Archives for March 2014

Crime Victim Compensation and Services in Washington, D.C.

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 for our first show of 2014, a show topic that’s very near and dear to my heart; crime victim services in the District of Columbia. Also be talking about crime victim’s issues throughout the United States. We have two guests at our microphones. Bonnie Andrews, she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, We also have Laura Banks Reed. She is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, and to Bonnie and Laura, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bonnie Andrews:  Hello.

Laura Banks Reed:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Now both of you do two different things and I do want to talk about a larger discussion of what’s happened, what happens in the District of Columbia, a larger discussion about what happens throughout the United States, but first of all, Bonnie, we represent a parole and probation agency and you represent victims coming into our parole and probation agency looking for assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Tell me a little bit about what you do.

Bonnie Andrews:  Our office assists victims that are, have been victimized by the offenders that we supervise at CSOSA. So any victim that has been either victimized or re-victimized by an offender under the supervision of CSOSA can receive services in our program.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea in terms of victim services across the board is to cut through the clutter, to have a friendly voice to guide you in terms of dealing with your victim issues, as it pertains, in our case, to people under our supervision, right? So there’s somebody there, specifically you, who help people get through the maze, get through the confusion and get the answers they need. Correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. You know, sometimes we have to get that, the trust of that victim or, because they think that we are probation officers or we are CSOs, that’s community supervision officers and the information that the victim might share with us is going to get back to that offender. So we have to get the trust of the victim and reassure them that whatever information that they provide to us is going to be held in confidence and no information will be shared with either the probation officer, the offender or anyone else, for that matter, unless it’s going to hurt that person or someone else.

Len Sipes:  And that’s something I want to talk about further in the program, because people have a concern. They’re frightened of the criminal justice system. They’re frightened of any bureaucracy. They’re frightened about any governmental entity and you know, we need to reassure people that we have specialists on board throughout the criminal justice system who will act as their advocate, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I do want to talk about that in a couple seconds, but first I want to talk with Laura Banks Reed. Now Laura, you’re with the, you’re the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court. Give me a sense as to what it is that you do.

Laura Banks Reed:  The compensation program for the District of Columbia provides assistance to victims of violent crime with the financial expenses that they often suffer as a result of being victimized.

Len Sipes:  People can get money back if they can prove that they cooperated with the criminal justice system – money for injuries, money for God forbid, funerals, money for hospital bills, and so the DC Superior Court administers that program, correct?

Laura Banks Reed:  That’s correct. But it’s not, excuse me, money in the sense that if you’re assaulted we pay you a certain amount. This is a program that provides assistance to victims and the payment of their expenses. So if they let’s say that someone is assaulted and they have to go to the hospital.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If they have insurance, their insurance will pay for the their medical care. But if there’s a copayment that they have to pay, that is something that they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so funds that are not being reimbursed for, they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we have, in essence, two distinct forms of victim services within the District of Columbia and I do want to add the fact that the Metropolitan Police Department has victim’s representatives, United State’s Attorney’s Office, our prosecutor here in the District of Columbia, they have a victim’s representative, the Attorney General’s Office, and all of the other federal agencies, whether they be the Park Police or whether they be the FBI or whatever, all of us, all the criminal justice agencies in the District of Columbia have victim assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. That’s correct. And we all work closely together.

Len Sipes:  Right, and you all share information and you all point out problems to each other and propose solutions for the entire criminal justice system.

Bonnie Andrews:  Well, we try to work together for the victim, making sure that the victim’s needs are always out in the front of us and how we can best serve that person and help them heal through what has been, in most cases, a very traumatic experience.

Len Sipes:  Right, right. And I also want to get on to the trauma part of it, but people listening throughout the United States, every large criminal justice agency, it doesn’t matter where they are, they could be listening to this program in Honolulu, they could be listening in Des Moines, Iowa, they could be listening in France, for that matter. Most larger, criminal justice agencies now have a victim’s representatives throughout that structure. So there is a place where people can go to if they feel that they have questions, they feel that they have issues, that they don’t have to be frightened of us with in the criminal justice system. There’s always a friendly face and a friendly voice somewhere in that criminal justice bureaucracy who can help them.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, but you know, more times than not, I’ve had victims that will come to me and say, you know, they might be at the end of this judicial experience and they’ll say, “I wish I’d had known that this office was here, before now, or no one every told me that these services were here. And you’re absolutely right. Most agencies that either prosecute, supervise, or police the judicial or are in the judicial process will have a victim’s services advocate to serve victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I mean, that’s the thing that frightens me the most, is people sitting out there and saying to themselves, “You know, I wonder, I just laid out $3,000 out of my own pocket for medical expenses because I was injured during that robbery. Is there anybody who can help me? I wonder what the police officer is doing to solve my case? I wonder what parole and probation”, in this case us, Bonnie, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, “I wonder what they’re doing in supervising that person when they come out of prison or while under probation.” They don’t have to wonder, all they have to do is pick up the phone, call the main number for that agency and ask for their victim’s representative.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, or ask for a victim’s advocate, ask for someone that can help guide them through the judicial process. But we rely a lot, even though we provide services for victims and resources, we rely heavily on Laura’s program.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, I can’t imagine this process without her program, or how we would serve victims without her program.

Len Sipes:  Well, people expect me to say this because I represent in one small way, the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System, but the Superior Court, people need to understand this who are listening to this program beyond Washington DC, the Superior Court is an extraordinarily comprehensive entity. I mean, I’ve never seen a court system with so many specialty courts and so many judges who are active in the community, active in these special courts. And so it seems to me that victim’s compensation and victim’s services would go hand in hand with the role of the DC Superior Court. But I think that the quality of the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia is not only higher, but much higher than I’ve seen in other cities. Do you think that’s correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I agree, absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  I think so.

Bonnie Andrews:  I might be a little prejudiced of that –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, we might be just a tad prejudiced about that.

Bonnie Andrews:  But I do agree. I was having a conversation with Laura and I was saying, “Heaven forbid I’m ever a victim, but if I ever were to be a victim, I would want to be one in DC.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, I understand that. And I understand exactly what you’re saying. All right, so Bonnie, you’ve been doing this, did you say for 17 years?

Bonnie Andrews:  20.

Len Sipes:  20 years!

Bonnie Andrews:  I’ve been in Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; this is my 13th year at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you were in victim’s issues before that?

Bonnie Andrews:  I spent two years with the United States Attorney’s Office, right up the street.

Len Sipes:  Ah, okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  An prior to that I was in private practice. I worked with crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Fun. And Laura, you’ve been doing this for how many years?

Laura Banks Reed:  For 17 years.

Len Sipes:  17 years, you’re the one that’s been doing this for 17 years. So we we’re talking about 37 years, close to 40 years between the two of you in terms of serving victims of crime. What’s your principal impression of this issue in terms of that near 40 years experience that I have sitting at this table right now? What is your principal perception of this issue of crime victims and what government is capable or not capable of doing?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, in Washington DC, victim services has grown incredibly over say, the past 15 years. As you mentioned, there are victim service providers in all of the law enforcement agencies. And there is a wonderful cadre of non-profit organizations.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about those. I didn’t realize that we had a lot of non-profit organizations out there. Tell me about those.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and they are very, very, very good at what they do.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  As you mentioned earlier, the court has a lot of special programs for the community and one of them is the domestic violence intake center, which is, there’s one located in Superior Court, and there’s also a satellite office located in the United Medical Center, in Southeast, what used to be greater Southeast Hospital is now United Medical. And there’s a satellite Domestic Violence Unit there. And it is comprised of non-profit organizations, advocates from law enforcement agencies, and it creates a one stop place that a victim of domestic violence can come to the courthouse and get all the services that they really need. One of the services that the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program provides is the cost of temporary emergency shelter. And so because we are part of the court and we are so close to the main courthouse, domestic violence victims can walk the block and a half from the main courthouse directly to our office and receive services right there on the spot.

Len Sipes:  That reminds me, there are layers to all of this. There is the issue of sexual assault, rape and sexual assault. That issue has an array of non-profit organizations that advocate for that particular issue. There’s domestic violence, people advocate for that issue. There’s child abuse – people – so that’s what you’re talking about in terms of the non-profit community, and you’re right, there’s a whole endless series of organizations out there, around those three areas; child abuse, domestic violence and rape and sexual assault. But the principle number of people, I’m assuming, that you’re going to see, are what I refer to, not out of disrespect, but to garden variety crime victim in terms of being the victim of a robbery, the victim of a burglary, the victim of somebody stealing their automobile. I mean, the chances are the numbers are much greater that you’re going to be the victim of those sort of crimes than either rape or child abuse or domestic violence, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I wouldn’t say so.

Len Sipes:  All right, tell me, go ahead. Please, correct me. Feel free to correct me.

Bonnie Andrews:  In our office, at least in our office, 90% of the victims that we see are victims of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Laura Banks Reed:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  Last year, our numbers increased as far as gunshot victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  We had quite a few young men that came into our office to get services for, as a result of gunshot wounds that they received in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  And those services, those men were referred to Ms. Reed’s program for
counseling, for you know, PTSD as a result of being shot on the street; medical services, they needed physical therapy following their treatment in the hospital; in some cases they needed to relocate because they had concerns of their safety. So the victims that we see, we have a variety of victims that we see, but the majority of the victims are a result of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  All right, I stand corrected.  We’re going to take this opportunity to reintroduce both of you because we’re more than halfway through the program. Bonnie Andrews is the victim services program manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, She’s by our microphones. Laura Banks Reed, she’s the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, Laura, so people when they come to you and they say to themselves, “Okay, insurance took care of a lot of it, but I have about $2000 in out of pocket expenses. I have this amount of property damage done or God forbid, I need to bury my son and I don’t have the money to do it. That’s when they do come to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, right?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes, absolutely. And they’re, the program is operated under a statute and so there are certain eligibility requirements. First of all, well, let me also share with you that there are crime victim compensation programs in every state in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Throughout the country, yes.

Laura Banks Reed:  And there are many foreign countries who also have compensation programs. So there, in order to be eligible for the compensation program in DC, the crime has to have occurred in DC.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If the crime occurs in Maryland but you live in DC, you go to the Maryland compensation –

Len Sipes:  Right, and there’s that, after working for 14 years for the State of Maryland, there is a Crime Victim’s Compensation Board for the State of Maryland, under the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

Laura Banks Reed:  There is.

Len Sipes:  Same thing in Virginia.

Laura Banks Reed:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  And the crime has to occur in DC, the maximum that we can pay for an entire event is $25,000; the victim cannot have been engaged in illegal conduct, which caused his injuries. That would disqualify them from help.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  The crime has to be reported to the police, but there are several exceptions and there are exceptions for domestic violence victims, if they seek a civil protection order, then they are eligible for the compensation program; for sexual assault victims, if they seek a sexual assault examination, then, and don’t have a police report, then they would also be eligible. And in child cruelty cases, if a neglect petition has been filed, then it’s not necessary for that family to have to bring in a police report. The crime has to be reported to the police within 7 days, if that’s at all possible. There are some circumstances where that’s not possible to do. And the application has to be filed within a year of the crime or at least within a year of learning of the program.  If there was some legitimate reason that you did not know about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program, then you would have a year from the point when you reasonably should have known, to file your application. And so we help out with medical bills, yes, unfortunately, we help with funeral expenses, the coast of mental health counseling, lost wages, if a victim is so badly injured that they can’t go to work anymore.

Len Sipes:  Who helps you guys out?

Bonnie Andrews:  We help each other.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question –

Laura Banks Reed:  We really do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question I want to ask. I mean, it’s like, when I was a police officer, dealing with victims of crime was very difficult, because it was right at that moment and they had a thousand questions and I had four or five more calls stacked up to get to and I really couldn’t give all the time. Now, to my own credit, a lot of times I would go back to that person two or three days later and say, “I couldn’t answer all these questions that night, but I’ll try to answer your questions now.” But it takes a toll, does it not, dealing with victims and their circumstances?

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  It does. There have been times when I have called Bonnie and said, “Bonnie, I need to talk to a supervisor.” But there is, I think, a strong sense of camaraderie in the victim services field that has developed over the years. Many of us who are in this field have been in it for a long time and –

Len Sipes:  Is there ever a compassion burnout, fatigue? Compassion fatigue?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, it’s a deep thing.

Len Sipes:  Ever get to the point where, “My God, if I talk to one more victim of crime, I think I’m going to go to Timbuktu.”

Bonnie Andrews:  You know –

Len Sipes:  Sit in the bathtub for two weeks.

Bonnie Andrews:  It comes periodically, but you get that one case that comes in just right on time. And I say right on time, because it puts into perspective of why we are still doing this or why we come to work every day. And see these people that are at probably the worst day of their life on that day that we’re seeing them. And you know, what can I give that person to help them feel a little bit better when they leave my office? And so when that person comes in and they leave with a smile on their face, or they can breathe a little better, or they can say, you know, “I feel like I’m going to be okay now.” Or, “Thank you. I didn’t have this information when I came here and you’ve helped me. You’ve given me some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.” Then it puts into perspective of why we continue to come back every day and do this all over again. And when that day doesn’t come, then of course, I call Laura and say, “Can I come and sit on your couch for about 30 minutes during my lunch break?” [Laughter]

Len Sipes:  Well, I mean, when I was there, as a police officer, I found myself feeling profoundly inept, because this was before the day and age of victim representatives in agencies and they had a thousand questions, and I remember a woman yelling at me, one night, basically saying, “Don’t you understand what this means to me? Don’t you understand how this is has destroyed my life? And I have a thousand questions. Who’s going to answer these thousand questions? And by the way, when I have a thousand more tomorrow, who’s going to be there for me? Who represents me?” And I remember that. I remember that to this day. “Who represents me?” Now we have people who represent them.

