Archives for March 2016

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Faith-Based Offender Mentoring

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capitol, this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very interesting program for you today. Faith-Based Offender Mentoring, we have the mentor and mentee of the year. Coming up for our Reentry Citywide Assembly at Gaullaudet University, talk more about that later, on Thursday February 19th.

I want to welcome to our microphones Maurice Marshall who is the mentor and Ellis, as we’re going to call him, who is the mentee. And to Maurice and Ellis welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ellis: Thank you.

Maurice: Thank you very much.

Leonard Sipes: All right gentlemen, mentoring is extraordinarily important. What you guys do is, and we’ve been doing this program since 2006, so what we have through various faith institutions, is that we have individuals like you, Maurice, who volunteer, and thank god that you do, you volunteer to reach out to men and women that we have on supervision here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And they volunteer their time to interact with a person who is on supervision, which in this case is Ellis, to help them out. It’s an extraordinarily important program and we really do want more mentors.

Maurice, can you tell me how you started out? What made you decide to become a mentor?

Maurice: Well what made me decide to be a mentor was that I’m a retired correctional officer. My correctional experiences were with adults and juveniles for the district government. I retired in 2008. I decided, from working as a correctional officer at Oak Hill, to learn from that skill watching young men go through the system who have so many skills that they were unable to realize their potential.

So I thought it would be best to find something that would tie me in with being retired, working with youth and then trying something new that would enable me to take that experience even further.

Leonard Sipes: And so many correctional officers really do understand the importance of reaching out to people under supervision. You know the criminal justice system probably better than anybody. How long were you a correctional officer?

Maurice: Twenty-two years. That’s as adult and juvenile.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a long time.

Maurice: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leonard Sipes: So you saw many people coming through and probably coming through multiple times.

Maurice: That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: And you wanted to do was reach out and try to do something about that.

Maurice: Yeah because we had conversations amongst my correctional officer coworkers about what could be done to stop youth from doing the same thing over and over again. Because, unfortunately, at Oak Hill and so many juvenile facilities what happens is the youth are almost like a farm team for the prisons.

You know working at DC Jail, working at Lorton, being a frontline supervisor at Lorton, you saw these type of things happen all the time. Repeat offenders… it was all the time. You just want want to know what you can do. Especially being a native Washingtonian, you say “Hey, wait a minute, this has to stop.”

Leonard Sipes: It’s a bit heartbreaking.

Maurice: Can be.

Leonard Sipes: To see so many young men and young women come through this system with such obvious potential… be caught up in the criminal justice system time after time.

Maurice: That is correct.

Leonard Sipes: I did jail Job Corps a lifetime ago and so I interacted with a lot of individuals from the DC metropolitan area, from the Baltimore metropolitan area, who were caught up in the criminal justice system where the judge said “Go to jail” or “Go to Job Corps.” It was heartbreaking. I mean, there were those individuals who pulled themselves of the criminal justice system but there were many who didn’t and to see that wasted potential is, not to overuse the word a third time, but heartbreaking.

Maurice: Very true.

Leonard Sipes: Maurice, no, Ellis, this time, this is our Mentee of the Year. How are you doing?

Ellis: I’m doing very fine.

Leonard Sipes: All right, fine. You’re a student at a local high school here in the District of Columbia. How did you come into the criminal justice system, Ellis?

Ellis: Well I came into the criminal justice system at a young age. I was about twelve or eleven, I would say. Growing up wasn’t the best thing for me. I had no father figure, or anybody to look up to so basically it made me result to the street so at a young age I was throwing things I ain’t supposed to be doing. So I was just in and out of the system. I’ve gone from YSC, to Youth Center, to Oak Hill. From Oak Hill I went to DC Jail and from DC Jail I went to the Federal Penitentiary.

So I just look at it now like I’m just tired of doing the things I was doing. I just want to move on with my life.

Leonard Sipes: And you consider yourself a smart guy, you consider yourself an intelligent young man, and you consider yourself not part of that criminal subculture.

Ellis: No… Now… It’s getting old, basically, doing the same thing.. it’s like… a tape recorder that just keeps playing over and over. Like me, I keep going to jail, keep going to jail, it’s not going to be a good thing for me. I’m a young father at the age of twenty-three and I want to just be there for my son and teach him the right ways that I didn’t learn at a young age.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s exactly what it takes to get to break that cycle. But first you’ve got to get out of the criminal justice system entirely. So you ended up with Maurice and how did that start?

Ellis: Well, I was, basically, I had caught another case where I was already on supervised release. And basically, how the judge, my judge, had looked at it is like I didn’t have no structure or nobody that I could look up to in my life at that point in time. So basically my judge had recommended me to get grief counselling and a mentor. So somebody I can hang around with, talk to, talk about my feelings and how I feel at that time, and look for help at times that I need it.

Leonard Sipes: Now when you met Maurice how did… what was the initial interaction like?

Ellis: When I first met Mr. Marshall, I didn’t know how that was going to go because he’s a little older than me, you know, way older than me. He should probably be like my father’s age. So when I first met him, I’m like “I don’t know if I’m going to follow through with this mentor thing.” And I was too much in the streets then to worry about my well-being with my mentor.

So basically as time went past, I looked at it like this is a good thing and he wants to help me. From day to day he’ll call and keep calling me and keep calling me. “Mr Ellis, how you doing? How’s your day going? Have you found jobs?” Or “How’s your work going?” I was working with my father with a mover company.

Leonard Sipes: How did that interaction make you feel?

Ellis: It make me feel happy, in a sense, because it showed me that somebody do care. I didn’t really have that once I was young and still now, but he showed me that he care. He comes and come get me, he takes me out to eat. Things that I know I ain’t been through in my life, he’s showing me the better way. So that’s like my turn, it’s my OG.

Leonard Sipes: I want to ask you this question, if there were more Maurices in the world, more Maurice Marshalls, who were willing to mentor young men like yourself. Would it make a big difference in terms of people going back to the criminal justice system?

Ellis: I think so. I think it would make a big difference for people that don’t have no structure or I would say no guidance in their life. A mentor would be a good thing for them because of the fact they can help with things you can’t make it in life. They can help you with jobs, schooling, you know if you’re hungry maybe if that’s the case they’ll help you get something to help. It’s a lot with that situation it ain’t just eating and having fun all the time. It’s about getting your life together, trying to steer you in the right path and trying to see that you make it through life without getting killed or sent back to jail.

Leonard Sipes: I want to remind everybody that Maurice and Ellis are the Mentor and Mentee of the Year. We’re doing an event called the Citywide Reentry Assembly focusing on our faith-based programs at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. It will be held at Gaullaudet University in the Kellogg Conference Center, 800 Florida Ave, Thursday February 19th from 6:30-8:30pm. Anybody who has the slightest interest in mentoring, community leaders, that sort of thing, religious leaders, we encourage you to come.

Www.CSOSA is the website. Www.CSOSA and also (202) 220-5300 is our main number. 202-220-5300. If you have an interest just say that you have an interest in the event coming up on mentors and mentees.

Maurice Marshall, how did you feel when you were first introduced to Ellis? I mean was there skepticism, was there concern? You are a veteran of the criminal justice system, so how did you feel about it?

Maurice: Well as far as being skeptical, not at all. Concern? Wanted to know what I can do to help this young man to better himself. And to bring consistency, that’s very important to be a mentor. You have to be sincere and you have to be consistent with whatever plan that you may have in mind. See it also helps me because I am a member of my high school alumni. One of the things that I’m working on doing eventually, haven’t got to that point yet, is to put a student-alumni mentoring program in full effect.

Leonard Sipes: That’s wonderful!

Maurice: I’m a graduate of Anacostia High School and I see young men going through what they’re going through, and women, and the best way to reach them is to catch them in their early years. And you can do mentoring several ways, you can do it face to face, you can do it by phone, you can do it even through email, texting, whatever it takes for you to reach that individual. You must be consistent with it.

And as long as you’re consistent and it’s sincere and have a plan, a plan that works and sometimes you and your mentee can work a plan, figure a plan. It’s not just up to you to do it all, it’s up to him or her, because what you’re doing is guiding and sometimes you both have to figure it out yourself.

