Archives for May 2015

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Crime Victim Rights in the US-NOVA

Crime Victim Rights in the US-NOVA

A Constitutional Amendment for Victim Rights

National Organization for Victim Assistance

DC Public Safety Radio

Radio show available at

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones ladies and gentlemen Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trinova N O V A .org talking about victim’s rights in the United States. Before we hit the record button there is a whole laundry list of things that we’re talking about, number one if you’ve been listening to the show at all, that you know the NOVA is trying to do a constitutional amendment, the United States constitutional amendment to better protect victim’s rights. We’re also going to be talking about the limitations of incarceration, and the possibility of a holistic approach  as to involving victims credentialing, and what NOVA is doing to bring people into, up to speed I suppose in terms of making sure that they have the skills necessary to be victim’s advocates. A BJS report from the Department of Justice talking about the harm, the tremendous harm documented by victims of crime and the final question, whether or not victims of crime, and the issues of victims of crime has lessened in impact in the last couple of years, as we shift over to a conversation about incarceration, Will Marling welcome back to DC Public Safety.

WILL MARLING: Thank you Len, always a pleasure, always a pleasure.

LEONARD SIPES: Will, give us an update in terms of the United States constitutional amendment to better protect victims of crime.

WILL MARLING: Well thanks, we’ve been working in the 113th congress, which is the one, it is just coming to a close now, post-election, that covers men and women, as well as of course, or really in the lame duck period now as we conclude the year. But for the past two years, which is the length of congressional session, we have been working hard to educate legislators, particularly on the House of Representatives side, to understand this need for victim’s rights. In 33 states, crime victim’s rights are inculcated in the state constitutions, but that leaves 17 states without, and that means that there is not a constitutional amendment. I will also admit that even among the 33 states, it’s not as consistent as we might want it to be. So we recognize the need for a United States constitutional amendment to address victim’s rights. In the context of the last two years, we have been working very hard to educate those congressional leaders, particularly on the House side, to understand this need, and to focus on it. The challenges have been abundant, just with Congress itself, but just as an average there are roughly 20, to 25,000 bills introduced into a congressional session of two years. Between 2% and 4% of those pass, of course many of those bills are symbolic, everybody recognizes that, but at the same time, the math on that shows you that legislation itself is a real challenge. Then when we’re talking about moving it to the level of a United States constitutional amendment that, of course, ups the ante tremendously.

LEONARD SIPES: Constitutional amendments were made by our founding fathers, to be difficult. But the constitution as a living breathing document is susceptible to change. It does change, it has changed, but it’s not that easy to get a change in terms of the United States Constitution.

WILL MARLING: Well that’s exactly right, you have to have that two thirds in the house, and two thirds in the senate, and then three quarters of the known states. The only reason I say it that way, is back when the constitution was ratified by that same process, 13 colonies, 13 states had to do that. So three quarters of 13 states had to pass an amendment. Well now when you’re talking 50 states, you know there’s a lot more to that, and of course a lot more legislators that are representing, particularly in the House side, because we’ve always had two representatives in the Senate side from each state. So the math on that is the intriguing thing, but also the environment orient people don’t really understand that victims don’t have rights. It’s an assumption that victims should have rights, they’re at the core of the criminal justice process, people believe, but in reality the justice system is the system that’s working out its own form of justice, and that can be cumbersome.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s set the stage here so people understand that the United States Constitutional amendment would apply to federal crimes, not necessarily state crimes, but the assumption is, for those 17 states without any victim protections at all, in terms of their own constitutions. The assumption is that if there’s a federal US constitutional amendment to protect victims of crimes, the rest of the states will fall in line, probably if it’s done at the federal level.

WILL MARLING: Yes the United States Constitution trumps basically state constitutions in that we recognize from the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments that that will still apply to every citizen. So it can— a state constitution can be argued for affirming somebody’s rights, but the end of the day it’s going to be the United States Constitution that represents the extensive rights that the Supreme Court for instance is going to judge. So we’re just suggesting that, just like those accused in a given state of a crime, they can appeal to the United States Constitution for a number of rights, up to 23 perspective rights. We just want victims to have an affirmation of rights themselves, they don’t even need 23, but the dignity, the respect, the right to information, the right to protection, those can be part of the United States Constitution as well to protect them.

LEONARD SIPES: Yes and I don’t want to bore the audience in terms of technicalities, but the Bill of Rights, or search and seizure, the right to remain silent, they were at one time, only applied to federal crimes, the nationalization of the Bill of Rights, came gradually through a wide variety of Supreme Court cases, beginning back at the beginning of the 20th century. So if there was a federal constitutional amendment, I’m assuming that the same process would hold that they apply to federal crimes, not necessarily the state crimes, they could eventually apply to state crimes, through a nationalization of this particular amendment. Am I right or wrong?

WILL MARLING: Well fair enough Len, I mean you know I’m not a constitutional lawyer for sure, but I think the precedent that we all discuss among my friends who are lawyers, and trying to imbue these rights for victims of crime, would reflect that precedent exists. That a state individual accused now can truly appeal by precedent at the very least, to federal rights as a United States citizen. That’s what we would anticipate would happen, yes it would take time to go through a process, but we anticipate that that’s exactly what would happen.

LEONARD SIPES: But it would set the stage in terms of a national standard for protecting victim’s rights?

WILL MARLING: Yes you know I love that, I love the way you said that, that is really, that’s good.

LEONARD SIPES: There you go. So we have a change in Congress now, does that help you, or hurt you, or it’s just a slog to sit down with the individual members and their staff, and to go through what a United States Constitutional amendment to protect victim’s rights would mean?

WILL MARLING: Great question, strategically, in terms of the discussion at this point, I think we look at it, and we say well it doesn’t hurt. Now you know, the House and the Senate are now controlled by one party, and we were working with the House, that was controlled by the Republican side, and looking to educate them. Now, with the Senate controlled by the Republican side that can make for greater continuity. The work really comes down to educating all members of both sides of Congress into the importance of this issue, the value that it represents, and the deep reasons we should have it. I mean very few people will believe we ought to amend the Constitution with any frequency, and I would be one of those. At the same time there are good reasons to amend the Constitution, and I would suggest, with even some simple research you can see that victim’s rights would be one of those reasons. The long standing impact would be very positive for our society.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so the bottom line behind the effort to create a constitutional amendment for victim’s rights, is that it’s an ongoing process, and probably will be an ongoing process for the next year or two.

WILL MARLING: That’s exactly right, we’re going to be looking obviously into the next congressional session, trying to build on what we’ve established here in this one. Learning from that but also seeing the opportunities as we move forward.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay let me shift gears for a couple of seconds because the larger question before we get into this debate on the limitations of incarceration and the need as you said it, in terms of a holistic approach. Is a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics from the United States Department of Justice, the statistical arm of the US Department of Justice. They did a piece of research on victimization, and come to find that in terms of serious victimization, that the harm, both the psychological and financial harm to those victims were profound. If memory serves me correctly that 80% were talking about the devastating impact of being a victim of violent crime, and what it meant to them, again psychologically, and emotionally, and financially. So there’s no doubt, it simply quantifies what we’ve been talking about for decades, is the fact that violent victimization has an immense impact on American citizens.

WILL MARLING: Yes there’s no question, now I haven’t seen the report that you’re referencing and I’m looking forward to doing just that. This is something that we have known at the very least by anecdotal testimony of victims, 30 years ago when President Reagan’s taskforce for victim’s of crime, toured the country interviewing people, they had that same conclusion anecdotally that the long term impact of the losses created by violence specifically, and other levels of harm I would say. They ripple through our society, they touch a lot of people, but they affect us financially. I mean the losses from workplace violence alone, are measured in billions of dollars. Loss of productivity, insurance claims, disability claims, and so on. So we need to address remediation on the backside, no question, we need to support people who have been harmed. My contention Len as you bring this up, is that discussing victim’s right on the front end, and raising the profile of those needs, at a societal constitutional level, begins to put it on people’s radar, their awareness to say, okay people have rights. Just like with many other rights that are inculcated, through civil rights and so on, we say, okay this actually gives me a new awareness. I need to be thinking about that, and I need to be respecting and reflecting on those rights that victim’s of crime should have.

LEONARD SIPES: But the idea here is that there’s a possibility that victim’s rights seems to be diminishing in the minds of a variety of people. I’m not the first person who brings that observation to the table, because we get into the other issue were are going to talk about today, the whole idea that what we need is a limitation on incarceration. That we over incarcerate, that there are probably a good two dozen groups out there with very prestigious names behind them, who are talking about less incarceration. The fact that we over incarcerate and every governor in the country is probably talking to his or her correctional administrator and saying, look we’re spending way too much on corrections. You’ve got to bring down the bill, I don’t have the money to build roads, I don’t have the money to build schools, I don’t have the money to do the different things that we want to do, because so much of it is going towards correction. So I’m hearing fiscal issue, I’m hearing what I believe some people would consider to be a moral issues, in terms of the fact that we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. I’m not hearing much about victims of crime, that’s why I brought up the BJS report, is that it documents strongly what happens to victims of violent crime. Our experience, my experience, your experience is that there are literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of victims of non-violent crime, where it becomes a life changing experience. So if this is all true, and if it’s having this devastating impact on people who are victims of crime. Why isn’t the conversation at a level that it was ten, 15, 20 years ago?

WILL MARLING: Well you know another great question that you pose. I would say 20 to 25 years ago when there was little discussion about any of this, in fact there was little awareness about the needs of victims of crime. People — we had kind of evolved in our society into this debt against society kind of motif that we built up in the early part of the founding of this country. We had adopted that, so if I commit a crime against somebody, it’s actually a debt to society. So how do I pay my debt to society? I do my penitence by going to a petitionary, that’s actually the historic route. Well the early stages of the victim’s rights movement and the victim’s rights and services movement was recognized, hey wait a minute, it’s got to be more than just state versus the perpetrator, where are the victims? That really catalyzed a lot of changes, today we have compensation programs in every state, and we have a lot of victim services, and as I mentioned, state constitutional amendments for victim’s rights. It’s like so many things, I think the cycle has waned a little bit, the energy, even from our movement to recognize, wait a minute, our work’s not done. Then also other truly pressing needs, like this over incarceration issue, that many of us even in the victim side recognize. If you’re going to incarcerate everybody for so many things, then the seriousness that should be reflected in incarceration for crimes that deeply and profoundly traumatize and hurt people, that they’re minimized in some sense, almost. It’s the classic, if I only have a hammer then everything is a nail. That’s what we’re trying to reorient, that’s why this kind of holistic commitment to saying, wait a minute let’s look at the process more holistically. We need to take a longer term approach than just a congressional season to fix these things. I’m personally a proponent, I’m not speaking for anybody in particular, but I’m a proponent of looking at a ten year strategy, to bring about, to analyze, to look, to bring together all the players in these processes. Including the people that are critical of over incarceration and other things, and say okay what, upon what do we agree? There are things at the center in this society that the average reasonable person agrees with the other reasonable person, even though they might be on different sides of a political aisle, or an issue aisle. We just need to have that conversation, and it needs to be facilitated rather than creating these caricatures of other people and labels quite frankly. I’ve gone into the social science here, but that’s a little bit, to me what needs to happen.

LEONARD SIPES: Well let me reintroduce you Will before we continue the conversation, ladies and gentlemen, we’re more than halfway through the show. Show examining victim’s rights in the United States, Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, is by our microphones once again, National Organization for Victim Assistance has been around for a long time. I can remember years ago, being a member of the criminal justice system when NOVA called you, your organization was going to be held accountable. We all had great respect for NOVA, but going back to the holistic approach, I do get the sense that victim’s rights seems to have dropped off the radar screen, considerably. I like your idea of a holistic approach, as long as victims of crime are part and parcel to that holistic approach.

WILL MARLING: Yes I agree, why can’t they be, there are a lot of people on the ground who have been doing this work for 30 years, 40 years. Those folks should be brought to bear to this discussion. I don’t mean just the victim’s movement, there are a lot of people in the victim’s movement. NOVA’s the oldest victim assistance organization of its kind in the nation. Then there are folks who have been working on the incarceration issues and needs of the incarcerated, and post release issues, and we all generally tend to respect that. We’re talking about human beings, but how can we then address the needs and the priorities, and part of my other reflection on the diminishing impact for victim’s rights. Len I would say it’s maybe not as much that victim’s rights have been diminished, as much as just other voices have now become more popular. As you described it the physical impact of building more and more prisons, and dealing with incarceration issues, simply has taken hold, because state’s budgets are so impacted in profound ways by that. That causes governors and their accountants to turn around and say, hey wait a minute, how are we going to fix this, how are we going to solve it? I personally don’t think we should just throw out justice principles, and say well what’s the cheapest way we can get this done? At the same time can we ask ways for appropriate, cost effective, but also evidence approach, evidence appropriate ways to really address, justice, crime and victim advocacy in our society.

