Archives for August 2014

Human Trafficking-The Urban Institute

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s show examines human trafficking. Research shows that there’s a common misperception about human trafficking. Most believe that it’s something that happens predominately outside of the US, not in our own backyards. Research from the Urban Institute tells us why so many human trafficking cases slip through the justice system and where new efforts could make a difference. Our guest today is Colleen Owens. She is a Research Associate with the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center where she directs several national and international research projects on human trafficking spanning eight countries and five continents. She currently leads a National Institute of Justice study to examine the organization, operation, and victimization of trafficking in the Unites States. Colleen Owens, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Colleen Owens:  Thank you very much for having me.

Len Sipes:  Colleen, this is just an extraordinarily important topic, because as I told you before we hit the record button, I was talking to a friend of mine who said, “What’s the topic of today’s radio show?” and I said, “Human trafficking in the Unites States.” And he said, “Human trafficking in the Unites States; is there human trafficking in the Unites States?” So answer the question for my friend.

Colleen Owens:  Yes, absolutely. There is human trafficking in the United States. I think unfortunately that’s not an uncommon reaction. I think it happens more than people realize. And there are reasons why a lot of people in the United States don’t think that it actually happens here. The way that I often describe it is that it’s sort of hidden in plain sight and that even cases that do come forward and are identified by our criminal justice system will still become hidden in the criminal justice system later on. And we can get into reasons why that is.

Len Sipes:  If you take a look at the research on rape, and it’s something undoubtedly that you have and I know Urban has over the course of years, it’s so underreported. I would imagine this equals that degree of non-reporting.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly. And I think there are differences when you look at sex trafficking versus labor trafficking, both of which happen in the United States, and no community is immune to it. But what we found in our research is that very low percentages of victims actually self-identify and come forward to law enforcement and report themselves as being victimized by labor or sex trafficking, and there are a lot of reasons why that is. So for sex trafficking victims, for example, they might perceive themselves to actually complicit in the crime of prostitution. They might view themselves, instead of being victims, they might view themselves as being criminals, violating our prostitution laws, regardless of the fact that they’re forced or that there’s fraud or coercion used to compel them into that.

Len Sipes:  So they see themselves as vulnerable to the criminal justice system. They don’t see the criminal justice system as being necessarily on their side. They see them as potentially victims of the criminal justice system.

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. That’s part of it, the other issue is, so both US citizen victims as well as foreign nationals in our country are victimized by labor and sex trafficking. And so for US citizen victims they don’t have the issue that, for example, foreign nationals might have where they might be undocumented either prior to the trafficking or as a result of the trafficking they become undocumented, and so they might fear that coming forward would mean that they’d be put in jail for being undocumented.

Len Sipes:  The website for the Urban Institute, They’ve been before our microphones many times in the past and we hope many times in the future. Look for human trafficking on their website. Colleen, do we have a sense as to the extent of the problem in the United States and throughout the world?

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. Prevalence is the biggest question; it’s also the biggest unanswered question. The best statistics that we actually do have are from the International Labor Organization and they estimate that approximately 21.9 million individuals around the world become victims of labor and sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  Wait a minute, 21.9 million, so 22 million human beings.

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  22 million human beings are victims of sex or labor trafficking.

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And explain to me what is sex trafficking and what is labor trafficking.

Colleen Owens:  So there’re a variety of laws, but within the United States our federal law, which is the TVPA, was passed in 2000, it’s been reauthorized several times, and all states now actually have state laws against human trafficking. Sometimes those state laws vary in term of the definition and also the criminalization of human trafficking. But the TVPA, our federal law, defines human trafficking as essentially the use force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into labor or services, and so that can be two broadly different things, so compelling a person into forced labor situations or into forced commercial sex situations.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we’re talking about, what, principally labor or sex do we know?

Colleen Owens:  I’m sorry.

Len Sipes:  Are we talking about principally people being forced into labor situations or sexual situations or do we know?

Colleen Owens:  We don’t know actually. So there’s what the available statistics tell us, and that is one piece of the puzzle. So the available statistics are few and far between, but when you look at investigations that local, state, federal law enforcement have undertaken into human trafficking, they’re primarily investigations into sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So that might lead some people to believe that sex trafficking is more prevalent. However, through the research that I’ve done and that I’ve done with colleagues from Northeastern University we’ve looked at, we’ve gone into communities and we’ve spoken with criminal justice actors and what we found is that primarily criminal justice actors are operationalizing human trafficking as sex trafficking and mostly sex trafficking of minors. So that means if they are looking for these cases, which is a big if, they’re primarily looking for sex trafficking of minors, and they’re not proactively out there looking for labor trafficking in communities, for the most part.

Len Sipes:  Do we have any sense, with this 22 million worldwide; do we have any sense as to the extent of victimization in the United States?

Colleen Owens:  We really don’t know. We don’t have good statistics on that. There’ve been a few attempts to get an accurate measure that have been unsuccessful. I think like a lot of crimes you’d mentioned earlier, like rape for example –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  It’s unreported.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  And so those that actually do come forward and report cases that go forward in the criminal justice system are always going to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the prevalence.

Len Sipes:  But feel free to push back –

Colleen Owens:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  If it’s not valid to make this assumption. But is it proper to suggest that out of the 22 million certainly we could say that millions of people in the United States are victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking, is that possible to extrapolate to the Unites States?

Colleen Owens:  So the International Labor Organization, which came up with that number, estimated that when you look at the United States as well as other EU, or what I think they called industrialized –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  Nations, they estimated that 1.5 million victims of labor and sex trafficking were in those countries.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So within the Unites States we still don’t have a good count of how many victims are in our country.

Len Sipes:  Why is it that – we’re talking about something despicable, we’re talking about something disgusting, we’re talking about I’m assuming female victims.

Colleen Owens:  Both men and women, as well as children.

Len Sipes:  Does one category lead the other?

Colleen Owens:  No. And you do start to see differences when you look at labor trafficking versus sex trafficking. But again, sometimes the numbers that we see are more as a result of investigative priorities and available services and outreach to communities. And that influences who you see coming forward.

Len Sipes:  I’m making the assumption, and quickly tell me where I’m wrong or it’s not supported at all, but the overwhelming majority of what we call the sexual assault problem in the United States is male perpetrators and female victims. I do understand that males are subject to being raped, males are subject to being sexually abused, but it’s principally male perpetrators, female victims. So I can’t make that assumption here?

Colleen Owens:  Well, with sex trafficking what we’ve been seeing is that primarily the offenders been coming forward through the criminal justice system are male, but we’ve seen an increasing trend in female offenders as well.

Len Sipes:  Huh.

Colleen Owens:  And so this is a real grey area for a lot of criminal justice actors. Law enforcement officials that we’ve spoken with have talked about you have a situation where traffickers are victimizing for example female victims and then over a period of time those victims then are sort of groomed in a sense to become offenders. And so they’re used by the trafficker to then recruit other victims and to also enforce the rules and keep the victims compliant. And so they’re sort of in this victim and offender category.

Len Sipes:  So help me put it in perspective, and, again, pushback, because you’ve made, said very clearly that this is very difficult to put numbers and groups regarding this problem within context. But what we are talking about is either labor, and I’m going to stereotype now, tell me where I’m wrong, of where the person works in the house, the person is brought in from another country, the person is recruited within the United States, the person is taken to a house, the person acts as a sort of a servant within the house, or the person is recruited for sexual activities and they’re held in bondage almost and they’re moved from one location to another location. So what we’re talking about is bondage, what we’re talking about is trafficking human beings in the most significant and serious ways. We’re not talking about finding somebody for prostitution. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of people who are either coming in from outside of the country or being recruited inside of the country for sex bondage or for labor bondage, are we not?

Colleen Owens:  Yes. No. That’s exactly what it is. I mean I think at the root of our trafficking laws, they’re actually rooted in 13th Amendment principles of slavery. And so often you hear human trafficking described as modern day slavery. But really what is at the heart of it is that somebody is being, their labor is being used against their will, that person’s freedom is being denied.

Len Sipes:  I remember reading some of the literature, or the list of the literature that you provided before the program, and the word slavery did come to mind and I’m saying to myself, “Why is the word slavery not in here? Is it too politically incorrect of a word?” I don’t know where to take this topic. I’m trying to be fair and slice it right down the middle. But it strikes me as being disgusting and despicable, and it strikes me as being slavery, it strikes me as human bondage. In the cases that I’ve been exposed to throughout the criminal justice system, I’m going to be stereotypical I suppose, the women involved were held in psychological and physical bondage, they were told that if they left they would be killed, their families would be killed, they would be injured, they were threatened, they felt that they had no place to go. I mean is that what we’re talking about?

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. No. That is definitely part of what we’re talking about. I think another part where sometimes to be honest there is sort of a wide variety of different stakeholders within the anti-trafficking movement. And sometimes what you do see is that there are arguments or discussions about sort of the role of prostitution versus sex trafficking and when does something become trafficking versus when is somebody voluntarily involved in prostitution. And so –

Len Sipes:  Well, is anybody ever voluntarily involved in prostitution?

Colleen Owens:  That’s a good question. It’s sort of what our laws say and how our laws are enforced. But, yeah, I mean that a question that people debate.

Len Sipes:  I mean I know it’s legal in certain areas of the country, but for the vast majority of my exposure throughout my years within the criminal justice system, prostitution has been, I can’t use the word, “If you don’t do this and if you don’t comply with me and if you don’t give me 60% of what it is that you make, I’m going to kill you.”

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. No. That is –

Len Sipes:  I mean that to me is –

Colleen Owens:  That is 100% of trafficking situation.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Colleen Owens:  So it’s that a person is using force, fraud, or coercion. And if you’re under the age of 18 then our laws say that you don’t have to show force fraud or coercion, because the thought is that if you’re under the age of 18 you can’t voluntarily consent to the commercial sex act.

Len Sipes:  All right, are these – I’m sorry, I may have asked this question already – are these outside of the United States coming into the Unites States or recruited within the United States?

Colleen Owens:  So it’s both. So US citizens as well as foreign nationals are both groups that are victimized by human trafficking. So when you look at sex trafficking in the Unites States, US citizen victims are involved. So you have for example runaway homeless youth that are often on the street looking for a place to stay and somebody might approach them and say, “If you do x, y, and z, I’ll give you a place to stay.” And so in our laws actually we say that exchanging anything of value, so it doesn’t actually even have to be money that’s being paid, but offering someone a place to sleep or food to eat can actually be used to coerce a person into sex trafficking.

Len Sipes:  So we’re talking about very vulnerable human beings –

Colleen Owens:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To begin with, either outside of the United States or inside of the United States. Those vulnerabilities are played on, they’re exploited, and suddenly the person ends up in bondage. And by that I mean a situation that they cannot extract themselves out of and they’re afraid to go to the authorities because they’re afraid that they may be implicated in crimes.

Colleen Owens:  Right. And I think so there’s a really important piece of what you said, this is that they feel that they’re in bondage, and I think that is often a misperception, and you see that really affects cases, even when they go forward, if they go forward in the criminal justice system, which is, well, this victim wasn’t being held in chains, they weren’t locked in a basement, therefore they could’ve left. But understanding the psychological coercion that goes into compelling a person to do things against their will is very important, and our laws protect people against that, but actually proving those cases in court and holding offenders that use primarily psychological means of coercion is very difficult.

Len Sipes:  Okay. We’re going to go back to my original question then in terms of public misperception, in terms what a person asks me about the radio show, the topic of my radio show, and I said human trafficking, and they’re going, “Where?” And I’m saying, “In the United States.” And so, but we’re going to reintroduce you. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Colleen Owens. She is a Research Associate with the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center where she directs several national and international research projects on human trafficking. The website for the Urban Institute is So, Colleen, let’s go back to that question once again. If it is as you describe and if we know that 22 million human beings are involved and within the western industrialized world, the United States, Canada, and the EU, you’re talking about at least one to two million human beings. This is a significant and serious problem in the Unites States that we don’t recognize as a significant and serious problem, correct?

Colleen Owens:  Yes and no. So I think we do recognize it as a significant and serious problem in the sense that so in 2000 we passed a federal, it was the first federal to actually criminalize human trafficking. I should mention that human trafficking is not a new crime; it’s a crime that has existed for –

Len Sipes:  Centuries.

Colleen Owens:  Forever, for centuries.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Colleen Owens:  It’s just a newly defined crime and there are new penalties to combat it. It’s being taken seriously in the United States and many other foreign countries. At the time that the US law was passed this was also the same time that the Palermo Protocol was passed. So this was a sort of international movement to really take this crime seriously and to not only hold offenders accountable, but to create and provide services for those victimized by the crime. Since 2000, all states in the United States have passed laws to criminalize human trafficking, but laws vary, some states don’t criminalize sex trafficking, some have different definitions of labor trafficking, for example. So on the one hand we have taken it very seriously, but our research shows that we have a long way to go and these laws aren’t actually being enforced as they should be. So a lot needs to be done in terms of more awareness and resources to identify victims to hold offenders accountable and to provide services for those victims.