Leonard Sipes: Now we have a mentoring program. It’s pretty structured where you go through a day of training. So we do provide training but one of the conversations we were having the other day was that we want people to work through our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we want people to become mentors. But you can do as you’ve just said, Maurice, all sorts of mentoring. It could be done through a fraternity, it could be done through a community organization, it could be done through your church, mosque, or synagogue. I mean there’s all sorts of ways of mentoring. We want you to come on board with us, but what we want are authority figures such as yourself, caring individuals, in a position of reaching out to people like Ellis because Ellis is obviously worth saving. Right?

Maurice: Of course, and to take mentoring one step further. Years ago, when I was a kid, even before, before that time, mentors were police officers. Community policing was big. I wish that our police force would use that same tactic in dealing with young men and young women in today’s city. You know beat walking is very, very important. Nor in the community, not being in fear of the community. But unfortunately, with police officers, a very small, minute few of them who may not have that same type of courage or consistency in the way they do their daily work. You know, it takes them away from the realm of what they could do.

As a former correctional officer, especially working at the hardcore penitentiaries, [inaudible 00:11:58] being one, we used to walk and talk within the population regularly, it was very important to do it because they knew and they learned by your consistency. Being firm but being fair. That’s always guided me and always will. And the same thing can apply to police. You must know your environment, you must know who you’re talking to. Because that same individual one day will recognize consistency in what you’re doing in the firmness and fairness and might save your life.

Leonard Sipes: The questions can go to either one of you, I was talking to some folks in preparation for this program and the term “throwaway kids” came up in the conversation. That we within our society treat too many of our younger people as throwaways, we don’t really care that much about them. We seem as a society pretty easy, pretty willing to throw their lives away. That we don’t have mentors, we don’t have authority figures, we don’t have fathers in many cases. We don’t have the structure to guide young men and young women in terms of what is right, what is wrong. And the same time to love them, to hold them, to read to them, to play with them, to take them out to get something to eat together, to be their buddy. We have a problem within our society where we believe that too many kids, especially in our urban areas, are throwaways. Now we all find that disgusting but I wanted to ask your opinion about it.

Maurice: My opinion, I think with that, it has a lot with sometimes the court system itself. And what the court system has done is that if you chastise your child, if you spank your child, dependent upon where it happens at, then you yourself can be charged for a brutality to your child. And what happened years ago, the community could actually talk to your child, chastise your child, then come back and talk to you in front of your child about what just took place. So we have gotten away from the basics that in other areas and other cultures are still being used. Are still being used to not have a throwaway child, they are being used to correct a child. Children like to have structure. Children like to be corrected when they’re wrong because now they know what is the right and what is wrong. You don’t ever want to get away from the basics, unfortunately we we have.

And it’s not about being a single parent or even a parent with a family. It’s communication and hopefully that child will eventually buy into what you’re saying.

Leonard Sipes: Maurice, once in growing up in Baltimore City, I was dragged down to my mother by the scuff of my neck by another neighbor who caught me doing the wrong thing. And the only thing my mother ever said to this person was “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I’ll take care of it from here.”

So in any event I want to reintroduce our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a program on Faith-Based Offender Mentoring. It’s in reference to a citywide reentry assembly at Gaullaudet University at the Kellogg Conference Center coming up on Thursday February 19th from 6:30 to 8:30pm. You can find information about it at or call (202) 220-5300 which is our main number and express interest in becoming a mentor.

Our guests today are Maurice Marshall and Ellis, is what we’re referring to the young gentleman who is being mentored. They are going to be the Mentor and Mentee of the Year at the Citywide Reentry Assembly on February 19th.

So gentlemen, where do we go to from here. You’re talking to an awful lot of people within the criminal justice system, you’re talking to aides to mayors, you’re talking to college students. What do they need to know about the mentoring process? What do they need to understand?

Ellis: What they need to understand is that you gotta live day by day. Take step by step. And with your mentor you can find out a lot of things, you can learn a lot of things for something that you don’t know. Because in this world everybody don’t know everything, and can’t go on without somebody helping them. How I look at it, everybody needs help, everybody needs somebody to be there on their shoulder, or somebody need a push from somebody.

In my opinion with this, a mentor would be the best thing for you right now, if you’re young whatever, middle ages whatever. It ain’t never too old to have a mentor, somebody that can help you. If you want the help then seek for the help. If you don’t want the help then there’s a lot of things that can happen. You can lose your life or you can be into somewhere, in jail for a long time.

I would try to tell you to choose the right way and not the bad way and get a mentor, somebody that you can relate to, talk to about your problems, whatever, see where it goes from there. But everybody’s not the same so that would just be my goal to see if everybody can just see and get into a program that’s going to help them instead of being in jail and being caged up like an animal.

Leonard Sipes: You know we have a huge discussion within this country about the criminal justice system and what to do and how to do it. But, again, I asked this question before but I want to reemphasize it now, if every young man and every young woman, they could be eleven, they could be nine, they could be eight, they could be twenty-three. If every young man and every young woman had a Maurice Marshall in their lives what do you think would happen with the crime problem? What do you think would happen with the prison problem? Because we say that we put too many people in prison, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, what do you think would happen if everyone had that caring individual guiding him or her through life?

Ellis: Well, it’s not a lot to say about that because of the fact that you could have somebody that cares about you, that shows you that they love you or even show that they can help you in any type of way. It’s how you take it in. It’s not that if you have a Maurice Marshall your life will do this or go this way, it’s up to you how your life want to go.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Ellis: And Maurice Marshall is… I say the stepping stone for you to try to get there and to better your life and try to make your life better and show your kids after you that there is a better way than going the wrong way.

Leonard Sipes: It’s not a piece of magic. I mean it’s not just because you have a mentor your life is going to instantaneously turn around, Ellis, you put it very well. It really is up to you. But just having that person there, would it be a dramatic decrease in crime? Would it be a dramatic decrease in people being caught up in the system?

Ellis: I wouldn’t say no, not really. Because you can have a mentor or having somebody helping you or pushing to you everyday about things that you’re supposed to do or trying to help you. And it’s just in some people’s mind frames that they look at it like they don’t care for it, it goes in one ear out the other. So I’m not sure it would increase the crime rate, I would say it would help it but it wouldn’t increase it. Because some people just ain’t the type that you could talk to or try to get to them in certain ways or points.

Leonard Sipes: I think Ellis brings up an extraordinarily important point, Maurice. And again you know this better than anybody else, twenty-three years in the correctional system did you say?

Maurice: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You know this better than anybody else, you’re not going to be able to reach everybody and sometimes people are going to have chips on their shoulders. Sometimes people have histories that don’t allow themselves to be mentored. It can be a tough relationship.

Maurice: It can be. And one of the things about mentoring is that you have to look at it like this. Sometimes people don’t get the information the first time out. Sometimes when you mentor to a person you cannot want their success more than what they want it for themselves. You might feel that way, you may keep wondering why you keep doing this, why you keep winding up getting the same thing over and over again. You start looking at yourself, “Am I missing it or are they missing it?” Point being is sometimes people have to go through to get to where they really need to be. No matter you as a mentor or a person as a mentee. It’s just a process and sometimes that process is actually going through by maybe getting set back, getting step back, for them to realize, “This ain’t working, I got to try something else.”

Leonard Sipes: But you and I are old enough to know that we had times throughout our history where we acted out and somebody tried to reach out to us and we brushed them off. And yet went back to them six months later, eight months later, a year and a half later, because they showed that they cared. So sometimes I think what you’re saying Maurice is that sometimes you have to plant a seed.

Maurice: Sometimes you have to plant a seed and water it, nourish it and step back and let it grow. Just like when you look at a tree and when you look at the roots of a tree they go in different directions. Same thing about mentoring, same thing about the learning process itself. It goes in different directions. Because the more knowledge you get, the more you want to test the knowledge that you have. You want to see whether or not I try this over here is it going to work? Or I’ll try something else, someone else. But you have to have your basics… and your foundation. That’s the key right there to being a recipient of mentoring as well as mentoring itself. You have to know what my basics is. Things that you’re not going to get away from. Because that anchors you, that’s your foundation.