LEONARD SIPES: Before hitting the record button you were talking about delineating levels of harm, because the question was, okay if we’re going to decide to take individuals and not put them in prison. If we’re going to agree that we have over incarcerated, we do have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The governors are complaining about the cost of the budget, people do believe that this is a moral issue. Then fine, if we go along with that, then who doesn’t go to prison? Who are those people? So you introduced this concept of level of harm, that there’s got to be some delineation that a person who comes to the table, who has committed a violent crime. Let’s say it’s aggravated assault, but let’s say it’s two brothers, and let’s say one hits the other over the head with a beer bottle, which is an aggravated assault it’s with a weapon. But neither brother has an extensive criminal history, does that person go to prison? I mean there comes a point where it does— you start having to slice it and dice it at that level, do you not?

WILL MARLING: Well you do, here’s where I would bring in a slight philosophical issue that becomes very practical. This is the victim’s side movement where we can engage but then we need to recognize realities. Let’s use the example of, a horrible example unfortunately of a homicide. When somebody is murdered in this country, that is an infinite loss to most loved ones, surviving family members, surviving friends. What the justice system by necessity has to do is immediately put a price tag on that. So what is that infinite life worth? It’s worth 25 to life or something like that right? So what we miss in this is really helping calibrate victim’s expectations that the infinite is not going to be reclaimed by a finite system. It is our best attempt to reflect what we consider to be the value of a person’s life, and the justice commencer it with their violation of another human being. That’s why I say it’s levels of harm. I think there are ways, not perfect, that we can look and say, okay what is the harm that’s caused? Recognize that and then yes it’s going to have to have tangible price tags to it. Sometimes what’s missing is that there are profound issues of crime in our society that create harm, and we’re say they’re not violent. Therefore they’re not as harmful, and I would just suggest to you, because we take toll free victim assistance calls, and people calling for help. That those can be profoundly devastating, and in some ways are more devastating than what we might say is that violent crime, like the assault that you gave, the two brothers. Well what about the older couple, who have everything stolen from them through a data breach, or maybe some other nefarious way, and now they’re completely impoverished, they don’t have a wait to sustain themselves, they might end up on some kind of support system. The level can be profound there to the point that we’ve had people that have taken their lives because they simply can’t cope with that loss. So our examples obviously are pretty simple, but they’re still real, as we think about the impact.

LEONARD SIPES: The examples are real, they’re simple but drop back, you could have, and I’ve encountered all throughout my career, individuals who have been victimized by a property crime, who are profoundly affected by that. I’m preaching to the choir when I’m saying this to you, okay so they came into their house and they stole something off the porch, or they stole something out of the garage. There are people who move based upon that, destroy the character of a neighborhood, take away tax dollars from a city. There are people who are suddenly frightened and the idea of somebody either in their house, or near their house, this is a profoundly moving event for them. So the question becomes, once you start measuring the degree of harm, that I think really begins to put things into perspective, and makes the conversation a lot muddier in terms of who goes to prison and who doesn’t. If you psychologically damage people to the point where they hurt an entire community, by withdrawing from that community, you’ve done something pretty bad.

WILL MARLING: Yes you have.

LEONARD SIPES: But at the same time you can’t put everybody in prison.

WILL MARLING: Well that’s right and that doesn’t mean the result for everybody should be prison. What I would suggest at the risk of sounding like I’m speaking for victims which I don’t do, we try to empower victims individually, to extend their voice. What I would suggest though is they need options, victims need options for remediation number one, but also for support and validation in these things. Sometimes even just the simple acknowledgment by the justice system, we do recognize that this is a profound loss, we can’t reclaim that loss for you, but we respect you and we acknowledge that yes, a lot was lost in this. You, your neighbors, your society, community and so on. Even there the whole issue of victim’s rights isn’t in view, we’re not even using that kind of language. Just like when we think we need to respect another person civilly, there’s civil rights, why? Because they’re a human being. We’ve raised that conversation up to a societal level, and do we have Civil Rights violations in our country? Of course every day, but now at least it’s a discussion that people’s rights are violated, as opposed to yes I treat people like this because I’m better than they are, or whatever. That’s what I would suggest can happen with raising the profile of victims and their needs, and then to having a discussion, ask victims.

LEONARD SIPES: Two quick issues, number one, the issue is that I’ve never heard within the victim’s community animosity towards rehabilitation programs, towards reentry programs, towards changing the criminal justice system, towards less incarceration, most of the people that I’ve talked to, including you and other people from the victim’s community, seem to be willing to have that discussion. They simply want to be part of that discussion, which gets us right back to the constitutional amendment for victim’s rights.

WILL MARLING: Yes, no you’re exactly right I would say that most people, sensible folk, who’ve gone through things, have suffered at the hands of another. They understand that there are limitations to the changes that post incarceration issues, and all of these things. They just want to help inform people’s thinking about what that could look like, and that is a very reasonable consideration. People are scared of victims because many times when they see a victim whose suffered harm, they see them immediately afterwards, and the expressions of emotion, of anger, of angst, and so on, are very present, and very prominent. You know I always say commonly, if a person was sensible before their victimization, they’re sensible after their victimization, they’re just a lot more informed and aware about what that kind of victimization looks like for them personally.

LEONARD SIPES: Well the — I think that both of us agree that the level of discourse needs to be raised in terms of including a victim. So that’s the bottom line that’s why we’re looking at the constitutional amendment, that’s why we’re having this conversation. Victims simply want to be at the table, they don’t want to be ignored, they want their voice to be heard, they’re not against change, they understand change, they understand reentry, they understand reentry programs. They simply want to be part of that conversation, and they simply don’t want to be shoved off to the side, is that the bottom line?

WILL MARLING: Yes and I would say thank you Len, as well, because you’re actually helping to include this kind of dialogue and discourse in the context of our conversation. This is what we should be doing, let’s talk out the issues, let’s have a reasonable, sensible conversation, that impacts not just today, and people’s society today, but I got kids, and I’m thinking about how all these things will impact them as adults, and the posterity for the future.

LEONARD SIPES: Well this program goes into an awful lot of college classrooms, not only throughout the country, but throughout the world. We have 150 organizations that pick up this feed automatically and post it on their websites, and I’d say that probably two thirds of those are colleges. So we get involved in a lot of interesting conversations with people who come back to us and say I heard a show on victim’s rights, and we discussed it in the classroom. So that’s all important. So we’re going to go from all of these big issues, in the final minute and a half, two minutes of the program. I do want to get into the fact that you’re still working with the military, you’re still working with the Department of Defense, you’re still doing credentialing, you’re still doing training of individuals to be victim’s reps correct?

WILL MARLING: That’s right, I appreciate the query there, we are focused on best practices and advocacy, and the National Advocate Credentialing Program really reflects that commitment to those standards. We’re working with the Department of Defense and the standards that we have helped them establish for the very same kind of advocacy in the sexual assault victim assistance arena. What I’m very proud of is our network, and this doesn’t just network NOVA it’s the network, this profoundly incredible network of folks that iceberg so to speak, where we’re just the tip. That do this work, day in and day out, reflect the best professional standards, service and compassion, competence and commitment. Those are the three legs of my stool, compassion, competence and commitment, and credentialing reflects that. So I’m very proud of the team that really has joined together as an allied professional network, to say look, we do good work, and these are the standards that we reflect, and these are the best practices that we promote in advocacy.

LEONARD SIPES: Well and advocacy nevertheless the people need to be trained, they need education, they need to know what to do, and how to do it. When you’re dealing with a person who is suffering from the post-traumatic stress of a violent crime, or a property crime, they have to be dealt with in a certain way. So they have to be credentialed and they have to be trained.

WILL MARLING: That’s exactly right, I mean that’s important today to reflect those standards, and those standards in our context do reflect a certain kind of training, experience, background. It doesn’t necessarily require a certain kind of education, but that as well can be acknowledged in the process of credentialing. It’s on the ground ability to serve those people at their worst possible moment, and provide the resources that they need to help them cope and move forward.

LEONARD SIPES: We have been talking today to Will Marling, Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, we all are always appreciative of Will coming on and talking to us. Will thank you,, Ladies and gentlemen this DC Public Safety, we appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.


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Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

DC Public Safety Radio-Podcast


See radio show at

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Our show today ladies and gentleman Information Sharing Between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, back at our microphones is Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, and we have Yogesh Chawla. He is an Information Sharing Specialist with SEARCH and the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. The website for SEARCH is Adam, welcome back. Yogesh, welcome to our microphones at DC Public Safety.

ADAM MATZ: It is great to be back.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Thanks it great to be here Len.

LEONARD SIPES: Well it is great to have both of you. Adam, I thank you for doing these shows with the American Probation and Parole Association. Always great shows; some of our more popular shows. All right, we are talking about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement and you wrote an article that is currently being submitted addressing the Offender Transfer Notification Service and I want to start off with establishing some of the definitions that we are dealing with here. Essentially, Adam tell me if I’m right or wrong, we have a prototype program that electronically sends out information on offenders being transferred from one state to another to a law enforcement fusion center and when they get that information they can disseminate that to everybody else in that law enforcement fusion center or in that state correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that is correct. The information exchange project: APPA American Probation and Parole Association has been working with SEARCH who is the technical partner on this particular exchange. We partner with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and what we have done is developed a project where a subset of the state transfers, folks deemed potentially dangerous, whenever their transfers are approved and they are ready to be relocated to another state, the idea behind this exchange is that that state will receive notification so that the Fusion Centers in that state will receive notifications of these individuals. And it’s just basic information. And then those fusion center are then able to turn around and distribute that information through their channels to the local law enforcement in that state.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay now we do have and for our none, it is mostly a criminal justice audience, but for the non criminal justice audience I always use the same example to the aid of the mayor of Milwaukee who is looking for information about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement. The states transfer people under supervision to each other all the time and there’s hundreds of thousands of people moving from one state to the other for a wide variety of reasons. That state, through the Interstate Compact, the receiving state must accept this individual and it happens routinely. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay and so the idea is to be sure that law enforcement, through a fusion center, and describe to me what fusion center is.

ADAM MATZ: Yes, the fusion center, the State fusion centers and there is roughly 70 of them across the country but basically after 9-11 there was concern about information sharing across the country and the Department of Homeland Security was a big part of developing these Fusion Centers and they are maintained by the individual states and they are basically responsible for compiling information on various different, it could be criminal, it could be disaster related type of information, compiling that information and making folks in that state aware of those.

LEONARD SIPES: So that was in reaction to the criticism after 9-11 that law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies were not talking to each other.

ADAM MATZ: That’s right, exactly right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So the idea here and the idea behind the article, is that they are pilot testing this in New York State but this is something that’s going to be expanded to the possibility of it being expanded to all the other states throughout the United States?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and in fact the Interstate Compact as you know is national in scope, so it takes care of basically takes care of all the exchanges, for all the transfers for all the states in the country. Now where we are at with this exchange we’ve had a pilot in place with New York State intelligent centre and a New York State Fusion Center to receive notifications of individuals transferring into that state and that can include anyone across the country, any of the other 49 states. And that’s been going on for about a year. Now on average they get basically maybe 10-15 notifications per week.

LEONARD SIPES: This is in New York State?