Bonnie Andrews:  We are, we do.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and it is very rewarding work when you can, because these, for most people, these are life altering events.

Len Sipes:  Yes, they are.

Laura Banks Reed:  There’s life before the crime, and then there’s your life after the crime. And things are, you end up with a new normal. Things are never quite the same again. And it’s nothing that can be cured. But if you have people who are willing to talk with you, and help you with the issues that they can, they can’t make your life like it was before the crime, but we can certainly make the life that you have after it a lot better, a lot less stressful, a lot better in form. And –

Len Sipes:  Because if somebody has questions about what happened on the law enforcement side or what happens, Bonnie, on the parole and probation side or what happens in terms of victims compensation programs, or what happens in terms of the prosecutor’s office, you can pick up the phone and call the victim’s rep for that agency and say that Mrs. Johnson is really confused about this and she really needs some assistance, can you call Mrs. Johnson and straighten her out on these particular issues?

Bonnie Andrews:  And I have no problem with doing that, because I know what my limitations are, and I think that that’s what makes a good advocate, knows that we all have certain limitations, we all have an expertise and to operate within that expertise. And you know, if there’s any information that I don’t have,  I can pick up the phone, I can walk upstairs to MPD, Victim’s Services and ask someone on that staff. I can walk down the street to the US Attorney’s Office Victim’s Services, ask someone on that staff, or either in Mrs. Reed’s office, and what’s so unique about the District is that within one block we have the US Attorney’s office, we have the District of the Court, we have the MPD Victim’s Services and of course CSOSA within that one block. So –

Laura Banks Reed:  And OAG too.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right. And so the victim can go through the judicial process without ever leaving the block.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. And there is, and people sometimes will kid me, they say that I’m overplaying my hand, but there is a level of cooperation within the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System that I don’t think I have seen elsewhere from not just victims but even at the highest levels of agency heads talking to each other. But you know, it’s just that it is, it is a life shaking, Laura you said it, it’s a life altering process for that person to go through, and they’re very frustrated with the criminal justice system. Bonnie, you know, you’ve taken a look at the national levels, out of the 7 million people who are involved in the correctional system, 4 of those 7 million are under community supervision. Throughout my career, and now, people will call me up as the spokesperson for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and say, “Why is John Doe on the street?” I said, “Well, ma’am, he received a sentence of probation.” “Probation? Well what does that mean?” Sometimes it’s a matter of explaining basics to individuals as to how the system works, right?

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and we get those questions quite frequently. I got a call Monday from a victim. Her daughter was sexually abused by her long time boyfriend. And she had heard that the offender was released, well, he wasn’t, he was released to a halfway house. So you know, I can’t answer all of her questions, but I could refer her to someone who could answer her questions and that’s part of being a good advocate, is having the resources to send that victim to when I don’t have the answers.

Len Sipes:  Uh huh, but you can also explain what a halfway house is. I mean, to a lot of people they have no idea what a halfway house is.

Bonnie Andrews:  I could give her information that she did not have when she called me.

Len Sipes:  And you can say, “If you have additional questions, call me, or call our, call MPD or call the United States Attorney’s Office.” We only have a couple minutes left in the program ladies. What have I not mentioned that I need to mention about this issue of crime victim services, not just in the District of Columbia but throughout the United States?

Laura Banks Reed:  I think that what DC, the victim services in DC represents is an effort to provide what we call a continuum of care for victims. And it’s a model that’s very effective, but the victim is not left alone to fend for themselves. I mean, when one hand finishes, the other hand grabs the victim and then we pass the victim on to the next set of services that they need.

Len Sipes:  So a continuum of care throughout the criminal justice system and the fact that all of you work with each other on a day to day basis, talk to each other on a day to day basis –

Bonnie Andrews:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  I mean, so, and you guys have been around for quite some time.

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So you –

Laura Banks Reed:  Dinosaurs.

Len Sipes:  [Laughter] So my point was that you also have the experience to help a person out and you also have the sensitivity to help a person out or you wouldn’t have been doing it for as long as you have.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and I think we were doing this collaborating before it became popular.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, we have been doing this, when I was at the US Attorney’s Office we were collaborating with each other.

Len Sipes:  Good.

Bonnie Andrews:  So we bring the definition of collaboration to the table.

Len Sipes:  Good. Well, Laura, final comments? 15 seconds?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, I just would like for your listeners to know that the, the compensation program does have limits for many of the expenses that it can pay, but the overall maximum is $25,000.

Len Sipes:  Okay. I want to thank you both for being on the program today. I think it’s an issue, victim services is an issue that’s very important to all three of us in this room and to our agency, so I thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Bonnie Andrews; she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Laura Banks Reed, she is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


An Interview with Adrienne Poteat, Retiring Deputy Director, CSOSA

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 show, an interview with Adrienne Poteat, considered by many to be the dean of the criminal justice system in the nation’s capital. I’m going to briefly read a little bit about Adrienne’s background and we’re going to be asking her lots of questions. Ms. Poteat has 40 plus years of solid, law enforcement experience. In 1975, Ms. Poteat became the first female correctional officer hired in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Her career with the DC Department of Corrections quickly expanded from case manager, unit manager, to deputy warden of the maximum-security facility. During her tenure there, this facility became the first to achieve national accreditation from the American Correctional Association. She was promoted to warden of the correctional treatment facility. Ms. Poteat also served as Deputy Director for the Department of Corrections and in this position she had management oversight for a 11 correctional institutions and five key correctional program areas. After a distinguished career with the Department of Corrections, she began working for the US Parole Commission. In 2002 she was selected for her current position as Deputy Director for my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and this includes three and a half years as acting director.

Some of the awards that she has received – just some – she received numerous awards for her work, including most recently a 2012 Presidential Rank Award, the 2011 Chief of Police Merit Award, the 2010 Innovative Use of GPS Technology Award and in 2008, the Enterprise Intelligence Award. Adrienne Poteat, Deputy Director for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, who has now announced her retirement, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Hello Len, how are you?

Len Sipes:  I’m fine. And this is an honor. So many people, when I said that I was going to interview you, as sort of a farewell interview in terms of your announced retirement, I’ve heard so many incredible stories about grit and leadership, you’re knowledge of the criminal justice system. I’m not quite sure I know of anybody out there that I’ve talked to from the law enforcement side to the mayor’s office, to this agency, who just does not have an immense amount of respect for you. That’s amazing.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, thank you.

Len Sipes:  Is that across the board? That amount of respect, from everybody?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, it is. I really appreciate it. I really do. It’s an honor and a privilege for people to think so highly of you and respect the fact that you know, some of the work that you’ve done in this criminal justice agency.

Len Sipes:  You started off at the very bottom of the criminal justice system. You came in – at one time, I did not mention this, you worked for a law enforcement agency in Virginia as an intake officer, correct?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  And then you went on to eventually become a correctional officer.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, before that I was a teacher in Montgomery County, in the public schools, teaching math. Then I started the career with the DC Department of Corrections.

Len Sipes:  Now you started off, again, at the lowest possible levels, as a correctional officer as I started off as a cadet in the Maryland State Police. We both started off at the lowest possible rungs within the system.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, I did.

Len Sipes:  And through that time, you eventually went from one position higher to the next position to the next position – I mean, your career steadily rose. Why is that? What was so special about Adrienne Poteat that she steadily rose in rank through the criminal justice system?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, I want to believe that it was the fact that I was committed to the work, I enjoyed the work. I valued the people that I worked for, I brought something to the table. I think I had some innovative ideas and creativity. I wanted to make a difference in women in the correctional field and therefore, I think, because of that, I was given opportunities to act in some capacities and was later selected to fill the positions.

Len Sipes:  But, you know, I know and you know, that I spoke to lots of women who have been police officers, years ago. Correctional officers years ago – it was not easy to be a woman in a male dominated field, whether on the law enforcement side or the correctional side. And I’m sure that you won through some problems being the first woman correctional officer. You won through some issues and you won through some challenges.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  It was very difficult. In fact, when I was first hired, being the first female, they didn’t know what to do with me. They didn’t know where to place me, what type of assignments. And so that was a challenge for management. Once they decided that, okay, we’ll put her in the command center, that was the first post they assigned me to, then they wouldn’t let me walk the compound. So which meant I couldn’t even go from the command center, right across to the culinary unit without an escort. That caused a lot of dissension among my fellow coworkers, because they felt like I was a correctional officer like they were, I was making the same type of pay, and I shouldn’t have been treated differently.

Len Sipes:  It’s one of the most difficult jobs on the face of the earth. I’ve spent a lot of times inside of prisons; I’ve spent a lot of time right beside correctional officers, watching what they do when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety. It is an extraordinarily difficult job. But as the first woman, you know, you weren’t allowed to do the things that men were supposed to do, you were looked upon a certain way, you were probably looked upon with a certain level of skepticism. How did you break through all of that?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  I believe that you know, I showed the fact that number one, I was not afraid. I was not afraid of being inside the prison system. I was not afraid of working any assignment. In fact, I challenged many of my managers, “Just put me there and I’ll show you what I’m capable of doing.” I was not afraid to talk with the inmates. Because it was the District of Columbia system, we were required to comingle and talk with the clientele, even their families. So it was like management by walking around. They were not locked down, so they were very free to move about the compound, just like we’re free to move around here in the city. Only one facility where they were locked down, and that was the maximum security. So you couldn’t show fear and walk those walks and go into those dormitories and count the dormitories or counsel the offenders. You just couldn’t do that. You also had to have a level of respect. Respect for them – and you got respect from them. It’s amazing that there was a culture in the institutions where the inmates, if they trusted you, they would look out for you. If you treated them with respect, they did the same for you. If you were honest with them and forthright in the decisions that you made, they respected that. And so I think that’s what I brought, throughout my career. The same type of system, the same type of ideas, the same type of –

Len Sipes:  Well, no, the respect for the inmate population and they had  a certain respect for you. One of the things that amazes me is that I followed you the last 11 years around this city. Everybody in this city knows you. I can’t go anyplace without people coming up and going, “I know you. Where do I know you from?” And whether it be judges or whether it be from people in the law enforcement side or people in the correctional side, or inmates, former inmates, everybody looks at you with a big smile. The inmates – former inmates, they all know you. They all look at you, they want to shake your hand, they want to tell you how well they’ve done. You know, it’s amazing that they have this level of respect for a person who used to run that correctional system. That shows something, does it not?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, it does. And you have to go back and think about when we were working those compounds, or walking those walks, that oftentimes the inmates, they got into trouble, there was contraband, there were stabbings, or assaults, there were encounters that probably they didn’t need to engage in, sexual encounters in the facilities, and people realized that regardless, if they saw me or not, you had to respect the fact that I was a law enforcement official, that I was a correctional personnel and that if you did that in front of me, then you knew I was going to take action.

Len Sipes:  Of course.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  You also realized that regardless of what type of crime that you committed, regardless of where you were housed, I was going to give you the same respect as though that you were in the community, because I realized, even though that you were inside, one of use could have been inside as well, and I would want my family members, if any of them were locked up, to be treated the same way I treated these men and women that were in jail. And so even now, when I see them in the community, they will come to my office and I remember a lot of them because I had their fathers, their mothers, their sisters and their brothers, and I gave them all the same respect and time of day, regardless.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’ve also been with other correctional administrators and I’ve been with secretaries of public safety in the state of Maryland, yet nobody that I have been with has received such a – I mean, the smiles on individual’s faces was amazing to me. I’ve never seen, Adrienne Poteat, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. So obviously you affected their lives in a very profound way. You were their chief jailer, yet they’re always so happy to see you, so that shows a level of respect that I have not seen in my entire career. I mean, all the rest were male correctional administrators in the past, and we’ve run into people that were on supervision, we’ve run into people who were locked up before, but I haven’t seen anybody with a big smile on their face come over and say, “Ms. Poteat! How are you?” I mean, that’s, I’ve always thought that that was an amazing thing, that affect that you had on people. The people that you locked up, the people that you supervised.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, I tell you, if I locked them up, they knew why they got locked up, and even I see them now, some of them will tell me, “Do you remember me?” And I may not remember who they are and they’ll even tell me the good stories or the bad stories and some of the bad stories are, “You know, you sent me behind the wall.” And my question to them, “Did you deserve it?” And the answer was, “Yes. You also told me I would never come out on the compound because of what I did. And I never came out.” I said, “So did I keep my word?” And they go, “Yes, you did.” So that’s being honest with them. You know the consequences of what you do. Or you get those that will tell you, “You don’t know how you helped me.” And a lot of times, I don’t remember. I really don’t. But it could be something very small and probably insignificant to us, but it meant a lot to them. The fact that you took the time out to talk to them, to listen, to help them, to guide them, to treat them with respect, to treat their families with respect, and to mentor them, if possible. If they needed a job, I could direct them somewhere where they could get a job. If they needed counseling somewhere, I’d pick up the phone myself and find a program for them; then and even now. Because I feel like I’m not going to ask anybody to do anything different than what I would do. So regardless of my position, they are still human beings and they still need to be treated as such and I’ll help them all.