Leonard Sipes: And Ellis, let me ask… your foundation, I mean a lot of young men caught up in the criminal justice system, a lot of young women in the criminal justice system don’t really understand who they are and where they’re going. In normal cases any young man, young woman struggles with “Who am I? Where am I going? How am I going to get there?” There’s a lot of uncertainty and I sometimes get the sense that what Maurice Marshall brings to the game is a guide post, is a person who can help you through that period of uncertainty, am I right or wrong?

Ellis: You’re right. You’re right. With that question, I’m saying it’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen a day later, or maybe three days later. It takes time for you to find yourself and find what you want to do with your life, period. This is like you said, a time process. Everything don’t work as fast as you want it to. So like they say, you go through life you live, you listen, and you learn. So with that, that’s the stuff I’m trying to take.

Leonard Sipes: Now what are your goals today? And how are they different than before you met Maurice? Do you feel that you have a sense as of where you you want to go, what you want to do, who you want to be? You’re completing high school, you want to take care of your child. You’ve said that much. What’s changed for you in the time that you’ve been with Maurice Marshall?

Ellis: What’s changed? A lot’s changed, I would say. Like you just said, currently I’m in Ballou STAY High trying to get my high school diploma. And I have certifications, I got my food handling license, I got my custodian maintenance. After I finish school, my plan is to get a job. You know, get a good working job, take care of my family that I want, particularly in the future. Live on my on, have my own period. So I just want to move on and let everybody know that I can do it and I am going to do has been a grown man that I am now.

Leonard Sipes: But you can see that future. A lot of men your age and younger have a hard time seeing that future. You can clearly see that future now.

Ellis: Yes, I can see my future now. I can’t tell it, but I can see it. If I put myself to it I know I can make my future what I want it to be.

Leonard Sipes: But do you agree with me that a lot of younger people, their lives have been so chaotic, and I won’t go into all the chaos that so many people go through before they get involve in the criminal justice system but I think you know what I’m talking about. Do they see it and is there a difference between you and them?

Ellis: No, it’s not really no difference.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Ellis: Basically what you just said, I would say the people that did bad in their life, and the most ones that did all this crime and all this hurting people, they’re the ones that try to make it in life. The ones that you think “That’s so bad” and need to be locked up, they end up having a (time) that don’t come out until it comes out. A lot of people might say a person that’s been locked up for a long time, they this and they that. No, it’s not that. It took them a long time to realize they had a good heart and they had a good head on their shoulders, they just never used it.

Leonard Sipes: But I guess that was my point in the question before, if you have somebody like a Maurice Marshall to help you figure that all out, that could help.

Ellis: Yeah, he plays a part with that too. Mr. Maurice he plays a good part in it. He has you to look within yourself to see what you want to do. But like you said you got to want to do it yourself. He’s going to be there, but you got to be the one to step in there and say, “Okay, I’m tired, I want to do something with my life.”

Leonard Sipes: Right… Crossing that bridge, getting to that point sometimes takes assistance, Maurice, would you agree? A lot of young people are confused and they need an older individual to step in and help end some of that confusion.

Maurice: Well that’s true, but at the same time, no matter how much effort or help that you give someone they have to be willing to accept it. Like Ellis just said, once the person realizes that they are tired, they have to totally be done with whatever it is that they are doing before they can move on to the next step.

Sometimes in doing something a person… One thing I used to notice about a lot of guys, they were addicted to the game of being involved in the fast life.

Leonard Sipes: The corner.

Maurice: Yeah, they were addicted to it. They had to beat the addiction. They had to realize it was fun, I enjoyed it, but now my run is over, but they look at it like that.

Leonard Sipes: What I’m hearing from Ellis, I often times hear from thirty-five year olds, I often times hear forty year olds, “I’m tired of it. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Is what all the old heroin addicts used to tell me. What I’m hearing from Ellis is stuff that I ordinarily would hear from them. They’re thirty-five and up, he’s twenty-three. Correct.

Ellis: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Where did he come to that magic moment where he realized that he’s sick and tired of what’s been happening?

Maurice: It could be from a number of things. Right now, see, Ellis is ahead of the game. He’s ahead of the curve.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Maurice: And I’m proud of him for that. And I want him to know that. Because with him, he’s already saw other people, probably ten, fifteen years older than him, still going through the same thing over and over again. Not realizing “This ain’t working.” Sometimes people in the family structure enable a person to continue doing what they’re doing.

So in order for a person to really turn their life around they have to have folks who are family members who may feel “Look, you got to stop.” Because what they’re doing is enabling that person to continue doing the same thing over and over again. And once they realize that and everybody’s on the same page then that person can really make a change for the better for himself, his family, his kids, and make folks start believing in him.

Leonard Sipes: Well the bottom line is, Ellis, do you feel that you are moving in the right direction?

Ellis: I have feelings that I am.

Leonard Sipes: And one of those reasons that you’re moving in the right direction is because of your mentor Maurice Marshall?

Ellis: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: All right. You gentlemen, that was a profound interview. I really do appreciate both of you telling your story. Ladies and gentlemen, I do want to remind everybody that all of these issues, the mentors and mentees, we’re going to celebrate their work at the Citywide Reentry Assembly at Gaullaudet University at the Kellogg Conference Center, 800 Florida Avenue on Thursday February 19th from 6:30 to 8:30. If you’re interested in mentoring we really want you to be there. If you’re a community leader or religious leader we really want you to be there. Go to our website Court Services and Offender Supervision or call (202) 220-5300. (202) 220-5300.

Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public safety. We want you to know that 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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Women Offenders

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

See the radio program at

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer, talking about women offenders. My agency, our agency, the court services and offender supervision agency reorganized around women offenders a couple years ago. We want to talk about that and talk about upcoming events, Marcia Davis, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.

Marcia: Thank you, Leonard.

Leonard: Marcia, you’re a veteran of these radio shows. You pretty much know what to do. We’re going to be talking about women under supervision, talking about their social characteristics. First of all, in terms of some stats, we have close to 2,000 women under our supervision services, correct?

Marcia: Yes, Leonard. We currently have 1,963 women on supervision which is about 15.5 percent of our population.

Leonard: We did reorganize around women offenders a couple years ago. We have a lot of really interesting programs that focus on the needs of women, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: Before getting into that, I do want to remind everybody that the purpose of this program today is to support an event on Saturday, February 14th from 8:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. where we will have a daylong exhibition of services and issues and support services for our women under supervision. It’s one of the most extraordinarily interesting things that I’ve ever seen in my 45 years within the criminal justice system. We do want to talk about that in a while.

First, let’s get back over to what we do in terms of the reorganization. I mean, we have a re-entry and sanction center which is, I don’t know of any other parole and probation agency in the country that operate as a center. It’s huge. We have an entire floor for women. We have developed gender-specific teams for women because we recognize that women need to be supervised/assisted in ways different from men. We have, now, a day reporting center which I think is really unique where it’s just a women’s day reporting center. We have WICA, Women in Control Again, that program. We have expanded that. We have done a lot of things in between all of that. Marcia, where do you want to begin in terms of talking about the reorganization of our agency around women offenders?

Marcia: What our agency did was, they went back and they looked at the research. What the research shows is that when women are on supervision, if you want your women to be successful, it’s important that you create programs that are gender-specific to deal with the issues relative to your females.

Leonard: Is it a given that that women offenders are different from men?

Marcia: The issues that women face are different from men. When we look at the profile for the female offender, a lot of our women, victims of childhood sexual abuse, they have low education, they’re homeless, they have low employment. Due to that victimization from their childhood, a lot of them as adults are still involved in toxic relationships, their children have been removed, they carry a lot of guilt and shame. These are issues that most of our men don’t face.

Leonard: We know that women do better under these circumstances when it’s a gender-specific program than when it’s not a gender-specific program. I think it’s safe to say … I’m not quite sure if it’s safe to say. I’ve been told that most parole and probation agencies throughout the country have not gone to a gender-specific program. We, at the court services and offender supervision agency, have. That makes all the difference in the world, correct?

Marcia: Right. The reason we have done that is because CSOSA is evidence-based. We are an agency that uses evidence-base …

Leonard: Practices.

Marcia: Right. Practices.