ADAM MATZ: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, because they are not talking about every offender, they are talking about those deemed to be of most concern; those are the people of the highest risk?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of expand on that, one of the conversation points we had early on, we had work group meetings several years ago on this, was there’s no standardized risk assessment across the country and that was kind of an issue. So we couldn’t really go by a risk level, if you will, because it varies depending on what instrument folks use. So because of standardization what we ended up doing instead was relying on primary offence, NCIC codes – so basically the primary offence, what level that is and the seriousness of that. And we worked with obviously the fusion center in New York to develop that specific list as well.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, so the bottom line behind all of this though, is that this is the program that we are going to be talking about or the issue. The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what we are talking about today but I just want to make it clear to the listeners that the vast majority of information exchange between law enforcement and parole and probation and corrections is done at the local level like here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and for those who don’t know we are a federal agency. We provide parole and probation services to Washington DC. We’re in constant contact with law enforcement anywhere from the FBI to the Secret Service to Housing Authority but principally the Metropolitan Police Department. We’re in touch with them on a daily basis exchanging information. Our parole and probation agents, known here as community supervision officers, are constantly exchanging information with police officers at the street level. So I don’t want to give the opinion or the sense that the bulk of this information exchange happens through this sort of mechanism, that the bulk of information exchange happens at the command level and between individual police officers and parole and probation agents. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of build on that a little bit, you know. and we have had prior shows about police and probation and parole partnerships, and sort of informal information sharing that happens. This exchange is new. There is not any previous sort of attempt to share information like this between the Interstate Compact and the law enforcement, so it is kind of a nice opportunity to kind of automate, because it is automated. There is no manual aspect to it. Once the exchange is established, the information and notifications go out basically as soon as they’re ready. And usually it’s once a week but it is kind of configurable depending on you know the fusion center and how they want to receive it and how they want to disseminate. So there is some flexibility in there as well.

One thing that I want to point out too, is the goals of this exchange in particular. One of the primarily goals of this exchange, from the very beginning, has always been about increasing officer safety, particularly police officer safety and situational awareness. And there is obviously different examples of where maybe law enforcement go into situations where they are not fully prepared or maybe they are not fully aware of the individuals they’re dealing with. So the genesis behind this exchange is twofold. One is officer safety and two, it is really about encouraging more dialogue, more coordination between police and probation and parole agents.

LEONARD SIPES: Which is a good thing. Which is a necessary thing. Yogesh Chawla, I apologize for not getting to you. I am looking down at my time clock and we’re close to 9 minutes in the program and you and I haven’t even talked yet. But let me give something in the article that both of you wrote along with Harry Higman is it and Gloria Brewer. The one example that you provide in this article is a Washington State parolee by the name of Maurice Clemens was involved with the murder of four police officers back in 2009 and your article says, “Still it’s unclear whether such a tragic complicated incident could have been prevented. It was understood that there was a need for greater information sharing between law enforcement and the community corrections.” Do you want to comment on that?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, one thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of the challenges we have with information sharing exchanges is the cost and the scope of them. So one nice thing about this particular project, when we started it, is that we had a national focus in mind. We couldn’t be thinking in silos or in state to state or point to point exchanges. When we built this exchange, we said, “How can we get this information to all 50 states, get all 50 states sending and receiving these offender transfers so we can scale our officer safety, so that it is not just limited to certain jurisdictions?” So what we did is, what we had in mind with this exchange is, in the initial pilot is to build as much functionality as we can and then we’re basically in the process of rolling this out to other states and if states want to receive this information, they can do it at a very low cost. Basically all they’d have to provide is an internet connection and a server which would receive it and then they would be receiving these transfers and once they get them they can disseminate them to their local partners as they wish to do so. So we do have this national scope in mind and cost is a really important thing especially when we are looking to scale out to the entire country.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I have taken up so much of the program just trying to form a base line for the person listening to the program but let me do the final baseline issue, and we’re probably coming close to halfway through the program. Adam, The American Probation and Parole Association is the premier organization in the United States providing information for the rest of us in community supervision, providing us with information and research and guidance in terms of what good parole and probation, what state of the art parole and probation, what evidence parole and probation is correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, give me – you are with, you are an information sharing specialist for the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing and you were also with SEARCH. So give me a sense as to what the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing is, and then give me a sense as to what SEARCH is.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, SEARCH is basically the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. We are a membership based organization and we have representatives from all 50 states and we are non profit and we have been around since 1969. So we have being doing justice information sharing when it was originally done with paper and pen or telephone and we have seen that all the way through to a lot of the advances that we have made with justice information sharing in technology. What we try to do is we try to provide local jurisdictions, states, even national public safety organizations with the tools to do justice information sharing: and that’s planning, design and implementation and support. So if you have a justice information sharing problem we are here to provide a solution basically from point A to point Z and in this specific exchange we partnered up with APPA to provide the technical resources to actually write the software which is doing the exchange here and to do it in such a way, since it is funded by federal grants, in a way that it can be reused in, for example, other exchanges.

At the time this exchange was being written there was also a sex offender exchange which is very similar that was being written where sex offenders move from one state to the other where there could be a notification in place for that or the Adam Walsh Act. So one of the great thing about this project is that not only are we allowing it to scale when we are adding different states to it, we have also created an infrastructure out there nationally so if states want to do information sharing projects in the future there is basically a cloud infrastructure out there. So they have a place to put their information exchanges and we are looking to expand that as other information sharing needs become available.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I go back an awfully long time. I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 45 years, for 35 years in terms of doing media related endeavors for the criminal justice system and I can remember SEARCH from the very beginning of my career and I can remember the American Probation and Parole Association from the very beginning of my career. So I just wanted to give the listeners a sense that I am talking, they are listening to representatives from two organizations that have been around for decades.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright so we are more than half way through the program, are we, no. We are a minute before we get to the half way point, before I reintroduce you. So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what, Yogesh, give me a very brief synopsis of that.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, I’m actually going to throw that question over to Adam he has been very involved with that.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah go ahead.

ADAM MATZ: So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, they obviously, there’s Interstate Compact officers in every state but there is also a sort primarily headquarters if you will that is also in Lexington, Kentucky. APPA partnered with ICAOS to develop this exchange. It is obviously to support their work. It is all the data we are talking about is ICAOS, ICAOS data.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s stay away from acronyms again, if we could, for the general audience. The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah the Interstate Compact. Basically they are the ones that facilitate the transfers of probation and parolees across state lines.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and we are talking about, I said hundreds of thousands, I was wrong because I am looking at the article itself, we are talking about 150,000 transfers a year from one state to the other?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah, and since there is such a volume of transfers 150,000 you know as we stated before, we are focusing just on the high risk offenders here.

LEONARD SIPES: Right okay let me reintroduce both of you because I find this to be a fascinating program. The concept of information sharing between parole and probation and corrections and law enforcement, we have two people. Back at our microphone Adam Matz, Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. is the website for the American Probation and Parole Association. Yogesh Chawla is an information sharing specialist for the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing or SEARCH Both Adam and Yogesh and two other people put together an article that is currently being considered for national publication talking about using information technology to share information about high risk offenders as they move from one state to the next. Again, with the idea that most of this information exchange does occur on a day to day basis between law enforcement and parole and probation agencies and correctional agencies and that happens automatically, but this is really exciting because what we have here with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offenders Supervision is the idea that we can eventually bring every state in the United States into this concept. It’s being field tested with the State of New York, bring every state in there. So all high risk offenders, when they are being transferred from one state to the other, they don’t fall through the cracks. Law enforcement is notified through something called a fusion center and that fusion center distributes that information to all other law enforcement agencies in the states correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, that’s right and just to kind of chat on that a little bit. We are kind of using the term “high risk” but that is kind of used loosely. As I mentioned before there is no standardizes risk assessment across the country so I think probably the best way to refer to it would be “potentially high risk or potentially dangerous.”

LEONARD SIPES: Based upon the crime that they are being supervised for.

ADAM MATZ: Correct yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so the goal of the information sharing is officer safety and public safety, right?

ADAM MATZ: That’s correct and it is also to encourage more partnerships, more collaboration between police and probation and parole. I also want to throw in real quick. This project is funded by the Bureau of Justice, funded by the Department of Justice and those incidents like the Maurice Clemmons case, those are kind of the incidents that help kind of bring this to the attention at a national level and that is really what kind of created the genesis for this kind of exchange and all this work that we are doing so I wanted to plug that in there too.

LEONARD SIPES: Now you have here NIEM, what does National Information EM stand for.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure you know in the technical arena we often run into lots of acronyms and one of the things that the US DOJ and the Bureau of Justice Assistance provided was something called the global reference architecture. Many times, as IT practitioners, it seems like we are speaking a language but then when we speak to each other we are also speaking a different language. And what we really saw a need for in the justice arena and in the information sharing arena just in general, was the need for standards and standardization and the Global Reference Architecture really provided that. One of the building blocks for that is called The National Information Exchange model and that is basically the vocabulary that we use to talk to each other. When we’re defining what an offender is, an offender obviously has a first name, a last name, an address that they are going from, an address they are going to and what the National Information Exchange model allows us to do is to package these up into, the language its built on it is called XML, some of the tech people out there might know that but it allows us to package this up and allows us to basically speak the same language.

So if computer A and computer B are talking to each other, they are both speaking with the same language and same vocabulary and what you can do with this is, for example, right now we are using this specific exchange for offender transfer notifications. However, if you wanted to use this same information in a different way you wouldn’t need to go and reprogram everything, you can say, “Hey, we have this offender transfer profile that we have developed here how else can we use it? Would we like to use it to create more statistics? Would we like to use this to, you know, for a web portal so people can go search around and see who is moving into their neighborhood, things like that?” When you use NIEM and you use the Global Reference Architecture the whole purpose of it is to reduce cost and to take one exchange that you write and make it applicable for multiple purposes. That way every time we need to do something new in IT we are not going back and asking for more money to write something new. So BJA has been very instrumental in leadership and developing the Global Reference Architecture and that was the building blocks for the exchange that we have developed here.

LEONARD SIPES: But that has always been the problem for SEARCH across the board, because you know, you are dealing with 50 states and in some of our information systems that we have created, it goes way beyond 50 states. It goes into every law enforcement agency, every parole and probation agency. So there has to be an architecture that is common to almost every jurisdiction out there and that they understand and can be properly maintained so the entire country can talk to each other instantaneously if necessary. I mean that is the heart and soul behind SEARCH, I would imagine throughout the decades, is building those architectures that work from one criminal justice agency to another.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Absolutely, absolutely, and that is really instrumental here. And you know a couple of things I want to point out. I just want to give the listeners here a concrete example of what we are talking about. When we’re exchanging this information, this information all goes over the internet so there is a certain level of security that we need. Obviously we want to use encryption so anything that goes across the wire, no one can read it. You know we don’t want, you know if you read about a lot of these credit card breaches and what not, you know a lot of this encrypted information gets out there. The other thing we want to do is we want to digitally sign every message so if somebody takes one little piece of the message, they try to change the offenders name or the risk profile, that message would get rejected. The other thing we do is we put a time stamp on a message so it is only valid for a very short period of time. Now if you look at these requirements that we have right here, trying to get everyone to decide on how to program these specific things would be very difficult to do unless we had a reference architecture. So the Reference Architecture provides us guidance and says hey, “If you want to time stamp your messages, this is how you would want to do it. If you want to encrypt your messages this is how you would do it. If you want to sign your messages this is how you would do it.”


YOGESH CHAWLA: And the nice thing about it, it’s built on already existing IT standards. So it provides us a clearing house, a place where we can look to say, “Okay here are our requirements. How do we do this in the justice arena?”

LEONARD SIPES: Adam so you are pilot testing this in the state of New York how is that pilot test been going

ADAM MATZ: The pilot test has been great. We implemented it, I believe it was September of last year, so September 2013. We only have had a few maybe technical hiccups but very minor little issues and basically it’s been automated for practically a year. We have been keeping tabs on basically how many notifications would go to other states if they were connected. So we have some data on that as well it sort of helps us priorities. One thing I want to mention too, with that pilot, in that we did do just a few small interviews with a couple of different jurisdictions in New York to kind of get a sense of how is the information is used, is it helpful and one of the things I will note is that most folks agree pretty unanimously that the information is great, it’s helpful. We mentioned a little bit about local partnerships and information being shared. Now in some cases that’s true. There is some of this information being shared already. What’s kind of interesting though, is from the comments I got, a lot of times that information was isolated to just that jurisdiction. What they like about this notification is they get information about people going across the state. Not only that, they get a little bit more information. So this information exchange includes pictures with it. Those are types of extra elements that they are not getting already at the local level. So not only is it great nationally but also builds on any sort of local information sharing.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s important, again, because what we are talking about is a) expanding this from New York to every other states through, I am assuming, funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the US Department of Justice which is right up the street from me, and the possibility of using this for other endeavors, correct ? Or have we gone that far?