Len Sipes:  The correctional system, whether it’s the District of Colombia, whether it’s Maryland, whether it’s any other correctional system in the country, is one of the hardest systems you can possibly imagine. People have no idea as to how difficult it is to run correctional systems. It is enormously difficult. People have no idea – when you’re walking that tier, it’s you and hundreds of inmates. It’s not, you know, a dozen correctional officers, it’s not 24, it’s you and you alone walking that tier and you’ve got hundreds of correctional, hundreds of inmates around you. It takes a certain amount of moxy to do a job as a correctional officer; it takes a certain amount of moxy, if I can, to be the first female correctional officer.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, you know, walking the tiers, you’re right, you walked by yourself. You had an officer that was at the end of the tier that would basically be your backup.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  But I would go from cell to cell. I would ask them how they’re doing. I would speak to them, and if they had an issue or a problem, I’d write it down and I’d let them know I’d get back to them. Wouldn’t promise to get back to them that day, but I would. And that meant I would come back to that same cell block and give them the response. Maybe not that they wanted, but at least they knew I listened to them, I heard them, and I responded to their issues. And I did that on a regular basis. And so therefore it wasn’t hard for me to walk the tiers. Now, were there occasions where you walk it and you get name-calling? Oh yes. I mean, I was no different than anyone else. But I tell you, sometimes when some of those offenders would call me out in my name or say things that were disrespectful, the other inmates on the tiers would straighten them out.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Because they would let them know, “Not her. Because this woman is here to help us.” And so that’s what I got in some of those cell blocks.

Len Sipes:  So you eventually started going through the levels of management within the correctional agencies, within the District of Columbia, steadily going up in terms of rank. Now, why was that? How as that? The average person who enters the criminal justice system does not have the, you know, go to the next system, go to the next level, go to the next level. There are people like me that become public affairs person and you stay in public affairs for 30 years. You steadily rose throughout the ranks. There is something in you, there’s some secret sauce, there’s some level of intelligence, there’s some level of determination. What made you constantly rise through the ranks to eventually become warden – I mean, that’s an amazing accomplishment – and then Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Corrections? And you oversaw 11 institutions. That’s an amazing transformation to go from walking the tiers to being in charge of 11 correctional institutions.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, Len, I’ve got to admit, it was not easy. I did not just automatically get promoted. There were a lot of stumbling blocks that I faced along the way. Many times, when I apply for jobs, I was not selected, even though I may have done well at the panel and the panel members had told me that I was the best candidate, but what it did, it never made me give up. Regardless of what the obstacles were, I was determined that it was not going to deter me from doing a good job and from keep trying and for my perseverance, I felt, eventually, when it’s my time, then I’ll know it. Then I’ll get that job. So if I got turned down three, four or five times, I never stopped, and that’s what happened. Eventually there was some jobs that I served in the capacity of. A good example is deputy warden. Well, for almost four or five years, I acted in that position, but I was never promoted in that position. And so that was a position I skipped over and it was not until later on that finally, I got the opportunity to become warden.

Len Sipes:  Topic of today’s show, an interview with Adrienne Poteat, who is again, as I said at the beginning of the program, considered by many to be the dean of the criminal justice system for the nation’s capital. Adrienne, I want to go on a little bit beyond the correctional system, but before going a little bit beyond the correctional system, again, you were one of the first females. There are all sorts of females that I have had as personal friends throughout my career who have been in corrections, who have been in law enforcement. And they’ve told me that the level of sexism was horrendous. You were also a black female. So were there issues of race that you had to confront as you went through all of this?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, yes there were.

Len Sipes:  Tell me a little bit about that.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  There was sexism because of me being a female.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  There was racism. When I started in the Department of Corrections, it was predominately white. Most of the staff were ex-military or they were family members of other members that had been there, in the system. And so there were, for the majority, there was a level of respect from my supervisors. There were occasions where I faced discrimination and I had a supervisor and I give him the utmost praise today. And I’m going to tell you who that person is.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  His name was Thomas Gatos. Thomas Gatos told me, when I came to his shift, “I don’t want any women on my shift and I’m going to make you quit your job. You’ll be gone before I am.” And I smiled to Thomas Gatos and said, “I’ll be here when you’re gone.” And so I was determined to show him that I can do this job. And I don’t care where you place me, then I’m going to do a good job. He would send me places like go to inspect the water tower, where I had to go in the tunnel and the tunnel was below ground, as you know, with the rats and the roaches. “If that’s where you want me to go, then that’s where I’ll go.” When we had escapes, he sent me out on the chase in the tic field. But I went, and if I had tics on me I pulled them off and I kept on going. Today, when Thomas Gatos retired, Gatos said to his constituents, “If anybody face any harassment and discrimination, it was Adrienne Poteat, and I have the utmost respect for her.” And I told him, “And I have the utmost respect for you, because you made me strive harder to prove to you that I could do this, and believe it or not, when he applied for a job, he had me as a reference.

Len Sipes:  That’s an amazing transformation.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  It was.

Len Sipes:  All right, so what I’m hearing in terms of the smiles that I get when I’m walking down the street with you, going to a community function with you, and the people that were locked up under your systems was your dedication to treating them as an individual. The level of respect that I hear from other members of the criminal justice system, I’m assuming that respect was for your obvious courage in terms of doing what it is you did. Your ultimate lesson in terms of not just being a female, not just being an African American female, but being in the criminal justice system, starting off at the lowest levels, rising to the highest levels. Your ultimate lesson to others who contemplate a career in criminal justice, who are already in criminal justice, what would you tell them?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, there are several lessons I would give them. Number one, working in a dominant male environment, you’ve got to understand, going in, that you’re going to face some challenges. Number one, you’re not wanted. Number two, you’re not appreciated, and number three, and they often felt that women ought to be secretaries. You know, there were certain positions that were designated for women and it surely wasn’t in the correctional arena and it surely wasn’t wardens or deputy wardens. I think today you find more females in higher positions than you did then, but the women had to be determined, number one, that they were coming in to do a job, and not sleep their way to the top. I mean, I think that was important. The other thing that they had to come with confidence and ethics among themselves and they had to come with the determination that “I can do this.” But you have to be committed to doing that type of work.  You’ve got to be a strong individual that regardless of what comes at you, that you’ll find a way to overcome whatever it is and to move forward. You can’t let people stagnate your growth and regardless of how many times that you apply for something and you don’t get it, you don’t give up because surely enough, someone will come along and they’ll see – “This individual is what we’ve been looking for. This person has overcome a lot of obstacles and challenges, this is the type of person that I want to lead.” And so the other lesson that I would say is just, drive hard. I want you to be a – you know, just like driving a car. Almost like speeding. Don’t go too fast, because sometimes when you go too fast you can fall off the track, but if you pace yourself and learn everything that there is to learn, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish. I took it upon myself not to wait for others to teach me. I would go and ask them, “Let me see what you’re doing. Or let  me do that.” Which meant I wanted to do the job that you’re doing and I want to learn it on my own. I’d read the policies and procedures. I’d take on tasks no one else wanted to take on. I’d follow behind people. I would seek out good mentors and I would take something from everybody else that I want to pattern behind.

Len Sipes:  Where did that drive come from?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  I’m just a determined individual. Both my parents are like that, so I think I got it honestly.

Len Sipes:  Well, but that’s the point, it came from your parents?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  I mean, there’s a certain drive, there’s a certain level – I mean, corrections is hard. Being a law enforcement officer is hard work, let alone the circumstances that you came up in. I mean, you know, didn’t you say to yourself halfway through or a quarter of the way through, your first week, “Oh, what the heck, go back to teaching. This is ridiculously difficult, I could be teaching in school.”

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, I did. And it’s funny that you ask me that. My first week on the job there was a stabbing. And in fact, it was a hatchet killing. They chopped the man’s face off and put him back in one of the dormitories and my supervisor told me, “You need to go to the infirmary and investigate and ride with the ambulance to the morgue and I said, ‘I’m not doing that.’” You know, that was my first case of insubordination, but I knew I could not ride with a dead body. And so you know, I’m saying, “What am I doing here? Is this what I signed up for?” But I got myself together, I did not go to the morgue, but after that you know, there were several assaults that took place, but I was able to overcome and deal with the situations at hand. But just imagine a woman, first time, and you see that. No.

Len Sipes:  Right, okay, so it came from your parents?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  That drive, that determination, that willingness to take on assignments nobody else wants to take on, that willingness not to back down, that came from Mom and Dad?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And they’re the ones who instilled you with these values from the very beginning?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  They sure did.

Len Sipes:  And those are the values that you’ve carried with you throughout the entire criminal justice system?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, and my mother is a peoples person, very much so. She was almost like a socialite to me. She just enjoyed being around people and helping people and she was a teacher, a kindergarten teacher. And my father was in the Law Enforcement Arena and it’s almost like Secret Service, so I guess I got a little bit of both of them in me.

Len Sipes:  But the drive – I mean, the drive is extraordinary. I mean, to go through what you went through and never to give up and never to back down, again, that had to come from your mother and father. The compassion you had for the inmates and their families, that had to come from your mother and father. So it sounds like you had a heck of an upbringing.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, I did, but you also needed the support from the family, because believe me, my parents were very cautious. They were very concerned about me working in the prison system.

Len Sipes:  I would have been!

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Because they hear all kinds of rumors and they always said, “Well, I hope nothing happens to my little girl.” So you can imagine being the only child at the time, and you know, you’re working in a all-male dominated facility and seeing stories on TV or you know, what’s going to happen, but I had the family support and I’d always tell them, “I’m okay.”

Len Sipes:  You came over to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our agency, in 2002 as Deputy Director. You were the first deputy director?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, I was.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so you’ve been deputy director the entire time and you were acting director for three and a half years here, at the agency.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  And so we’re – for people who may not – we are a federal parole and probation agency providing services to the District of Columbia. So it’s an entirely different world to some degree, to go from mainstream bars, institutions, maximum security, to parole and probation. What was that transformation like?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Well, this was an easy transformation for me, because if you go back over my work history, I have worked every facet of the criminal justice, from pretrial to the end. So because I have done that, it was very easy to understand and know what goes on at every step of the way, so that once it got to the parole or the probation area, then a lot of these individuals, I’ve had in the juvenile system, in the adult system.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  I conducted their hearings, parole hearing. So it’s not much that they can’t tell me that I don’t remember. And they’ll tell me I have a fantastic memory. I can tell them about, you know, “I remember your father, I knew where you lived, I knew your girlfriend that visited you. I remember who your wife was and I know your children.” So a lot of that has helped me in this particular position.

Len Sipes:  We’ve only got a couple of minutes left in the program. This is going by like wildfire. So after all of that, your lessons, personal lessons that you’ve given in terms of the larger lessons, in terms of the criminal justice system. So after 40 plus years in the criminal justice system, starting off at the lowest levels to the highest levels, what do you have to tell the rest of us in terms of the criminal justice system?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Criminal justice system is wonderful.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  To me it is. It’s something that I enjoy; it’s something I have a passion for. It’s something that I really hate to leave because I’ve just committed and have that drive for it. And I can imagine, once I step out this door, I’m still going to get calls from offenders saying, “Can you help me do something.”

Len Sipes:  Oh, there’s no doubt in my mind, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  And I’m going to have to tell them that I’m retired. And I can hear them now, “I know, but you know somebody that can help me.”

Len Sipes:  But the average person, after spending that much time in the criminal justice system were sort of exhausted by it. I mean, you’re not. You’re very enthused about it. So what does the criminal justice system mean to you?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  This has been my world. I’ve known nothing else but that. You think, for 40 some years, I grew up in the criminal justices system.

Len Sipes:  Yes, you have.

Adrienne R. Poteat:  And so if I were to go out here and do something else, they’d say, “What else could you do?” All I know is law enforcement.

Len Sipes:  Right?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Will I stop working? No. I will probably venture out and do something else, probably still connected to this type of work.

Len Sipes:  But is it a fact that there’s a certain level within the criminal justice system that needs drive and compassion and justice and equity that you’re taking a system that most people see as a fairly harsh system and turn it into something else beyond the stereotype of the criminal justice system?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, it is, because sooner or later, a lot of these men and women are coming home. And there are so many barriers that they face. Number one, having a number. Number two, some of them being a black – whether black Hispanic, or any other nationality, the fact that they’ve got a charge on their record and so with the obstacles in the community like housing and employment, it’s very difficult for them to get jobs. It’s very difficult for them to secure adequate housing because it costs too much to live in this particular area. They’re competing with folks like you and me for employment. So I feel like we have a responsibility, because these are our sons and daughters, our fathers, our mothers that are coming back home, that deserve a second chance. And that’s why I like the fact that they’re doing so much towards their reentry, because they need to start that in the criminal justice system, while they’re incarcerated, so they’re prepared better once they come out under our supervision.

Len Sipes:  Just a couple seconds left. So the final word that you have is justice and equity and compassion within the criminal justice system and it’s possible to do both?

Adrienne R. Poteat:  Yes, it is possible to do both and don’t give up on them. Help everyone because even though you can’t help everybody, there’s somebody that you can make a difference for and I believe that as true correctional professionals, that’s the business that we’re in about helping.