Leonard: The best research. The best research that unless you break it down to services specifically designed for women, the women aren’t going to be that successful. If you do that, they’re going to be more successful.

Marcia: Right. We are seeing the success with the women that we are supervising now. We are seeing the successful outcomes.

Leonard: It’s really amazing to be that we haven’t done this decades ago. I mean, every state in the country is talking about how many people are in their prison system, how difficult it is, how much it cost. If we can stabilize individuals in the community and give them the services; the mental health substance abuse, the group services, you reunite them with their kids, find housing. If we can do all that, we can reduce the load on the prison system throughout the country, plus, make safer communities.

Marcia: That’s one thing. When we look at the prison system, we can see that the population of our female offenders is growing. When you look at the prison system, the research shows that in the year 2000, the female general population had the fastest growing rate in the correctional institution. The annual rate for females, it was an increase of 3.4 percent.

Leonard: I think it was 2010 data that you’re referring to. That’s fairly a recent data. It’s the fastest growing correctional population, what they were talking about that percentage of the jail population. More and more women are coming into the criminal justice system and that can be addressed by giving them the services they need while on community supervision.

Marcia: Right. To avoid going to the prison system.

Leonard: Tell me if I’m right or wrong, we’re taking a look at national data now. Women have higher rate of substance abuse, higher rates of mental health problems, and profoundly higher rates of being sexually victimized, particularly, when they were children. The women that we have to deal with, they come out of the prison system where they’re on probation and they have to deal with all of these issues. The fact that they don’t have, in most cases, a good work history. In most cases, they don’t have a GED or a high school diploma. They’ve been battered, they’ve been beaten, they’ve been bruised by life and by those around them. Considering that most of them have children and we have a general stat that says it’s 63 percent of the people that we have under supervision, our parents, but I think that figure would be much higher for just the women population, how did they possibly succeed if they have all that to deal with when they come out of the prison system, when they come out of jail or we get them on probation. When they’ve got all that against them, how can they possibly succeed?

Marcia: Tackling those issues one at a time. In the gender-specific unit, we have programs to address all of those factors. We have programs. We have the Women in Control Again program. That’s a program that deals with women who are early in recovery. In that program, they look at things such as the self, where you’re looking at your family history, you’re starting to look at the trauma that the women have suffered. We also talk about relationships in that program. They can look at the relationships that women have with their families, the relationships that they’ve had with their partners. We look at sexuality and we talk about spirituality. Also involved with the WICA program, we’ve added a new group which is a trauma group to address some of that past and present victimization that our women deal with.

We have a daily reporting center where we have a group called, thinking for a change which deals with anti-social behavior and it deals with anti-social thinking. We have a vocational and educational program where we can refer them for an assessment and for job placement assistance. Also, where they can go back to school and they can work on getting their GED or their high school diploma. We have substance abuse treatment. We can refer them to our re-entry sanction center, where we talked about earlier, where we have a floor that is dedicated to our females. At the re-entry sanction center, our population, they can get a thorough treatment assessment and they come out with a treatment plan for a continuum of care.

Leonard: That’s a lot of services that most parole and probation agencies do not have. Now, let me ask you this. Years ago, I ran a group for males. Men caught up in criminal justice system and the Maryland prison system. I’ve sat it on groups for men in our agency and I’ve sat in with the groups for women within our agency. The women’s groups are profound. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. This is why I always like to talk to women under supervision that come from these groups on this radio show which we’ve done about, maybe, up to 10 times. They are profoundly honest at a certain point. Once they set me into the group and once I listened to their interactions with each other, they are profoundly, brutally honest. To sit there amongst these 15, 20 women listening to them talk to each other about their lives and about what’s going on is just the experience of a lifetime. Tell me about the group interaction.

Marcia: That was another reason why we needed to have the gender-specific groups. Because in the past, we have the co-ed groups where the women were mixed with the men. If you was to sit in that group, you would notice that the women would sit quietly. It would be a totally different group. In the gender-specific group, the first thing we let the women know that this is a safe environment where you can share. One of the main rules is that, what is said in the group stays in the group. We make it a point that anything that’s said in the group has to remain in this room and it cannot leave the room, so that they can feel safe enough to share those past stories.

Leonard: Those past stories are brutal. To sit there and one woman, basically, is struggling with getting to her appointments on time. You hear the other women basically saying, “I don’t want to hear that. This is your shot. This is your one shot to get clean, to get right, to get your children back. You can’t come in here and tell us about how difficult it was for you to make your appointments.” I thought that that was amazing.

Marcia: Although it’s a lot being said in the group, it’s also a lot of strength in the group. The women can see the resiliency from the other women. They can see, “Well, wait a minute. If she has this tragic story to share and she’s making it, hey, I can make it too. She said she was someone who share that, hey, I may have been molested, I may have been sexually abused, I may have been physically abused when I was 8 or 10, but I’m putting all that stuff in the past and I’m going to continue on. I’m not going to let that hold me back anymore. I want to get my kids back. I want to get a job. I want to get my education. I want to get a home. I want to complete supervision successfully.” That strength, it helps the other women and then they build off for that and they help each other.

Leonard: Critics of supervision, not necessarily within our agency but supervision across the board throughout the country basically say, “Look, Leonard, you’re asking way too much of individuals coming out on a criminal justice system.” I mean, here, we’re asking them to deal with substance abuse, we’re asking them to deal with mental health, we’re asking them to deal with their profound histories of abuse, we’re asking them to reunite with their children, we’re asking them to find housing, we’re asking them to find employment. We’re asking it awful lot and the new people who come into the group are saying, “There’s no way I can do this,” and then they’re sitting with their counterparts who have experienced all of that themselves and they’re doing it. They sit there and watch a new person watch everybody else. You can see the spark going off in their head saying, “Well, she is no different from I am and she is doing it. Why can’t I do it?”

Marcia: They know each other from the communities. D.C. is a small area. Some know each other from the community. They have seen the struggle that some of the other participants have been through. To see them go through that transformation and to see the new person, that gives them hope to know that they can do it too.

Leonard: Most of the women that I’ve encountered in the system, tell me if I’m right or wrong, are not necessarily coming from backgrounds of violence. A lot of it is drugs, a lot of it is theft, a lot of it is prostitution, a lot of it is creating some sort of disturbance in the community. Am I right or wrong about that?

Marcia: You’re right about that. A lot of that comes from the victimization. The past victimization that was never dealt with.

Leonard: When I flip that switch in saying, a lot of it is dealing with the men who were in their lives. When I was with the Maryland correctional system, how many women did I talk to who, basically, were in there for fairly long stretch is, under the premise that this guy says, “If you don’t take these drugs down Interstate 95, I’m going to hurt you. I’m going to hurt your children.” If I’m being stereotypical or if I’m wrong, tell me. A lot of this is due to the dysfunctional men that they keep in their lives because of their background. Am I right?

Marcia: Right. That’s the continuation of the victimization. They’re continuing in these toxic relationships.

Leonard: If they got those services that were necessary, and I always ask you and whoever else I’m dealing with and in the women under supervision themselves, what percentage of women would not go back to the correctional system if these services were offered not just in Washington, D.C. but throughout the country. What’s your percentage; the most of them would succeed, 40 percent, 30 percent?

Marcia: I would say, maybe, 40 percent. That would be 40 percent.

Leonard: Yeah. That 40 percent would not go back. We have a national recidivism rate in this country of about 50 percent. You’re talking about 40 percent not going back. That’s a huge difference. In essence, we can do a much better job if we put those services on the table. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Marcia: Yes. That’s the bottom line.

Leonard: I do want to talk more about under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency but we’re more than halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guest today, Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer with our agency, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, is our website. On there, you will find the information about an event coming up February 14, 2015 at the Temple of Praise where we do a women’s re-entry symposium with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Success. It is an extraordinary event. The public is welcome. If you have an interest in this issue, we encourage your involvement. Also, we want to talk about our city-wide re-entry assembly where we celebrate the success of our faith-base mentors and that’s Thursday, February 19, 2015 at a brand new location, The Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Again, you can find out information about all of this on our website,

Marcia, we have gender-specific teams, we have the day reporting center. How important was that day reporting center?