YOGESH CHAWLA: We’re currently in talks with four or five states right now who are really excited about this. And you know and when we brought up the existing pilot and the level of effort [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:07] a lot of the states are really happy to hear that. Based off the work that we have done in New York we can basically just take what we have in New York and basically just drop it onto their server and they should be able to connect it at a very low cost and that allows us to scale the grant money that we have left as well and that was one of the advantages of using the Global Reference Architecture. So if there are any listeners out there who are working in local law enforcement or who work at a fusion center or are working in information sharing in a state you are looking for a very simple project, a very easy win and a very easy way to provide additional information to your local law enforcement for public safety, this would be a really good exchange at looking at joining since the cost is so low and since you can see results so quickly.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, I would image in terms of any information sharing across state lines, that they would automatically go to SEARCH considering the fact that SEARCH has been around for a decade. What else could the system is used for?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, just to build on that a little bit. The Interstate Compact actually, right now the focus is obviously sharing information with law enforcement but the Interstate Compact may find other uses for this or other means of sharing information with other organizations like the courts and so on and so forth. So there might be more application for this for the Interstate Compact than what we are currently using it now even though our focus is fairly specific at the moment.

LEONARD SIPES: Uh huh. But I mean the idea of people at a, I’m sorry I don’t know how else to put it, at a certain risk level – I know we are not using an objective risk instrument to judge risk, but if you are transferring, if a person is transferred from Nabraska to Maryland and the person has a homicide charge, that sort of person is something that the State of Maryland is going to want to know about.

ADAM MATZ: Exactly, yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so the idea here is that instead of just going to Baltimore and Baltimore and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation sharing that with Baltimore police well that offender can easily go across state, I mean county lines, four or five counties away and so that is the beauty of not just local information sharing between local police and local parole and probation officers, that is the beauty of sharing of it through the fusion center so the entire state is notified that George Smith, who was convicted of homicide but now he is going to be supervised in the state of Maryland – and we do want to do this by the way, for the casual person listening to this we do want people to go through the Interstate Compact and be transferred from one state to the other because we don’t want that person taking off on their own. We do want that person, if that person has a legitimate reason to be in that other state for family or for job or for whatever reason, if they have a legitimate reason for being in that other state we want them supervised. Thus the Interstate Compact, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and the other really nice thing about the way that this exchange is set up and the information is being shared is that along with each of those individuals, the information and it’s just the basic information about who they are and where they are located and what they, you know if there is gang affiliation and those kind of things; it doesn’t include all their background. It doesn’t include that. It is just very specific you know. Here is an individual who is coming in and here is where they are going. And it also includes the contact information for the supervising officer, if that’s a probation or parole officer which is great.

LEONARD SIPES: So they can get the information they need because if a county, I am going to use the state of Maryland again, if a county three counties away from Baltimore City where that person is going to live suddenly has, if a sex offender has been transferred and suddenly starts getting sex offender sort of crimes and they have no leads, maybe a call to that parole and probation agent asking for information about that person and does he have any contact with my particular county, may be a good call.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what we are hoping that this exchange will do. It will make folks aware, so obviously increase situational awareness, but we really want to encourage that dialogue.

LEONARD SIPES: And dialogue is the heart and soul in terms of the exchange of information between law enforcement and corrections and parole and probation and you have got about five seconds. Right?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah great and what we are really looking to do is just to get additional fusion centers and additional states connected. So once again if you represent a state and you would like to get this information, please go ahead and get in touch with us at either or as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen we are doing a show today on information sharing between parole and probation corrections and law enforcement. Adam Matz and Yogesh Chawla has been by our microphones. We really appreciate both of you being here. Ladies and gentlemen we really appreciate you listening to DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate you criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


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Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

DC Public Safety Radio

See radio program at

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentleman domestic violence is the topic of our program today, domestic violence in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month for the month of October. We have two people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency with us today to talk about their supervision and treatment process regarding domestic violence individuals. We have Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countiss. He is again the Community Supervision Officer – what other organizations call Parole and Probation Agents. Again he is with the Domestic Violence Program, Intervention Program here at The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, our website to Princess and to Marc welcome to DC Public Safety.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Thank you for having us.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright this is really important. I mean you all deal with people who have been adjudicated as somehow, some way a court has said you need to supervise this individual and that person has put this person on probation and says that you all need to both treat and supervise this individual and keep the victim safe. Do I have that right?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and do we involve people coming out of the prison system who are either on probation or mandatory supervision? Do we have, are they involved in the Domestic Violence Unit?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, that’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so again we have parolees, we have people who are mandatorily released which means that they have served their time 85% and now they are out and we have probationers. So we have a wide variety of people. What do we have, about 30 employees doing this?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and we have how many teams, that’s broken into how many teams.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: They are broken into four teams. So there are three supervision teams and then there is one treatment team.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, we have a lot of the people who are being supervised and treated in the Domestic Violence Unit. Correct?



LEONARD SIPES: Okay, tell me about it. Tell me about your experiences. I mean domestic violence is a very important topic to me. I remember as a young police officer, an awfully long time ago, dealing with domestic violence issues and it scared me half to death. I mean I have never seen my parents fight. My first case involving domestic violence we rode up and there was a woman who answered the door, a neighbor called. She didn’t call and her face was like twice its size. Her husband beat her with a frying pan and I was just floored, I was just appalled over this vicious act against people who supposedly love each other. I have gone to other cases where a man was firing bullets into the wall with his wife on the other side of it. I mean domestic violence is a real issue. It is an insidious issue. It is something that impacts way too many American families. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes this is correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it; tell me about your experiences. How long have you been doing it Princess?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so, I have been here at CSOSA for eight years. I have been on the treatment team for two going on three years.

LEONARD SIPES: Were you on the supervision side for domestic violence before you worked for the treatment unit?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: I was for five years.

LEONARD SIPES: For five years, so you have been, your entire experience has been involved in domestic violence, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Right tell me about that. What are your feelings? You have eight years supervising at this point. You have come into direct contact with thousands of people involved in domestic violence cases, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about them.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so initially it can be a bit overwhelming. Folks come in with different belief systems and it is our job to penetrate those different belief systems. It is our job to help them and arm them with tools that they need in order for them to have healthy relationships. And so part of that is providing them with information about respect, accountability, boundaries, making sure that they are aware of their behaviors. You know domestic violence is something that can be intergenerational you know, it can be something that they witnessed as a child and so therefore they are mimicking the same behaviors that they had seen as children and no one has challenged them to change their behavior. The environments that they surround themselves in also perpetuate that same type of behavior. So it’s our job to give them the information that they need to make changes and have positive and healthy relationships.

LEONARD SIPES: For a lot of individuals Marc, on community supervision that we deal with, for the first time, in many cases for the first time in their lives they’re being told that they can’t do this.

MARC COUNTISS: That is correct. Because as Princess said, a lot of times when we talk about domestic violence, we are talking about something that is a learned behavior, where individuals have gone through different generations learning that and feeling that violence is acceptable and it’s appropriate and this is probably the first time that many of our offenders have been told that this behavior is inappropriate and the fact is, it’s not going to be accepted or tolerated.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is very difficult for a lot of them to accept because they have grown up in households where they have seen domestic violence. They see that as normal. They don’t see it as abnormal. They see it as normal behavior, the right to strike your wife or the right to strike your husband is a normal action that there is nothing wrong with it.

MARC COUNTISS: Right and typically we get a lot of resistance. We get a lot of defenses when individuals come to us for services because it goes against their core really. It goes against the belief systems and our challenge is to dispute these irrational beliefs and show them that there are healthier ways and more appropriate ways of being in a relationship.

LEONARD SIPES: There are times where you have to say, “You can’t do that. You cannot continue this behavior. It is not only wrong, it is not only illegal, it is just flat out unacceptable and you can’t do it.” and I have talked to different people who have worked for our agency throughout the years, again Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and I should remind the audience throughout the country that we are a federally funded parole and probation agency serving Washington DC so that will give people a context in terms of when I say talk to our people. But I have talked to people on the domestic, in the Domestic Violence Unit for years and they have told me that it is very difficult sometimes to get through to the individuals who we supervise. “You can’t do this its wrong and I am going to try to give you the tools that you need to understand how you can respond appropriately to your loved one in the future.” Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And so the beauty of facilitating groups is that there are peer groups and so there are folks in the grope that are just like, you know, they’re all alike in a sense, you know, a lot of them come from the same backgrounds. They have been charged with similar offences, and so when they challenge one another it is authentic. You know it is something that they can appreciate and that they can respect as appose to a facilitator whose life and walks of life and background is quite different from theirs. And so that is the beauty of facilitating a group and allowing the peers in the group to challenge each other and let them know that, you know, what you are doing is wrong and these are ways that you can change things. Yes this is; you know I was arrested for this but these are ways that I can change my behavior. These are some of the things that you can arm yourself with to change your behavior as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we have individuals there who don’t do well under supervision and we do have to talk about the supervision process. One of the things that we here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency are dedicated to is a twofold process of both supervision and assistance. So you guys are in the assistance part of it, in terms of running the groups to try using the Duluth model I think it is which is a nationally understood, nationally known model of dealing with people who are in domestic violence case loads; but at that same time we do supervise them and we do hold them accountable for their behavior. So if there is a court order saying that you have got to stay away from your wife and you have to give, what’s the boundary for a typical protective order for a female involved in domestic violence or a woman, a victim involved in domestic violence, what is it?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: So that person would have to stay 100 feet away from the person, away from the school, child care, home, place of employment. Those are some of the boundaries that they would have.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, okay so we can actually, if we find that they are violating that or coming close to violating that we can put them on GPS tracking, Global Position System Tracking so we can keep track of their whereabouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I am not saying that somebody is looking at a computer monitor but we do come in and look at where he has been and where she has been and we can tell whether or not they are violating that restraining order correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes that’s correct. The GPS is another tool that we can use to help assist us in victim safety. We also do periodic case staffing, if we find that an individual is having difficulty remaining in compliance or following the stay away order so we are always meeting with the offender as well as the victim in the cases to make sure that we are doing what we can to make sure that she remains safe.

LEONARD SIPES: Now it is 90% to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, I am not asking you for exact numbers, but my experience has been 90% of the victims of domestic violence are women. Am I correct, for our particular case load? So we are talking about the overwhelming majority of cases men battering women.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, they could be married. They could be cohabitating, they could be dating but they are intimate with each other. They are not strangers to each other. This is not a stranger to stranger crime. This is the people who do know each other and have had a relationship with each other.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Yes, but I also want to make it clear that we also have female batterers groups and so females are also perpetrators of domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: Right and for those groups we have women who need to be given the same message that they cannot batter. That it is inappropriate and wrong and they can’t do it.


LEONARD SIPES: Do we find that women pick up on this better than the men, worse than the men, same thing.

MARC COUNTISS: I would say both men and women have some of the same belief systems so we have to make sure that we are challenging both those beliefs as well because when you talk about it being learnt behavior sometimes men learn that violence is acceptable as well as women learn the same thing.

LEONARD SIPES: But you know that is the interesting part of this. We are not talking about somebody who decides to commit an act, say, use drugs and its episodic and it happens every once in a while and that is a decision a person makes at 14, 17, 25 whatever. This is ingrained in that individual, in many cases, if not mostly all cases throughout their lives. This is something that is part and parcel to their own personality, part and parcel to their own makeup. So convincing them that this is not something that they can do, should do, convincing them that it is wrong takes a lot of doing does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And it does and we focus a lot on you know, changing that behavior. Talking about the flip side, well it is still the Duluth model but the equality wheel. We talk about respect, accountability. We talk about responsible parenting but we also talk about consequences. You know, the consequences of your actions led you to CSOSA, and so we defiantly talk about, you know, your actions can result in incarceration, can result in you being away from your friends and family that you love and so we defiantly talk about the outcome of your behaviors.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are not going to hesitate, if he violates the order, we go back to the judge. If he provides problems for us or her, if they don’t meet the stipulations of their supervision under our agency, we can take them back to the parole commission, we can take them back to the courts and they can go back to prison or go to prison.