Len Sipes:  Adrienne Poteat, it has been an absolute honor to work for you throughout the years. Ladies and gentlemen, the interview today, Adrienne Poteat, Deputy Director, right before her retirement form the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


A National Consensus on Community Corrections-National Institute of Corrections

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. Ladies and gentlemen, the show topic today, a national consensus on community corrections. We’re going to be talking about the Community Corrections Collaborative Network . We have two guests by our microphones. Gregory Crawford, he is a Corrections Program Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections. He’s also the Network Manager for the Community Corrections Collaborative Network. And we have Spurgeon Kennedy, he is Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies. He’s also with Pretrial Services for the District of Colombia. Thanks to Donna Ledbetter of the National Institute of Corrections for setting up this show today. Our website’s, that’s for the National Institute of Corrections. I’ll  repeat that throughout the program. And for Spurgeon’s organization, National Association of Pretrial Services, Gentlemen, welcome to DC public safety.

Gregory Crawford:  Thanks for having us, Len.

Len Sipes:  All right, let me read very quickly the list of the very, very, very prestigious organizations in the corrections, Community Corrections Collaborative Network: The American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of Paroling Authorities International, the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association, the International Community Corrections Association, the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies and the National Association of Probation Executives. Now that is an extraordinarily large group, Greg. How, what’s your role in getting everybody on board to form this national consensus for community corrections?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, they actually came to us. The Community Corrections Collaborative Network came together on a request from one of our members, and we brought all the main associations together representing probation, pretrial and parole, and over 42,000 members, to come together and collectively to speak with one voice.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Gregory Crawford:  Our mission is to serve as the forum to develop and work the emerging issues, activities and goals of the community corrections field, and our vision is really to create a shared message and understanding about community corrections.

Len Sipes:  Is there a shared message about community corrections? I’ve been in this business for a long time, and finding consensus between the organizations that we’re talking about here and the different other organizations that are on the perimeter, such as PEW and lots of other organizations, Urban Institute comes to mind. I mean, everybody seems to have a different take on community corrections. What, you’re telling me that what we’re doing now is coming up with a national consensus, everybody pretty much agreeing to what it is community corrections could be doing, should be doing?

Gregory Crawford:  Absolutely, Len. I think the one thing that’s becoming very clear is that mass incarceration is not working. As Attorney General Eric Holder stated earlier this year, it’s both ineffective and unsustainable. Our prison population has grown about 300% since 1980 and I think it’s time that we all come together to try and fix this problem.

Len Sipes:  Spurgeon, you know, the fast majority of people under correctional supervision are on community corrections. That’s something that very few people know, that I think it is 7 million in terms of total population, within the country, and I think that 4 million are under community corrections supervision. I’m not quite sure I have those figures correct, but I do know that the vast majority of people under correctional supervision in this country are not in prison, they’re not in jail, they are with parole and probation agencies, they are with pretrial service agencies.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That’s true. If you look at the data that is available, about 7 out of 10 of defendants and defenders in our justice systems are under community corrections, not jails or prisons, but under the supervision of a pretrial program, a probation, a parole agency, a treatment provider in the community. That’s a huge number. Unfortunately, most of the resources that go into our system still go into the correction side.

Len Sipes:  I think 80% is it not?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, we supervise 70% of the offenders and defendants; we get about 30% of the resources. It’s a total imbalance.

Len Sipes:  Why is that?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, we are still, unfortunately, living, as Greg mentioned, we’re learning a lesson, and that is putting people in jails and prisons and leaving them there for long stretches doesn’t make us safer. And unfortunately, we’re on the tail end of that. But we are still seeing jail and prison being overused. And because of that, the resources to maintain a jail and prison are much more than it would take to operate a community corrections program. Our message, really, is simple. If you improve community corrections in this country, you improve public safety in this country. And as you mentioned, the consensus that we’re seeing, not only with our associations, but with others, is that if you strengthen the organizations that provide most supervision, and if you change the way that people see corrections and corrections resources, you will go a long way to protecting America’s communities and reducing recidivism.

Len Sipes:  But how do we go about doing that? I mean, this is the condition. I came into the criminal justice system in 1969. I’m sorry, yes, I am that old. I have been around for 42, 43 years. And the criminal justice system that I entered back in 1969 is essentially the criminal justice system that I see out there today in many, in many ways. I mean, parole and probation agencies have always been underfunded; the ratio between people under supervision and parole and probation agents has always been huge. There is never the training and the money and the emphasis is always going to law enforcement and it’s always going to mainline correctional institutions. So the community corrections part of it, the pretrial part of it has gotten a, not a second look, but a third, fourth and fifth look. How are we going to change that?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think in order for it to work, we really need to adequately staff our local and state and tribal community corrections agencies. Probation officers, parole officers, pretrial officers, cannot be burdened with large case loads. Number one. Number two, I think that we need to, as a network, as individual associations, make sure that evidence based practices are available to the officers and you know, the newest technology and shift are funding to the community corrections rather than on building expensive prisons.

Len Sipes:  Is it our proposition, Spurgeon, that we are going to save states billions of dollars by doing a better job of successfully supervising people under, on community corrections, on pretrial supervision? That we’re going to save, we have the potential of saving literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, from being victimized by crime. So there is a huge payoff here. I mean, it’s a huge payoff fiscally and it’s a huge payoff criminologically. Yet, people don’t seem to buy it. And that bothers me and it bothers all three of us at our microphones. Why is it that we cannot convince people to swing in our direction?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Not sure if that’s true. I think the public, when they are confronted with facts, when they understand what it is we do, and what we are trying to accomplish and certainly all of us are in the business of keeping America’s communities as safe as we possibly can, there is a lot of community support on what it is we are putting out there. The public buys into the idea that supervision, that effective risk assessment, that placing people on supervision levels that makes sense according to their perceived risk, is the best way to move. In fact, they believe that we’re doing this already in a lot of cases. So I don’t think that we have to sell as much as we have to present, as Greg said, some effective strategies on how to improve community corrections across the country, but also to change the way that people in the system think about resource allocations and use. CCCN has come up with several paradigm shifts that we believe should/have to occur before we can really get to the business of making community corrections better.

Len Sipes:  And tell me about those paradigm shifts. Either one of you.

Gregory Crawford:  Well, number one, we’re talking about shifting from a system that bases decisions solely on a defendant or a defender’s charges to a system that considers the individual’s risk level and treatment needs to determine sanctions, supervision level and intervention.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so we’re going to evaluate every offender that comes into our custody in terms of their individual risk level and what their treatment needs are?

Gregory Crawford:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  We’re going to have an individual sense as to who that person really is?

Gregory Crawford:  One size doesn’t fit all.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Gregory Crawford:  And that’s part of the problem with, you know, the mandatory, minimum sentencing.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Exactly.

Gregory Crawford:  And so I think that if you can take an individual’s full story into consideration, you know, we lock up a lot of folks that are non-violent and do not pose a risk to society and can be safely treated in the community, and I think that that is one of the biggest problems in the growing prison population. As I mentioned, you know, Bureau of Prisons is now at 132% capacity. We’ve had a 300% increase in the prison population in the last 30, 33 years. I think we really need to take a look at going to a system, as I mentioned, shift to a system that considers individual risk into consideration.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That’s very important. Too many decisions in criminal justice now are being based on what you’re charged with, not who you are, the risk that you present, and whether you’re going to come back into the system. Moving from a charge base to a research driven decision based approach is essential here.

Len Sipes:  All right, what’s the next step?

Gregory Crawford:  Let the scientific data drive where we send people. Use validated risk assessments, you know, manage our resources, and you know, it doesn’t make any sense to mix high risk with low risk. In fact, it actually, research indicates that if you put low risk individuals with high-risk individuals, you actually cause more harm than good. So I think it’s really critical that we let science drive our decisions.

Len Sipes:  All right, Spurgeon, what’s the next one?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, the other one, and it’s not so much a resource or a recidivism based, but it’s also just the fairness of the system. There are things, there are decisions made that are disparate. Racially disparate, disparities in incomes, the use of money, for example, in decisions, is one where great disparities racially and economically start to rear out. Not using evidence based research, but instead basing decisions on things such as charge. They build into disparities as well. One of the things that we really have to do and one of the focuses that we have as a network is making the system simply more fair and more just. The more you do that, I think, the better the returns you’ll get.

Len Sipes:  A hot topic throughout the country. Any more?

Gregory Crawford:  Yeah, I think another thing that we need to take a look at is limiting those folks and offenders who cannot be safely supervised in the community, and noting that there are alternatives to incarceration. Not just, you know, probation or pretrial or parole, there’s, you know, alternatives to incarceration in the local community. Work crews, day reporting programs, all sorts of programs along those lines that save local jail beds, keep people employed, keep them paying taxes connected to their families. We don’t need to make prison or jail the first option. I think that we need to look at other options for those that can be safely supervised in the community.

Len Sipes:  Next?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, the big one, and the one that ties everything together, it’s the improvement of community corrections programs across the country. We – the reason that my association, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies and the other involved in CCCN got together is because we believe that putting our voices together strengthens our central message. And that is, if we’re going to use community corrections as a central way of providing services, support to defendants and defenders, and keeping our communities safe, and we are, with 70% of those persons under our supervision, you have got to improve the way that these programs operate. You have to reinforce evidence-based practices, both in risk assessment and supervision. You have to provide the resources necessary to effectively supervise defendants and defenders. As Greg mentioned, you have to make sure that caseloads are not so large that you can’t do an effective job in keeping recidivism rates down. And you have to focus on what you want these agencies to accomplish. The biggest thing that CCCN really wants to do is to make sure that when it comes to discussions of resources and what is effective and what works, that community corrections programs aren’t forgotten and certainly the emphasis is placed on making good programs even better.

Len Sipes:  We’ve got a minute before the break, before I reintroduce both of you. If we did all of this, gentlemen, if we did all of this, what would the impact be?

Gregory Crawford:  It would be huge, I think.

Len Sipes:  Talk to me about what would happen?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think, number one is you make your community stronger. You reduce victimization. You promote keeping families together. You promote, you know, right now we currently have a system set up that enables this cycle of incarceration to continue. You have one person, a parent, going into prison or jail, and that increases the likelihood, in and of itself, of the children in the family to become, have behavioral problems. And it’s not a direct correlation, but it does increase the chance.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but sell this to the larger society. For the larger society, Gregory, you mentioned less crime.

Gregory Crawford:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Okay, for the larger society, Spurgeon, it means what?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  We know what causes recidivism. There is a bunch of research out there over the last decade or so that have identified the factors most associated with people coming back into the system. The one thing that we know doesn’t reduce recidivism is locking you up and keeping you there until we’re tired of seeing you and letting you out. The thing that works is supervision, services, and things that are based on risk and need. And you only get that from community corrections programs.

Len Sipes:  But as Greg said, the impact could be huge, the potential could be huge in terms of saving tax paid dollars and in terms of saving victimization and creating a better system.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, you get a smarter system, you get a system that hopefully costs you much less, and you get a system with the outcome, the expressed outcome of keeping communities safer. And if you follow what we know works, and if we’re able to incorporate that into most community corrections programs out there, we think that’s a much better result.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about a national consensus on community corrections, we’re talking about the Community Corrections Collaborative Network . Gregory Crawford is our guest today, he is a Corrections Program Specialist with the National Institute of Corrections. He’s also the Network Manager for the Community Corrections Collaborative Network and also at our microphones is Spurgeon Kennedy. Spurgeon is Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies, and I’m proud to say, he’s with a sister agency of mine here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He’s with Pretrial Services for the District of Columbia.; for National Institute of Corrections, and for the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies.

Okay, help me deal with this. In the law enforcement side, there are billions of dollars flowing towards law enforcement. And there are billions of dollars flowing towards correctional institutions, mainline correctional institutions. And I mentioned this and we can debate this, at the end of the system is us. We, in community corrections, and I believe that you’re right, I believe that we can have an enormous impact in terms of saving states and the federal government millions, billions of dollars. We can really create a system with the fewer criminal victimizations, we can do it all the way across the board, but we’ve been saying this now for the four decades that I’ve been in the criminal justice system, and I don’t see an enormous amount of change. The community corrections collaborative network, the idea of all these mainline community corrections organizations coming together with one voice, speaking in one voice, to me I think it’s a fantastic idea. But what does it take to convince people that we are the real deal?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think, and one of the things that we’re trying to do is build partnerships within the criminal justice community, and expand beyond just the CCCN and the six associations associated with the CCCN. You know? Reach out to the Bureau of Justice, reach out to folks like the PEW, reach out to the Urban Institute or the National Criminal Justice Association, and start building those, fostering those relationships and putting together our ideas and coming together with more than just one voice from the CCCN. A voice from the criminal justice community – and I think that that can make a difference.

Len Sipes:  I think if a governor of a state, who is looking at his or her ratio between parole and probation agents and people under supervision, if he or she sees this long list of national organizations coming together with the National Institute of Corrections and they’re making specific recommendations, I would imagine that the governor of that state’s going to be impressed by that, but that’s where the battle is fought, is it not? It’s not with the organizations that already support these issues, it’s not with PEW, it’s not with Urban, it’s within the general assemblies of the 50 states and the governor’s mansions, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes. Absolutely right, and as we’ve mentioned and as Greg put out, the paradigm shifts, the things that we have to do to change behaviors, not only within the community corrections and the corrections fields, but as you said, among people who have to open their pocketbooks and pay the criminal justice systems, that is really the big focus of CCCN. We want to be able to have a message that resonates with local policy makers, with state policy makers, with federal policy makers, and funders – so that they understand the importance of a well financed, well resourced community corrections component. We’re new, and you know, that is something that we’re just beginning to focus on. We’ve had discussions with other partner agencies about it. We do want to put out an effective message that can be used across the country, and that’s really going to be our focus, really, for the first few months.