Marcia: The day reporting center is very important because this provides the outlet for our women during the day. We have programming through the day reporting center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It takes out a large chunk of the day for our female offenders. It gives them somewhere that they can go. They can be safe, they can discuss their issues, they can get the services that they need. Throughout the reporting center, we provide vocational services where they can go for their GED assessment, they can go for job placement assistance. We have Thinking for a Change program. That’s the program that deals with anti-social behavior and anti-social thinking. We have a relationship group in the program …

Leonard: That’s important.

Marcia: … to help women who are involved in those toxic relationships. Our DRC coordinator, Ms. [Copeland 16:48], also will make referrals to our victim services program which is another important initiative that we’ve added. The victim services program helps victims of the domestic violence, get the assistance they need if they need to get civil protection orders or if they need to get housed and they will assist them through that process. Through the daily reporting center, we also provide tokens to our offenders. Those who are not financially able to get back and forth to the supervision office. One other important thing we do for our females is that we recognize them. Once a female completes any of our groups, we always hold a graduation so that we can recognize them for the positive steps that they’re making.

Leonard: Day reporting centers are there, traditionally, for those individuals who are unemployed and those individuals who are struggling. We provide them with structure and education throughout the course of the day. The interesting thing about what you’re saying is is that the day reporting center for women provides a sense of fellowship.

Marcia: Right. Daily programming. Yes.

Leonard: We run groups. Majority of the women that we have under supervision end up in groups, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: They end up within a group structure. This is a continuation of that group structure. When I go to the day reporting center for men, I don’t see a lot of group interaction. Once again, in terms of the day reporting center for women under our agency, there is a lot of group interaction.

Marcia: Right. There not only group interaction, they also refer to a vocational development specialist. They may go to the vocational development specialist to complete the educational or the job placement assessment. It was not just groups. They may go there individually or they may be referred to our center intervention team for substance abuse assessment.

Leonard: When I ran group a lifetime ago, people coming into the system, they were what I said they had, a chip on their shoulder, the size of the State of Montana. They were very difficult to break through. A lot of women are very mistrusting of us in the criminal justice system. How do you break through that history? How do you break through that hard shell of it so many women under supervision bring to the table? How do you break through all of that to the point where you reach their sense of humanity to the point where they would open up and share what’s happening to them now and what happened to them in the past?

Marcia: One of the things the agency did was training. They’ve trained all of the staff on cognitive, behavioral interventions, and motivational interviewing. Part of it just listening to the offender to see what their goals are and what their needs are from their point of view. Sometimes, when you just listen to see what their concerns are, that’s a lot to break down the barriers.

Leonard: You’ve got to admit, I mean, they’re not the easiest folks in the world to deal with or they’re new into the group setting.

Marcia: For women, one of the main issues is that their voice there is not heard. Once you listen and start hearing, some of the things that they say, just for them knowing that, “Hey, this person is listening. Okay. Maybe some of the goals that I’m including is being included into my case plan.” Those are things that are concerning to them.

Leonard: I’ve seen women, the new ones, it’s like, “My God, you’re asking me to do what? You’re asking me to deal with mental health, my substance abuse, my background, all of that and then you want me to go out and find work and then work with me in terms of the reunification with my kids. That’s overwhelming.”

Marcia: Now, one of the first things we do when an individual comes to a supervision, we want to do risk and needs assessment which is a comprehensive assessment so that we can determine what their risk to the community is and what their needs are. From that, we develop a case plan. From the case plan, we say, “What things you need to accomplish while you’re on supervision?” We set the plan and set target dates. Everything is not due at the same time. We will set a schedule and set a target date working with the female and realizing, “She’s not going to be able to do everything at one time especially if it’s someone with mental health needs.”

Leonard: It’s still overwhelming. I mean, that list by itself even if you stretch it out is overwhelming.

Marcia: We’re right here to work with them and that’s the most important thing. Not only that, when they’re assigned to a call service agency, we work in partnership with the call service agency. It was all of us working together for the success of the female even sometimes with their families.

Leonard: Marcia, how long have been doing this?

Marcia: For 16 years.

Leonard: 16 years. Is it 16 years with the court services or 16 years dealing with women?

Marcia: 16 years with court services, dealing with both men and women. I’ve been dealing with women for the last 6 years.

Leonard: 6 years. Do you ever go home and yell at people or kick the dog? I mean, your job is difficult.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: You’re taking people who can be saved, who can lead a life where they’re tax payers and not tax burdens, where they’re parents and their kids aren’t elsewhere. That’s a huge task to break through that barrier and to find the services and to make that connection with women who have had pretty difficult backgrounds.

Marcia: It can be challenging at times. I come in everyday willing to give 115 percent. I have a good staff on my team. We have a good unit. I mean, I go home everyday. It’s challenging but I go home everyday and I go to bed. The next day, I’m up and I’m ready to do it all over again. I love my job and I love working with the women.

Leonard: It is hard for people who are listening to this program now to understand that within the criminal justice system, there just don’t seem to be an awful lot of successes and you can get burned out from doing this sort of a job. Most, if not all, of our staff that I’ve talked to are pretty enthusiastic about what it is that they do. When I walk in among these people under supervision and for them to smile at me, it’s just a real interesting experience. All right. Women in Control Again, that was a program that was put together by your predecessor, Dr. Willa Butler. It’s been expanded. One of the focuses here is on high risk individuals. Tell me about that.

Marcia: Women in Control Again is a program that was developed for females with co-occurring needs. Women in Control Again, it deals with high risk offenders who have substance abuse and mental health and is developed to help them make better decisions in the future. Under Women in Control Again, we have 3 groups. The first group deals with women in early recovery. The second group goes through the 12 steps, it goes to each one of the 12 steps, and the third group is our new piece which deals with trauma. From that group, we have a psychologist that comes in a clinical person. She comes in and she works with our females. At times, we can also get our females, if needed, individual counseling.

Leonard: One of the things I do want to point out that we reorganized around women, we reorganized around younger offenders and we reorganized around high risk offenders. Within that category of young and high risk in female, you can have cross over. That’s all part of the women’s program as well.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prioritize the people who are at greatest risk for reoffending and to make sure that they get the services that are necessary for them not to reoffend again. We take a look at our data and our data has improved in terms of recidivism, in terms of successful completion. Obviously, you all are doing the right things.

Marcia: Thank you.

Leonard: Tell me more about that. I mean, how does it feel to make that sort of a difference?

Marcia: It feels good. I mean, I know just as having a gender-specific unit, it really means a lot to our females. If you could just see their faces when we have the graduation ceremonies, even at our re-entry event, the upcoming event. At that event, we do a dress for success makeover to help prepare those females who are re-entering society, to help prepare them to return to the working world. Just doing that dress for success makeover to see the transformation for these women. We get clothes donated from organizations within the community. To see them go through this transformation, to get the business attire, to get the makeup, to get the shoes, and to do the fashion show, I mean, it’s really exciting.

Leonard: The bottom line behind all of this in terms of having a gender-specific program and having people specifically train to deliver that gender-specific program is that we can meaningfully intervene in the lives of the people under our supervision. We can end that whole sense of the never ending rate of recidivism, people in the system, out of the system, in the system, out of the system. We can really help people overcome all of that and we can really help people overcome some very serious problems.

Marcia: Right. At least to address some of the issues, some of the things that I’ve held back in the past such as the trauma, such as the unemployment, such as the low education and the substance abuse.

Leonard: As I have experienced, when you go in the groups or when you listen to women talk to each other about these issues, it is profoundly real or profoundly stark. When you interview women at these microphones, they are about as honest as honest can possibly be. I think the biggest difference between women and men is that women were more than willing to be honest.

Marcia: Yes. They are.

Leonard: More than willing to talk about the reality of what’s happened to them in their lives.

Marcia: Right. That’s only when they feel safe and comfortable.

Leonard: I want to remind everybody that we do have 2 events that are coming up. The women’s re-entry symposium 2015 with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Services on Saturday February 14, 2015 from 8:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s going to be at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. Behind that, we have a city-wide re-entry assembly. That is where we celebrate the success of the mentors and mentees regarding our faith-base program. That’s going to be on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. You can find information about all of this on our website, Our guest today has been Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer dealing specifically with women offenders. Again, the website, We’ll list all of the changes and all of the upcoming events and we encourage your participation. We appreciate you listening and we want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.