Len Sipes:  A tough, tough topic. I mean where does the criminal justice system need to go with this? I mean I’ve spent the first half of the program trying to understand the degree and the extent of the program for myself. I’m not quite sure that everybody – when you say prostitution, people very rarely ever come to grips with the fact that these are victims that are slapped, punched, threatened, have a gun held to their head, they’re in bondage. It’s just people say the word “prostitution” they really don’t understand how nasty it is for the lives of the individuals involved. So you say human trafficking, the words human trafficking roll off the tongue, and thank you very much for helping me create the context for the first half of the program. What must the criminal justice system do, in terms of the second half of the program, what must we do, and what should society do across the board, because I will constantly go back to that conversation, “What do you mean there’s human trafficking in the United States?”, so?

Colleen Owens:  Right. So that’s a big question with a lot of answers, but I mean I think first and foremost those that are in charge of enforcing our laws should be made aware of what those laws are, there needs to be a lot more training, and it needs to be on the state and local level. The federal government does do training on human trafficking and it is very helpful and they should continue to do that. But we really need more state and local training that involves both investigators, as well as prosecutors working together to understand what their laws are and then how to operationalize those laws. So what evidence do you need to collect to be able to take a case forward and prove it in court? What indicators do law enforcement need to be aware of to identify that that person is actually a victim of crime and not arrest those victims and charge them as criminals. So in sex trafficking cases, for example, victims may be arrested and charged with prostitution and in labor trafficking cases victims may be arrested and charged and placed into deportation proceedings if they’re here and they’re undocumented. And so there really needs to be a lot more awareness for criminal justice system actors. The other piece of it actually is we need to actually create spaces in the criminal justice system to bring these cases forward. So in our study that we conducted with Northeastern University on challenges investigating and prosecuting human trafficking, we found that there were actually no state labor trafficking prosecutions in our study.

Len Sipes:  What?

Colleen Owens:  And when we went to local state prosecutors and asked them about what would happen if a labor trafficking case came to your desk, they actually said, “We don’t what we would do with it. We don’t know who would actually take that case.” And so there really aren’t actors in place in our system in many ways that are even in charge of finding these cases and then bringing them forward, and the same is true with investigating labor trafficking. So we’re doing a study right now that will be released in the summer and we’re finding in our study that those victimized by labor trafficking in our sample anyway are primarily from other countries, they’re either here undocumented or they were – a significant percentage of our sample was actually brought into the United States on temporary work visa programs, they were promised certain jobs, certain hours, certain wage, some of them were promised that if they remained in the job for a certain period of time that they would have their visa extended and they could get a green card. That of course was all fraudulent –

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Colleen Owens:  And never happened, and then the person finds themself undocumented. But when you look at local law enforcement, for example, and you compare sort of the investigations of sex trafficking versus labor trafficking, sex trafficking, while there’s still a long way to go in terms of investigating those crimes, law enforcement at least has been in the business of doing investigations into prostitution.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  So they sort of it’s now requiring them to take a step back and ask, “Is this person in this situation willingly? Is this actually their choice? Are they being forced?” So that change is happening slowly. But when you look at labor trafficking, local law enforcement has never been in the business of enforcing workplace regulations or something that would even be similar to a labor trafficking situation. That’s been the business of the civil justice system, so Department of Labor. But the Department of Labor is not able to open cases criminally. So they’re not always trained to look for criminal elements. They might identify back wages, they might identify workplace hazards, but they are not trained to pull together all the criminal elements that amount to a labor trafficking situation and that would make it distinct from just, I don’t want to say just labor exploitation, because that is serious, but sort of taking it to that next step.

Len Sipes:  I’ve interviewed dozens of women in the criminal justice system who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, and I’ve interviewed them at these microphones, and I’ve interviewed them on television shows. And when I sit down with them, either before or when we hit the record button, it is routinely this, it is, and this is going to be very stereotypical, I apologize for it, but this is what I hear over and over and over again, that the women are involved in the criminal justice system in probably, I’m going to guess, 60% to 70% of the cases where a male is forcing them to move drugs. A male is forcing them to be engaged in criminal activity, and they’re doing it through physical violence, through threat, through literally a gun pointed to the head.

And these are women who’re coming from histories of sexual violence, histories of sexual abuse themselves. So they go out and they’re involved in all this criminal activity and then they’re saying to themselves, “How can I extract myself from this? How can I get out of this, because I’ve been doing drug dealing? I’m running huge amounts of drugs down the interstate 95 corridor. I carry guns. I carry false IDs. I’m just as vulnerable as the people who’re making me do this.” So they don’t come forward. So when they get caught up in the criminal justice system we find when we have them under supervision on parole and probation here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, that in many cases they are just as much victims as perpetrators. We have them on a drug charge and they come out of the prison system and we find that they’ve lived terrible lives. They’re just as much victims as anybody else in the process, even though they committed federal trafficking, drug trafficking laws. So I’m assuming that that carries over to this topic.

Colleen Owens:  Yeah. I often actually – sometimes you hear people describing the phenomenon of human trafficking through a supply and demand framework, and while I think that is valid, I actually prefer to describe through where vulnerabilities meet exploitation type of a framework. And I’ve done research in many other countries as well and I find that the phenomenon sort of looks the same through that lens no matter where you go. So it involves asking yourself in this local context, in this city in the United States, in this village in Cambodia, what are the vulnerabilities and where is the exploitation happening, where are people taking advantage of those vulnerabilities? And so for example with labor trafficking in the US, US citizens one would think they might not be at risk of labor trafficking because often a tool is to use someone’s undocumented status against them.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  But in fact there was just a big case that came out that was reported by the New York Times of US citizens with disabilities that were forced to work in a turkey processing plant for 30 years. And so we are seeing that, US citizen victims with disabilities. There are other cases, there was one in Philadelphia as well, are being used for labor trafficking scenarios. And then the same is true with sex trafficking. A lot of the vulnerabilities and the past histories of abuse are there for sex trafficking victims. You see a lot of runaway youth, a lot of youth that have been caught up prior in the criminal justice system, they may have been arrested for quality of life issues, they may have had previous records being charged with prostitution, even though technically those should be sex trafficking charges if they were under 18, or they should’ve been treated as sex trafficking victims if they were under 18. But you do see a lot of these past histories of abuse and vulnerability. And I think what really needs to happen on the front end is being able to identify those factors sooner and develop programs to prevent a lot of that from happening, because it’s as much addressing the sort of demand side of holding offenders accountable, as it is addressing the supply side, and identifying what vulnerabilities are leading victims, are sort of leading to people being victimized and how do we address those vulnerabilities?

Len Sipes:  The criminal justice system needs to understand that people are not coming forward; they’re not escaping these situations, because they feel vulnerable. The victims themselves feel vulnerable. The victims themselves believe that there’s a possibility that they’re going to be prosecuted. So that’s one of the big reasons why they don’t come forward and that’s one of the things that we have to do was to make sure that we have the sensitivity and the wherewithal and the knowledge to reach out to these individuals and offer them immunity from prosecution as long as they help us prosecute the bad guys.

Colleen Owens:  Right. And some states actually have passed on the side of minor victims of trafficking, sex trafficking, they’ve passed what’s known as safe harbor laws. So basically stating, passing additional laws that you cannot be charged crimes, quote, “crimes that are committed as a result of your victimization”. But we don’t have a lot of those laws for, for example, victims of labor trafficking that may be charged with crimes pursuant to their labor trafficking situation.

Len Sipes:  But we have a criminal justice system that sees itself as overburdened, overwhelmed. We have a criminal justice system that’s having an extraordinarily hard time processing the day to day burglaries, robberies, sexual assaults, homicides. There’s criticism directed toward cities throughout the United States and urban areas in terms of their inability to prosecute. So when something like this comes along they’re saying to themselves, “I don’t have the resources –”

Colleen Owens:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  “For this type of investigation.” Is it a matter that they’re not looking for it because they don’t have the resources?

Colleen Owens:  It’s sort of a self-perpetuating cycle I guess you could say. They’re not looking for it because they don’t have the resources, and they don’t have the resources because they’re not looking for it.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  So, right, I mean we hear that often that we need more resources, we need more resources.

Len Sipes:  More training.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly, more training. You need agencies to prioritize this, because exactly as you said, you may have people calling about the fact that their cars were broken into, and so that sort of leads the priorities, right?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  When you see what’s going on in your community and you’re making those calls for service. This is a crime that does not rely on calls for service for the most part.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Colleen Owens:  And yet when we speak with law enforcement their main approach to investigating this is to wait for calls to come in. And so it’s not being investigated basically.

Len Sipes:  But we do, I mean in general, we within the criminal justice system and society in general do need to understand that this does exist in the United States, it is an ongoing problem, it involves literally millions of human beings, and we have to take this seriously and we have to be looking for this.

Colleen Owens:  Exactly. I think if we’re a country that believes in freedom, then this is something that we need to take seriously. And it’s a serious human rights abuse. And people in our country are being abused by traffickers. And they engage in it, because for the most part it’s very low-risk.

Len Sipes:  Colleen Owens, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you were on the show today and that the Urban Institute is taking this on. Congratulations to the Urban Institute for taking a very tough topic,, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Stress and Turnover in Parole and Probation-APPA

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, “Stress and Turnover in Parole and Probation”. We have two people at our microphones. We have Kirsten Lewis. She is a probation officer, interestingly enough, with the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department. In addition, she is an adjunct psychology professor at Glendale Community College, co-owner of KSL Research and Training and Consultation, and an approved instructor by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. And back at our microphones, always glad to have Adam Matz. Adam is a researcher associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, which is an affiliate of the Council of State Governments. This is going to be an extraordinarily interesting show, ladies and gentlemen. There’re two pieces of research. I’m going to start off with the research produced by Kirsten, Surviving the Trenches:  The Personal Impact of the Job on Probation Officers.

I’m going to read very briefly from it. “It’s clear from previous research, and further supported by the research results of this study, that probation officers are impacted by their work with offenders, specifically, challenging case loads, challenging events, officer victimization, and longevity were associated with higher reports of traumatic stress and burnout.” And we’re going to go over to Adam’s document, A Meta-analysis of the Correlates of Turnover Intent in Criminal Justice Organizations:  Does agency type matter? And a very quick read from that. “Workers who are overworked, underappreciated, and generally left out of the key decision making process will suffer from emotional exhaustion, stress, and other psychological ailments that detract from general satisfaction and commitment to the job.” And that’s why we called today’s show “Stress and Turnover in Parole and Probation”. Kirsten Lewis and Adam Matz, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Kirsten Lewis:  Thank you.

Adam Matz:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now, this is interesting. Both of you have participated in research projects, both of you are taking a look at stress amongst parole and probation agents or probation agents and turnover, and what that means in terms of the efficiency of the parole and probation agent. And I can remember when I first worked with corrections, and we’re now talking about 25 years ago, when I asked parole and probation what was their organizational mission, it was to enforce the orders of the court and enforce the orders of the parole commission. Now it’s evidence-based practices. Now we’re expecting parole and probation people to really get into the heads of the people who they have under supervision to understand them, to motivate them, to try to get them to change, use cognitive behavioral therapy, which means that you’re having a much more intimate relationship with that person under supervision, and that’s got to bring on a certain level of stress. So we’re going to go with Kirsten. Kirsten, is that correct?

Kirsten Lewis:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about it.

Kirsten Lewis:  Well, the job as you illustrated earlier, it has changed over the years. I’ve been in the field now for 23 years, 17 with my current department. And we started off a number of years ago really just focused on making sure the offenders were following court orders and doing what they were supposed to do to stay in the community. But with the evidence-based practices that we’re doing today, which I’m a big proponent of, has dramatically changed the way that officers work with offenders. We are really rolling up our sleeves and getting into understanding what’s happened in their lives, how they got where they are, what blockage they have at the moment to be able to move forward. We’re connecting with their family and other collateral contacts out in the community. So we’re doing a lot more intensive work. There’s also some very interesting research that talks about the relationship between the officer and the offender is a protective factor, meaning that the better the relationship we’re actually seeing lower recidivism, lower rates of reoffending.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Kirsten Lewis:  So there’s more and more pressure on officers to engage and connect in meaningful ways with offenders. Which I think is a wonderful thing and I think benefits the offenders. My concern is that I think it also has come at a price for the officers.

Len Sipes:  Kirsten, and now, again, Adam and Kirsten, I’ve read both of your pieces of research, so I’m probably going to mix the two, sometimes appropriately, sometimes inappropriately. But I think , Adam , it was your research that basically took a look at what happened on the correctional side, what happened in law enforcement, but very little research on the parole and probation side. We’re asking individuals with huge caseloads, and you know, here in the District of Columbia we’re a federal parole and probation agency at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Our ratios are 50 to 1 or less. We have some caseloads, high-risk caseloads that go to 25 to 1. But in other states 150 to 1 parole and probation agent or one probation officer is not unusual. In other states it’s even higher. That’s got to produce a tremendous amount of stress and a tremendous amount of turnover if we’re asking them to do cognitive behavioral therapy, if we’re asking them to get into the heads, get into the lives, very deeply, very passionately, of the individuals who they have under supervision. That’s got to be enormously stressful, Adam.