Len Sipes:  But you know, we’re really different here in the District of Columbia. We have money for programs. And we have a lot of partner agencies in terms of mental health, in terms of substance abuse, in terms of employment. The average parole and probation agency in this country doesn’t possess a dime for drug treatment, doesn’t possess a dime for mental health treatment, doesn’t possess a dime for vocational programs. That’s always puzzled me. Because we know that these programs can have a significant impact in terms of recidivism, correct?

Gregory Crawford:  I think traditionally that’s been the case, across the country. I think, however, though, I’m hopeful, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that folks that come in the criminal justice system will have an opportunity to be linked to services and rehabbed through their medical benefits. We have about 10 million people that cycle through the local jail system each year. I would say 80, I think I heard about 80% of those do not have insurance, and I want Kennedy to talk here in a minute about pretrial, but I think that the impact of the Affordable Care Act will be huge for the criminal justice population.

Len Sipes:  And the Second Chance Act. I mean, there are partners and they are beginning to thro money towards those of us in the criminal justice system to better handle the individuals that we have on day-to-day supervision. So changes seem to be coming. But they’re at the federal level.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, this is a watershed. I think it’s a watershed not only for the federal level, but also for the local jurisdictions as well. As you mentioned, there are these tremendous potentials, with funding sources, that are dressed as reinvestment. The Affordable Care Act, the Second Chance Act, but there’s also that intersection of knowledge – of the research built over the last decade that have shown that if you do these things, if you fund these things, these programs, these services, this is the expected benefit. We’ve had money before, frankly. There have been times during the past decades when we’ve thrown money into corrections and said, “Okay, get better.” We haven’t really had the knowledge on what best to do with those resources. I think now we know more now than we ever have about what effective supervision, treatment and services are. And with that available money, especially the Affordable Care Act, we ought to be able now to target those services and those supervision types that are the most effective to reduce recidivism. To do that, though, we have to have a message that we are the professionals, we know how to take care of this population and we are the best, you know, use of your resources if you’re point is to reduce future recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Is there a consensus building on all of this that’s shifting towards the side of community corrections? Every program that I do, whether it’s researchers or people from PEW or National Institute of Corrections or Urban Institute or Office and Justice Programs, there just seems to be an emerging consensus on the part of the academic community, the practitioner community, and now this league of organizations that you’re talking about, and also folks within the national institute of corrections that this is changing, that this is swinging towards our side; that the evidence is building, that the state of the art is getting better, that we really do know what we’re doing. We need to be given a green light. And through the Second Chance Act, and through the Affordable Care Act and through other programs, we are being given that green light at the federal level. Am I in the ballpark?

Gregory Crawford:  You are in the ballpark. I think at this point we just need an opportunity and that’s what we’re trying to do, is build these collaborative relationships with folks and be prepared throughout the system for when we can get the funding shifted to community corrections, because we really do need to build capacity in our community corrections system and we do need that opportunity because clearly, you know, with the overcrowding in prison and the fact that about 44% of those that release from prison are right back in there after about three years. You know? So I think we’ve seen that it’s not working.

Len Sipes:  And there’s data that’s saying it’s higher, up to 50%.

Gregory Crawford:  My numbers come from BJS, and so that to me speaks volumes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. I mean, you know, we’re talking about two-thirds rearrested between, I’m going to say between 40 and 50% re-incarcerated and I’m going by BJS data and you know, we’re talking about an enormous amount of people returning to the system. Well, then people would say one side of the continuum, people would say, “Well, good. Bad guys are going back to prison.” The other side is, is that it’s busting the bank at the state level. It’s certainly almost unsustainable at the federal level and it’s doing very little in terms of keeping these people out of the criminal justice system when they are released.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, definitely. And I’ll give my, I’ll give Washington DC as an example. It costs hundreds of dollars a day to keep a person in our local jail. It costs a fraction of that to have them on supervised release; either pretrial or probation or parole. The same is true across the country. Not only does it cost less money, you get a better result. If you look at recidivism and public safety as the outcomes you’re trying to get here, you get those much more effectively with much less money, by using community corrections as your option. As Greg mentioned, we tried prisons for everybody, it didn’t work. There’s a huge rethinking now about the kind of offender who belongs in our jails and prisons. The move just to make that reserved for those who are truly violent and truly cannot benefit …

Len Sipes:  Right, and part of this is to build the capacity to make sure that prison beds are available for the truly violent and the truly dangerous. That’s another big part of what it is that we’re trying to do here, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  But also to build capacity within community corrections so that those that you are no longer incarcerating have a place to go. And being able to say to your probation, parole, pretrial agencies, “You’re adequately staffed, you’re adequately resourced to handle the majority of defendants and defenders that are going to come through the system.”

Len Sipes:  What do you think the message is going to be? I mean, look at me and think that I’m the governor of Nebraska. What do you say to me? What’s the sound bite?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, the elevator speech, I think.

Len Sipes:  The elevator speech?

Gregory Crawford:  I think you have to look at the past and say, “Hey, this isn’t working.” But here’s what will work: you know, if we can properly staff our local, state, tribal, you know, community corrections agencies, we can make a difference. We can reduce recidivism. We can make communities safer. I think if you take a look at the untold potential for all these folks that get shipped away to prison, you know, and come back out and within three years they recidivate, you know, clearly that system isn’t working. So I think what we need to do is really come together and get these community corrections agencies properly staffed, but also inform the front end of the system. Because in my mind, that has the biggest potential to impact the entire criminal justice system and I really would like Kennedy to talk about what can be done in terms of the pretrial and the front end.

Len Sipes:  Kennedy, you’ve got about 30 seconds.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Okay. If you look at counties, and this is where the message resonates the loudest, and I think the strongest, most counties are going to have corrections as one of their top three costs. Most people in jail are pretrial defendants, awaiting trial. Most of those are low to medium risk defendants who could be safely released into the community. If you use community corrections resources more effectively and more efficiently at the pretrial stage, not only will you keep your public safe, but you would reduce the cost of corrections enormously. I think the local jurisdictions are the ones who really need to hear this message.

Len Sipes:  Our guests today have been Gregory Crawford, Correctional Programs Specialist with the National Institute of Corrections and network manager of the Community Corrections Collaborative Network. We’ve had Spurgeon Kennedy, Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies. The website for the National Institute of Corrections is The website for the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies is Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Employment-Reentry and Criminal Offenders-Council of State Governments

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. Today’s show, ladies and gentlemen, employment and criminal offenders and reentry. We have two guests from the Justice Center and the Council of State Governments. We have Henry Rosen. He’s a policy analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments Justice Center; and we have Phoebe Potter, she’s a senior policy analyst, again, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments Justice Center and to Henry and to Phoebe, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Henry Rosen:  Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.

Phoebe Potter:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Right. Now this is an extraordinarily interesting topic, because you’ve written quite a few publications explaining this whole concept of dealing with people caught up in the criminal justice system, and employment – “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”. I’m gonna have a link to this document within the show notes, but for those who don’t have an opportunity to write it down, the website is; Needless to say, one word, Council for State Government Justice You know, this whole concept of offenders and employment is one of the most difficult topics we have within the Criminal Justice System. It is something that has been discussed for decades. It is something that has bedeviled us for decades. It all has some sort of impact on reentry. So let’s start off with, before we start off with a topic, give me a sense of the Justice Center – what it does – the Council of State Governments and what they do.

Henry Rosen:  So the Council of State Governments is a national, non-profit, membership organization providing services and support to states and elected officials that are part of the Council. As the Justice Center, we are the criminal justice arm, under the larger umbrella of the Council of State Governments and what we do is we work with state agencies, governors, counties, mayors, sheriffs, a host of people working in the criminal justice field – courts included, to help develop data driven or research supported policies that improve public safety, as well as improve the lives of folks involved in the criminal justice system, and sort of bring the evidence base on effective public safety and recidivism reduction strategies into the policy and practice sphere, all while minimizing cost to taxpayers and folks.

Len Sipes:  The Council of State Governments, I mean, it’s a wide array of issues that they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Henry Rosen:  Certainly.

Len Sipes:  Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  So the criminal justice policy is just one of them. The Justice Center is just there to deal specifically with criminal justice policy.

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I can’t think, also, Phoebe, I’ll throw this question over to you – I can’t think of a major issue where the Council of State Governments and the Justice Center, I can’t think of major issue in terms of offender reentry, of people coming out of the prison systems, what to do about crime and criminal justice issues; I can’t think of a major issue where the Council of State Governments and the Justice Center have not been involved. Correct?

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right. I mean, we support a wide range of programs through the Justice Center that cover a whole host of different issue areas. Employment is just one of many programs that we’ve undertaken. We address health problems, behavioral health specifically, some mental health and substance abuse issues. We have a courts program. A lot of the justice reinvestment work going on across the country – so states reforming corrections policy comes through the Justice Center. We’ve had the opportunity to partner with a number of federal agencies, foundations, to kind of pursue a wide range of work through the Justice Center.

Len Sipes:  And American Probation and Parole Association is through the Council of State Governments correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct, good friends of ours, yeah.

Len Sipes:  Right, so you all are integrated. So that’s just one example. I mean, that is the leading national organization for those of us in Parole and Probation so it’s integrated. There’s just layer on top of layer in terms of what the Council of State Governments does and what the Justice Policy Center does.

Henry Rosen:  Correct. We’re definitely sort of corrections and courts and law enforcement and policy and APPA. They’re our go-to anything, supervision related.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now, let’s get into this issue of employment and people coming out of the prison system and employment of people who have never been in the prison system or who are on probation. First of all, the vast majority of people on community supervision, and we’re talking about 400,000 on any given day, correct? Out of the 7,000 people under, I’m sorry, it’s 7 million people under correctional supervision, 4 million are on parole and probation and there are far more than that under pre-trial supervision. We’re not even talking about those individuals today. So the concept of employing people who are on community supervision, those 4 million people, that’s an enormous undertaking, is it not?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah. Certainly. You know, I think one of the things that we see is you know, folks involved in the criminal justice system, whether they’re returning from incarceration, or under community supervision, the supervision officers and even the people themselves are prioritizing employment as sort of the key to staying crime free.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you know, we’ve been discussing this for years. I mean, there has been a lot of major initiatives, the department of labor, lots of other organizations have tried this concept in the past, and the results have been confusing. So talk to me about that. I mean, everybody, every politician in this country will say the best way of stopping people from going back to the criminal justice system is a job, but the research doesn’t necessarily say that. Correct, or incorrect?

Henry Rosen:  That’s correct.

Phoebe Potter:  Right, so I think that one of our goals with this project was to take a more nuanced look at that relationship between recidivism or the likelihood of people reoffending when they’re back out from prison or jail, and employment. And what role does employment play in keeping people crime free? And I think one of the main myths that we want to distill through this is that just job acquisition alone, just placing somebody in a job is going to be some sort of silver bullet for reducing recidivism. And so how can we better understand what it is about employment that matters and what other things we need to deal with to promote successful reentry. And that’s one of the big goals of this project.

Len Sipes:  So, I’m assuming somewhere along the line your partners, who are your partners on this project?

Henry Rosen:  The project is funded by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Annie E. Casey Foundation and we also partner closely and get guidance from the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, and then Mindy Tarlow, the Chief Executive Officer from Center for Employment Opportunities was a huge partner and help in this, along with Sheila McGuire and there’s another advisory committee that we work with – folks who work in the Corrections and Reentry field as well as the Work Force Development and Policy field and some researchers, both from non-profit organizations, actually working for corrections agencies as well as social science research organizations.

Len Sipes:  Here’s my assumption. Everybody was sitting at a table several years ago and said, and took a look at the existing research regarding people coming out of the prison system, people on probation and recidivism and everybody sat there and said, “You know what, the research is confusing. These results are confusing. In some cases they work, in some cases they don’t work. In some cases where they work the rate of recidivism, the reduction just wasn’t that much. There has to be something nuanced to all of this. There has to be not just the placement of a job, but has to be more qualitative than quantitative and here, in the briefing sheet which you prepared for me, which I absolutely adore, you say there’s a much more nuanced relationship between employment and recidivism but things like job stability, satisfaction with employment, willingness to take low end jobs and to work up, and having realistic job expectations are related to recidivism. In short, it’s people’s attitudes about work that matter and if we don’t address anti-social attitudes, placing somebody in a job is not going to get us very good results. That seems to be the heart and soul behind the entire research in terms of its findings and in terms of its structure and in terms of its recommendations. Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, tell me about that.

