through this national conference and help each other out?

Bernie Izler: Yeah, and that’s what the threaded discussions are about. Like I said, for each presentation, there’ll be a threaded discussion, and so our presenters will be monitoring those, and when you go in a register you sign up and you can say in each thread if you want it sent to your email, and then whatever goes on in that thread will come to your email.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s so cool.

Bernie Izler: And then, also to our presenters, so they can see what the discussion is so the discussion will continue.

Len Sipes: You know, Bernie, I just wanted to ask you this question before we leave the program. This had to be scary for you. I mean, this is the first time NIC is doing something on this scale in terms of re-entry, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. Yes, I’ve had several times where I’ve been up at 2:30 AM in the morning, wide awake going, “Oh my gosh, what if we create it and nobody comes?” So yeah, and I’ve had a wonderful team here at NIC. There’s a lot of different people at NIC that have participated and made it possible. Our goal was 1,000, and once we passed that number, I’m not having those 2:30 A.M. wake-up calls. So we’re very excited that we’ve passed our goal and that it can go on, and having it up recorded online for four months, I’m very hopeful that we could even double that number.

Len Sipes: Oh, you’re going to easily double that number. In fact, I can tell you right now that you’re going to get 3, 4, 5 times the amount of people downloading it than listening to it live. All of my friends who do stuff live say that it’s 5, 10 times the amount of people that come in after the live presentation so you’re going to get your 1,000. I would bet my Buick that you’re going to get at least 5,000 people exposed to your conference but most of them are going to come in afterwards. Final minute, Bernie, Attila, final issues you want to discuss?

Captain Attila Denes: One thing I just wanted to throw out there from the cost standpoint is the criminal justice system is probably the least cost-effective method of obtaining mental health and substance abuse treatment. There are tons of community services that provide those same services at a much reduced cost and so from a taxpayer’s perspective, collaboration is the way to go.

Len Sipes: Alright, Bernie, final words? Thirty seconds.

Bernie Izler: Just that we welcome everybody to the conference. We’re very excited about it. We think it’s a very timely topic. Please, come and register for the updates. Our agenda came out today so people can look at that and just go to

Len Sipes: And you’re going to have a link to this on the front page of the National Institute of Corrections website, correct?

Bernie Izler: I am hoping so soon. We’ve kind of put this publicity out in pieces, so kind of—

Len Sipes: Okay. That would be a good idea because a lot of people may not remember the address but they will know National Institute of Corrections.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and when they go to the website, if they can’t find it, if they just type in [PH 0:29:31] tough key to door key, they’ll find it.

Len Sipes: Got it. Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry:, June 12th from 9 A.M. Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]