Adam Matz:  Yeah. I think that’s kind of an interesting point. And I know on a previous show that we did we talked about workload. And I think you can kind of tie workload into this a little bit, that what’s being asked of you is more than what you’ve done before. But it’s not just what’s being asked of you, but actually the fact that, basically, the number of people that have been supervised, or are being supervised, has been increasing, or had increased for the past few decades, and it’s just now kind of starting to level off a little bit. So you’re not only trying to do more with folks and you’re trying to do a better job with them, but you’re also still dealing with the fact that there’s a lot of people out there. And we know also that a lot of places have been trying to basically get people out of prisons, get people out of jails, to save and cut cost because of budgetary constraints.

And I think that’s sort of an interesting thing to think about as well. And there’s a nice fancy term that’s out there called criminal justice thermodynamics, which was from Durlauf and Nagin. And the idea there that they were kind of espousing is this idea that the issues that happen may be further down the line in criminal justice agencies or institutions ends up getting shifted down further along. So in that case, it shifts down to probation and parole who are often the last folks that are dealing with these people. And then obviously, their ability to enact change impacts law enforcement and institutional corrections in sort of a reciprocal fashion, so.

Len Sipes:  Well, but 7 million people under correctional supervision, 4 of those 7 million are under parole and probation agencies. We have the great bulk of what people refer to as criminal offenders. We’re the ones responsible for them, but in terms of I think, Adam, your study, there weren’t that many studies on turnover regarding parole and probation. They were there for law enforcement. They were there for mainstream corrections. Sometimes I get the sense that mainstream parole and probation, that function is ignored where the bulk of that money on stress and turnover is going towards law enforcement, going towards mainstream corrections, it’s not going towards parole and probation. Am I right or wrong?

Adam Matz:  No. I think you’re absolutely right about that and that’s something at APPA we’ve been trying to put more emphasis on is the needs of the probation and parole folks out there and the work that they do and getting recognition for the stresses that are involved with the job and what the job is about. And it’s very true. I think our meta-analysis does kind of highlight the fact that there’s not a whole lot of research in terms of turnover with probation and parole folks. There’s a little bit with law enforcement. The most is definitely with institutional corrections. So even in that case what you see is the research varies quite a bit and some of the variables are different, and ideally, there would be some consistency there. So definitely there needs to be more work done on this topic. Now, there are some studies that look at stress as well and maybe don’t look at turnover. So turnover itself can be a little bit of a different beast depending on how you measure it as well, because a lot of times turnover behavior is just something that’s hard to capture, and it’s also some agencies just may not want to share it. And I know from some of the figures we looked at, the turnover rates really across the different subfields can be any from 20% to 30%, 40% when you compare that to [OVERLAY] –

Len Sipes:  For parole and probation.

Adam Matz:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Adam Matz:  Yeah. In fact, a study in Florida, I believe it was 20%, actually or 30%, I’m sorry, 30% in Florida, there was a study in Florida that showed 30%. And when you look at teachers or nurses you’re finding they’re around 10% to 15% nationally. So just for comparison it’s pretty high.

Len Sipes:  You can reach Kirsten Lewis; I’ll give you her website right now. It’s Adam can be reached cam be reached at appa/, www.appa/.net. I’m sorry, / All right, so what does all this mean, Adam and Kirsten? What does all this mean in terms of getting the job done? We know that parole and probation people are extraordinarily important to public safety. We know that from a variety of research that the more they’re involved in the lives of individuals, the more they get involved in programs, the more they stay in programs, the less the recidivism rate. I’m reading a longitudinal study right now in terms of juveniles and one of the big findings of that study is that the parole and probation agents that were supervising the juvenile offenders were extraordinarily important in the success of the lives of these individuals, keeping them in programs, and at the same time, reducing recidivism. Self-report data indicates that their rate of involvement in the criminal justice system, or rate involvement in terms of new crimes, was a lot lower than when they were off supervision. So parole and probation matters, if it matters so much, why do we give them such huge caseloads and why is the turnover problem as high as it is and why is the stress problem as high as it is?

Adam Matz:  Yeah. I can kind of comment just a little bit.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, please.

Adam Matz:  I think it’s kind of interesting to kind of think about this in the terms of the way it feeds into itself. And you kind of think of all these different variables from an organizational level. So you’re thinking about stress or burnout or job satisfaction. These variables are tied together in kind of very specific ways, at least from what we’ve found, and they tie into turnover intentions or turnover behavior. And so what’s kind of interesting is if you have turnover, a lot of times what happens is the folks who leave, that’s put more stress on the folks who are still there. So if you already sort have a problem, people are leaving, it gets compounded even worse, because it increases the stress of those who stayed, because they’re having to pick up what’s left behind. So it’s kind of a feeding issue there as well, where once you get in that cycle it can be a little bit tough for folks.

Len Sipes:  Yeah. Well, I’ll say. I mean this is, Kirsten, this is an extraordinarily stressful job. You’re talking about, say, within my agency, okay, so we quote, unquote “only have 50 to 1”, but they’re involved in the lives of people with serious substance abuse problems, they’re involved in the lives of people with kids and we’re trying to reunite them with their kids. Some act out, some act inappropriately, some don’t show up, some are involved in new crimes. But I’ll go back to one story at a conference we did for women under supervision where a woman stands up in the middle of the crown and tells us, tells everybody there, hundreds of people there, that that night, that the previous night the woman who she lived with had a huge argument and they pulled knives on each other, and now she and her child is homeless. And she stood there and said, “Now, what are you going to do about my problem?” And so that’s the level of intensity that parole and probation people have to deal with in the lives of trying to cope with other human beings and at the same time cope with themselves.

Kirsten Lewis:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about it. Tell me –what does the research have to say?

Kirsten Lewis:  Well, in terms of, as you were alluding to, we have lots and lots of research talking about the motivational interviewing, the cognitive behavioral change, the thinking for change, really getting in and looking at how their thinking process is and helping to change that. The problem is that takes time. And when you’re – I mean we have a 60 to 1 caseload here in Maricopa County. And so when you’ve got 60 people on your caseload it takes time to go through those types of conversations and interactions when you’re doing actuarial risk assessments to make sure that we’re supervising people properly based on evidence-based practices. And it’s a good thing, but at the same time, it’s time consuming to write a case plan where we’re getting into the needs of the offenders and the obstacles that need to be addressed and trying to get the buy in so that the offender is engaging in that process and coming up with solutions as well. All of that takes time.

And then in the middle of that you’ve got somebody whose spouse pulled a knife on them and they’re homeless and you got to do something right now, you’ve got a parent calling whose kid is threatening suicide and you’ve got to rush off and do that, you’ve got to get all of your contacts entered into the computer by deadlines. I mean so there’re a lot of aspects to the job, many of which are emergencies to the 60 people on the caseload that you’re dealing with. So one of the stresses that I hear a lot from the officers is we’re learning all of these wonderful techniques to do evidence-based practices, but the problem is we don’t have the time to do it all.

Len Sipes:  And, Adam, that’s a common problem, but we’re going to leave that for the second half. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to reintroduce our guests. We have Kirsten Lewis. And she is really interesting. She’s a probation officer with Maricopa County. And like I said, she’s an adjunct psychology instructor at Glendale Community College, as well as co-owner of KSL Research, Training and Consultation. Adam Matz is back at our microphone. He is with the American Probation and Parole Association. We in parole and probation are extremely indebted to APPA and all the good work that they do leading the rest of us in terms of these issues and more throughout the United States. So to Adam’s organization and the Council of State Governments we are deeply appreciative. The show today is on stress and turnover in parole and probation.

Adam, I would contend that we talk a good game in terms of all the different things we want parole and probation agents to do. They generally have bachelor’s degrees. It’s not unusual for them to have a master’s degree. I’ve seen people with doctorates out in the field as well as in supervision or as well as in administration. But nevertheless, regardless of their education, regardless of their motivation, how do you deal from a turnover point of view with all the different things you have to do? One side of you is a law enforcement officer; another side of you is a social worker. I think all three of us would agree that evidence-based practices is one of the best things that have ever happened to the field. We all agree that evidence-based practices is the way to go. But, boy, does that place a tremendous psychological burden on the parole and probation agent.

And there’s a certain point, Adam, in terms of your study of turnover, people are going to say, “Hey, this too much and it’s too stressful and I’m now involved in this person committing a new crime and that sex offender reoffending and this person becoming victimized.” I think we’re talking about trauma and talking about the fact that some people were just witnessing vicariously all these different things and there’s a certain point that takes its toll and there’s a certain where people leave.

Adam Matz:  Yeah. And I think that’s exactly right. And really what I think you’re getting is the concept of burnout, that folks get burnt out after a while. So maybe to start off you’re really into the job and you’re able to kind of put in those extra hours, do the late night, maybe the late night midnight calls don’t bother you initially. But then over years or maybe even less than that it starts to wear on you. And a lot of folks do experience burnout and it becomes stressful. There’s a lot of different, in terms of the evidence-based practices and also all the grants, a lot of times for state agencies it’s kind of interesting, because that’s kind of an addition to their daily duties. And I know, given the grant projects that I’ve worked on with APPA, we do work a lot of times with different local agencies. And it is kind of an extra burden. But they all agree it’s worth it, it’s worth the effort to do it, but there’s no question that that’s an added burden sometimes, but the long-term benefit’s better. Now, ideally, when folks are working with agencies through grants they try to be sensitive to their needs in terms of that respect. But I think aside from that, the job in and of itself has its stressful moments. And trying to keep that in check definitely takes work. And I think Kirsten can probably speak more to actually maybe some programs that help folks with that.

Len Sipes:  All right, and I want to get back to Kirsten in a second. But you within your research I think you talked about it a little while ago. Compare parole and probation to other occupations and parole and probation seems to have much higher turnover than a lot of other organizations, correct?

Adam Matz:  Well, I think they’re kind of similar more to the institutional corrections than maybe law enforcement. Definitely more than other domains outside of justice, if that’s –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Adam Matz:  What you referred to. But as far as within the justice realm I would say police, institutional, and probation and parole are not too far off from each other. I think institutions might be a little bit worse actually.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And so you’re talking about on average, what, 20%, 30% did you say?

Adam Matz:  Yeah. 20% to 30%.

Len Sipes:  All right. Well, that’s a lot of turnover and that costs the state or the county or the municipality literally tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars over time and a lot of productivity lost and a lot of experience lost. So, Kirsten, we’re going to go back to you and say, “Okay, what do we do about it?”

Kirsten Lewis:  Well, I think one of the things that we do about is first of all start looking at the types of stress that the officers are experiencing. Because when I started to research this topic, in the stress that I was seeing, not only in myself, but in the people that I work with, most of the stress or most of the research is on the basic stressors of too much paper work, not enough time to do the job, not enough pay, those types of things, which are all legitimate stressors to our work for sure. But there’s a deeper type of stress that I don’t think it’s as easy to measure. You talked about how our job really is this combination of being law enforcement and social worker. And the truth is it creates at times a level of cognitive dissonance. Because I mean here’s the reality. My department has an option to carry a firearm. And one of the officers who carries a firearm he said to me after training, he said, “Here’s my job. Here’s what I do. I pull up to an apartment complex to go see one of my guys. And from a defensive tactics safety standpoint, I am running through scenarios in my head of, ‘If this scene goes bad, I’m going to pull my weapon, I’m going to have the offender in my sights, and I am going to shoot him.’ And by the time I get to the front door I’m going through my head all of the things I can possibly do to help this guy be successful.”

Len Sipes:  That’s quite a paradox.

Kirsten Lewis:  Absolutely. And that’s a stressor that I don’t hear people talking about. It’s a hard stressor to measure, because what that is is mentally taxing, to try to do both sides of the job. And by and large the social workers can invest all they want in the treatment and progress of the offender, but in the end they don’t have to arrest them, they don’t have to look to a family while we’re putting him in handcuffs and hauling him off to jail. The officers, the police officers on the streets may pull up to a lethal situation and they’re shooting a bad guy. For us, it’s somebody we know, it’s somebody we’ve worked with. We know their family. We know their kids. We know the consequences of this. And so we do both jobs, but they’re hard to do together. And so one of the things that I see happening in the course of careers is people tend to start to gravitate toward one end of that continuum of either being much more law enforcement oriented or much more social work oriented, because it is very, very difficult to stay in the middle with that balanced approach of running through scenarios and making sure defensively I can keep myself safe and at the same time trying to help the guy. I mean that’s a level of balance that quite frankly the research shows to be most effective, that balanced approach, but it is taxing to keep that balance.

Len Sipes:  I did, I worked when I was putting myself through college after I left law enforcement, I put myself through college by being a gang counselor in the streets of the city of Baltimore where I was out there on weekends in particular with the kids. And I went and did jail or job corps kids and I also ran a group in the Maryland prison system before going with the Maryland Department of Public Safety. So I’ve had direct work with individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

Kirsten Lewis:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Unbelievably stressful, unbelievably difficult, unbelievably – I’ve always said that I think they taught me more than I taught them. This is not an easy group to work with under any circumstances. If you add the paperwork, if you add the 150 to 200 to 100 to 1 ratios, it becomes almost impossible, stress seems to be inevitable.