Henry Rosen:  Well, I think, you know, in that assessment of what works to promote job readiness or connect someone to employment and reduce recidivism, the idea that those factors are important is not necessarily unique. What it actually comes from are guiding principles in the Corrections and Reentry field to help policy makers and folks working in Reentry make decisions about who to serve and what kinds of services they’re enrolled in to promote better outcomes. We call those the “risk, need, responsivity” principles. And those essentially say that there are some key variables, some criminogenic need, risk and need factors that are most associated with the likelihood to reoffend. And typically, you know, people might think that having a job or you know, a mental health need, or substance abuse need, or a housing need are the things that will help someone transition back into the community, but those principles actually suggest that it’s more along the lines of attitudes about crime, attitudes about work, you know, having pro-social relationships in the community, family ties, those sort of attitudes and behaviors are what are most closely linked to the likelihood of reoffending. And so instead, if we can work to address those attitudes and those behaviors and sort of those other stabilizing factors, then someone is more likely to be successful upon return as opposed to simply, you know, offering a job or a place to stay.

Len Sipes:  Phoebe, is sort of the whole idea here is that you know, it is a matter of that individual’s pro-social attitudes, how he or she sees a job, how he or she sees the employer, how he or she sees themselves, how he or she sees their own prospects?

Phoebe Potter:  Right, exactly, those attitudes and obviously those attitudes affect more than just work, right? And I think that’s why they’re so strongly prevalent in the research around what helps reduce recidivism. It’s just how somebody interacts in a pro-social environment and work is such a key component of that, that obviously in the employment field it really comes out that way.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so when you consider the fact that such a high number of offenders here, under Court Services and Offender Supervision, 14,000,  in any given year – in any given day, 24,000 any given year; we have a high number and so does the rest of the country, who have mental health issues. We have a high number and so does the rest of the country in terms of substance abuse issues. We have a high number with lousy job histories, bad school histories – so we’re talking about individuals who have a lot to deal with, whether they’re in prison or not, whether under community supervision or not. And so it’s just not a matter of the right attitude, it’s just not a matter of being pro-social about the job, it’s breaking through all of those barriers, all of that baggage that comes with that individual offender. Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah. I don’t think we’d ever say that, you know, in that regard, we’d never say employment, in and of itself, is a silver bullet. I think what we’re sort of getting at is, you do need to address some of those other issues and barriers that makes someone likely to be unsuccessful in other settings besides just the job setting. If you can help someone become successful, you know, connect with their family, develop a strong peer support network, and rethink sort of their attitudes about crime and behavior, then they’re gonna succeed in the job environment just as they will in the family environment or in the community.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now everybody here is looking forward to this interview in terms of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, because they want to know, we’re out there every day. I mean, on the front page of our website, our radio shows, television shows, We have radio shows, television shows, we’ve done articles, the Washington Post has covered us with front-page coverage. I mean, we’re trying to have this conversation with employers to get them to tell us what it is that we need to do, what it is the people under supervision need to do to make themselves become more employable. We’ve had a series of conversations with lots of employers over the course of years, we have our own vocational training staff, educational staff; we work, we do anger management, we do behavioral – I’m sorry, what am I looking for? – Cognitive behavioral therapy, Thinking for a Change. We’re doing all of that, and yet at the same time, our folks are saying, “But we still have to break through the barrier of the stereotypes of people who have criminal histories; having employers who are willing to give these individuals a second chance. That – they see that as the biggest problem. The lack of employers willing to provide a second chance. So they want to know, okay, they’ve read the report, they love what you’ve written, they’re very supportive of what you’ve done, but how, their question to you guys is, how do you break through that resistance barrier on the part of employers, their reluctance to hire people under supervision?

Phoebe Potter:  Right. So, you know, the white paper was written from a service and a programmatic perspective. Helping, kind of, practitioners and providers think about how to develop programming that addresses these factors that we’ve just been talking about, that we need to address. But obviously the piece you’re just talking about is critical, you know, counterpart to that. And we touch on it in the white paper a little bit, you know, about the issues of collateral consequences, they need to break down barriers to employment, engage employers. And what we’ve done, as part of this larger project, beyond writing the white paper, is actually developed some other resources and partner with other folks around that, you know, kind of other half of the problem. Almost the, you know, kind of the supply issue of which jobs are out there. And so that is something that we’re very, you know, attuned to. And I think the work that CSOSA has done around employer engagement is kind of a model that a lot of other jurisdictions should be looking at in terms of trying to break down the stigma, talk to employers about opportunities and engage them effectively. We’ve worked in New York State and they have a Work for Success initiative that’s doing similar work to engage employers, help them understand the legal rights of people coming out in terms of access to jobs, talking about incentives that are out there for employers such as the work opportunities, hacks, credit, federal bonding –

Len Sipes:  Right, bonding programs, yes.

Phoebe Potter:  So yeah, so all of those pieces we touch on in the white paper, but you know, I think our larger strategy in addressing this problem at the Justice Center goes beyond what we’ve done in the white paper, is tackling this issue of employer engagement.

Len Sipes:  Okay, because they want the next white paper to be on breaking down the barriers. Because, you know, I’ve talked to people under supervision who have been years away from their last criminal activity, years away from their last positive test for substance abuse; they’re completely compliant. They have skills, and they have an education and yet they can’t find work.

Phoebe Potter:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So there’s, you know, there are low hanging fruit in any population and we go after those first, because they’re the easiest to place, and yet you still talk to that person six months later without a job is frustrating ‘cause – so we formally ask you guys [Laughter], that the next white paper be on that particular topic. Before we get into the second half – the show is going by like wildfire, we want to reintroduce our guests. Ladies and gentlemen, we have Henry Rosen, Policy Analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments, Justice Center and Phoebe Potter, again, Senior Policy Analyst for the same organization, Council of State Governments,, We’re talking about a, what I consider to be a ground breaking piece of research. Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies from the Justice Center. The Council of State Governments will have links to all the documents within the show notes. So where do we go to from here? Let’s talk about this.

Reentry matters because, my God, there are 700,000 people being released from state and federal prisons every year, and an awful lot of those, 40 to 50% return to the prison system. The states can’t afford this rate of return. It has real implications for public safety, criminal victimization. We do believe that done right in terms of your recommendations, we could reduce that rate of recidivism considerably, correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct. That’s the hope, certainly.

Len Sipes:  So reentry does matter?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah, it certainly does. You know, I think that, you know, personally I’m from Montana. The state is barely a million people. When I hear stats about more than 600,000 people returning from incarceration, my God, that’s more than half my state. I can’t imagine that and I think, you know, folks are returning at such a high rate, they’re cycling in and out of jails at such a high rate, if there’s a way to sort of disrupt that cycle and provide the services and supports to make someone successful, I mean, the benefits of employment in that sense are sort of endless. You’re providing someone with a means to support their family and contribute to a tax base, and likewise keeping them out of a very costly system that ends up being you know, on average, the fourth largest line item in any state’s budget.

Len Sipes:  Fewer people being victimized, literally, the possibility of saving billions of dollars at the state level and the federal level in terms of people not coming back to the criminal justice system. So the secret sauce in all of this is what? What we talked about before, a nuanced approach to the employment issue.

Phoebe Potter:  So you know, I think we talked about kind of having a nuanced appreciation for what employment can do to help reduce recidivism and some of the takeaways from that conversation are that, one, is be part of a more kind of comprehensive strategy to adjust to the pretty complex needs of this population and we touched on the fact that there’s mental health problems and substance abuse and housing and there’s a lot of dynamic needs that all interact with each other, really. So employment is one part of the puzzle. And the other part that we talked about, right, is that employment is not just about job acquisition, it’s about understanding how employment is really kind of a tool to help people connect with pro-social, you know, associates and the community. And so it’s about people’s attitudes towards jobs, if people want to see them be successful.

Len Sipes:  But how do you get them to the point where they have the right attitudes?

Henry Rosen:  So, I think one of the things that we proposed and outlined in our paper and as an agency at the Justice Center, we are strong advocates of is enrolling people in services that like cognitive behavioral therapy, like Thinking for Change, programs that are aimed at restructuring those attitudes about you know, their peer relations, about crime, and towards the community. And so for those who are most likely to reoffend, if you’re providing them or if you’re placing them into services that offer that opportunity, that offer opportunities for social learning, to practice the skills, you know; how to interact with co0workers, how to interact with peers, how to interact with your family, that’s going to improve the likelihood that they’ll be successful, whether it’s an employment program or some other kind of service, they’ll sort of be armed with the skills to succeed in that scenario. So what we’re really trying to get the field to think about is how you identify people with the greatest need in that area, and then sequence and build services that address those needs, or address those issues.

So the highest risk folks, who are sort of, you know, the most anti-social, the hardest to work with typically, they will benefit most from intensive behavior change type services, coupled with job readiness services. Things that promote soft skills. “Why should I be to work on time? How do I interact with my coworkers?” You know? “What’s the value of doing an exceptional job versus the bare minimum?” Things that, you know, promote sort of positive workplace attitudes and behaviors. Focus on those things for the high risk folks, who are less job ready. For the individuals who are not high risk, who have strong relations with their family, have had, you know, held a job prior to their incarceration, maybe have completed some level of college education or technical vocational school, they don’t necessarily need those same kind of intensive services. They’ll likely do very well on their own, but they will need support from you know, the workforce development field or their supervision officer in terms of breaking down those barriers you mentioned earlier about “why should I hire someone with a criminal record?” They don’t need those services, they need someone to help them sort of navigate those challenges of communicating their record and finding the right job for them, as opposed to the more intensive behavior, change based services.

Len Sipes:  So Phoebe, it’s a matter of picking the right person through a needs analysis, a risk and needs analysis, to figure out who this person is, what that person needs, to give that person an appropriate level of intervention. But that appropriate level of intervention could be fairly complex. I mean, it could be a GED, which is complex unto itself. For a person who doesn’t know how to read, they’re not going to do well on the job. So it can go there. To job training, which is complex and very difficult and expensive, but all that needs to be wrapped up in a cognitive, behavioral therapy like Thinking for a Change. Basically, rearranging that person’s attitudes towards, maybe, authority figures? Right?

Phoebe Potter:  Yeah, that’s right. And these aren’t simple strategies, you know? When you’re talking about your highest risk, highest needs populations, but to Hank’s point, you know, our goal with the white paper and what we were seeing in the field and trying to address is that a lot of jurisdictions are using a one-size-fits-all model. Which means your resources are probably too intensive for a lot of people and not intensive enough for a lot of people, so you’re not getting, really, any benefits across the board. So how can we restructure the way we triage our resources in a way that, you know, we’re kind of pouring more resources into those more intensive services, but only for the population that needs it, and defining that more clearly and then reducing the number of services that go to the lower risk, lower need population. Which, you know, not only do they not necessarily need, we’ve actually seen through the research can be made worse off if they’re provided too intensive service, they’re put in programming that aren’t appropriate.  And so it’s not, you know, necessarily about needing a lot more resources, it’s about changing the way we triage our resources that we do have to get a bigger impact and that’s a big goal of the white paper.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s what I’m hearing from American Parole, Probation and Parole Association, what I’m hearing from the Council of State Governments, what I’m hearing is, “Focus your resources on your high risk individuals and scale down for everybody else.” But that’s assuming that the criminal justice system is supple enough, sophisticated enough, to employ those sort of strategies. I mean, we are the criminal justice system. We’re not exactly known for our nuanced approach to anything. It is a great, big, moving, giant blob that has its own speed and has its own attitudes and being that precise is not necessarily our forte, but that’s what you’re saying to us. We need to be far more nuanced and use tax paid dollars in the best possible way.

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right, but I think we’ve seen a lot of advancements in the corrections field in the last, you know, five, ten years, around the use of risk assessment especially to be smarter about how we triage our resources and who we place in programs and you know, I think a big part of that has been the support the Second Chance Act has put out in the field, kind of promoting these principles for a long time now and giving a lot of jurisdictions the resources to start to invest in these investment tools and case management strategies that we’re talking about. You know, and Second Chance Act reauthorization out now, we’re really excited about the opportunity to kind of build on that progress that we’ve seen. But it’s not simple and one of the things that the white paper does that is kind of taking it a step beyond just risk assessment, we’re also kind of asking the field to be more kind of sophisticated in the use of job readiness assessment too. So not just knowing the risk level of an individual, but also better appreciating, “What are their job readiness needs as well, from a work force perspective?” And so that is a little bit new, I think, in terms of what we’re asking the field to look at and do.

Len Sipes:  I’m reading from your briefing notes. So the key takeaway from all of this is that we can’t treat all individuals in the same way. Now the criminal justice system is famous for that. I mean, every person with a substance abuse problem goes in a group, and it’s one group and there’s one formula and there’s one way. It doesn’t matter what drug of choice, how long they’ve been using, their age, their complexity, whether they’re a high risk or low risk, everybody goes to a group because that’s all we have the capacity to do. Part of this is a matter of us, in the criminal justice system, understanding the nuances. Part of it is money. Part of it is the fact that we have to have dollars to back up what it is that we do, correct? And dollars are hard to come by nowadays.

Henry Rosen:  Yeah, I think that’s a major concern of folks working in this field and you know, especially and including the workforce development field. I think a lot of work force development practitioners are very eager to learn about effective strategies they can use when working with ex-offenders and you know, the services that NIC offers to that end are phenomenal, they do great work. I know that work force investment; membership agencies out there are looking for new ways to tackle those issues. And one thing that we’re hoping to say is, you know, given the pot of money that you have, if you use a risk assessment to identify the risk and need level of individuals, the highest risk folks, the lowest risk folks, and then needs related to their recidivism, and then you layer that in with the job readiness and employability assessments that the Workforce Development Practitioners are using, you can begin to understand of that $1,000 you have to spend, you should be spending $500 on these two people, you know, $100 on these two people, and then you know, the rest of the money, whatever else you’re doing. And obviously I’m not very great at math on the fly. But the point being that essentially –

Len Sipes:  Close enough.