LEONARD SIPES: I mean that’s a very serious consequence if they do not meet their mandate.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay we drug test them as well do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay I’m finding throughout my career that drugs and alcohol are heavily connected, correlated to domestic violence. Am I right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: This is true. A lot of the individuals that come to our program do have histories of alcohol use and drug abuse. However, we have to be very careful when we are looking at this issue of substance abuse because we don’t want to get to a point where we start to rationalize or justify an individual’s behavior and say that this is why they were violent or abusive, because they were on drugs or because they were drinking because it is often times that individuals are drinking and they are not violent or abusive. So we don’t want to give them an excuse to say this is why they became violent.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, but we do drug test them do we not? I mean we do test them for drugs and alcohol and that is often at times can be another factor that we have to deal with in terms of their, shall I say the word recovery. There are adjustments that we have to deal with. There are substance abuse issues, do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so we do either refer them out to other agencies or if they are serious enough we take care of it ourselves here within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. What about mental health problems? Over a third of our case load has had histories of mental health issues. So I am trying to, I guess, provide layers of the complexity of what it is you have to do because you have to deal with mental health issues as well as substance abuse issues, as well as something that they thought was appropriate behavior.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is true, you know, as being on the Domestic Violence Intervention Team we have a treatment program that is specifically geared towards those that have mental health diagnosis and so one of the things that we do, we use the same curriculum but we defiantly take things in a different direction for them based on their mental health illness.

LEONARD SIPES: We are more than half way through the program. We are doing a program today on domestic violence and the way that we do it here in the District of Columbia but it represents efforts from throughout the United States in terms of parole and probation agencies. We have two people by our microphones today: Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer, again, what other agencies, virtually all other agencies in the United States call Parole and Probation Unit that she is with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countess. He is a Community Supervision Officer with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program is the website for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

And we just did a program with the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia on the issue of domestic violence just a couple of weeks ago and I will put in the links to that show as well to give the listeners a comprehensive overview of what we do. We had the judge who was in charge of the Domestic Violence Program for the Superior Court. He was very complementary of CSOSA. Their program is special. They have two intake units throughout the city. They deal with close to 100 cases of domestic violence a day which I found astounding and they work with a lot of agencies including ourselves to try to provide services to individuals because people come to us with employment issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, child care issues and so we try, they and we try to do wrap around services to try to get that individual in as many services as possible to stabilize their situation right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it.

MARC COUNTISS: There has to be a coordinated community response to domestic violence. The courts can’t handle it alone, intervention programs cannot handle it alone, victim servicers programs can’t handle it alone. We have to work in conjunction with each other to make sure that individuals are receiving the services that are necessary.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. Now on a community supervision side again we are, I mentioned GPS before, I mentioned drug testing. We are in constant contact with this individual in the community are we not, on the supervision side?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and so we are going and making home visits, sometimes unannounced home visits. We meet with them in the office so it’s just not you guys who are working on the treatment side, there are people within our agency who are concurrently supervising that person, making sure that they are not engaged in any other nefarious actives out there in the community. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And even on the supervision and treatment side, you know, we make sure that there is a coordinated response when things do happen. While we may not discuss in detail about the group process and what is talked about there, you know if we feel like someone may be in imminent harm or danger we will make contact with the supervision officer and we will have a coordinated effort to make sure that the victim isn’t being re-victimized.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are also working with law enforcement agencies, specifically in our case the Metropolitan Police Department, but there are lots of other law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia, they are the principal, by far, law enforcement agency but we will work with law enforcement agencies to coordinate the response and to pick up intelligent because often at times that law enforcement officer will contact us and say, “You know that person who beat up his wife, I saw him on the corner making noise and obviously he was, you know, drunk and neighbors were complaining so I’m passing that information along to you guys so you can take appropriate action.” That happens as well does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so all the agencies are suppose to be working together to protect the victim and make sure that the offender gets the services he or she needs.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, how do you feel about this, by the way? I am going to ask you the same questions I asked a Superior Court Judge you know, how do you feel after years of dealing with folks in the Domestic Violence Unit? I mean that’s got to take its toll on you personally as members of this agency.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: It does at times but it’s one of those things where you want to make sure that the person who is the perpetrator is getting what he or she needs so that ultimately they can have a healthy family, a healthy life. Making sure that their children even recognize that there has been some changes in Mom and Dad because they have the tools that they need to be successful and be healthy.

LEONARD SIPES: Now I would imagine that an awful lot of these cases, if not the majority of these cases do involve kids, do they not Marc?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes they do.

LEONARD SIPES: Right so you’re talking about a man and a women, we are talking about kids, we are talking about in many cases substance abuse, mental health problems, in some cases joblessness, again we are not making excuses for those people who batter but we are saying these are realities of what it is you have to deal with. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, what we have to do is we have to make sure that when individuals come to our groups that they know that this offence not only impacts them and the victim it also has an impact on their children, it has an impact on society and our community and to let them know that there are healthier ways of managing conflict and dealing with dispute. So it’s an ongoing battle and struggle to get this across because normally individuals may not get it the first time. So that’s why our groups are approximately 22 weeks long. And so over that time individuals get an opportunity to practice their skills and utilize the tools and normally their defenses become lessened and they embrace more of the information.

LEONARD SIPES: Well they have to come to grips with this because it just doesn’t affect them it affects their spouse, it affects their kids. I mean if we can intervene here at this level and straighten it out and make sure that the kids understand that what Dad did or what Mom did is wrong by involving them in the process, we could be putting a stop to, Princess, you mentioned something that is often at times intergenerational. This is something that has been going on for decades and sometimes grandparents and parents and kids are all part of the same spectrum.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct and part of it is making sure that the parents are armed with what they need to be armed with so that it then trickles down to the children and so we can stop the cycle of abuse. We have to make sure that they are implementing the concepts that we are talking about when we are talking about, you know, isolation – what does that mean? Have you seen this done before. How can we prevent those types of things? And again we talk about consequences. What are the consequences of your actions? Making sure folks are held accountable for what they have done and taken ownership of what they have done.

LEONARD SIPES: Well I think that you guys probably have one of the toughest beats I can possibly imagine because when I was a police officer I said to myself, you know there is no way I could handle this sort of thing day in, day out. There was just no way, it was too traumatic. Give me an armed robbery, give me a terrible automobile accident, give me anything besides seeing people who supposedly love each other, destroy each other and to see that the kids are involved in it at the same time. For me it was very emotional. I found it to be probably the most difficult thing that I handled beside you know a fatal accident or somebody dying, the probably most difficult thing I had to handle as a police officer. That is why I was asking you how does it impact you directly as people.

MARC COUNTISS: It does have a direct impact on us but it is also important that we as facilitators, we as community supervision officers make sure that we take care of ourselves as well, so self care is a big part of it, dealing with this level of stress, this level of secondary trauma. So it is important that we do the things that are necessary to take care of ourselves.

LEONARD SIPES: Do we, I’m assuming we have our fair share of victories. I’m assuming we have our fair share of individuals who come to grips with the fact that they can’t do this and understand the impact that it is having on the kids and understand the impact that it’s having on their spouse or their loved one? That’s got to be gratifying at the same time when they finally come to grips with, they can’t do this. Now they understand the damage that they have done. Now they own up to it and now they are looking for ways to end this pattern.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so in treatment like Marc said. They are 22 weeks with us. I mean that is just shy of six months on a weekly basis for an hour and a half. You meet with us, we have a group. And so as Marc also said initially they are resistant, you know they are defensive, they don’t want to talk about the issue. They want to blame everybody else. But you notice some change talk within those 22 weeks. You notice them coming around. You notice them, you know, being accountable for what they did. You notice them saying, “You know what I am responsible for what happened. I am responsible for being here in this setting but there are some things that I can do to change that and this is what I am going to do.” and so that is the beauty of the treatment process in that you can see someone who was very resistant start to change, start to accept responsibility and say, you know, today is a new day and I am going to do things differently.

LEONARD SIPES: Do they really apologize to their kids? Do they really apologize to their spouse for their behavior?

MARC COUNTISS: In some cases where they may have contact with that individual there is a portion where they can make amends. When we talk about accepting responsibility and acknowledging it and being able to apologies and say that they are sorry. So in the event that there is a stay away order in place we don’t advise it. However, if an individual still maintains contact or sees their children, we recommend that the individual apologize and they try to make things right.

LEONARD SIPES: And in the program in terms of the courts that we did that there are safe places where the batterer can come into contact with his kids, that is being supervised by the courts or supervised by us, where they can interact with their kids and the victim does not have to worry. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That is correct, the visitation center.

LEONARD SIPES: So there is all sorts of contact that is still going on even though a protective order may be in place but it’s a supervised, safe place for the victim?


LEONARD SIPES: Now we deal with same sex couples as well.


LEONARD SIPES: And is there anything different in terms of same sex couples?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: No the curriculum is the same.

MARC COUNTISS: And really when we look at the dynamics of domestic violence, you find a lot of similarities whether they are same sex couples or not.

LEONARD SIPES: Young adults, we have younger individuals on our case loads and they have been involved in acts of domestic violence. I would imagine dealing with the younger folks as a bit more difficult than dealing with the older folks. Am I right or wrong?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: There are challenges. There are definitely challenges when you talk about age, the difference in age. And so what the facilitators tend to do is to use some of the things that pertain to that particular population and so whether that is pulling something out of the headlines, whether that is music. We use the Duluth model but we also try to use some different things so that it’s relatable.

LEONARD SIPES: But I would image especially with younger people but I think it crosses over to everybody involved, that we do have the music, we do have the culture. I am amazed when I listen to music, of music that does, almost encourage violence towards women, movies, television shows, sometimes I feel that they are not just getting the wrong message from their upbringing they are getting the wrong message from society as well.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct. And what we try to do is personalize it. You know, would you want that going on with your Mom or your sister? We try to make sure that we speak to them in a way that you know, they can understand. Speak to them in their culture, in their language, making sure that they understand the consequences of their actions.

LEONARD SIPES: But we’re trying so hard to provide services and instruction so that they can straighten out their lives, so that they can understand that it is wrong but again I do want to emphasis that if that does not work we will go back to court and we will go back to the Parole Commission and say, “I think this person needs to be off the streets.” If that person violates the protective order we take a look at our GPS coordinates, we hear from police that he is in the area. We can put him back; we can put him in prison or put him back in prison, correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Well we can take them before the judge and have the judge make that recommendation.

LEONARD SIPES: Right we don’t do it but we have to take them to the judge and we have to take them to the Parole Commission so the bottom line is that we will do it if necessary but we will do, we will take all steps necessary to try to convince them that they need to straighten out their path. Correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Alright, I want to thank both of you for being on the program today. I can’t think of anything more difficult than the domestic violence beat and I want to personally thank both of you and everybody in this agency and parole and probation agencies throughout the county that are dealing with domestic violence victims. Ladies and Gentleman our program today has been on domestic violence here in the District of Columbia and again I think it is very typical what we discussed today happening throughout the country. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Our guests today have been Princess McDuffie and Marc Countiss, again they are with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very, pleasant day.


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Crime Reporting in America

Crime Reporting in America

DC Public Safety

Link to radio show;

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, we have a heck of a show for you today; Crime Reporting in America is the name of the show. We have Deb Wenger, she is the Associate Professor at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, I’ll give out that address several times throughout the show. And we have Ted Gest, he is President of Criminal Justice Journalists. He is also the Washington Bureau Chief of the Crime,, to talk about the quality of crime reporting in the United States. A report came out a little while ago that was put out by Deb and Dr. Rocky Dailey from John J. Center on Media Crime and Justice; A Special Report, the Crime Beat; Does Quality Matter? And the report went over a content analysis of six newspapers and they find a significant amount of crime reporting but it raises questions about the quality of the reporting. To Debora and to Ted, welcome to DC Public Safety.


TED GEST: Thanks.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, Debora, give me a sense of that report; The Crime Beat; Does Quality Matter? Because I got the sense from the report that the majority of the reports were single source. They didn’t go beyond that one particular source and you expressed a concern within the report that too many reporters were taking the word of the government spokesperson or the criminal justice spokesperson and that was the story. Am I right or wrong?

DEBORA WENGER: You are correct. As many as 65% of the stories that we coded for a one-month period in six metropolitan daily newspapers indicated that, take that back, so about 65% of the stories in these newspapers essentially relied on one source. And about a third of the time that one source was an official. So it was someone from law enforcement primarily. And because of that our concern, which we raised in our study is that law enforcement or officials often have an agenda. And their, you know, agenda then is reported in an unfiltered way to the wider audience in stories that only rely on one source.

LEONARD SIPES: And if truth be told I am one of those people because I represent a federal criminal justice agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal probation agency and so I’m one of those people that provide that information. What you did was take a look at a variety of cities and you took a look at all those articles and you figured out how many people were talking to crime reporters, how many people were doing crime stories, how many were single source. And then you went and talked to both people within the criminal justice system and reporters themselves, correct?