Kirsten Lewis:  Yeah, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So I mean, Adam, from the American Probation and Parole Association’s point of view, I mean does it ever get to the point where we simply say to states and localities and counties, “Look, you need to bring your workload levels down to reasonable amounts or it’s never going to work, you’re always going to lose people, and you’re never going to be able to fully implement evidence-based practices.”?

Adam Matz:  Yeah. That’s a great question actually. In fact, something we have been looking into is workload assessments, and that’s exactly what those are designed to help with. Because one of the problems a lot of agencies have expressed just anecdotally from talking to different folks that I’m in contact with, is that they feel like they’re overworked. They describe all these same issues – role conflict, role ambiguity, increased excessive caseloads, but they’re not able to quantify it in a way that they can share it with the legislature, share it with other folks, and make it known that, “We’re really kind of struggling here.” And that’s really where those workload assessments are just vital to not only show the work that’s being done, but also to justify that you’re actually doing, maybe you have 50 people, maybe 50 officers, but you’re doing the work of 100 officers. Workload assessment’s designed to help you get at that. And so that’s really one of the things that we’ve been looking at more recently and trying to assist some agencies with as well.

Len Sipes:  Kirsten, do you have, I’m not quite sure your research went this far, but can you recommend to the parole and probation administrators or the aides to governors or mayors who are listening to this program right now what they can do? They can’t magically do away with huge caseloads. What can they do to make the job less stressful for parole and probation people?

Kirsten Lewis:  Well, I think the first thing that has to be done is recognizing that keeping officers healthy ends up keeping them motivated, helps them continue to do a tough job, but in the end an incredibly rewarding job. I mean by and large our success rates are actually higher than our failure rates. And so –

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Kirsten Lewis:  When we can stay connected to that it’s a tremendously gratifying job to do. But we got to keep people healthy. And so you may have a great 60%, 70% success rate, but when your people go out and do horrible acts, that’s the stuff that takes an impact on officers. And so even though statistically those may not happen very much, I think we have to recognize that that is stressful and that the consequences are that officers start to check out, they start to check out emotionally, they start to shut down, they start to become robotic in the way that they do the job, they start to become cynical, burned out. I mean all of those things start to happen. And ultimately, their performance suffers. And as Adam talked about, when one performance starts to suffer from one officer all the others have to start picking it up.

Len Sipes:  It’s contagious. Yes.

Kirsten Lewis:  Yeah. And so I really believe that if we could start in a place of better addressing stress and wellness for the officers, that we keep them healthy, we keep them productive, we keep them here, we keep them doing the job, I think that’s your best route to reducing turnover, and ultimately, having a better outcome with the performances and the services that are provided to the offenders.

Len Sipes:  We have about a minute and a half left in the program. We all agree that parole and probation people are absolutely vital to the public safety, absolutely vital to community safety, absolutely vital to saving states and localities literally hundreds of millions of dollars over time to keep individuals from going back into the criminal justice system. So we agree to that and we agree that evidence-based practices are absolutely necessary.

Kirsten Lewis:  Yes.

Adam Matz:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Adam? Okay. And so where’s the disconnect? Because I get the sense from reading both of your research papers that even though we all recognize this, there’s not a lot of involvement in the individual lives of parole and probation people to make sure that they’re taken care of.

Adam Matz:  Well, [OVERLAY]

Kirsten Lewis:  [OVERLAY].

Adam Matz:  Sorry. Go ahead.

Kirsten Lewis:  I was just going to say. I think that that’s actually pretty common. My research has spread to other organizations as well outside of probation. And I don’t think many organizations and many fields, professions, really take very good care of their people. There’s an assumption that somehow emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, everything, that that’ll take care of itself and we just are very focused with performance. So that’s where I don’t think we’re alone as a profession in not necessarily recognizing how wellness and health become paramount.

Len Sipes:  Adam, you got 30 seconds. Want to finish?

Adam Matz:  Yeah, sure. I just wanted to add to that. And I think that’s exactly right, is there’s been a lack of recognition that the folks who are working in the agency, they have needs too. And it’s easy I think, when you’re caught in the management of the agency, to kind of forget that you need to take care of those people. And so I think that’s a very important aspect. And I also wanted to point out the, you know, one of the things with the turnover too is making sure that people fit with the agency correctly as well. And we were talking about role conflict. Now, a lot of time the agency –

Len Sipes:  Pretty quickly, Adam.

Adam Matz:  Okay. The agency has an overarching culture to consider as well and sort of do people fit within that culture?

Len Sipes:  Adam, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, our program today has been on stress and turnover in parole probation. Kirsten Lewis. You can reach Kirsten at You can reach Adam with the American Probation and Parole Association – thank God for APPA – at appa/ Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Hiring Offenders on Community Supervision

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, is on hiring offenders throughout the United States. There’s a problem with employment with people on parole and probation supervision. Most criminologists believe that if employment levels rose it would reduce recidivism crime and would save the States tens of millions of dollars. To discuss this issue today we have three gentlemen. Charlie Whitaker, he is CEO of Career Path DC, we have Cory Laborde, he is the facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, and Tony Lewis, job developer for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and to Mr. Laborde and to Charlie and to Tony, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tony Lewis:  Thanks for having us, Len.

Charlie Whitaker:  Good afternoon, sir.

Cory Laborde:  It’s my pleasure.

Len Sipes:  Gentlemen, where do we go to with this topic? I’ve talked to dozens of employers here in the District of Columbia, and in a previous life throughout the state of Maryland, who basically tell me, “I’ve got 20, 30 applicants for every job or more. Most of them or a lot of them do not have criminal histories, they don’t have criminal backgrounds. You’re asking me to hire somebody who is currently on parole and probation supervision. You want to have that discussion with me. I’m here to tell you I don’t want to hire that person, because I’ve got plenty of people to choose from who don’t come from histories of crime and who don’t come from histories of substance abuse.” How do we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and all parole and probation agencies, how are we supposed to contend with that perception?

Cory Laborde:  Right. Well, Len, let’s just jump straight into it. My name is Cory Laborde. Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Cory Laborde:  Well, for one, when I’m hiring somebody, when I’m interviewing somebody, I’m not interviewing somebody based off their past, I’m interviewing them and hiring them based off what they can give the company going forward in the future. Now, past is important, because you have to look at past behavior to see whether or not that may play a conflict with inside your organization. But, however, just because someone is being interviewed who does not have a past, a criminal background, let’s be precise, doesn’t mean that he’s the best person for that job. We may have somebody who may a past offense, may have done something in his past that he’s ashamed of, he put it behind, he or she put it behind them, but they may be the best person for the job that you’re interviewing that person for. They probably have experience in that line of work, they probably a career that they’ve already done before they made that offense. So I don’t want to have a blind eye saying, “I will not hire this person just because they made a mistake 15, 10 years ago.”

Len Sipes:  You’re trying to get the very best person for the job regardless of that person’s background.

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Because it does seem to me, Charlie, that what we have is a conundrum. We’re not asking anybody to hire sex offenders for daycare centers. We’re not asking anybody to hire somebody who’s been convicted of fraud to handle money in a bank. But what we are doing is talking about appropriate placements. We’re talking about people who are doing well. We’re talking about people who are months, if not years, from the last positive drug test. We’re talking about in many cases skilled human beings. But 50% unemployment, that’s what we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and when I talk to my counterparts throughout the country, that’s not unusual. How do we get beyond all this?

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, I think one thing is the program that you have set up here at CSOSA actually helps out a lot. I work with Tony Lewis real closely, and with the offenders that you guys send me to work with within the community, they worked out just fine based on they go through a life skills and job readiness program and we also afford the opportunity to allow our people to come and work for anywhere from three to six months in order to really just build on their skills and to just find out if they work really good with our organization. So by the time it comes time to hire these individuals, that’s why I’ve been so successful with us hiring as many people as we have hired, based on the fact that they’ve been trained, and a trained individual, regardless of their background, works out extremely well.

Also appropriate placements; I heard you speak on that. So, when someone is sent to me from CSOSA, and I think this is a best practice right here, me and Tony talk on where can they work, what type charges they have, and if he does have a sex offender for example, because even individuals who have heinous crimes need to work within our community, we’ll identify a situation where they can come and work with us and a situation where it won’t affect the rest of the public or that it was the lowest safety risk possible and the best placement for that individual.

Len Sipes:  All right, Tony, you and I have this conversation about 500 times.

Tony Lewis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And our dilemma is, I mean we’ve just spoke to two employers here, and we’ve spoken to Charlie and Cory, and so they’re on board, are all employers out there on board?

Tony Lewis:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And so they’re not because of why?

Tony Lewis:  I think they’re not because they don’t understand that we have talent within our ranks, so to speak, and we’re not just asking for a handout. We actually have people that can come in and increase your productivity. We have people that have skill sets that match what you’re looking for. And their criminal history or criminal background doesn’t necessarily get in the way of that. But another I think the biggest impediment or barrier to it is that just from a hiring policy standpoint a lot of the companies, especially here locally in the District of Columbia, have such a broad “no felony accepted” kind of stance that it really handicaps our ability to connect our talents and people with a lot of the positions.

Mr. Laborde’s organization and Charlie’s organization have been brave enough and courageous enough to embark upon this journey with us in terms of the program where we’re able to do a transitional employment style program, where you get an opportunity to kind of test drive our talent. And they’ve seen how the individuals that we’ve sent have been able to come in and help them do what they do better and they’ve been able to bring them on full-term and full-time. And I think that’s what we look to do with many more organizations. I just wish people would show a little more flexibility in their hiring policies and look at people on a case by case basis.

Len Sipes:  We have radio and television shows on our website, it’s,, where it’s called “Employing People On Supervision”. And we ask people to listen to the radio shows, watch the television shows, and to contact us, to have a conversation with us regarding this whole issue. I mean if you’re not, tell us why. If you are, tell us why. But what we’re looking for is your opinion. We’re crowd sourcing this issue, we want as many people involved as possible. Tony, I’m going to go back to something that you’ve said and toss it over to Charlie and Cory. You said courageous. Now, wait a minute, that doesn’t fit. I mean we’re not saying be courageous, we’re saying that we’ve got talented, skilled people ready to go that’s going to affect your bottom line and affect the ability for you to get the job done, regardless as to whether or not they’ve a criminal history. Why is that courageous? I mean isn’t that good business sense?

Tony Lewis:  Well, it is. But when you’re talking about the stigma and the fear that comes along with people with criminal backgrounds it takes courage to be able to accept that fear and be able to take a chance. And I think any employer out there, any business out there that says, “You know what? We’re going to give somebody a second chance to live their lives in a positive way and to be able to contribute their skills and their talents to my organization.” I think they definitely are courageous. And I hope there’s a lot more courageous people out there. Or hope these two courageous guys can inspire some other business leaders and they can be an example of how things can work. And everybody that we’ve sent to either of them didn’t work out, but they didn’t allow that to necessarily sour their outlook in that one guy be a represent, that one bad apple to be a representative of the thousands of people that we have coming through our doors every day.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  There’s information on tax credits and a bonding program, again,, right on our front page. Cory, you wanted to say something.

Cory Laborde:  Yes. Well, I wanted to shy in and just say, for one, when you’re hiring or firing somebody, you’re not hiring and firing them based off something they did 10, 15 years ago, you’re hiring and firing them based off what’s going on right now.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  You can have an individual, for one, I have maybe like 16 staff, and with all of them, men and women, different nationalities and all, all of them are trained to do something different. And when you are hiring them and you ask them to do something you may have somebody who’s never done anything as far as criminal law is concerned –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Never broke a criminal law on record.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tony Lewis:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  And you may have another individual who probably did 10, 15 years ago, he’s ashamed of it, he’s ready to move on, he’s ready to put that behind, he’s ready to go forward.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  I learnt that dealing with CSOSA since the partnership came about, along with my organization, Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, which pastored it by a man who gave me the same type of passion, Archbishop Alfred A. Owens –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Who look at people for what they can be and not what they were.

Len Sipes:  And have a national reputation –

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely. And he’s very –

Len Sipes:  In terms of working with people in the community.

Cory Laborde:  And my pastor’s been very successful with that based on – I’ll give you an example. You may have an individual who may come up and you may hire them because they don’t have any past whatsoever.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  All right. But that person is ready to get a past, because they just didn’t get caught with some of the things they probably already done got away with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  You may have another individual that you shun away because of his past, but he or she really do not want to do those things no more. They’re ready to move forward. They’ve already done put their hand inside the cookie jar before and got caught.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  So they dare wouldn’t do that again. So they’re ready to give you 5, 10 years, 15 years of longevity. Where you have another individual who probably still got his hand in the cookie jar, constantly put his hand in the cookie jar, he just never got caught doing. And then you wind up hiring that person based off of those circumstances and they wind up letting you down.