Henry Rosen:  You know, the people who need that $500 a day program are, those have got to be your high risk, high need folks that have the employment need as well as the job readiness need, whereas the lower risk folks, they’re not going to benefit as much from that intensive service and so it’s not necessarily important that you put a lot of money into that service for them.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Phoebe Potter:  I do think it’s worth noting that, you know, we’re not asking for every agency that’s working with this population out there to go out and buy a risk assessment tool tomorrow. A lot of this is going to be accomplished through better collaboration with key partners and most major corrections agencies at this point are using some level of risk assessment, you know, the sophistication of the risk assessment tool might vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but ultimately, you know, if you’re a community provider, you know, listening to this right now and kind of panicking about the need to invest in a bunch of assessment tools, chances are your corrections agency, you know, in your jurisdiction has some of that information that you can tap into if you develop those partnerships. And that’s another big thing that has been pushed with Second Chance Act, is increasing the collaboration. So from a resource perspective, you know, I think partnerships are a key way to getting this done.

Henry Rosen:  That’s exactly right. You know, it think probation and parole officers will have an offenders case plan and it may have the risk assessment information on that case plan, but if you’re a workforce development practitioner or some other reentry service provider, you’ll have no idea what those numbers mean. So it’s really sort of up to those two agencies to come together and understand what that information means, and how to use it to drive decision-making.

Len Sipes:  We only have a minute left. I want to get this message across to the aide of the mayor of Milwaukee and the aid to the governor in Oklahoma and they’re listening to this program because they’re searching for information about employment and the criminal offender population. If done well, this can work. That’s what I get from your paper. We can be far more effective if we used a nuanced approach and we couple all these different programs with programs that help that person think better, be better, perform better while on the job. So it’s the attitude that becomes the crucial component of all this.

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right.

Henry Rosen:  Definitely.

Phoebe Potter:  This is founded, you know, this framework we’ve presented is founded on years of research and we’ve seen programs that have started to take this integrated approach have significant impacts on recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about that.

Phoebe Potter:  Sure, you know, at the beginning of the show, Hank mentioned that Mindy Tarlow for the center of employment opportunities was a key partner on this project. CEO operates the Transitional Jobs Program that has done a great job of integrating, you know, the kind of those risk, need, responsivity principles we talked about. Focusing on high risk people, and addressing criminogenic needs in a wrap around approach that goes beyond just job acquisition. So really building skills and you know, we’re evaluating and found that they did have significant impacts on recidivism among that high risk population. So kind of demonstrating the importance of focusing on high risk and also the need to have that wrap around approach. So we are seeing results that this can work.

Henry Rosen:  Right? And the way they did that is they had, they placed people into work crews, where they were trained on the skills they needed. They had sort of a work crew manager, almost like a peer leader, who sort of navigated them through the work process and they provided an opportunity to sort of practice those good, workplace behaviors on the job and debrief on that afterwards, and that was really effective.

Len Sipes:  Well, we’re leaving everybody with a note of hope in terms of this and this is something that I think all of us in the criminal justice system are really looking at with great joy, because we think this provides us with a roadmap that maybe we didn’t have that clear of a roadmap before. “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”, ladies and gentlemen, is the name of the research. I’ll have the notes within the show notes as to the exact address for that document, or you can go to , the Justice Center, the Council of State Governments. Our guests today have been Henry Rosen, Policy Analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments, and Phoebe Potter, again, Senior Policy Analyst for the same organization. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Youthful Offenders – 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

Television program available at…-public-safety/

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is on youthful offenders, and there’s a lot of research in parole and probation, and parole and probation caseloads, but two factors seem to be the most important – one, focus on the high risk offender with supervision and treatment and two, focus on youthful offenders, because the gain to public safety could be significant. Our guests today on the first half are Jim Cosby – he is the Chief Community Services Division for the National Institute of Corrections and Dr. Lisa Rawlings, a special assistant to the director of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And to Lisa and Jim, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lisa Rawlings: Thank you.

Jim Cosby: Thank you.

Len Sipes: I can’t think of a more important topic than youthful offenders. It seems to be where all of us are going, criminologically speaking. It seems to be where corrections and community corrections especially is going. So Lisa, we have a new initiative here, within our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, focusing on youthful offenders, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Correct. As you mentioned, we focused on high risk and really making sure that we deploy our resources to the offenders who have the highest risk and we found that the young adults, the 25 and under population really are over-represented in this high risk population, so it’s important to focus on them for that reason, because they require more supervision resources and they’re really not getting the outcomes based on all this investment. And then two, I really appreciate you mentioning the importance of the, the importance of the impact on the public good and that we really can arrest this criminality at a younger age. We really can have a long-term benefits down the road.

Len Sipes: Well, Jim, considering that this population is most criminogenic between the ages of 15 and 25, if you can meaningfully impact the youthful offender, if you can get him off of that offending track, that drugs and crime track and get him into more productive activates, there’s the process, there’s the possibility of literally saving society from thousands upon thousands of crimes, correct?

Jim Cosby: Oh, absolutely. I think, you know, the best thing that we can do is divert those that we can safely divert from the system. You know, the research now demonstrates that, you know, first and foremost you have to assess the offender so that you know what you’re dealing with and you have to then set up your interventions, like Dr. Rawlings talked about. You have to be able to target those interventions on those high risk offenders and then you need to be able to case manage those folks and have the appropriate interventions delivered in a timely way with the correct amount of dosage.

Len Sipes: Lisa, what we’re doing in the pilot program, we’re going to eventually move all of this over to a full-fledged program for all younger offenders, but at the moment, we have a pilot program in two districts and we are trying to assist them, both in terms of supervision, providing accountability, and treatment at the same time. Correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And what’s been unique about this approach is we’re not just piloting an approach to supervising young adults, but we’re also looking at how we are working together as a team. And so the teams are very integrated. We have our treatment specialists and our vocation and educational staff working alongside the community supervision officers to really provide a very holistic approach, to understand this young person as an entire person. And so that we’re not just focusing on them as a case, but as an individual. And we named our pilot program “Young Adult Initiative” rather than “Youthful Offender” because we thought it was important to make sure that we did not label these young people at a very early age. That we look at them as a person, a whole person, and we focus on their potential and try to support that.

Len Sipes: Is that the key issue? Because so many individuals caught up in the criminal justice system, they were used to being round peg, round hole. They’re used to a system where they, people have low expectations, people honestly don’t care about them, and they really don’t get treatment, they really don’t get services. People are so willing to write off individuals at a very early age and I think that’s the age where we can capture them, that’s the age where we can divert them. I think the strength of our program is taking a look at these individuals as individuals rather than just a class of people.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And all of the staff have been hand-picked to work on this initiative, have been especially trained on a model that takes this approach. It’s called the “Good Lives Model”. It really focuses on a holistic approach.

Len Sipes: Well, let me go over to Jim in terms of the research, because NIC, first of all, the National Institute of Corrections is the premier agency in terms of telling the rest of us throughout the country what it is that we should do. Assessing an individual becomes extraordinarily important, making sure that you have the right person. Because, you know, we don’t want to put too many resources into lower level offenders, correct? We want to focus on higher risk offenders, and then I want to get over to either one of you as to why younger people are falling into that high risk category, but that’s the first thing, right? With no – not an overwhelming amount of resources on low risk offenders.

Jim Cosby: That’s right. I mean, agencies today are strapped financially. There’s just not enough resources to go around, so we’ve used the science to really begin to determine who we should focus our resources on. And again, it is the high risk, medium to high risk offenders, that’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Focusing on those individuals is going to get you a lower return of recidivism, which means fewer crimes in the community. Fewer crimes in the community means improvement in public safety.

Len Sipes: The question is, I suppose, whether or not you’re focusing on a person that you believe, through various risk assessment tools, is out there committing four or five crimes a year, versus those people who are committing 40, 50, 60 crimes a year. You want to go after those high risk offenders, target them, and bring down those rates of recidivism.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And when you talked about the high risk – you know, 85% of our population of 25 and under are screened into these highest risk categories.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Think about that for a second. 85%! So that goes to my second question, why? Criminologically speaking, I think I know the answer, but I want to get your answer. Why do so many people fall into that high risk category? Does it simply come with the territory because of age?

Lisa Rawlings: Well, there are a number of things. We talked with our staff, who’ve been working with this population. We also held focus groups with some of the young adults to really learn more about their experiences on supervision and some of the drivers for this. And we also kind of did some analysis of the characteristics of this population to really understand a little bit more about what was happening. And we were finding that according to our staff, they have many specialized needs. That there’s a lot of trauma that’s been unaddressed; that they have poor experience with structure and don’t have enough role models, and that they’re often involved in many multiple systems, social services systems, and there needs to be a better sense of collaboration. But that they also, at 20, at 25 and under, haven’t really developed the maturity level to really handle all of these competing demands and also some of the trauma and emotional challenges that they have experienced.

Len Sipes: Jim, before the program we were talking about the National Institute of Corrections and other agencies developing tools and those tools were improving all the time in terms of assessing high risk, younger individuals, in terms of programs to provide assistance, and/or supervision. And that these tools are getting better, these programs are getting better and hopefully we’re going to have a better impact in terms of public safety, in terms of cost effectiveness. Some of these programs, done well – there was a recent piece of research on doing construction sort of training, occupational training within prison systems throughout the country – and they said that you can basically have a program that pays for itself with a two to three percent reduction in recidivism. So part of this is dealing with the taxpayers unwillingness to fund more programs, part of this is dealing with the taxpayers willingness to have programs to protect the public safety, and part of this is a lot of people’s concern, that we’ve got to start doing a better job of helping individuals under supervision. So clarify that for me.

Jim Cosby: Well, what you’re really talking about is the heart of the Justice Reinvestment Act. And what the Justice Reinvestment Act says is that we’re going to give you the science, we’re going to give you the implementation, we’re going to give you the tools at the state, local level, to teach you how to better manage offenders. And those reductions in recidivism, which equals public safety improvements in our view, is that simply you get a savings that should be then reinvested back into the programs, that are actually helping reduce the recidivism and the crime to begin with. So that’s the entire package behind justice reinvestment and it’s proving very successful. The assessment process, the case management process, the interventions that are made, the amount of time that the officer spends with the particular individual is key. You know, we’re no longer really – and the science today is no longer really driving us towards an adversary relationship between the officer and the individual, under supervision. What it is, it should be an engagement with that individual. It should be a piece where that officer is working to make that individual successful. Because when the offender succeeds, we improve public safety.

Len Sipes: And one of the things, one of the points that I did want to make, Lisa, through a question to you, is that virtually everything that Jim is saying we incorporate in terms of our day to day activities, correct? In terms of having that constructive relationship with the person under supervision, doing that assessment, having a pretty thorough sense as to who that person is, what their potential is, where they’re going. We do all of that. That’s the point that I want to make here, right?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And that was a big part of the design of this initiative in that we wanted to do all that, but do it in an expedited fashion, because we knew that we were losing these young adults a little quicker than we were the older population and so we really focused on shortening the time frames for the assessment, streamlining and expediting the interventions and then again, working as a holistic team, so we’re not just focused on their supervision requirement. But what are some of their needs and challenges and how can we support and facilitate them in their success.

Len Sipes: One of the challenges, I think, is their age. I used to work with kids on the street in the city of Baltimore, as a gang counselor. I’ve run groups in prison systems. A challenging population. A lot of them came from backgrounds, as you mentioned a little while ago, Lisa, that aren’t the best. Disadvantaged backgrounds – a lot of them had a single parent, sometimes that single parent wasn’t available. Sometimes they come out with chips on their shoulders, very large chips on their shoulders. This is not the easiest population to deal with, but the potential for productivity and public safety is enormous.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And we really wanted to make sure that we were able to have staff who really understood that and were interested and really motivated to work with this population, because building rapport is going to be the biggest part of the success of this initiative.

Len Sipes: And that’s, we’ve trained our staff to do just that in terms of how to build rapport, how to break through the barriers, how to do cognitive, behavioral therapy, which is basically thinking for a change. And all of that, Jim, is once again backed up by the research.

Jim Cosby: It is. And the engagement that we’re talking about here really goes to the heart of the matter, about changing behavior. You know, Dr. Rawlings’ officers cannot change someone else’s behavior. I can’t make you change, you can’t make me change. What I can do is provide you with the opportunity and the treatment to help you want to change for yourself. And when that happens, you get a lot of bang for the buck and you get a lot of improvement in public safety.

Len Sipes: But too many times in the past we’ve given up. Too many times in the past we’ve said recidivism rates for younger offenders, for high risk…

Jim Cosby: Well, this is not a throw-away population, though. I mean, and that’s part of the problem that we face.

Len Sipes: That’s such a good point.

Jim Cosby: This is not a throw-away population.

Len Sipes: That’s such a good point.

Jim Cosby: These are youthful offenders, you know, these are people that are going to be our citizens and continue to be our citizens in this country. WE can’t throw this population away.