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Understanding Crime in America

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC public safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Understanding crime in America is our topic today. Ladies and gentlemen nobody better to explain crime in America than John Roman, he is a senior fellow with the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, You can follow John on twitter @Johnkroman. John, welcome back to DC public safety.

John: Thank you very much sir.

Leonard: There is nobody better to explain the topic of crime in America than you because it gets really difficult to understand. For the last twenty years, it has been an almost containable decrease in crime. In the United States, it has been almost continuous with a couple of blips here and there yet at the same time we have the Gallup organization coming out with poll suggesting that most Americans believe that crime is increasing. We have again another Gallup poll talking about household victimization that even included cyber crime. This is a one year basis criminal victimization. Household victimization is a up to forty six percent.

If you take a look at Ferguson, if you take a look at other issues of importance, if you take a look at what is happening in cities throughout the United States where crime is a problem. If you say that crime has gone down continuously for the last twenty years, it gives you a blank stare. Can you place all of these in the context for us?

John: Sure. I think what happens is throughout, most of the middle of the last century, crime is pretty stable in America for a bunch of reasons we can talk about. In the sixties, crime, particularly violence and particularly crime around drug use and drug distribution, starts to skyrocket and skyrocket throughout the seventies. It stays very high throughout the eighties. It declines in the nineties and sort of stabilizes. Then, in the last five or six years it has declined again. Only the decline in the nineties sort of happened everywhere with the decline in the last five or six years has been focused in particular geographies and not everywhere. People’s experiences with crime decline has been very different of-late.

Leonard: Explain those geographies.

John: Sure. What you see is places like New York City, Washington, Dallas and San Diego are places that have experienced a second large decline in violence. Places like Chicago, Philly , Pittsburgh, and other  cities have seen much less decline in violence. Even in some of these cities  even little uptake in violence over the same period.

Leonard: How do you put all that into perspective. I mean, if you tell the average person that crime has had an almost a continual twenty year decline, it has been a little tick or it has gone up in here in Rio, but over the last twenty years plus crime has gone down. Yet, the average person as recorded by Gallup feel that crime has gone up. I did a radio show yesterday about coverage in America where the Pew studies in 2011 was sited saying that crime is one of the most popular topic the people want in terms of news coverage, I think sports and weather were the only topic that beat it.

People are really concerned about crime. Again, you tell them twenty year decline in crime and you they look at you as if you have three heads, especially if they are from Boston, Detroit  or from Chicago.

John: I think the story is, violence in America according to the FBI has declined towards the last twenty three years. As I said, it declined everywhere in the nineties, sort of stabilized in early more focus in specific places are having better experiences with crime. All that said, the national narrative is one about a violent America being dominated by violent criminals. You can go on cable TV and easily find a show like Gangland that show picture of violent groups of heavily armed people distributing drugs and attacking strangers.

If you are careful on how you look at issues, you know that most of them are showing footage from late eighties and early nineties and almost none of them are showing footage that is carried in the last generation. The message is still penetrates, the message is still is, anytime there is a violence incidence in America, anytime there is a kidnapping, anytime there is a shooting incident with multiple victims. That’s the news that dominates everywhere and everybody inside his home. It doesn’t matter what is happening in your neighborhood, the narrative is America is violent, you need to be scared.

Leonard: Well, America is violent you need to be scared, but it’s wrong because again, crime has been down for the last twenty years. American watch our television shows. You and I had the discussion before we hit the record button of where I can’t stand to watch the crime shows because you have very young, very good looking people with the best possible equipment with all the time in the world surfing crime almost instantaneously through technology that doesn’t exist. Its a myth.

I think people are being pulled in a lot of different direction in terms of what it is that they should believe. There is something called the CSI effect in court rooms where there are actually losing court cases because the Jury comes in with an expectation that what they see on television is what is real. The point is, is that what is real? How should American see crime and how the American lace it within it’s proper context? The follow up question is going to be the hardest question of all. Question that I get from time to time from news media is, why is crime down over the course of the last twenty years?

John: If you are over the age of forty, you’ve never lived in a safer America that you do today. That is true virtually everywhere in America. The popular TV narrative about the criminal mastermind, the hacker, the serial killer, those people don’t really exist. What causes crime in America is dense communities of low skilled young men. We’ve gotten better as a society about policing. Those communities are getting better about how we change what to make up a public housing is and frankly we have taken a lot those young men and we put them under the formal justice system. They are less able to commit crime.

We’ve been effective across a number of different domains in reducing crime in America. That message has not gotten out. There is a saying on capital health and efficiency has no constituency. The idea that we have become more efficient and more effective isn’t a message that anybody is out beating the drum about because there is nobody who is going to be responsible to it.

Leonard: Efficiency has no constituency, that is an interesting thought. Very interesting thought.

John: Anybody who want to the story that the world is getting better, doesn’t really have anybody to tell it to. If you want to tell the story of world being worse and being dangerous, and you showed yourself buy a home security system. I think one of things that are under sold in all these is corporate America. If you look at these ad about home security system, they are really upholding those messages, you know, a young mum in home with her young daughter and guy breaking in through the window, I mean it’s absolutely frightening. Those sort of things don’t actually happen very often and they happen less and less frequently over time, but the messaging has gotten more vivid and more and more scary. I think that causes Americans to be more and more afraid.

Leonard: We never have lived in a safer America, which is perfectly true. Now, there are two sources of information, one on crime report of the laws enforcement and then there is the crime survey, which is reported non reported crime through survey. Both are basically saying the same thing. You may find different variation from time to time, but the trend lines certainly are down for both the national crime survey and the crime report of the law enforcement.

If you take a look at other indices such as drug use, such as people in school … Younger individual in school being involved in crime, there are a dozen of others, they all seem to be down. It’s just not about John’s opinion. This is the bulk of research, good research over decades basically saying the same thing.

John: I think that if you said compared to 1990, is crime down at least fifty percent in America particularly violent crime, I think you are on a solid ground, I think the FBI did reflect that, I think the victimization survey reflects that. I think that if you look at any local law enforcement agency that happens to go back that far, I think they reflect that. I think that story is inarguable true, the question is the one you posed, why has this happened and what can we do to continue  the trend?

Leonard: That is what criminologists want to know. There was a point where, I forget exactly what the year, but the FBI at a certain point said homicide were at their lowest rate in decades.

John: Since the early 1960s. Homicides are really a very good indicator for all these because the rest of the kind victimization is. One of the things that is happening in America is that we are getting older on average and we are getting wealthier on average and that means we are more scared, we are more risk , we want there to be even less crime than there is.

Reporting about crime might change a little bit as people get older and scared, richer, and they have more to protect and might tend to report things as being crimes that they may not have reported when they were younger and poor and less scared. If you look at the national reporting data, it’s inarguable that crime is way in America. It’s very interesting every year, I talk to reporters right around January 1st when we tell the story and I go to the common section of these big international national newspapers and there hundreds if not thousands of columns about why I’m absolutely wrong.

Leonard: Right. I guess that is the point. When you talk at different people they look at you like you have three heads when you start saying the data. It’s not just John’s opinion, we are talking about, again, not to beat the point to death, but in terms of survey data, in terms of crime report of law enforcement, in terms of other surveys, lots of other [inaudible 00:10:05] all follows the same trend line. There is no doubt that you are correct. The criminologist’s question, the reporter’s question, can you give me an explanation as to why crime is down over the course of the last twenty years and my response is called January.

John: I appreciate that. I think we know that the other supporting bit of evidence is that in none of the last national elections has the issue of crime being even addressed in any sense. It’s really was something that we needed to change our policies around. It would come up anytime. That is important. Crime is down for five reasons. Crime is down in the nineties because we quadrupled, we increased four hundred percent the number of people in America who were incarcerated.

That doesn’t mean its a good policy. That doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly inefficient, it doesn’t it’s not a waste of tax payers money to incarcerate that many people, but inevitably if you put enough people behind bars and under supervision, you are going to reduce crime if that happen. At the same time, the crack epidemic in 1991 and this is the lowest number of people using crack cocaine in the last three generations is in 1991. People stopped using it as those drug market dried up, there was less violence around them. Those two explanations explain why the crime declined in 1990s.