Len Sipes:  All right, Charlie, but, again, let’s go back to what I’ve heard from employers so many times, “I’ve got 30 people, 15 have histories, criminal histories, 15 don’t, that automatically, I’m automatically looking to hire from that group of 15 who don’t, because why not? I mean and all things being equal, I’d rather dip into the pool that doesn’t have a criminal history than those who do.” Is that a realistic expectation on the part of a business person? Should that person do that? That’s what I hear most often from the employment community.

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, I know as a small business owner I don’t think that’s relevant, because with my organization I found that CSOSA has been a great help as far as supporting us, as far as supervision, about the individuals that we work with. They have job developers, as well as job coaches. So whenever an issue is raised on the job, I can make a contact with Tony and call him and say, “Tony, well, the guy’s a couple of minutes late, been a couple of minutes late three times, four times. Can you talk to him?” Tony will talk to him and get him back on track.

However, my individuals who are not under supervision, when they’re late for work, that’s an issue for me to deal with. And it just doesn’t seem relevant at this point for me, because the support that I receive your office, CSOSA, I mean it really helps me as a small business person, because it’s money, it’s money on the table. When I got to stop doing what I’m doing to come in and talk to people about them being late for work or about the productivity and things of that nature it’s a bottom line for me. So to have CSOSA there to assist me with that it’s like having an extra supervisor on call that I could call –

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Charlie Whitaker:  And say –

Tony Lewis:  How about that.

Charlie Whitaker:  “I need some assistance today.” And believe it, they come right on over.

Len Sipes:  But that’s what we’re selling, gentlemen. I think Tony and I, we’ve been down this path dozens and dozens of times. We’re selling quality people, in many cases with real skills, with a real work history, who don’t have a substance abuse background, who have been years since their last criminal activity.

Tony Lewis:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  And I’ve had them before these microphones dozens and dozens of times. I’ve had them on television and I’ve had them on radio, and they’re sitting there in a three-piece suit and they’re skilled human beings, but they’re unemployed because 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, they got involved in a criminal activity, and they are completely changed people now. So what we’re pitching is don’t give us a handout, what we’re pitching is that we’re good for your bottom line.

Tony Lewis:  Absolutely. And it’s one of those things as well where you find that, again, all this stuff is really about stigma and a small percentage of individuals making mistakes that have adverse effect on many. And you have things that have happened throughout society, and then we make these so-called policies, they’re supposed to protect us from whatever happens, and then it has, again, these adverse effects. I mean even in terms of when you see things – I mean all the crazy things that I hear that happen like on the job where there’s people going postal or what have you, those typical aren’t people with criminal backgrounds. Or when you hear about – you have shows like Lock Up that’s on TV and you got these things that you see the cameras going in the prison and people have these things in the back of their mind, like, “Oh, wow!. Well, when that guy gets out of prison I wouldn’t him or her to come and work beside me.” And I really think that affects the psyche in the sense that people don’t even understand. And some people’s crimes, they don’t even have a rational relationship to the job. Like so if I had a drug offense when I was 18 and now I’m 27, why can’t I be a janitor at your business? Like where is the conflict, right? Like things – that’s just a basic example. But I think that’s what we have to do. Companies have to look at the people on a case by case basis.

Len Sipes:  Both Charlie and Cory mentioned it. And that is, is that when you hire somebody who is under our supervision, you get Tony Lewis, you get other people that work along the side of Tony Lewis who will intervene, help you out. You get the community supervision officer, otherwise, throughout –

Tony Lewis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Known as a parole and probation agent.

Tony Lewis:  A vocation development specialist.

Len Sipes:  Vocational development specialist. You have a team who will help you deal with whatever comes up in terms of that individual. Well, you get tax credits; you get a bonding program, because –

Tony Lewis:  That protects you.

Len Sipes:  That really does protect in terms of your own liability. So there are assets at our disposal, at your disposal, to hire people. And again, the emphasis is not somebody fresh out of prison. We’re not talking about the sex offender in the daycare center. We’re talking about people with real skills who are months, if not years away from their last substance abuse history, months, if not years away from their last crime, but we have a 50% unemployment problem. So that stigma, getting beyond that stigma is proving to be very difficult. Charlie or Cory, you want to weigh in on this, that stigma?

Cory Laborde:  I want to give – I’m going to – I may come off subject a little bit, but I’ll go back to it.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Cory Laborde:  I had a situation. We had in DC we’ve been not so blessed with this heavy snow this winter.

Charlie Whitaker:  Yeah. Right.

Cory Laborde:  Very unexpected winter. So I have employees, and dealing with this snow, and I had the center employees. I had the relationship I got with CSOSA and some individuals they sent me. But one stuck to mind. Her name was Monica Womack, a female. And we got the snow detail going on. And the center employees, they’ve been there for a few years; they know what time they’re supposed to be at work, they know the routine, etc. Here’s a young lady just came about with the program. She’s ready to work. She calls me at 11:00 at night on my personal phone, “Mr. Cory, what time can you use me? What time I can be to work? What time do I need be to work, etc. etc.?” I said, “Well, monitor your phone. I would love to have your help out of there. Dealing with the snow we can never have enough help.”

Len Sipes:  That’s right.

Cory Laborde:  Anyway, I sent out the e-mail and said what time everybody’s expected to be to work. I get there an hour early before the crew. Don’t you know this young lady was there waiting on me.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Cory Laborde:  Public transportation was not even running that morning. She walked from Maryland Avenue all the way to Rhode Island Avenue –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Just so she can be to work on time.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Now, I share that story to say I looked at this individual and said, “This is the individual I would hire when the program is up.”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Because you’re showing me that you really want to work. Never mind the fact of what she did 15, 20 years ago, even if it was three years ago. I don’t have to always use the word ten, that can be five years ago.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  But she’s ready to change. And you can have individuals that may be a decorated soldier, he may be a decorated soldier, he probably went to Iraq and fought for our country. And he probably came back home and got into a drunken bar fight defending his little sister or defending his wife or something and he hit somebody and he got a simple assault charge. Does that mean that this person is not capable of being an engineer? Does that mean he’s not capable of working at your facility because he made a mistake that one time? So you have to have a broader mind and look past some of these things.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program. Today’s program is on hiring offenders. We have Charlie Whitaker, CEO of Career Path DC; we have Cory Laborde, the facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, one of the most renowned religious organization in our area, and well known throughout the world and through the Unites States, rather; and Tony Lewis, job developer for CSOSA, talking about what it takes to get people that we currently have under supervision, what it takes to get them hired.

The issue is, is that for every person sitting in this room and every person listening to this radio show today, we’ve all had our problems in the past. I won’t speak for the three of you, but certainly I have done things way back in my youth that if I was caught maybe I would’ve been caught up in the criminal justice system. And I’ve always said that my first encounter in the criminal justice system was being arrested. So the point is, is that all of us could suffer a fate that hangs over our heads for the rest of our life. If what we’re saying is true, then it is a stigma. If 50% of our folks are unemployed, then what Tony is saying is true, that people cannot get beyond the fact that that person was caught up in the criminal justice system, people cannot get beyond that stereotype.

And that bothers me, because if we don’t give individuals an opportunity, then that means the greater chance for them to go back into the criminal justice system. That means a greater chance for more crime. And that has a real cost of literally tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars for states throughout the United States in terms of taking somebody back in the criminal justice system who may not be there if they were employed. The research is pretty clear that the more they’re employed the better they do. So isn’t it in everybody’s collective best interest to look beyond that criminal charge and to take a hard look at that person in terms of making that decision as to who to hire?

Charlie Whitaker:  Yes. That’s true. And just speaking on that stigma, just speaking on that stigma piece, many times people do look at people that are coming back to the community from being incarcerated as untrustworthy and things of that nature. But you got to look at this thing from this point of view; a lot of people that I work with, this is their last chance. When they come to me and they feel like this is their last chance at putting their life back on track. So these individuals they’re not going to do anything to go back to jail. And the process that they go through to determine whether they’re coming into our program is a lengthy process. So by the time they get to us it’s like these are the best individuals for the job. So they’re hardworking, they’re dependable, they’re loyal. These are the individuals that came in every time it snowed. These are the guys that came to the job.

Len Sipes:  Because they understand that they’re not in a position to jump from one job to the other –

Charlie Whitaker:  There you go, absolutely, there you go.

Len Sipes:  That this is one of the few chances that they’re going to get, thereby, they turn out to be pretty good employees. Go ahead, Cory.

Cory Laborde:  Right. Yeah. I’ve been so impressed with some of the individuals that came through the CSOSA program that I definitely want to make sure I point this out before we end this –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Cory Laborde:  Is that I actually hired a few of them. I just didn’t have them come through the program and said, “Okay, send me another 10 people, send me another 15 people.”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  I called Tony and said, “Look, how long more this guy got or this woman got –?”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  “Before her program is up?” There’s been a few conversations we’ve had like this.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, several.

Cory Laborde:  And he may say, “Well, I’m looking at it now and so and so may graduate in two months.” or whatever. I said, “Well, I can’t wait that long. I want to hire him. I got a position open. I don’t know how long this window’s going to stay open. I want to hire him.” Because and then I don’t want to put a stigma on them and say they’re only good for cleaning or they’re only good for housekeeping. I have one guy now that we’re training to be an engineer inside our organization, because he’s shown that he has handyman skills. He’s proven himself above and beyond. So you can look at these individuals and put a stigma all you want, but you have to ask yourself, it could be your nephew, it could be your niece, it could be your son, that made a mistake when they was 15, 17, 18 years old and do you want them to still have that on them when they get older?

Len Sipes:  Right now you’re going to be talking to, you are talking to congressional aides, you’re talking to aides to mayors, you’re talking to aides to county executives, you’re talking to aides to governors, you’re talking to criminal justice leadership, but you’re talking to a lot of people who have input in terms of policy throughout the country. What would you say directly to them, to that, right now, to that congressional aide, to that aide to the governor of Arizona? What do you say to that person to move people beyond this stereotype of people in the criminal justice system?

Cory Laborde:  Well, that’s a question I would love to answer, for those that are listening that are in positions to make decisions. The first person come to my mind is a young man I hired through the program. His name was Kenneth Trice. Kenneth came about through the CSOSA program and he was just looking for a chance. And he was so appreciative of the chance that he didn’t want do anything to do wrong. And he impressed us so that we hired him, we had a part-time position came open, and we hired him for the part-time position. And shortly right after the part-time position, it wasn’t even a cool three months, a full-time position came open and he was a candidate for it.

Why I’m sharing this story about Kenneth. I remember Kenneth came inside my office one time, Len, and he was very disturbed, he was going through some stuff with his children’s mother and he was trying to move on with himself. And he got two little girls. This is why I’m talking to the people who make decisions. Those two little girls, they now have a father that can bring something and go Christmas shopping because he got a decent check, an honest check that he can bring it home. So now the people who are making decisions, who was changing laws, who’s changing legislations, look at it, you’re not just helping that one person, you’re helping the people that’s behind them that’s coming next, because it’s the domino effect.

Now that Kenneth can come and make honest living, he can come and do something for these two little girls, he’s now giving them the opportunity to maybe potentially be nice young ladies coming into society. Now, if it was the opposite way, it would’ve been Kenneth being bad, the two girls being bad. Now you got three individuals inside a community that’s a threat to society. Instead you’ve got three individuals inside the community that are actually being a good to the society based off the CSOSA program.

Len Sipes:  Charlie, do you want to take a shot at that? You’re now talking to the aide to the governor of Hawaii.

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, unemployment is a public safety issue and that’s how I attack it when I’m working with people. And I would like for them to see it that way. That an individual who’s working is less likely to commit a crime. Individuals who’re out here and without employment, who’re struggling day to day, living in poverty, those are the individuals who in most instances would take that chance that’s going to send them back to jail and hurt other people’s families. So when you look at employment it’s a lot cheaper to give a person a job paying 13, 14 dollars an hour so that they can take care if their family than the government paying 40, 50, 000 dollars a year to incarcerate this person. And now the government not only got to take care of this person, but now they got to take care of this person’s family.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Charlie Whitaker:  So when you look at it from at the bottom line it’ll come out a lot cheaper for everybody. And I don’t really want to talk about the human side of it, because that’s something totally different. But there’s a human side to this thing too. When you got an individual who’s trying to take care of their families, and there’s no way that they can do it legitimately, so now they turn to something that can get them incarcerated, and now they’re taken away from their family. And this also costs, not just the community, but it costs everybody, because now our taxes go up and things of that nature.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Charlie Whitaker:  So think this is something that policymakers really got to look at. If you really want to bring down the deficit, let’s do things where we can create jobs for individuals instead of building prisons.

Len Sipes:  Gentlemen, we only have four minutes left in the program. Tony, I’m going to go to you. I’m talking now about 20 years ago I sat with a group of people caught up in the criminal justice system in the state of Maryland and it was about 20 of them. And I met them in the evening and we were talking about work. And I think that probably 17 out of the 20 were unemployed. These individuals were certainly not a risk to public safety. All of them had skills, all of them had backgrounds, and yet the frustration that they expressed of not being able to find work was strong. And they essentially told me, “Look, Leonard, if we don’t find work, what’s to stop us from going back to doing what we used to do?”