DEBORA WENGER: Yes, so we talked to editors but obviously the editors are also sometimes doing crime reporting themselves and what we found is a willingness to confess, I would say, that it is common to only rely on an official law enforcement source. And even to go so far as to express a concern that they wish they could do more reporting that was more comprehensive and included more points of view. But that often constraints just on resources and time and to some extent, you know, kind of standard practice has been to say it’s okay to talk to a PIO, a Public Information Officer and use that as a source for a brief. A brief being, you know, a story of maybe 100, 150 words or so.


DEBORA WENGER: And so when you look at kind of the way newspapers have operated for decades, you know, that has been a standard practice. So part of it is not – it could come from not thinking about exactly how the nature of reporting and the nature of journalism needs to change in a world where most people can access those news releases themselves online. So, you know, to some extent I think that the editors that we talked to, if I use the word admitted, that not all prime coverage was as comprehensive as it could be and should be.

LEONARD SIPES: I talked to a variety of my peers within government about this and I want to bring their points of view into this discussion. But first I want to reintroduce Ted Gest. He’s President of Criminal Justice Journalists, Washington Bureau Chief of the Crime,, which is unquestionably the best news summation that comes out every single day of crime and criminal justice coverage throughout the United States. Ted, every day I devour your report. And if I take a look at that report my sense is you couldn’t possibly have better crime and justice coverage because the reports that you cover, you provide a synopsis of newspaper reports from throughout the country. And they’re extraordinary, they’re good hard-hitting journalism. If you read your report every day you get the sense that the quality of criminal justice journalism in this country is wonderful, but is that the case?

TED GEST: Well it’s wonderful in some cases and on some days. To put this in perspective we put out what we consider are the most significant 12 stories. We use a dozen stories a day from the entire country, occasionally from other countries, but, and some of these are newspaper stories, some of them are accounts of government reports and reports by academics and interest groups and that kind of thing. But you’re right, these are the 12 best stories and they’re based on going through a lot of websites of newspapers and other media. And what you don’t see in that report is the fact that on a lot of newspaper websites every day, at least on the home pages, you don’t see very much about crime and justice as very significant. You may see an account of an individual crime, someone was shot, someone was killed, but you don’t often see on most newspaper websites, and I think I can include television station websites in this too, stories that really examine serious problems in the criminal justice system. It may be a police shooting. It may be a court that is not functioning well or a prison that has a high recidivism rate. When we see those stories we use them but for the most part you’re not going to see them on an average newspaper on an average day. That doesn’t mean journalism is bad. It may just mean it’s not there.

LEONARD SIPES: But I did want to talk about the state of journalism in a couple minutes. There’s so many things I do want to talk about. But, again, President of Criminal Justice Journalists, you have an organization, I think you mentioned one time of 600 or 700 journalists who are interested in the crime issue. So they’re constantly networking with each other to assist each other.

TED GEST: Yes, the number and the individuals are constantly varying. And one challenge is that because of economic issues in the news business these days, no one really knows this, but there probably are fewer reporters than there were ten or 20 years ago who are really covering this beat either on a full time basis. Or most of the time some of them are only covering it occasionally when there’s some big problem that comes up that requires their attention. But, so yeah, that’s basically it. We try to network with the reports all over the country. I think one thing that is clear from Deb’s study is there still is a lot of quantity of crime coverage. We don’t worry about the quantity, I mean, there are some other subjects in the world that don’t get any coverage, but that’s not true of crime. There’s plenty of quantity out there but, again –

LEONARD SIPES: The quality.

TED GEST: What we’ll get into here is the quality.

LEONARD SIPES: There was a piece of research and mentioned in your report, Debora, talking about PIO basically saying that the crime issue is one of the most popular topics and that the majority of the American Public pays pretty close attention to the issue of crime within this country. Is that correct?

TED GEST: Yeah, absolutely. I believe the last time PIO actually did this particular type of survey was 2011. But at that point they found that 36% of people get their crime from newspapers specifically, 29% from television, which, you know, I think a lot of folks who pay attention to crime have a sense of that all television news is, is crime.


TED GEST: But most people, at least in this particular survey, were getting most of their crime news from newspapers and 12% from web. Now I would guess that those numbers, those percentages would be shifting as mobile delivery and other forms of digital news content become more and more popular. That’s actually an issue that would be of interest for further study is just where are people getting crime news from –


TED GEST: To determine how important each particular medium is to accurately reporting the crime realities in this country.

LEONARD SIPES: Taking a look at other PIO research and research from other organizations, tell me if I’m right either one of you, that the numbers within newsrooms, the individual number of reporters within newsrooms has declined up to a third in the last ten years. I know of newsrooms where it’s declined close to half. So you have far fewer reporters out there and far, and I’m going to guess and other people have told me this, not necessarily my guess but the guess of others, is that the people specializing in terms of particular beats whether it be education, the environment or crime and justice. Those numbers have declined as well, am I right or the people making these observations, are we right or wrong?

TED GEST: Well I think we’re right on that. But I think one key word you just used was newsrooms and by newsrooms I think you’re implying newspapers and broadcast outlets. And I think that’s true of newsrooms but one thing we have to keep in mind is that there has been a proliferation of websites of all sorts of descriptions. Some of them call themselves news websites, others are just blogs, people with their opinion. But I think, I hope Deb would agree with me, there are still lots of sources of crime information out there beyond news – you’re correct on newsrooms, but it’s possible that the amount of raw information out there available to the public on crime and justice issues from all of these various sources really is about the same. What is different, as you say, is people specializing in them so we get a nuanced analysis of trends and meanings of developments rather than just sort of basic raw information.

LEONARD SIPES: Deb, did you want to chime in on that?

DEBORA WENGER: Yeah, and just one point of clarification. I think it is actually true of newspaper newsrooms. Television really hasn’t seen that much of a reduction in staff. But I will agree that in terms of beats in general, whether that is a crime beat or, you know, a city hall beat, have suffered with the new environment as Ted is describing where there’s so much information coming in at all of us all the time from a myriad of sources that you would think we would need more beat reporters.


DEBORA WENGER: Regardless of medium to help make sense of it all, but my sense is that the trend has actually gone the other way, that there are fewer people specializing in particular topics.

LEONARD SIPES: And that’s the third point that I wanted to get to, that there are more generalists. One day you’re covering a fire, one day you’re covering a sinkhole and the next day you’re covering a series of homicides in a particular city. So you have generalists covering crime and criminal justice issues where in past decades you had knowledgeable individuals who knew the criminal justice system up one side and down the other covering the same issue. Am I right or wrong or the people giving me that observation, are they right or wrong?

TED GEST: Yeah, I think that is right. But it varies greatly from city to city and from time to time. But as I indicated earlier there’s some newspapers that you could look at almost every day and find some pretty good analysis. I’ll just pick one out, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


TED GEST: Which is not one of those papers that is familiar I think to a lot of people around the country, they do a particularly good job of being a watch dog on the police department and the courts and the correction system in their area and that’s been true for some time and there are several other newspapers that fall into that category but then this varies. A newspaper that might have done this to a great extent a few years ago might not be doing it today and that might be because of layoffs. It might be because a particular person who was doing that has gotten another job or gone off and done something else. So I want to emphasize that it varies. It’s pretty hard to make a generalization that everything has gotten worse or has gotten less. I mean, some newspapers and TV stations are doing more and some doing less, but it just varies depending on where you are.

LEONARD SIPES: Debora, I think you mentioned in your report that certain cities did a much better job than others. In fact, some newspapers picked up the lion’s share of reports. I think you mentioned Detroit as putting out a lot of good crime news.

DEBORA WENGER: Yeah, you know, and we didn’t actually make an assessment of whether or not the reporting was of high quality or low quality. I mean, we were really just trying to set a baseline for how much crime is being reported and what types of sources are being used, what categories of crime are being covered. The Detroit Free Press stood out in the study because of its coverage of corrections issues in particular. And, you know, they talked, the group of six, with more than 10% of their coverage devoted to corrections issues. And they tended to have a pretty wide range of topics that they covered. So, you know, I do think that that’s kudos to folks there. The Indianapolis Star did some excellent reporting during the time period that we studied in this one month, March 2014, you know, they were probably the best in the study at putting crime in context. So not relying on a single source and not only –

LEONARD SIPES: When we come –


LEONARD SIPES: Well I just wanted to break, so go ahead and finish your thought.

DEBORA WENGER: So they were – the Indianapolis Star was very cognizant of the need to provide context to bring meaning as Ted referenced to the crime reporting that they do.

LEONARD SIPES: What I do want to do in the second half of the program is to go into where do we go from here, if there are any other observations that I have not covered. Where do we go to from here and to bring in the observations of other government spokespeople as to the change that they’ve seen occurred and I think I’ve seen occurred over the course of the last 10-15 years. But before going any further with the program, ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a report – we’re doing our program today on crime reporting in America. Deb Wenger is Associate Professor at Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, is her website. And Ted Gest, he is the President of Criminal Justice Journalists and the Washington Bureau Chief of Crime The best news summation we have in the United States, Focusing on a piece of research from John J. College of Criminal Justice by Debora and by Dr. Rocky Dailey, the Crime Beat does quality matter content analysis of six United States newspapers. My counterparts Ted and Debora, they’re basically saying, wow, where have all the reporters gone. Our jobs used to be morning, noon and night endless hardnosed, hard-hitting questions by people who knew our beats up one side and down the other, evenings, weekends. As David Simon who has written Homicide and the Coroner in Baltimore, in the Baltimore Sun just barging his way into my office with Bill Zorzie, playing with the papers on my desk and this was sort of a friendly attack, because there were smiles throughout the room. But they’ve made it known that they’re aggressive reporters doing aggressive reporting, no holds barred reporting. They didn’t give any breaks to those of us who were considered government flacks. A lot of us who are in public affairs don’t see that level of aggressiveness anymore. Did anybody want to opine on that?

TED GEST: Well I still there are quite a few reporters out there who do an aggressive job. We have a contest every year at John J. College and I’m one of the judges of it. And there certainly are a lot of high quality entries this year and every year that embody aggressive reporting on criminal justice topics. The thing is, as I said earlier, it’s erratic, that in some cities it’s very good, in other cities it’s not very good. So I think what the impact of what you’re saying is that there is in many areas we end up having crisis driven reporting. That let’s say a city like Chicago that occasionally in recent years has had a spate of homicides on a particular weekend or particular season. You see – you do see a lot of reporting about the homicides going on and concern by city officials, what are we going to do about this and that’s repeated in various other cities. And then taking the other parts of the criminal justice system, there are reports let’s say in the corrections area, a crises, when a court says that a prisoner jail is below standards and prisoners have to be released or transferred, that’s perceived correctly as a crisis and there is reporting there. But what the public doesn’t see is things that just, either officials don’t want to talk about or is not perceived as a crisis, just to give you one example, and Deb and I can give many. But we read about homicides but a lot of time we don’t ever find out what happened to the investigation of these homicides. And what we just ran in our news digest this week, a report that a reporter from Scripps Howard newspapers did about the fact that there’s a huge number of unsolved homicides in this country. I think it was several hundred thousand every since 1980 and this is replicated in a lot of local police departments. Police departments don’t want to talk generally about, oh, it turns out that 65% of the homicides last year we didn’t solve. That’s something that you don’t see talked about unless a reporter really wants to go out and get that story. And they are, in some areas, but that’s just one of many examples of the kinds of things you probably aren’t seeing in your local community.

LEONARD SIPES: Debora, did you want to opine on my question?

DEBORA WENGER: Well, and I guess I more so wanted to follow-up with a question to you is, are you still getting requests for information, is it the quality of the requests that have changed or the sheer number?

LEONARD SIPES: I can’t – I didn’t do a scientific survey.


LEONARD SIPES: And it was just an informal conversation with people who are in my business. I think the number remains but I think the quality of the questions and the aggressiveness of the questions and the comprehensiveness of the questions doesn’t. I think too many spokespeople are defining stories for too many reporters and that’s just what I hear from my contemporaries. That’s one of the things that they suggest to me, which was unheard of or unthinkable 15 years ago.

DEBORA WENGER: Sure. Well and, you know, not to invalidate anybody’s sense of how things have changed from their perspective, but I do think Ted is absolutely right that, you know, it is very difficult to generalize because there does continue to be excellent crime and justice reporting. But on the other hand there, you know, I talked to my friends who are journalists and still in the business and the sheer number of stories that an individual journalist is now being asked to produce on a daily basis, and I know more about television from that standpoint than any other medium, but it’s not unusual for a single broadcast journalist to be producing more than two stories in one day.