Why is crime declining today? Beginning about 2007, crime started to decline again. As we stated, it’s not everywhere, it’s Washing, New York, Dallas, and San Diego, it’s not more to Philadelphia and Chicago. Why is that? There is three reasons for that and there are other reasons why people will look at you like you have three heads. One reason is that some of these cities became very friendly to immigrants. On average, according to the criminologists that I believe, a community of recent immigrants that is basically poor living in dense place will have on average a lot less crime associated with that community than exact same impoverished community of people who lived here for generations.

What happened is, and you have seen cities like DCs and New York, you can transact business in with government of these cities. They have really tried to attract immigrants as anew source of labor. What happens is, neighborhood that are cheap and poor become safer and they attract people who want to live and want to own their own home but they cannot afford it and they don’t want to buy in dangerous places and all these places in Washington Dc and places like that. This is true, in every city you can find these communities. They overall become safer and cheap. So people move in, they buy, and they invest. That investment brings more investment and overtime that part of the community starts to thrive and becomes less segregated.

Leonard: Are we saying that these are market forces taking place that are just as important as the criminology efforts?

John: I’m saying that almost every explanation for why crime has declined in the last ten years has pretty much nothing to do with criminal justice policy. I think we have got better policing, I think technology have gotten better, but if you look at the other explanations I don’t know that they have a lot to do with how we spend out public resources. There is a reason why the car that is most often in stock in America was manufactured in 1999 because you can take a Flathead screwdriver and shove into the ignition, twist it and drive off with it. Try to doing that with a cars that was manufactured in the last ten years.

Leonard: You can’t do it.

John: Can’t do it, doesn’t work. That is a big part of the explanation.

Leonard: All that is down, are you taken a look at all the areas where you have security devices coming into play and the discussion in terms of stolen iPhones, stolen computers and now we are talking about making sure that they cannot operate when they are stolen. There were technological advances that are economic advance, advances in criminal justices system, those who vest in criminal justice system will say what we did was to stabilize these communities to the point where they could change economically. They are going to take credit for that, from a law enforcement point of view or a correction point of view. You have all of these plus what?

John: I think all of that is exactly right. I think we have learnt a lot about how to do better policing, I think we have learnt a lot about how to do better supervision of people in custody. Whether it’s a community correction or within criminal justice correctional system itself. I think we have gotten much better about treating the underlying causes of people’s criminal offending whether that is alcohol abuse or drug abuse and health problems. Whatever it is that makes people unhappy with their state in life.

We have gotten better a lot better in trying to address the underlying problem rather than locking people up. The technological and the security improvement all these things create a trend that should cause there to be more crime if it just get out of it’s way.

Leonard: This are the ever amazing conversation every time I have John Roman senior fellow from the Urban Institute by the microphone. I’m always fascinated by the discussion. There are a lot of those within the criminology community who do wonderful research, but I’m not quite sure they can explain it well as John. John again is with the Urban Institute justice Policy Center, You can follow John at twitter @Johnkroman. We are talking today about understanding the crime upheaval in America putting it in the context and explaining it because of the continued twenty years reduction in crime yet there are a lot of people out there who remain very concerned about crime per Pew and Gallup and just people who are living in cities who are having crime problems.

John, in those cities that are continuing to have the crime problems, you look at criminal justice … Summaries from criminal justice reporters every single day and you take a take a look at Chicago, if you take a look at the Boston. People there are concerned, how do you solve their problem? How do you bring … How do they follow what is happening in Washington Dc, in New York and other cities where we have been successful?

John: Some of it is acknowledging what your weaknesses are and some of it is acknowledging what your strengths are. If you look at the map of Chicago, compare to a map of new York and you look at the distribution of people where they live by their weights. What you will see when you look at Chicago is an incredible segregated city. What you look at when you look at New York is not a perfectly integrated city, but a much more integrated city.

It’s that isolation of people where they are never exposed to anybody who has a different experience than they have, who int poor, who is a job, whose dad isn’t incarcerated. In New York, you are much more likely to have those multiple experiences and exposures. That allows you to have hope to try and work on making your life better and in ways that don’t happen in places like the outside of Chicago where all experiences in angle were bad.

Leonard: The integration and immigration and other market forces once again as much as they are criminology efforts.

John: I think that’s right. It’s what we said. The natural trend of the world is far more safety. Security is getting better, the ability to secure your property is getting better, you call your home yourself, police are getting better investigating arresting people who are involved in criminal opportunities. There are all kind of other things going on in the world that make the world safer.

If you want to buy drugs today, you don’t have to go to an open air drug market where you are going to be surrounded with dangerous people some of whom are drug seeking, some of whom are selling and they are armed. You can with your cell phone and call someone and they will bring ti to you. The world is getting safer, the trend is towards more safety. The question is, what can cities do to help accelerate that trend?

Leonard: What can they do?

John: One thing they can do is being friendly with the immigrants. Allow these communities to develop out people who can live in a city to help the city grow, bring new resources to it, help accelerate the trend of justification, help decelerate the trend of segregation and create an atmosphere that is more conducive to lower crime and more economic development.

Leonard: You take a look at the Worldwide crime trend rate, me and you talked about this in another show, I remember in advanced criminology course a long time ago looking at the crime trend for New Zealand, for Australia, for Great Britain, for Canada, the other western industrialized countries, crime seem to go up and seem to come down with the same trend line. Not necessarily the same numbers, but the trend lines seem to be there. Not only are we talking about an explanation of crime in America, we are talking about an explanation of crime in the we stern and industrialized world.

If all basically rises and fall s at the same time, it’s just not an explanation within United States, it’s the western and industrialized explanation.

John: I think that is exactly right. There are two things going on that are very interesting. The one is, do the trend line in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the US are they the same? And they are. What is interesting about it is that none of those other countries have the same experiences we had with crack cocaine and none of them had the mass incarceration response.

If you think that the world is trending together and you want to know why the crime is declining, it does make you want to scratch you head a little bit and wonder why other nations that didn’t have the crack cocaine, didn’t have mass incarceration are experiencing the same level of decline. There are some explanation for that. One of the explanation for that is a simple one, which is that we took lead out of gasoline and in 1970s, in sudden most western industrialized countries.

When I think about lead poisoning I think of kids eating lead paints which is against … But it’s not what is dangerous, what was dangerous was the leaded gas, the regular gas. In 1970s, people exposure to lead in the blood stream to be much higher than it is today and that of lead poising that lead exposure causes people to behave in more in antisocial ways, to be less able to exhibit self control and it postulated that that is part of the explanation.

Another part of the explanation is that security technology has got better everywhere. Another part of the explanation is that, we have learnt a lot about policing. Policing in Australia, Canada, US, and Great Britain all talk to each other, they go to the same campuses, they go to the same researchers. They are all …

Leonard: It’s the criminology system

John: I think it’s right. The focus has been much more on trying to do things in the community, trying to keep adolescent out of juvenile corrections, and in family based therapies, trying to treat underlying disorder rather that incarcerating people, teaching police how to be part of the community rather than a police a force. All those things have contributed in stabilizing communities to allow these other to accelerate the county crime.

Leonard: Within the context of all this, declining crime, but yet as I said before the Gallup poll indicating that people are more concerned about crime. Gallup poll saying that the less cyber crime forty six percent of household on a yearly basis experience crime. Within that context of criminologists and reporters and average people trying to put all this in it’s proper context, we have Ferguson. The other issue is that now we are having a very intense discussion over the role of the police, the role of the community, what is proper, what is just, what we should be doing.

It’s a conversation I think we in the criminal justice system welcome, but it’s confusing to people because they are told that the New York city miracle, I think it is a miracle, but done through very aggressive law enforcement. That was the issue that held crime down in New York and that has been exported to criminal analysis, crime mapping, very proactive law enforcement. That has been offered as an explanation for why crime has gone down in certain cities. Put that up against the conversation we are having now about praising law enforcement in America, how do you make sense of all that?

John: In 1990, in New York city, there were over twenty two hundred homicides, last year, they were under four hundred. Twenty two hundred to under four hundred.