Tony Lewis:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  I mean it was powerful, it was strong, and it was depressing all at the same time, because these people were not a threat to public safety. What do you say to folks under supervision? What do you say to folks to keep their spirits up and to keep them moving in the right direction?

Tony Lewis:  I’m a big believer in hope. And I point to examples, I point to the Kenny Tracies or the Monica Womacks of the world. I speak to the importance of being resilient and remaining steadfast to hold on until the opportunity comes. And we also bring up definitely what’s the alternative. And we bring up those children, right, and the risk of leaving them again, and that they need you in spite of, you know? And I think one of the things for this country we really got to think about this though. We’re the number jailer in the world. There’s two million people incarcerated, and 90% of that two million will return to the community. It’s imperative that we create systems that will allow those people to integrate back into the workforce so that – I mean there’s 1.7 million children with an incarcerated parent that’s under the age of 18. So these are really, these are issues that affect education; these are issues that affect public safety. So, and we talk to our clients and our job seekers in a way in which we keep them in tune with how they affect how society works. And so that’s how we keep them motivated to stay positive.

Len Sipes:  Charlie and Cory, we only have a little bit less than a minute. What do you tell employers? You’re looking somebody right in the eye through this program. What do you tell employers, how is hiring folks from CSOSA, from parole and probation throughout the country, how is it going to affect their bottom line?

Cory Laborde:  Right. Well, I look at it like this. Hire the best person for the job, period, the best person for the job, period. Not based off what they did 15, 10, 5 years ago, based off what you need for your organization, what’s the position that needs to be fulfilled, and find the best candidate .

Len Sipes:  Got it.

Cory Laborde:  Regardless of their past.

Len Sipes:  Do not let the criminal history stand in the way of giving that person –

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  An objective, appraisal –

Cory Laborde:  Because you could be letting go a key person for their organization.

Len Sipes:  One of your best employees.

Cory Laborde:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Charlie, give me your 30 second response.

Charlie Whitaker:  I just believe that people deserve a second chance. So in my organization, primarily 95% of my people are returned citizens. And I also believe that at the end of the day, we’re all people, and there’s a people aspect to this thing, and we got to think anybody who’s not working and wants to take care of their family in my eyes is a threat to public safety. So when we cut off those opportunities to individuals we create those issues.

Len Sipes:  Our guests today have been Charlie Whitaker, CEO of Career Path, and Cory Laborde; he is the facilities, he’s from the facilities, facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, and Tony Lewis, job developer for CSOSA, our website,, Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for listening. We want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Illinois Adult Redeploy Initiative-National Criminal Justice Association

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

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program. At our microphones we’ve got people from throughout the United States. Mary Ann Dyar, she is a Program Administrator of the Adult Redeploy Program in Illinois. Jack Cutrone, he is the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And we have Cabell Cropper, he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. This program is really interesting, ladies and gentlemen. Landmark legislation, it seeks to promote local alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenders. In order to meet this goal, the legislation empowered the Criminal Justice Information Authority to create the Adult Redeploy Program, which provides monetary incentives to help communities pay for evidence-based, rehabilitative and supervision services. In exchange for monetary incentives and technical assistance, localities agree to reduce the number of offenders remanded to the division of correction there in the state of Illinois by 25%. While the initiative is only a little more than two years old, it’s already diverted 1,200 offenders and it saved an estimated 20 million dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, again, Mary Ann Dyar, Jack Cutrone, and Cabell Cropper the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Dyar:  Thank you for having me.

Jack Cutrone:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, Jack, give me a sense of the program. You’re the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. You guys, by the way, have been doing this for decades. I can’t, I’m not aware of a state in the Unites States that has been more data driven than the state of Illinois through the criminal justice authority in the state of Illinois. You guys have been around for decades.

Jack Cutrone:  Yes. We have. And we actually have been doing the best job that we can to try and educate policy makers and legislators about the benefit of using evidence-based practices programs in the criminal justice area in order to produce the best results. And the Adult Redeploy Program was enacted through some landmark legislation in Illinois, which was the Crime Reduction Act of 2009, an act that our agency certainly welcomed. It created a much stronger database decision making policy for the state. And one aspect of that was the creation of the Adult Redeploy Illinois Program.

Len Sipes:  And so it’s been in existence for how long, a little over two years?

Jack Cutrone:  Actually a little – the act was passed in 2009. I think the first site went up in early 2011. Is that correct, Mary Ann?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Yes.

Jack Cutrone:  So it’s actually been in operation for about three years, but those were the earliest pilot sites. And Mary Ann has done a wonderful job of promoting the program to local jurisdictions throughout the state and has expanded it immeasurably.

Len Sipes:  And, Mary Ann, why don’t you talk to me about the process of redeploying or throughout the state of Illinois?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Well, the goals of Adult Redeploy Illinois are to reduce crime and recidivism at a lower cost to taxpayers and provide financial incentives to counties or judicial circuits to create effective local level evidence-based services and to encourage the successful local supervision of eligible offenders in the reintegration into the locality. Those goals are stated in the Crime Reduction Act. How we do that is providing grants to local jurisdictions. That might be counties; it might be groups of counties that come together, review the data as to the number of eligible offenders that they’re sending to the Department of Corrections, and when I say eligible, that’s nonviolent offenders, per the statute, that are going into the Department of Corrections on charges that would’ve been eligible for probation. And they look at the data, they look at the gaps in their services and their supervision capabilities.  When I say supervision, again, that would be probation, their probation departments, primarily, and they determine, if funds were available, who would be their target population to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders going to prison, and what would be the target intervention focused around an evidence-based practice. They submit to us a mini-strategic plan that basically gives the context, describes the data, describes their target population, and then what it is they want to do. And an oversight board, that was basically enacted by the Crime Reduction Act as well, reviews those grant requests and makes them in exchange for the commitment to reduce by 25% the number of people they send to prison from that target population they’ve identified.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, you –

Jack Cutrone:  And let me –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Jack Cutrone:  I’m going to lose track .

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Jack Cutrone:  I was going to pick up on something that Mary Ann was speaking about.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Jack Cutrone:  In terms of the local jurisdictions developing a goal identifying their target population, because the statute provides actually for a penalty if the local jurisdiction doesn’t meet its reduction goal, we through – and I’ll call the Criminal Justice Information Authority CJIA, because that’s a much shorter term that we usually employ – CJIA houses criminal history record information, and once they identify their target population, we run through our database and calculate how many individuals from that population they have sent to the Department of Corrections over the past, over the prior three year period. And that’s how we establish the goal number in order to beat that 25% reduction. So in a way it sort of keeps them honest, but, frankly, none of the jurisdictions have ever had a problem with meeting the goal. For the most part, they exceed it greatly.

Len Sipes:  Well, I do want to talk more about that in terms of how they met that goal and what percentage were and what were the issues, controversies, discussions that the different counties throughout the state of Illinois had. But I do also want to get in the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association, Cabell Cropper. Cabell, the whole idea here is that the project Redeploy has done something wonderful that the National Criminal Justice Association wants to bring to the attention of everybody else throughout the country. And I do want to point out to the listeners that the National Criminal Justice Association has been at the forefront of making sure that everybody out there understands what programs work, the fact that they’re throughout the country, they recognize good programs, programs that really do need attention. So the role of the National Criminal Justice Association has been rather profound in terms of bringing these experiences to the rest of us in the criminal justice system, agreed?

Cabell Cropper:  That’s correct. That’s right on target. And what we’ve been doing nationally as the representative of the state administrating agencies, those agencies in each state that’s designated by the governor to manage criminal justice systems coming from both federal and state governments, we provide support in terms of working with these agencies to put in place comprehensive multi-disciplinary stakeholder driven strategic planning processes. And specifically with the Adult Redeploy Program we have provided some support to Mary Ann and her staff in overall kind of the high-level of strategic planning. And also we then use our experience to bring that program to other state agencies, pointing out the effectiveness and how it is a good example of a data driven strategy that ends up saving money as well as providing better outcomes for both the offenders and the community. So, yeah, so we are, we look to state agencies like the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to lead the way on these kinds of initiatives. And this particular one is of national significance that we like to bring to the attention of other states.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, before we go back to our friends in Illinois. Am I right in saying that the true innovation within the criminal justice system doesn’t necessarily come from those of us in Washington DC, it seems to percolate up at the county and state and local levels, and that’s one of the real strengths of the National Criminal Justice Association, because you represent all of the criminal justice authorities within the 50 states and territories?

Cabell Cropper:  Absolutely. That’s exactly right. All the programs that we consider now best practices, the promising practices have come from a state or local level. Starting with drug courts back in the 90s all the way through now to the whole probation program in Hawaii –

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Cabell Cropper:  And now programs like Adult Redeploy. So, yes, definitely, it does not come from DC.

Len Sipes:  So, Jack and Mary Ann, basically we’re sitting here because Illinois has been (a) doing evidence-based research for how long, Jack? I mean I think my entire criminal justice existence, which spans 40 years, I can’t remember the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority not being there.

Jack Cutrone:  It’s actually been in existence a bit over 30 years. There was actually a predecessor agency that had a slightly different name, but, yeah, we’ve been around for altogether probably about 40 years.

Len Sipes:  And have the people in the state of Illinois, the criminal justice authorities throughout the state, the people in the legislature, the governor’s office, has it been your experience that they really pay a lot of attention to the evidence-based research that you’ve been producing for decades?

Jack Cutrone:  It certainly has been a growing movement, not only in Illinois, but nationally, towards applying the principles of evidence-based or empirically driven programming throughout the criminal justice system. It was something that was actually I think adopted from the medical field, initially, where they realized that some of the treatments they were giving there was no data to support their effectiveness. And that idea certainly has taken hold in the criminal justice field and among policymakers and legislators in Illinois.

Len Sipes:  Well, I just wanted to be sure that the evidence, rather, the audience really understands that Illinois was one of the leaders in this country in terms of moving into evidence-based practices. Mary Ann, talk to me about the experience of getting Adult Redeploy into the counties and jurisdictions throughout the state of Illinois. I would imagine at the beginning it was not the easiest of sells, was it or was it not?

Mary Ann Dyar:  There’s a lot of, well, first of all I should mention that the Adult Redeploy Illinois Program is based on a successful Juvenile Redeploy Illinois Program that’s been operating since 2005, and during that time has built up an impressive reputation for bringing down the number of juvenile offenders in the juvenile prison system. In fact, they have beat; generally, the Juvenile Redeploy Illinois sites have beat their 25% reduction goals and have been over 50%. In one site they went from sending 83 kids to juvenile prison a year to 11 –

Len Sipes:  Wow!

Mary Ann Dyar:  Through the interventions, the evidence-based interventions that were funded by Redeploy Illinois. So we were able to leverage that reputation and that understanding from the juvenile side and go into the communities and talk with them about how this might be replicated in the adult criminal justice system. And you’re correct; it wasn’t always an easy sell. Not only are we talking about the difference between the way juvenile offenders may be regarded by the community and their ability to be rehabilitated versus hardened adult criminals, but we’re also talking about the concerns on public safety that are very high-profile to elected officials, whether it be prosecutors, even in our state judges are retained through popular vote. So we did have to talk with them in terms of the evidence base that really does support that. They could be doing more harm than good by sending nonviolent offenders to prison. And this is an opportunity for them to invest in their local communities and get better results.

Len Sipes:  It sounds a bit like the Justice Reinvestment model. I just did a radio program with the Urban Institute, Nancy La Vigne. And we just did this program last week. And the whole idea was to do it smarter, do it better, do it evidence-based, take a look at who you’re incarcerating and why, who you’re putting into the criminal justice system. And that actually has a way of lowering recidivism, making it safer for the public, and at the same time, saving a tremendous amount of money and some of that money is reinvested back into the local communities to provide services. It sounds like what you’re describing with the Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Initiative is Justice Reinvestment.

Jack Cutrone:  Indeed. That is correct. It’s Illinois’ version of Justice Reinvestment.

Len Sipes:  And then that works for you. What I just said, that scenario of smarter, better, evidence-based, data driven, lowering recidivism, protecting the public, and saving tax paid dollars, that all applies here.

Jack Cutrone:  Absolutely.

Mary Ann Dyar:  Right. Yeah. And another thing that was mentioned in your program, which I thought was excellent, on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, is the cultural shift that we’re trying to promote is not only are we trying to demonstrate that you can get better results for less cost with this particular population if you utilize the best research out there and the technology that’s out there in terms of information sharing, but you can also have a different way of looking at the individual who is coming into this system on a nonviolent charge. Particularly if it’s driven by underlying needs in substance abuse, mental illness, even economic conditions can drive people to make decisions that are considered antisocial. If a community can look at that individual and what’s underlying their criminal behavior and then invest in proven practices to address those issues, then you’re talking about a cultural shift from send them away and throw away the key.

Len Sipes:  Well, what I want to do when – I’m halfway; we’re more than halfway through program. Let me reintroduce you and then, Jack, we’ll come back to your comments. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re doing a program on the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program. Pretty doggone successful initiative as far as I can tell. Mary Ann Dyar, she is the Program Administrator, Adult Redeploy in Illinois. Jack Cutrone is the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And Cabell Cropper, he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Again, we’re indebted to the National Criminal Justice Association for this program, and bringing, again, a decade’s worth of exemplary experience from the States to the attention of everybody else, so we can mimic and we can copy. Jack, you were trying to get in a comment.