DEBORA WENGER: And if that’s your workload you’re just not going to have the time to sink your teeth into doing the hard hitting kind of journalism that you might like to. And so you might be temped to take the word of the PIO or the spokesperson and attribute it properly and move on to your next story. So if that’s what you and folks you talk to have seen happen I might – I would think that that might be one of the reasons why it does.

LEONARD SIPES: Well it just seems to be a consensus from the people that I’ve talked to, that there seems to be a difference and in some cases a stark difference. And I think you’re correct because TV reporters, electronic reporters are not only reporting on stories but now they’re doing their own filming, now they’re doing their own editing. Newspaper reporters are now out there taking their own photographs and getting their own video, so reporters not only have the decline in number, they’ve got to do much more than what they did, again, just ten years ago when they could focus on the story. They have so many other responsibilities. So it just strikes me that that’s a valid question as to whether or not – cause the crime issue is explosive and can be explosive, take a look at Ferguson, take a look at all the other issues that we’ve been discussing over the course of the last six months. I mean, these are heavy-duty really complicated issues that require context and require insight and require research. And my question is do reporters nowadays have that context, have that insight, do they have that research background to place things in the context and put them in their proper perspective?

TED GEST: Well a lot of them don’t. A lot of reporters, I would like to say most reporters maybe, are pretty smart and resourceful and can get the information if they put their mind to it. Len, you made an allusion a minute ago to the Ferguson episode, which has clearly been the biggest single story in criminal justice in the last six months.


TED GEST: After that episode, of course, that, as I said, to use my own phrasing of earlier, was perceived as a crisis, white police officer shoots unarmed black man, and produces all sorts of public protests. There’s been a huge amount of reporting on this issue, not only that case but reporters all over the country have examined similar cases in their area and how they’re handled and that kind of thing. And I think the media have done a pretty good job there, but again, that was provoked by this extreme case. And I think it’s pretty clear that on a lot of other cases that are almost as serious as Ferguson but didn’t get that much of attention initially. I’m not sure those kinds of cases or the problems that are raised by them about police practices that happened in other areas of the country would give that much attention. I’m not sure necessarily a matter of lack of expertise, it’s just that, as Deb has indicated, reporters are busy with multiple stories per day. And if that particular story that we’re talking about doesn’t seem to rise to that level of attention, it doesn’t get attention. But expertise is part of the problem, just looking for trends, looking for significant things and knowing, seeing one that hey, that looks interesting, I’m thinking of how a reporter would think, and I’m going to see if that kind of thing is happening in my area and if it’s getting the proper attention from authorities or whatever. I don’t know, Deb, do you have any elaboration on that?

DEBORA WENGER: Yeah, I mean, I think you’ve hit it that I don’t believe it’s a lack of expertise, I think it’s a lack of time. And also I do believe that the pressures on newsrooms in terms of how they interact with audience have never been greater. And to some extent audience interests and desires drive coverage. We certainly saw that in Ferguson with I think, again, it was PIO talked about 180,000 or so tweets on the actual night that the incident occurred, by the following Thursday there were 3.5 million tweets. And so it became, the audience was pushing journalists to do more coverage because they were raising more questions and demanding more information. So part of all of this, within all of this we have to also consider that, you know, journalists are operating in an environment where they’re trying to grow and engage audience.

LEONARD SIPES: We have a minute left in the program. To both of you, what do we do to improve the quality of criminal justice journalism, crime journalism in the United States?

TED GEST: I don’t know if we can deal with that in a minute but I’ll defer to Deb in a second here about what might be happening in journalism schools, which train journalists. But I think it’s basically a matter, I mean, our group and other groups like it try to educate editors and people who watch the news on what are the trends, what they should be looking for in their areas and that this comes from people who do have expertise, not only journalists but academics and think tanks and other practitioners. So just keeping them aware of things, that’s the best we can do right now. Deb –

LEONARD SIPES: Debora, do you have a thought on this?

DEBORA WENGER: Yeah, I mean, from a journalism, education perspective, you know, I think that pushing the idea that more context is always more valuable in any kind of reporting, whether it’s crime or not and from a newsroom perspective, I would just ask editors and reporters to consider whether you need the ten briefs on the dry cleaner robbery and the vandalism at the high school. Or, you know, would it be better to not write those ten briefs and get a really rich, well sourced contextualized piece on, you know, your local prison system.

LEONARD SIPES: Well it’s been a fascinating conversation with both of you. I really do think that this is an extraordinarily important topic for anybody interested in crime and justice in the United States. Ladies and gentleman, my Gests today have been Deb Wenger. She’s Associate Professor at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at University of Mississippi, is her website. Ted Gest, he is President of Criminal Justice Journalists, a long-term journalist himself. Somebody extraordinarily well respected within the journalism community. Washington Bureau Chief of the Crime, What Deb and Rocky Dailey did was to put out a report called The Crime Beat; Does Quality Matter where they analyzed a variety of newspapers, six newspapers talking about significant crime reporting, but raising questions as to the quality of coverage. I’ll put the link in the show notes. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


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Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

DC Public Safety Radio


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LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. The show today, ladies and gentlemen, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13 to 19, this year. It’s part of an annual event put on by the American Probation and Parole Association to honor parole and probation and pretrial supervision people throughout the country. By our microphones is Diane Kincaid. She is Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to DC Public Safety.

DIANE KINCAID: Hello. It’s great to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: This is wonderful and I love the idea of this week, because I think that parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the nation’s capital, I don’t think they get the recognition that they so desperately deserve. I really do think that they’re sold a bit short in terms of recognition of public safety personnel throughout the country. Am I right or wrong?

DIANE KINCAID: You are absolutely correct, Len. Their job is some of the most difficult that you can have in corrections and law enforcement, and so often their work goes unnoticed, and people really don’t understand how difficult their work really is.

LEONARD SIPES: There are seven million people under correctional supervision in this country on any given day. Two million are behind bars. That means that five million are out under the responsibility of parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers as we call them in DC, or on a pretrial status. So that means the great bulk of what we call offenders are our responsibility, the responsibility of community supervision agencies. So we have a huge, huge, or make a huge contribution to public safety, do we not?

DIANE KINCAID: Absolutely. That’s correct as well. With that many people under supervision and to be expected to know what these people are doing 24/7, making sure that they are leading law abiding lives, that they’re not breaking the conditions of their supervision, is a tremendous amount of stress and work for these professionals.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s just amazing as to what they do in terms of both supervising people under supervision and at the same time helping them. So that’s a very, I guess, tough role to combine. When I was a police officer all I had to do was go out and make arrests and, boom, I was done with this person. Parole and probation agents, pretrial supervision people are included in this category, but not to the degree of parole and probation agents, they could have relationships with these individuals of up to five years, providing a certain level of supervision and providing a certain level of assistance.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And we can’t forget about the juveniles who are also on supervision, who are helped tremendously by these professionals as well. And their role is to help these kids grow up into perhaps a better environment and to let them know how their lives can turn around and be better for themselves. So we can’t forget about the kids.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And I didn’t even think about that particular category, but you’re absolutely right. Okay. Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th, 19th is the event for this year. So but what we try to do is not only make sure that everybody else in the country understands the role of people who do community supervision but the fact that they celebrate this time of year and they acknowledge the fact that people on, who are parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers, pretrial people, juvenile officers, they are on the front lines of public safety. And you, through the American Probation and Parole Association, coordinate that average effort on a yearly basis. So we want everybody to get involved in this, right?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We’ve been doing this week, as we call it, since 2001. It’s an annual event. It’s something that really for me to work on is a pleasure, every year I look forward to it, because it’s really celebrating the work that’s done on the community by these individuals and just really giving them a pat on the back.

LEONARD SIPES: And what APPA calls A Force for Positive Change, I mean that’s been the catchall from, regarding APPA’s efforts throughout the year is making sure that everybody understands that these individuals are just that, A Force for Positive Change.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. And the theme that we have for this year is Be the Change in your Community. So it’s all about probation, parole, and pretrial officers and community supervision officers being change agents for the people that they’re supervising and throughout the community, really.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, you have a list of resources on your website, again,, they can find that list of resources that help them celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week.    

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We have an entire website that’s developed every year with a different theme, a different look. We have a designer, a very talented gentleman named [John Higgins, who designs the look for the week every year. We have a poster that can be printed in your office. We have actually an agency that’s going to be – I didn’t turn my cell phone off – we have an office that is going to be printing large banners to hang from their office area. That’s really going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be – I can’t wait to get the pictures for that. That’s going to be really neat.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, how far in advance can they ask for material from your agency?

DIANE KINCAID: We try to have the website up right around the first week of April. We work on the theme; we work on the design starting around the first of the year. The week is always in July. We try to have that right around the third week, depending on how that week falls. But it’s, you know, we’re always right in the middle of July. We start working on it again the first of year trying to get together and have the website up in April.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, the theme again for this year is what again?

DIANE KINCAID: Be the Change in your Community.

LEONARD SIPES: Be the Change in your Community. Do people understand the role of parole and probation agents, is it, or pretrial people or juvenile service officers? Do they understand exactly what it is they do? Because I get the sense that there are thousands of police shows and resources devoted to what law enforcement does, television shows, the movies. You get this constant barrage of information as to what police officers do. Now, as a former police officer, I would suspect that an awful lot of what they see and hear is unrealistic. But you hear and see little to nothing as to what parole and probation people do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, that’s true, and it’s the issue of an identity. Police officers have that uniform, they have, often have a car that identifies them as law enforcement, but for the most part probation and parole officers and pretrial officers don’t have that. There’s not a look that they have. They look like just anybody on the street. They look like you and I.


DIANE KINCAID: So knowing who they are and what they’re doing, you know, you see somebody talking to somebody at work and you don’t know that that’s a probation officer checking up to make sure somebody’s going to their job. So knowing what they do is really difficult, even for me, having worked here for almost 15 years. I learn something new about what they do every day.

LEONARD SIPES: It’s a combination, law enforcement, again, a social service agency. You find some parole and probation agents are out there all the time, some are in raid jackets, some carry firearms, some have arrest power. We don’t have arrest power nor do we carry firearms here in the nation’s capital, but that’s not unusual for them to take on the law enforcement motif, and at the same time they’re interacting with people, some of the most challenging people on the face of the earth. How do you build that relationship with that person under supervision to the point where you can convince them that to go into drug treatment, complete drug treatment, make the restitution, not disobey any laws, not to bother the neighborhood, to get work, to get along well with their family, pick up their responsibilities? I mean these are all skills, immensely difficult people, and at the same time skills to deal with immensely difficult problems. The parole and probation people have got to be at the very top of their game every single day.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. And you raised an issue also that involves safety for officers. Unfortunately sometimes an officer can be killed in the line of duty. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So the stress and the safety and the diverse nature of the work is something that really goes undervalued I think.

LEONARD SIPES: I think most of them in, throughout the country have college degrees.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. It’s a very well educated workforce, because the skills that are needed are such that a good background in social studies and in psychology and those sorts of areas is really beneficial for someone who works in this field.

LEONARD SIPES: And at the same time many people within my agency here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency have master’s degrees and above. So you’re right. It’s an extremely well educated field. And we have parole and probation people, again, juvenile justice people, pretrial people, in every jurisdiction in the United States.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. It’s well educated. It’s, you know, the ratios of males to females is about 50-50, so it’s well represented, very diverse as far as culture. As I said, probation, parole, and pretrial officers are just like you and I.

LEONARD SIPES: But it’s interesting that it’s a bit of an American invention to some degree. We had a delegation from China that sent some people over, and we sent people over there to build a community supervision system over in China. Either you were let go or put in prison. There wasn’t anything in between. So is parole and probation not just something that’s in every American jurisdiction, every county, every city, every state, and I would imagine it’s the same for Canada, but I would imagine, again, that it’s, they’re in most jurisdictions in the world but not all?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. Not all have a very well developed supervision system. And something interesting that I would like to mention as well is next summer the Second World Congress on Community Corrections, I’m sorry, is going to be held in Los Angeles, it’s going to be in July, 2015 –


DIANE KINCAID: And APPA is hosting that. So we’re going to be welcoming the world to talk about community corrections and how we can all learn from each other and help each other.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, in terms of getting people involved in the field, you all even have a website that is done by Marianne Mowat. Now, you’re also aligned with the Council of State Governments, your organization, so it’s larger than just the American Probation and Parole Association, it’s the Council of State Governments, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s correct. We are an affiliate member of the Council of State Governments, CSG. They handle all of our secretary duties, our human resources, our benefits, that sort of thing, our county. So they are a tremendous support for the association. And you mentioned Marianne, who has worked on the website for several years now; it’s called Discover Corrections –


DIANE KINCAID: Which has a tremendous amount of information for anyone who is in the field and perhaps seeking employment in a different agency or different state. We have a job posting board. It also has a lot of information for someone who’s looking to work in the field who wants to know a little more about it.