Len Sipes: So we have to bring the very best, the state of the art, we have to bring our “A” games to this particular population because of that particular reason. These individuals are our future. Either we can, they can spend the rest of their lives behind bars, or they can spend their lives being taxpayers and productive citizens, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. At CSOSA we’re really invested in making sure that we recognize that this is not a throw-away population and we really invest the best of what we know will work. And we did that in our pilot phase so that we could really refine it and tweak it before we roll it out to the entire population, but we have a very motivated, well experienced, well trained staff that are involved in this. They’ve been trained – again, like I said – especially on this holistic model.

Len Sipes: They volunteer for this, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: They volunteered to do this because many of them have had experience working with youth.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Lisa Rawlings: And then they’re working alongside other professionals who are treatment specialists, they have social workers and they have behavioral health backgrounds and educational backgrounds to really bring all the resources together in a very coordinated fashion, to serve these young people.

Len Sipes: We’ve got 30 seconds. Jim, do you have anything else to add?

Jim Cosby: I would just say one last thing is that I think the program that they have at CSOSA is really exciting. We have 70% of the offender population in the community and we get 30% of the resources. We’ve got to apply more resources to this population so that we don’t have a throw-away generation.

Len Sipes: Jim, I love that point of view, and you’ve got the final word for the first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, watch it for the second segment, as we have two individuals who are community supervision officers known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, who supervise this particular, young adult population. They’re going to be here, talking about their experiences, please stay with us.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes: Hi, welcome back to DC Public Safety, I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, continuing our discussion on youthful offenders. We have two new guests with us who spend their day to day lives dealing with helping with supervising people in supervision – youthful offenders. Stephanie Thompson is a community supervision officer with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And Christopher Barno is a treatment specialist, again, with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and to Chris and to Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Stephanie Thompson: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Stephanie, you spent 17 years in two agencies, doing community supervision work and you volunteered for this particular population, so tell me why you volunteered to work one of the toughest gigs in parole and probation?

Stephanie Thompson: Well, I have to say, prior to coming to CSOSA, when I was working with at risk youth, I was able to work with them closely and I saw a need that they weren’t getting prior to coming into the group home. And then as I left there and I applied for CSOSA and became a CSO, I was seeing some of those same kids that I cared for come through the building and it just made me realize that there was still some work needed to be done. And I actually enjoy working with the population that so many people may feel like it’s the hardest – but I actually enjoy getting through to them and helping them to succeed outside of what some people may think. There are actually a lot of success stories in reference to the young adults.

Len Sipes: I find dealing with them fascinating and Chris, the second question goes to you – as a treatment specialist, tell me, you are involved in what we call cognitive behavioral therapy, Thinking for a Change. You arrange, you do the assessments, you do referrals in terms of substance abuse, mental health. Tell me about your role?

Christopher Barno: Well, I mean in the first segment, you know, we heard about all the science that goes behind what makes this work. Well we bring the art to the science with the treatment, with the different interventions that we are able to provide to the young adults. And so with that, that’s the treatment specialist’s role.

Len Sipes: It’s interesting because we talk, at the headquarters level at our agency, and I interact with people throughout the country, and it’s all talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, because we’re not doing what you’re doing. I remember doing what you’re doing. It’s hard. It’s interesting, it’s challenging. I think, when I was a gang counselor in the streets of the city of Baltimore, I was never happier, out with the kids, on Friday night, on Saturday night, on Sunday night. But it was very volatile. At the same time, it broke my heart because I saw so many individuals who had clear potential for being a law abiding citizen, basically decided to toss that off to the side, and I always said that’s because of their upbringing, their lack of respect for themselves, their lack of respect for the world around them, and the fact that nobody ever gave them a chance. If you provide them with a real chance – not just treatment, because it has to be supervision, but if you combine the two, can we make a difference?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, I believe we do. We can make a difference. I feel that if you, first of all if you’re really sincere and passionate about what you’re doing, all the other barriers won’t be a problem, you’re going to continue to try to press on and find a way to break through with the young adults. I think the fact that we have a treatment specialist on site, we have a psychologist on site, as well as our co-workers who help one another, just not with your particular caseload, but we help each other with everyone’s case load. And so it’s like a sense of family- the community. You know how they say “it takes a community to raise a child” – well, we’re like that kind of community, where it takes all of us to help this young adult and in doing so we have found, you know, quite a few turnarounds. There’s probably about seven young adults that I know of personally who are extending their education to college. They’re actually enrolled in college. Some of them didn’t think they were going to be able to get into college because of their background, their criminal background. But just to know that, you know, to tell them to try, no matter what the barriers are and actually seeing that it was, they were able to get in it is just, brightens up their day and it shows that they can still be a law abiding citizen and go to school and make a career in something that they choose.

Len Sipes: But, what I, the term that I’ve used, Chris, this question’s going to go to you – the term that I’ve used in the past is a “chip on your shoulder the size of Montana”. A lot of the individuals, younger, especially the younger individuals, they have – they’re very cynical. I’ve always said there’s nothing more cynical than reporters, street cops and young offenders. No particular group. They don’t like the world, they don’t trust the world, they don’t trust you. They don’t trust me. They don’t trust anybody. They don’t trust the clergy, they don’t trust the president, they don’t trust the Pope, they don’t trust anybody except their peers and their own family members. Am I in the ballpark, right or wrong?

Christopher Barno: 100% correct. But I think one of the things that we really try to instill in these young adults is a sense of hope. But we don’t just talk about it, we actually are providing opportunities for these young men and it’s contagious. You know, they talk amongst themselves, they talk with their peers, you know, in the lobbies of the different field sites, and you know, when one person gets an opportunity, his friend, his peer says, “I want that same opportunity.” And so it spreads. And it spreads like wildfire. And that’s what we’re beginning to really see with the young adults. As opportunities are being afforded to these young men, and they’re having success, their sense of hope, their sense of pride, their esteem is just going through the roof. And it’s making all the difference in these young men’s lives.

Len Sipes: And you know, it’s just so ridiculously important to me, when we’re talking about this particular population. Jim on the first half said, “They’re not a throw-away population.” For too many years, society has treated this population as a throw-away population. Reporters I talk to are very cynical about our chances. People that I talk to are very cynical. And not necessarily our program here, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, but all high risk, young offender programs. Because they’ve seen programs in the past that haven’t worked all that well. Jim and Lisa really hammered home the fact that we’re running a state-of-the-art program with state-of-the-art tools. Do you think we have the tools? Do you think we have the wherewithal to be successful? Can we give hope to the naysayers?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, I believe we can give hope to the naysayers. If you really, if you were able to spend one day to kind of like see what we do, you will see that the holistic approach that we have is very helpful. For instance, when Chris was talking about the, having some type of – it’s contagious, when they find out one person’s doing one thing, they want to do it. I totally agree, because we have a Copper Cabling program that a lot of our offenders from the ages of 19 to 21, that they’re able to participate in. And they love it.

Len Sipes: What program? I’m sorry – the what?

Stephanie Thompson: The Copper Cabling program.

Len Sipes: Really? A vocational program?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes. And I actually went there, I actually was able to observe some of the young adults and they loved it. They loved the fact that we were even there to observe them in the program. And when they hear about it, then I have the other young adults, “Well, you know, this person said I’m here, can you get me in here?” I’m like, “Yes.” But we try to prepare them. “When you get in, you want to stay in. You need to focus.” And a lot of times a lot of those young adults don’t have any time management. They’re not disciplined. And we try to help them to learn about time management and being disciplined. So we hold them accountable for their actions but yet give them that guidance.

Len Sipes: Well, Christopher, I think that’s – bouncing off of what Stephanie just said, is that, again, in many cases they’re not dot your i, cross your t, very precise sort of people. They have to learn time management, they have to learn, in some cases, basic social skills. And in some cases, they’ve got to learn that when a boss jumps their derriere that they can’t react negatively or they’re going to get fired – stuff that we were all taught as children, they haven’t been taught. Am I right or wrong?

Christopher Barno: 100% correct. And that’s why the team approach is so important in what we do, because not only do we have the supervision officers, we have the treatment specialists, we have the educational specialists, we have the employment specialists all working with these young men and because the way that they’re supervised on such a more intensive level, they’re at the office more, they have more contact with all the different team members. So we’re able to really get a chance to know these guys in a more personal level and really understand what it is that they need to be successful out in the community.

Len Sipes: What is the most important thing for their success, as far as you’re concerned, when taking a look at an individual? What is the key to their success?

Stephanie Thompson: Well, we would definitely want to reduce recidivism, within the District of Columbia, but getting their GED and their high school diploma, that’s one of the major components.

Len Sipes: Okay, because that’s a bridge to help them cross to the other side.

Stephanie Thompson: Exactly. And a lot of them don’t realize that if they just get that high school diploma, GED, it will open doors for a lot of other things. And then you have those barriers where they may have some type of educational disability that they’re afraid to mention, but once you get that rapport with them and they open up, you’re able to better assist them and because we have everyone right there on site, they don’t have to go into a room of people where they’re unfamiliar with and feel like they can’t open up. They feel a little more safe and that the confidentiality is going to stay within the room.

Len Sipes: Years ago, somebody mentioned to me, and I experienced it when I was working with younger offenders, and you tell me if I’m right or wrong, so many of them were covering up for fear. So many of them were covering up bad experiences in the past and in fact, some of the toughest people that I was ever around were some of the most fearful. Is that still correct?

Christopher Barno: Still correct.

Stephanie Thompson: They’re afraid to be successful amongst their peers and we’re trying to teach them how to you know, think beyond that. And that’s part of the reason why we had the challenge to change groups, where it’s trying to help them change the way they think. And there’s different phases to that and once they complete that, if it’s some criminal thinking that they need to work on, they’ll go into that program, or if they’re actually involved in educational vocational. So we keep track of where they are and try to slowly but surely, depending on the time that they have, try to get them when they are out in the community. They can be successful. And pray and hope that they won’t return back into probation.

Len Sipes: Sure. But Chris, the treatment component, we have the resources available for this particular population?

Christopher Barno: Yes, I believe we do. And it’s more than just the substance abuse resources, it’s the educational resources, it’s the employment resources that are available and the opportunities for these young men. And that’s what’s making the difference for these young men that are beginning to succeed and excel where they haven’t had opportunities or made any real progress in the past.

Len Sipes: And once we get beyond the pilot program phase, it will be young women involved in the program.

Stephanie Thompson: I hope so. I’m sure.

Len Sipes: Which we do have young female high risk offenders?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes. We do, and we’re not ignoring them, but like you said, this is a pilot phase.

Len Sipes: It’s a pilot program, we’re just starting and we’re getting our feet wet and then we’re going to be moving on to everybody else.

Stephanie Thompson: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the key issue with so many of the women offenders that I’ve talked to before, coming from tough backgrounds and they’re very vocal about those tough backgrounds. I mean, when I interview them for the radio show, I compare it to standing in front of a shotgun. Where the guys are reserved and don’t talk about it, the women offenders, boom, they’ve just put it on the line in terms of their own backgrounds and it’s horrific. Working through those horrific backgrounds must take a toll on you personally, I think? Does it?

Stephanie Thompson: It does, but at the same time, I try not to focus on their, the charges that they have. I try to focus on the individual in front of me and I try to leave that behind, just focus on what we’re going to do now. What’s your goals now? And try to get them to think beyond getting off supervision. The majority of them are like, “I just want to get off supervision.” So try to get them to think beyond getting off supervision. What are you going to do once you get off supervision?

Len Sipes: What’s your game plan for life?

Stephanie Thompson: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And Chris, that’s how we have to approach this. It’s not while you’re under our supervision. What are the coping skills, what are the tools that you’re going to employ a year and a half after you get off of supervision?

Christopher Barno: And I’m always having that conversation with the young men and I tell them, you know, “One day your supervision’s going to end and you’re not going to come back to CSOSA.” You know, they smile at me. And I say, “But it’s going to be realistic, it’s going to happen. And we need to have some things in place for you so that when that day comes, you’re going to be ready.” You know, whether it’s furthering your education, gainful employment, meaningful employment, – a career. So you know, it’s really about, again, what I mentioned earlier. Instilling a sense of hope in these young men so that they can see that there’s more to life than just being on supervision.

Len Sipes: It’s a matter of reshaping young lives rather than simply incarcerating young lives.

Christopher Barno: Yes, that’s 100% correct.

Len Sipes: It is. You’re reshaping individuals . And that’s tough to do. That’s hard to do, but I would imagine if anybody can do it, we can because of our resources and smaller case loads.

Stephanie Thompson: Correct.

Len Sipes: I mean, most parole and probation agencies are not equipped to deal with what it is that we’re doing. I mean, most parole and probation agencies would throw them out into the community and say, “Go to here for your anger management and go to there in terms of substance abuse.” We pretty much provide that in-house to a large degree.

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, and that’s a significant part of the young adult program, is that when you’re in like general supervision, you have to refer them outside for these resources, but to actually be right here. And then you have issues with transportation as well. So to actually have it right in-house will help a lot and I believe that helps with the young adults to feel like they do have a chance to really succeed.

Len Sipes: And Chris, doesn’t it say to them that if we’re doing it in-house and packaging it all together and everybody else is talking to each other, then they really do have an opportunity to succeed?

Christopher Barno: 100% again, correct. I mean, it’s really – the other thing that it helps them see is that, you know, they see all of us on a regular basis. They’re not going to different field sites, they’re not going to different places in the community to get the services that they need. It’s all right there.

Len Sipes: And Chris, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching this program on dealing with youthful offenders. Watch for us next time as we look at another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]