Jack Cutrone:  Well, I just wanted to amplify on what Mary Ann was speaking about and in response to the topic you brought up about a culture shift. Her job has been made much more difficult in Illinois by the fact that we have a non-unified court system. So each local jurisdiction is run by a chief judge who’s largely autonomous, staffed by a state’s attorney who’s an elected official, therefore, autonomous, answerable to voters. And our experience and our research shows that there is a widely varying point of view about appropriate sentences to be given on individual cases across the state. The same offense in one county might produce a much different sentence in another county, sometimes much harsher. And Mary Ann has done a great job in terms of promoting the idea of producing a better result through the use of proven  practices, rather than just keep going doing the same thing we’ve always done and getting the same results, and she’s a marvelous salesperson with that.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, but the experience that Jack just talked about is something that we’re going through throughout the United States, is it not? This whole idea of having this discussion at the state level, having it at the county level, having it at the local level, everybody coming together and having this grand conversation, which seems to be taking place in thousands of locations. Having a conversation as to how can we do it smarter, better, cleaner, crisper, how can we reduce the burden on state government, and at the same time, how can we create a criminal justice system that reduces recidivism, reduces reoffending, and save money at the same time? That’s a conversation that’s happening everywhere, right?

Cabell Cropper:  That’s correct. By the weakened economic situation in the country we’ve been through the past several years that were pulling out of, but that really provided the impetus to begin to look very critically at how we were spending money in the criminal justice system. And it’s really grown into this movement in terms of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and some of these other programs like Adult Redeploy that look at how are we spending the money in criminal justice and how can we do a better job of that and be smarter about it

Jack Cutrone:  Oh, sorry, Cabell.

Cabell Cropper:  No. I was just going to, yes, that’s happening in almost every state and now more and more the local communities.

Len Sipes:  Mary Ann, that’s –

Jack Cutrone:  Because I wanted to comment –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, Jack.

Jack Cutrone:  I wanted to comment on that too, because the Adult Redeploy Program is really exemplary in terms of using federal funding to stimulate pilot projects in the state. When the Crime Reduction Act was passed 2009 creating Adult Redeploy, given Illinois’ current budget issues, the legislature was unable to provide funding. Governor Quinn of Illinois was very interested in promoting the program and we worked with the governor’s office to use four million dollars in American Reinvestment Recovery Act dollars to form a pilot or provide pilot funding for the programs. Once we had it up and running, we were able through our capture of data to take it the Illinois legislature and said, “Look, this is our program. We are saving the state money.”  We were able to persuade the General Assembly even in extremely tight economic circumstances to start funding it with state money; initially a two million dollar appropriation to cover the time period in which the federal funding was running out, and then last year a seven million dollar appropriation, and the governor has requested another seven million dollars this year. So it’s kind of using federal money to create a laboratory in the States to identify and put into effect good practices and programs.

Len Sipes:  Well, I find it amazing, because we have this conversations at the national level, we have them at the state level, but then again, we have Mary Ann who’s done it all at the local level. And, Mary Ann, you were talking about the difficulty, the sea-change, the cultural change, trying to bring everybody onboard and the fact that it was not easy. What do you think the principle at the county level; the principle ingredient was in terms of bringing them on? Because you’ve got 1,200 offenders diverted, you’ve saved the state 20 million dollars, the locals get funding as result of that, but what was the magic ingredient, the secret sauce that actually made that happen at the local level? Was it your pervasive, you being so persuasive, or was it some policy initiative?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Well, I think there’re a number of things that I can point to other than my persuasive or persuasion practices. But essentially, one thing is that we were working from, as you’ve alluded to earlier, a situation where Illinois has been discussing evidence-based practices and has been training actually many players in the system throughout the probation system on evidence-based practices for over ten years. What we often found though, is these individual players in the system got excited about what was possible and excited about the research, excited about the new tools that they were provided, but there was no funding to support it. And in fact, funding continued to be cut back from county probation budgets over the last several years, actually quite dramatically, making it impossible to implement these practices.  When they found out that there was some funding available that would actually incentivize them to implement what they learned, I think we found a lot of players that were just really excited about the opportunity, and they really carried the ball forward on that. I can’t say though that we haven’t been really benefited from or have been benefiting from the national dialogue, and what the National Criminal Justice Association has done in order to promote these conversations about evidence-based practices and the opportunities for getting better results at a lower cost.

Len Sipes:  And that’s one of the beauties about Cabell’s organization, the fact that they act as a central clearing house for state criminal justice agencies to have this discussion. So, again, thanks to the National Criminal Justice Association. Jack, are you coming in?

Jack Cutrone:  Yes. I just wanted to amplify on some of what Mary Ann was saying in terms of how we make it attractive to the local jurisdiction. We are talking about a population of in the criminal justice system that traditionally had gone to the Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections in Illinois, unfortunately, has a three year return rate, recidivism rate, of almost 50%. These practices that we are talking about we know it’s going to produce a much lower recidivism rate. So when we’re talking to local jurisdictions, what we’re talking about is the basic product of the criminal justice system, which is public safety. And we can demonstrate to the local jurisdictions that these practices mean less crime. Data driven, empirical, empirically driven evidence-based practices, become somewhat esoteric, but if you talk in terms of, “You’re going to have less crime in your county as a result of this program.”

Len Sipes:  It’s less –

Jack Cutrone:  That becomes meaningful.

Len Sipes:  But we really haven’t dived into that point. It’s less crime because of the programs that you all put in place, whether it be drug treatment, whether it be mental health, whether it be vocational, whatever it is, they’re getting, the people diverted are getting the programs they need to stay out of the criminal justice system. There’re lower level offenders that get the programs that they need. Is that the bottom line?

Jack Cutrone:  It’s part of a bottom line. Mary Ann mentioned it earlier. When you take people who are nonviolent, who are low-risk, and you impose a very strong sanction, such as imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections, you are actually increasing the chance that they’re going to commit another crime.

Len Sipes:  Because of the research that –

Jack Cutrone:  So –

Len Sipes:  Says that you’ve got to pick the most dangerous that people that who really needed the high-risk offenders, and that’s where you put your services or your incarcerative resources, and to the lower level people you try to divert. But you divert them in the programs, right?

Jack Cutrone:  Absolutely, absolutely. And I don’t mean to pick on the Illinois Department of Corrections. They, as are all state agencies, being victimized by falling state revenues and lowered budgets. I’m sure the Department of Corrections, if it had adequate funding to put in enough programs in place, would have a much lower recidivist rate, but the fact is in this financial climate that just can’t be done. And Adult Redeploy offers an alternative.

Mary Ann Dyar:  And I should mention that our oversight board, which is defined and established by the Crime Reduction Act, is co-chaired by the Director of the Department of Corrections and our Secretary of the Department of Human Services. And I think that that sends a very strong signal about how the solution to getting better results to drive down crime and recidivism is a collaboration, requires a collaboration between supervision strategies, effective supervision strategies, and human services that address underlying causes of crime.

Len Sipes:  Well, Mary Ann, you’ve got the final word. I think the program, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program, again, it’s amazing’ 1,200 offenders diverted, saving the state over 20 million dollars, and at the same time, protecting public safety. That is a heck of a combination. Our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, have been Mary Ann Dyar; she is the Program Administrator, Adult Redeploy in Illinois. Jack Cutrone, he is the Executive Director of the famous Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And we have Cabell Cropper; he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Again, thanks to them for putting together this program. The website for the Criminal Justice Information Authority and the project Redeploy is Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Criminal Justice Best Practices-Washington State Institute for Public Policy

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes, today’s show is an examination of best practices at the state level. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been looking forward to doing this show for the longest time. At our microphones is Elizabeth Drake, a Senior Research Associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Elizabeth, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Elizabeth Drake: Thank you, Leonard. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Len Sipes: I appreciate the fact of you guys being here. Ladies and gentlemen, let me put this in perspective for a second. The State of Washington may be the best example of an exhaustive examination of research at the state and national levels to guide public practice as to criminal justice and additional public initiatives. The research that they’ve offered over the course of decades is easy to read, it’s easy to understand, and they contain a cost-benefit analysis. So even though we’re talking about the experience today in the state of Washington, we are talking about an organization that has had a profound impact, profound influence all throughout the Unites States. Whenever I get into debates or discussions about criminal justice issues and criminal justice practices, the research from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy always come up. Elizabeth, anything I’m saying is an exaggeration to you?

Elizabeth Drake: No. It’s definitely, that’s not an exaggeration. Thank you for the nice thoughts.

Len Sipes: I don’t know of a state that has had this impact. I mean there’s the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. They’ve been around for a long time. Ohio has been around for a long time. Different states are known for doing good research. But no state, no individual state organization, research organization, has had the impact that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has, and I’m sort of wondering why that is. I think I know why that is, but you tell me.

Elizabeth Drake: You know, I think it could be a couple of different things. I think we’re set up pretty uniquely unlike other states. I think from our experience in talking with other states and sort of traveling around and doing presentations in other states, we’re set up, we were created by the legislature in 1983, and we do nonpartisan research directly for the legislature, so all of our projects are assigned to us through policy bills or budget bills. We also have a board of directors and so our projects can be assigned in that capacity as well. And so I’m not certain that many other states are set up quite like ours. And so that could be one possibility.

We have also been around a long time, like I said, since 1983. So we started our work doing criminal justice projects and have been around since then. We do research in a lot of other areas as well, including education and child welfare and adult behavioral health services and now in public health and other areas as well. So I think sort of growing in that kind of grassroots way, doing research and then getting assignments directly from the legislature and expanding into other areas is sort of what has kind of given us this maybe, different, capability than other states. I don’t know.

Len Sipes: I think it’s that plus. I have sat with folks from the Urban Institute, from the Department of Justice, from lots of other organizations, and the question I always ask is, “Why can’t your research, your very complicated, esoterical, methodologically laden, extraordinarily complex research, why can’t your stuff be as simple to read, as easy to read as the material coming out of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy?” I think it’s the fact that you communicate to the average person. You don’t have to be a criminologist, you don’t have to be a sociologist, you don’t have to be a methodologist to read and understand the impact of various programs and whether or not they’re cost-effective an whether or not we recommend implementing them. And if you implement we believe that this, that there’s a 15 degree, a 15% reduction in recidivism, and we think that you can expect a similar reduction in recidivism. I think it’s the clarity of the material that you create is the secret sauce.

Elizabeth Drake: Len, you’re absolutely right. And that’s something that our Director, it’s something that he tells us all the time. It’s the way that we present our findings, either in presentations or in reports, it has to be readable to the everyday average person, because it really is complicated. It’s complicated message wise, the research, the things that we’re doing, and all of that information is really important. That kind of stuff goes in the appendix. When you’re conveying bottom line information to legislators or policymakers, it absolutely comes down to that front summary box and summarizing things in a very clear and concise way. And I think also a lot of it too is the fact that we are nonpartisan researchers. So there’s a lot of thought that goes into every single word that ends up being put to paper, and we have a really serious editing process to make sure that when we’re writing reports, reports are getting read by several of us in the office, and just to make sure that, “Does this make sense to someone who would pick this up, they don’t anything about this particular topic?”. So that really is something that I think is an important key ingredient to conveying information to policymakers.

Len Sipes: And as I talk to the Urban Institute, and as I talk to the folks over at the Department of Justice, and as I talk to other organizations, they cite your research in terms of the clarity and simplicity, and they’re beginning to try to emulate it. I think Urban has done an extraordinarily good job of taking the complex and making it simple. So let’s move on a little bit, because, but I do want to give the audience a sense as to why you guys have been as successful as you have, a state public policy institute driving the agenda, not just for the state of Washington, but for the rest of us throughout the United States. Okay.

So all of this came out of the Washington State legislature. You get your assignments from them and they say, “Hey, we want you to take a look at recidivism, we want you to take a look at all the programs that apply to people on supervision, offenders on community supervision, programs in prison, and we want you tell us what programs work, what programs don’t, what programs will be cost-effective, how much can we expect for every dollar we invest, and what is the expected percentage decrease in terms of these programs?” And you just don’t look at State of Washington, you look at, you do what we used to literature review. You look at programs that are methodologically correct, which means they’re done properly throughout the Unites States and beyond to come to your conclusions, correct?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, correct. We got two kinds of assignments I would sort of put into two different categories. We will often get outcome assignments to look at outcome or do an outcome evaluation, specifically in Washington, that’s sort of one research project that we might get. But oftentimes, more often lately what we’ve been getting are these assignments to look at systematically what works to improve outcomes – either programs that are effective at reducing recidivism, programs that are effective at increasing high school graduation rates or decreasing substance abuse, reducing child abuse and neglect. And so you’re right in that we take the systematic approach to reviewing the research literature and coding all of those studies to see whether or not, say, for example: Are drug courts effective at reducing crime?