LEONARD SIPES: And it also celebrates the field. So the point with American Probation and Parole Association is that you’re doing this year round, you’re doing it year round through the website, you’re doing it year round in terms of promoting this concept of A Force for Positive Change. So the American Probation and Parole Association is representing us, those of us in community corrections throughout the entire year, in terms of research with the Department of Justice, in terms of promoting community supervision and what community supervision does. So you guys are basically the center point of this discussion, not just for Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th – 19th, this year, but you’re doing it throughout the year.

DIANE KINCAID: We do. And we really, we’re a nonprofit, obviously, but I could tell you to a person all staff feel that we really are here to serve the field. Anything that we can do to make their work easier, anything we can help them with as far as getting information, the research that we do and the training that we try to provide is really just an effort to help, to really support those individuals.

LEONARD SIPES: I walk by the National Police Memorial every day on the way to work and I interact with their people. So they have a huge presence in downtown DC, a huge memorial, where people come throughout the Unites States in the spring to celebrate the sacrifice of police officers and the sacrifice that police officers make, not just in terms of the past year, but in all previous years. The names of all deceased police officers killed in the line of duty are aligned on a long wall. We don’t have anything like that for parole and probation, do we?

DIANE KINCAID: We don’t. And, again, that’s just something that, you know, I don’t think the average probation, parole, or pretrial officer would really even expect it. It’s not something that they really look for. They see their work as helping others, keeping the community safe, just like law enforcement, obviously. But they go about their business; they do the job as best they can – and I think they do a fabulous job – and don’t really want a pat on the back, for the most part.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, but I do think they want recognition. I do think that –

DIANE KINCAID: And they deserve it.

LEONARD SIPES: I – they want recognition for the fact that they carry very large case loads. I want the audience to think about the fact that they’re extraordinarily well educated people. I mean I know parole and probation agents who have PhDs. They’re out there every day in tough neighborhoods, dealing with people with problems and with issues and convincing somebody to how to take care of your child, be sure that you go to school every day. “We heard from law enforcement resources that you’re out on the community, out on a corner bothering the community. I’m told by your substance abuse provider that you’re not attending all the sessions or that you’re being disruptive.” Those are all major life issues, and when you’ve got a large case load and you’re dealing with people that intimately and being that involved in the lives of hundreds of people on your case load, that’s got to take a toll. And recognizing that the vast majority of people that are part of the criminal justice system are their responsibility, not prison, their responsibility, I do believe, both of us believe that they need recognition.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And just talking about all of this with you it just brings up the amount of work, the amount of stress that these individuals are working under, the large case loads. If you find someone who has been in this system working in the field between five and seven years, they’re dedicated, because it is hard work, it’s something that takes a lot of mental effort, physical effort oftentimes, so they’re really dedicated people.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re talking to Diane Kincaid. She is the Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, We’re talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week. Now, one of the, you know, the whole idea is this is not just one week that we’re celebrating, we’re celebrating them throughout the course of the year. One of the ways that you celebrate community service or community supervision personnel is the fact that you’re having a conference coming up in New Orleans on August 3 through August 6 of this year. Now, you do two of them a year, right?

DIANE KINCAID: We do. This will be our 39th annual training institute. Our annuals are typically July, August, and then we have winter institutes that tend to be a little bit smaller, recently they’ve been right around the same size, that’s January, February, for the winter. This institute looks to be really big. We have a really good registration right now, we’re not even to the deadline to register, we haven’t had that last push, and I think everybody’s excited to be in New Orleans, so we’re looking to have a good show with everybody. We’ve got a full exhibit hall, with a lot of new exhibitors, to show sort of the items that they have to help probation, parole, and pretrial professionals do their job.

LEONARD SIPES: That exhibition hall is one of my favorite spots when I go to your conferences to find out what’s new, and especially from a technology point of view, what’s new, what’s happening throughout the rest of the country. There’s a lot of really interesting things that’s coming onboard, coming up in terms of community supervision. I remember doing a radio show within the last couple weeks with Joe Russo, talking about corrections technology or community corrections technology, and that’s a very exciting field. So I think as the research indicates that more and more of this idea of crime control is going to be placed in the hands of parole and probation agents, the level of technology seems to be increasing and our options seem to be increasing. I’m thinking specifically GPS, but there’s now devices that can tell whether or not a person is under the influence of alcohol, there will be technology in the somewhat near future that will indicate whether or not a person is on drugs or using drugs. So we’re doing a lot of remote supervision, some agencies are using kiosks, some people are doing facial recognition, some people are doing remote fingerprinting, there’s a lot of technology that’s coming our way, because, again, most people caught up in the criminal justice system are our responsibility. They’re not in prison, they’re out in the community, they’re out in the street, and they’re our responsibility, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And technology really has taken off in the last few years, you know, the different tools that can be used to supervise individuals. And I have to say too, not every person who is on supervision is a danger to anybody. They’ve done some things that maybe they shouldn’t have. They just need a little guidance, they need some support. So the greatest majority of those individuals really do need the skills of community supervision officers. Then there are the ones who need a little bit more help, who need more direct supervision, and that’s what’s taken care of as well.

LEONARD SIPES: How many community corrections agencies throughout the country celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week?

DIANE KINCAID: We have quite a few. We hear from a number of those, you know, we have the ideas on here about how to recognize staff, to maybe have a staff luncheon, maybe go out and do some community service work with your agency logo on your shirt, just get out in the community and let people know that you are part of it, that you are supporting them, that you are trying to keep them safe, and to help those people who are under supervision. I would say there are dozens of agencies we hear from every year that are doing different things, and a lot of the ideas that we have on our website about how to recognize staff and volunteers come from the field, they come from people telling us what they’ve done. So that’s always really interesting to see.

LEONARD SIPES: I recognize that more and more agencies are getting involved in doing what we’re doing, which is the promotion, the creation and promotion of radio shows and television shows, Facebook pages, I’m finding a greater presence on social media from community corrections personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And for anyone who’s interested, APPA also has a Facebook page, we’re on LinkedIn. There is always a really active discussion in the LinkedIn page for APPA, a lot of really good ideas, a lot of information being shared there, so I’d encourage people to take a look at that as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we are, is it fair, Diane, I say to others and I’ve heard others say to me that we are at the epicenter for change. When I’m taking a look at the criminological research coming out from the US Department of Justice, from Pew, from the Urban Institute, from the Council of State Governments, it’s always an emphasis on parole and probation. I’m finding that, through research, that there has never been such a presence of parole and probation agencies, community supervision agencies. It basically seems that if we are going to rearrange the way that we do business within the criminal justice system to be more effective, to be smarter, to reduce rates of recidivism, it all comes down to community supervision agencies and community supervision personnel. Now, is that my observation? Is my observation or the observation of others correct or is that an exaggeration?

DIANE KINCAID: No, I agree with you. I do see that trend as well. And the fact is, we cannot build prisons to buy ourselves out of crime. It’s just not going to work. For one thing we can’t afford it, and that’s a horrible thing to say, but we cannot afford to put every person who breaks the law into a prison or jail. And most of those people don’t need to be imprisoned. So when they’re part of the community, when they’re getting the support they need, when they’re getting some substance abuse help, when they’re getting some therapies, then they can have a job, they can take care of their families, they can pay their taxes, they can be part of the community and support their own community.

LEONARD SIPES: Someone once told me that, theoretically at least, that every governor has had a discussion with every director of corrections in every state in the United States, and their message has basically been you must reduce your budget, that corrections is taking such a large share, we don’t have the money to build roads, we don’t have the money to build colleges, we don’t have the money to do head start programs, we don’ have the money to build schools or to improve schools, because so much of it is going towards corrections, and you have to reduce the reliance upon incarceration. So whether we’re approaching it criminologically or whether we’re approaching it from the standpoint of budget, more people are going to be coming onto community supervision, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: I would say that that is the trend these days, because people that realize that, not only does it help state budgets, as far as the Department of Corrections and their prison system goes, but it helps the community. When people are in prison they’re breaking apart families, they, or they’re not supporting their children, they’re not supporting their spouses, they – it just really sort of creates an imbalance in our communities when you have so many people in prison who more than likely don’t necessarily need to be there or don’t need to be in there as long as we do so today.

LEONARD SIPES: And I’m bringing all this up to be sure that the listeners understand the importance of community supervision officers, because all the research that I read it’s parole and probation, the parole and probation becomes the epicenter for the change within the criminal justice system. I’m reading now that it’s just not a Republican or a Democrat or a left wing or a right wing point of view, that you have some rather conservative people out there coming together with people on the other side of the aisle and they’re pushing for the same change, that this is now a universal message that goes across political spectrums, that we’ve got to be smarter, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to reduce recidivism, we’ve got to bring programs on, and we’ve got to have the right people to apply all of this. And, boom, we’re right back to community supervision personnel, parole and probation personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And I think too we have to add in this whole focus on evidence-based practices, where we know what works and we can prove it. We can prove that these things and these methods and these practices do work to reduce recidivism, to reduce imprisonment, and to help our communities.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And we have to be sure to assess them, to figure out what their risk level is, what their need level is, being sure that we supervise people at the right levels, making sure that we have the programs in place to provide the substance abuse treatment or the mental health treatment or the job assistance. I mean this is beginning to be very complex, and it calls for extraordinarily well educated, extraordinarily dedicated, extraordinarily motivated people to be parole and probation agents.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. And just to go back to some of my recent comments, that I don’t mean to say that we don’t need prisons, obviously we do. There are individuals who are a danger to our communities; they’re a danger to others, maybe even a danger to themselves, depending on how they’re living. But there are still those who – the biggest population in our prisons are drug offenses and property offenses. Not everybody in prison is a murderer. So –

LEONARD SIPES: But what you’re saying –

DIANE KINCAID: And we have to think about that.

LEONARD SIPES: What you’re saying goes right along with what the research community throughout the country and the advocacy community throughout the country and what the US Department of Justice is saying. My only – in terms of the fact that we cannot continue to send everybody to prison or we cannot continue to send everybody to prison for the length of time that we ordinarily do. And, again, theoretically, every governor in the country has had this conversation with their corrections people basically saying we can no longer house the amount of people that we housed before because of budget reasons. And according to the Department of Justice data we’re seeing a gradual, not a huge, but a gradual change in terms of the small decrease in prison population over the course of the last five years. So all of your, all that you’re saying is nothing more than what’s what the reality is.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And that’s, you know, and the evidence proves it, so you can’t really argue against something that you can show somebody works. So the more states that get into this and the more states that start working on these different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about offenders is just going to reinforce that.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. And I do want to reemphasize that information is available at the website of the American Probation and Parole Association,, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week is July 13th through 19th of this year. Our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our director is in the process of doing a video outreach to all employees. Again, parole and probation is at the epicenter of change, the research, the advocacy, whether you are on the right or the left of the political spectrum, all, everything is now being, the emphasis is now parole and probation and community supervision, and that’s where we’re going.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. It’s been a great pleasure to speak with you today, Len. I really enjoyed it.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re not done yet, because I do want to reemphasize that we have the conference coming up in August in New Orleans, August 3 through 6, and that is, again, at your website, and the fact that you do have Discover Corrections. That website that is funded I think through the Council of State Governments, through APPA, through the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. So you’re doing this throughout the course of the year. I think that’s the important thing to understand, that the American Probation and Parole Association is leading the rest of us in terms of trying to build up parole and probation, again, A Force for Positive Change has been the logo of APPA for the course of the last several years. So it’s your emphasis is constant throughout the course of the year, and we really do thank APPA for everything that you do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, it’s a real pleasure to work with those in the field and it’s an honor, so it’s a great job.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Our guest today, again, Diane Kincaid, Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, this year, July 13th, 19th, This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.