And so we take this average effect of studies that meet our minimum standards of rigor, and we have these minimum standards of rigor because we want to be able to reliably provide sound advice to our legislature. And so if we can’t have confidence in a study in terms of its rigor, we don’t include those studies in our systematic review. So that’s something that’s sort of a what works approach, looking at the literature to see what works to improve outcomes and then doing this cost-benefit analysis. And we have a piece of software that we’ve developed in-house that computes benefit-cost statistics, benefits to taxpayers in the state of Washington and return on investment statistics so that we have a sense of how these programs – that’s an internally consistent approach and apples to apples approach so that we can compare different policy options. So then policymakers can look at this sort of consumer reports type list to see which programs have the highest return on investment. So that’s sort of our two step research approach when we’re doing these systematic reviews of the literature.

Len Sipes: And now we have an entire audience that’s sitting there going, “All right, Leonard, stop plugging them and praising them, and, Elizabeth, stop talking about your process.” They want to know from your findings what have been some of the most effective programs in terms of reducing recidivism, coming out of the prison system or being caught up in the criminal justice system. What are some of the most effective programs? That wasn’t on the list of what we were going to talk about. But I just said to myself, “My heavens, we’re driving our listeners crazy.” They want to know what in terms of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s research, what programs truly are effective.

Elizabeth Drake: Sure, yeah. So for adult corrections a lot of our work has really been focused on corrections in the criminal justice system. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one program that has a pretty return on investment, pretty effective at reducing recidivism. Different drug treatments, therapeutic communities for chemically dependent offenders, sex offender treatment, supervision when it’s coupled with treatment is fairly effective, and supervision when it’s focused on the risks and needs and responsivity to offenders, that kind of supervision is even more effective than just traditional supervision that’s more of a surveillance style. In the juvenile justice system some of the programs that are heavily invested in here in Washington are invested in, we’ve invested in them, or the state has invested in them because of how effective they are at reducing crime. And some of those programs include aggression or placement training or functional family therapy, multi-systemic therapy.

We have a pretty comprehensive list on our website. These days we’re putting our benefit-cost results directly to our website so that users of our work can find them really easily. We have these sort of reports over time that are static reports. And they’re sort of in a library on our website. But our benefit-cost results now are available on our benefit-cost page to user. So you can click on any of these research areas: Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare, General Prevention of Substance Abuse and see which programs are the most effective. And we rank them by the highest return on investment.

Len Sipes: Elizabeth, what is the website for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy?

Elizabeth Drake: It’s

Len Sipes: Okay. That’s www.wspp –

Elizabeth Drake: Ipp.

Len Sipes: Ipp?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah.

Len Sipes:

Elizabeth Drake: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay, cool. And one of the things that I discovered in terms of your research was that the that one program in particular that had the highest rate of recidivism reduction were early intervention programs with juvenile offenders working with the parents and working with the offender himself or herself when they were juveniles. I was sort of astounded that by, well, just the impactful program was that particular program. Am I right or wrong?

Elizabeth Drake: Which program are you talking about?

Len Sipes: I don’t remember the name of the program.

Elizabeth Drake: Okay.

Len Sipes: It specifically dealt with going in and dealing with a parent or parents –

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Of the person caught up in the criminal justice system.

Elizabeth Drake: Well, and there’s several. I would say in the juvenile system many of those interventions take this sort of multi-systemic approach, multi-systemic therapy, functional family therapy, multi-dimensional treatment foster care. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they are so effective is that they’re taking an approach that includes both the youth, the parents, the schools, and it’s a multi-dimensional approach. So several of those programs are on our list and being done here in Washington State.

Len Sipes: Well, but were they right in terms of the fact that they seem to have higher percentage decreases in recidivism than other programs designed for adults?

Elizabeth Drake: I don’t know about design for adults, but definitely compared to other juvenile justice interventions, yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. I mean that’s what I came out of it. I came out of it with most of the adult programs will give you reductions in the 10 to 15% range. And several of the early intervention programs dealing with the mom and dad or just the mom of the juvenile offender caught up in the criminal justice system, oftentimes those were in the 20 and higher percent reduction levels. So it seemed to me just as a layperson, that reading that seems to say that if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, intervene early in the lives of people caught up in the criminal justice system. I know that statement carries baggage because we don’t want to overly involve ourselves in their lives and we want it to be appropriate because we don’t want to start focusing on lower level people, we want to focus on higher level people, but nevertheless the juvenile justice initiatives seemed to have a greater impact than the adult initiatives.

Elizabeth Drake: Right. And I would say that that’s probably true for two reasons. One being that you’re intervening with the youth when they’re in their sort of high crime years, that peak of committing crimes; and over time generally people will tend to age out of crime. So that’s one reason why I think that we see a higher return on our investments for these juvenile justice programs. I think the second reason is that we’re trying to take advantage of what the literature tells us, not only about programs and their effectiveness, most of these studies specifically measure the impact of the intervention on crime. But at the Institute for Public Policy we also look at how outcomes may impact other outcomes.

So for example, what we have found is that when we look at the literature that says that if you can get a youth to graduate from high school they’re less likely to commit crime. And so in our cost-benefit model for those juvenile justice interventions we’re able to monetize that information about high school graduation. And so benefits that are included in those particular programs include not only crime benefits but education benefits from graduating high school.

Len Sipes: Our guest today is Elizabeth Drake; she is a Senior Research Associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. They produce some of the best research and most impactful research, not just for that particular state, but throughout the rest of the country. We follow every report that comes out fairly religiously, is the website. Did I get that correct, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Drake: Yes.

Len Sipes: Now, Elizabeth, I do want to talk to you about the ramifications, the real-world ramifications about doing evidence-based research. All of us talk a good game throughout the United States in terms of doing evidence-based research, in terms of doing best practices research, but Washington State is one of the few states out there that really has embraced it and implemented it. Have you ever gotten any pushback from it? I just talked about juvenile offenders and intervening early in the lives of juveniles and intervening with their parents.

But, again, I mean there’s people out there – as soon as I said that said, “Wait a minute, Leonard, we don’t want to be intervening in the lives of all juveniles.” Most of these people age out. I was reading a Department of Justice report yesterday about how most age out without continuing, without being involved in the criminal justice system. I know the research is very clear that we’re supposed to be focusing on high-risk people, not necessarily low-risk people. Does the process of putting out research and giving all this advice, is it uniformly embraced or does it come with stumbles?

Elizabeth Drake: No. It’s definitely not uniformly embraced. And I think what I would say is that our success in getting our state to use research really hinges upon building relationships with legislators and legislative staff. And I think when we receive an assignment and we can provide information that the legislature can rely upon and know that this is nonpartisan, unbiased information; I think it’s something that we get from both chambers and both parties. It’s helpful to them. And so I think that’s one of the reasons why we can be successful in certain areas and we’ve been particularly successful in corrections, both adult corrections and juvenile justice, but not necessarily in others. And I think it does go back to sort of that grassroots, homegrown, you’re building these relationships over time. So it’s not just an overnight thing.

We’re starting to I would say get more assignments in education. Part of that is hinging upon the fact that our state supreme court ruled last year that the state of Washington was not fully funding basic education. And so now I think that budget decisions are having to be made about how public education is being financed. And so people are starting to use our work a little bit more in education as well. We’ve gotten an assignment with the Initiative 502 that was passed by that state of Washington, our first assignment that we’ve received through an initiative actually for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and we were named in that initiative to study that implications of legalizing marijuana. And I would say that there are people who are skeptical about who we are and what we’re doing in that particular project. It’s a very long-term project. And it just will take time in building those relationships I think and having people understand what it is that we do exactly.

Len Sipes: But I’ll give you an example. Again, all of us are supposed to be evidence-based practitioners, all of us are supposed to be research-based practitioners. And we like to believe that we here at my organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is that we are best practices based, we are research based. But boot camps, especially for younger offenders, the research says overwhelmingly that they don’t work, yet they remain popular throughout the country. So there seems to be a point where you can say, “Hey, this is the best practice; this is what the research tells us.” And people are going to say, “Well, we don’t care. I like this program. I’m going to move forward with this program.” So there’s always that yin and yang between best practices and state of the art research and what people are actually willing to do.

Elizabeth Drake: Right. Yeah. And I think that that does happen in Washington and I think luckily there are some people who have an understanding that you know, in the juvenile justice system, for example, we got one of our very first assignments looking at a supervision probation program that you know, the claim was that it worked and we did an evaluation of it and found out that it didn’t work. I think, you know, we were fortunate in that many of the juvenile court administrators at that time said, “Well, you know, if this doesn’t work, we have, it’s incumbent upon us to provide to our clients something that does work.” And so they – they have a good attitude about it and you know, and I think that that’s what led to the systematic review of, “Okay, well what does work for use in the juvenile justice system?”

You know, it’s not always that way with everything that we do and sometimes you know, there are lots of times that people don‘t necessarily use the research that we come up with and you know, eventually, maybe sometimes it just takes time for those things to happen.

Len Sipes: And there’s always the inevitable argument. Okay, so it reduces recidivism by 10 to 15%, and different people are going to come along and go, “Well, Leonard, that’s really not a lot.” So you can say it’s effective and you can say it’s cost effective, and you can say it will return $4.00 for every dollar invested, but you know, a 10 to 15% reduction in recidivism is not grand and glorious, so you have to deal with the fact that, okay, it is effective, but it’s not super effective. Do you know where I’m coming from?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I think our response to that is that, you know, crime is expensive, and so even a small reduction in crime, percentage reduction in crime can yield big taxpayer benefits. But you know, on the flip side, what I would say too is there’s just, you know, one thing that we’re looking at and that’s a reduction in recidivism. Sometimes there are programs or policies that exist out there for – they have different goals or different purposes and one of them, you know, can be punishment, for example. And so we’re just speaking to – in those instances, we’re just speaking to recidivism.

You know, sometimes you might have – for example we did an evaluation looking at earned early release from prison and found that the people who did not get earned early release were eligible for it, that they actually did better when they were eligible for earned early release but you know, the governor wasn’t, at that time wasn’t interested in expanding earned early release [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:45] time.

Len Sipes: Understood. And you know, when I say 10 to 15%, don’t get me wrong, 10 to 15% could save a state billions of dollars over time and could reduce rates of crime by the thousands. So a 10 to 15% reduction is certainly worthy of anybody’s consideration. It’s just that I hear from different people, “Oh, Leonard, it’s only 10 or 15%.” And I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. So we only have a couple minutes left in the program. It’s going by like wildfire, a lot quicker than I would want it to. The lessons learned in all of this – what lessons do you have for the rest of us who want to invest in state of the art practices, research based practices, best practices?

Elizabeth Drake: You know, I think some of our lessons, biggest lessons learned you already touched on building relationships and that’s a big one. Another one of our lessons, I think big lessons learned is that quality assurance matters and we found that out the hard way. You know, I think that knowing what works is the first step, and then implementing it and implementing those programs with fidelity is a whole ‘nother thing.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Elizabeth Drake: So we had, you know, found several programs in the juvenile justice system that were effective at reducing crime, implemented those programs here in Washington, did our own outcome evaluation to follow up with those programs, to see and actually sound that when therapists were not delivering the program with fidelity to the model that those kids were actually worse off than the kids who did not participate in the intervention at all. And so the juvenile courts then implemented a state-wide quality assurance for, I think it’s four or five different programs and it’s now being done. So that I would say is one of the biggest lessons learned. The State Department of Corrections is also now implementing quality assurance for several of their programs as well.

Len Sipes: We can do – we within the criminal justice system can do damage. I mean, I have seen research out there that has, that where programs have made recidivism worse, not better. So if they’re not implemented properly and if we don’t follow best practices, we can do more harm than good.

Elizabeth Drake: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. And I think that that’s, you know, one of the important things about doing outcome evaluations, especially when you’re relying on these systematic reviews then I think it’s a good idea to go back in and do an outcome evaluation here, you know, in Washington, once we’ve implemented the program to see whether or not we’re getting the results that we expect.

Len Sipes: And you know how interesting and how different that is from the experience in most states? You do an exhaustive review as to what’s happening throughout the country, an exhaustive review as to what’s happening in the state, you measure it, you provide the results, you do the benefit-cost analysis, you make these recommendations and then you follow up and do your own research to see if the program was implemented properly. That is the state of the art.

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, I think it is. Yeah.

Len Sipes: And that’s unusual, in a lot of states.

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, it seems to me as though it is unusual. You know, we have – we have a project that we’re working on right now – we’ve –

Len Sipes: We have about 15 seconds.

Elizabeth Drake: Oh sure. It’s funding from the Pew Center for the States and we are partnering with about, I think it’s 14 other states out there and I think that that’s what our colleagues at Pew Center for the States would also say is that, you know, in their experience, that this is not something that everybody’s doing, but seems like a really good idea.

Len Sipes: And we’re really remiss in terms of all the programs that I mentioned before, who have done a great job in terms of communicating with the public – Pew is certainly one. Our guest today has been Elizabeth Drake, a senior research associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. We talked about the wonderful job this organization has done over the last two decades in terms of analyzing criminal justice as well as public policy. And to provide guidance, not just to the State of Washington, but to the rest of us. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety, we really appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourselves a pleasant day.

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