Leonard: It’s an unbelievable decline.

John: There were hundred and ten thousand motor vehicles stolen in New York city in 1990, last year, they were about ten thousand and all that was due to very aggressive policing. Now, contrast that with Washington Dc, which had four hundred and seventy nine homicides that same year, 1990, which got it’s lowest eighty eight a couple of years ago. Four hundred and seventy nine to eighty eight in a …

Leonard: Huge drop.

John: Eighty plus percent is a …. What chief [inaudible 00:23:31] has done in Washington Dc is community policing. She has all officers write their cell phone numbers on the back of the business cards, tell them to call me anytime day or night if you think a beef is developing and is going to turn into something serious. Call me and I will come.

Leonard: In both cities you can feel this.

John: You can feel it right.

Leonard: You can feel it, touch it, smell it, taste it. Those of us who have been to New York city several times, those of us who work in DC or live in DC you can feel this. What about strangers, let’s talk about Ferguson, what Ferguson means in that context of these different policing style.

John: I think one of the one of the take away from Ferguson that hasn’t gotten any attention is an acknowledgment that the way we feel about law enforcement in America has changed. In 1990, in New York city, when there were over two thousand homicide in a single year, which is an astonishing number, the tactics that were employed in Ferguson and in Cleveland and in Long Island. There was much violence and we all accepted that we needed to get these places stabilized as you said. I think that is right.

Today, we have gotten to the point where crime is declining, where people don’t believe there is as much violence. They are not accepting these kind of police tactics as they would have been twenty years ago.

Leonard: It’s a new conversation.

John: It’s a new conversation.

Leonard: It’s a new conversation for a new time.

John: It’s almost, in many ways, it’s an optimistic conversation. Right. The fact that people were willing to … It’s worth noting that it takes an enormous amount to get people to go out into the street. To put their liberty at risk. In order to make a statement about a policy issue like how the police police. The fact that we see all these huge gatherings across America, eventually every city is a sign people caring no mercy about this issue. Then, we have seen almost virtually every single of these demonstrations have been non violent.

This is unlike the sixties or the riots.

Leonard: People need to understand that context. I mean, we lived through decades where there was a lot violence associated with the demonstrations and there was endless demonstrations for endless reasons. Now, most of these, the great majority of these are non violent demonstrations.

John: It goes to your other question, which is very interesting part. If I am sitting there as a criminologist watching these demonstrations thinking about what it means in terms of policy, my reaction is, this is very hopeful, this makes me feel good about the world of people care enough to go out and voice their opinion on this topic that they are non-violent. The chief of  police in Philadelphia. He followed the demonstrators and would tweet thing like, citizens exercising their rights. That is wonderful.

Leonard: It’s opportunity for new conversation, but maybe that conversation is welcome and necessarily.

John: It is, but the problem is that the news media is focusing on few people who are part of those demonstrations who are breaking into the seven and eleven taking casing of water and will have that done over their faces how masking they were identities because that makes for better television even though this conversation has been overwhelmingly positive than news media portrayal of it has been frightening to a segment of American whose risk are to begin with.

Leonard: That is why we are calling the program understanding crime in America because again people need to have some sense of context reporter citizens needs to have, we in the criminal justice need to have some sort of context in terms of not just to what happens within the last two years, but to what have happened within the last thirty or forty years.

John: That is right. The big change in America has been our urban policies. Urban policies in fifty and sixties were designed to divide. We build big estate and highways that separated, segregated and isolated huge portions of our citizens lanes. We are beginning to take those things down. We are beginning to build subways that integrate our communities, we are encouraging immigration,  we are encouraging economic development, we are encouraging all sorts of racial interaction that didn’t exist before.

All those natural forces along with technological growth, the growth of security, the maceration and evolution of our policing agency. All those things present a trend where America the next generation should be even safer than it is now. Those policies could be accelerated if American could be convinced that the world is in fact a good place today and they will be willing to invest in those things.

Leonard: Fine, at middle of other programs John, we did have a point where five six years ago, we were talking about the super predators when they were coming increasing in crime, that hasn’t happened. How long can we take this declining crime? How far out?

John: I think it can go along way. There have been a lot research … As a researcher, I find that it’s where that research penetrates, but one bit of research did, this was some studies that Larry and colleague did at the Temple University where they did studies about brain evolution, maturity, social, and emotion maturity of young people. What they concluded was people continue to evolve into their late twenties and the threshold of eighteen being an adult is arbitrary.

I think criminal do know justice system should really respond to this message and began to think about young people differently. It has helped us to avoid having this super predator thing happen.

Leonard: We have a better understanding of crime in America which is the title of our program. Ladies and gentlemen we have had John Roman, senior fellow with the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Before our microphone we get a lot of positive comments in terms of John’s ability to explain very complex issues., @Johnkroman if you are interested to following John on twitter. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have themselves a very present day.   


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Predicting Criminal Risk and Behavior

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. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, Predicting Criminal Risk. We’re going to be taking a look at risk instruments. What are they? How good are they? From the Washington State Institute for Public Policy we have Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University.

Joining Zachary will be Mason Burley, Senior Research Associate Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The website Gentlemen welcome to DC Public Safety.

Male: Hello. Thank you for having us.

Leonard Sipes: All right, risk assessments. This is something that seems to be is the foundation of meaningful change within the criminal justice system. We now within the court services and and offender supervision agency, my agency, we’ve been using risk instruments for about 10 years. Risk instruments are being used for sentencing, they’re being used in all things inside the criminal justice system. Give me, first of all, whether or not you think risk instruments are the foundation of meaningful change within criminal justice. Then give me a layman’s definition of what risk instruments are.

Z. Hamilton: Well I can jump in on that. I do think risk assessments are the foundation of really how we move forward in the criminal justice system. A lot of what people have complained about in years past has sort of been the inconsistency, inaccuracy, and maybe the overuse of discretion within the system. What risk assessments do is they put everyone on an even playing field, or at least they attempt to put everyone on an even playing field, so that everyone’s judged in a similar manner. In terms of what a risk assessment is, in terms of layman’s language, it’s essentially a set of items that you use. Maybe a survey or a questionnaire, or maybe they’re items that are collected from a mix of self reported questionnaires or criminal history measures that are known within an agencies records.

These items usually contain a mix of what are called static items, that look at the offenders criminal history, their age, their gender maybe. But also some dynamic items too that try to focus on the offenders needs. Trying to examine whether or not they have issues with regards to employment, substance abuse, medical health, residency, any sort of things that may directly or indirectly impact their future criminal behavior or misbehavior on supervision.

Leonard Sipes: So we’re looking at criminal history, we’re looking at the age of the offender. We’re talking about possibly the sex of the offender. There are static issues as well as dynamic issues that go into this that formulate a sense as to who this person is, and what their level of risk is, and what their level of need is in terms of social services?

Z. Hamilton: That is correct and some of what you’re describing in terms of how risk assessments and needs assessments have been extended throughout the criminal justice system is about the idea that there’s certain behaviors that we would like to predict. Recidivism is one but there’s others that you had mentioned that may exist at a different point within the system. The individual coming into the system may have a first risk or needs assessment completed at the pre-trial phase. Maybe a judge might use that to identify whether or not this person would be a risk of flight. At that point you might be trying to predict recidivism but you might also be trying to predict failure to appear.

Once the persons incarcerated you might want to predict infraction behavior. Once they’ve been released or re-entered into the community you’d want to predict recidivism behavior but maybe you’d also like to predict compliance while on supervision. There’s a multitude of outcomes in which you can examine and utilize these tools to create essentially prediction models.

Leonard Sipes: What we have is law enforcement using them, pre-trial using them, the judge using them, in terms of sentencing. Parole and probation agencies using them to figure out how closely to watch this individual. Correctional systems, prisons, could be using them in terms of the potential for good behavior within the prison system. Across the board risk instruments are becoming a bigger part of the criminal justice system.

Z. Hamilton: Yes as more individuals are gathering data and more agencies are gathering data. Tracking offenders and identifying how you can utilize that data to better supervise, more efficiently supervise, or even remove individuals from supervision to create a better system is, I think, where risk assessment is heading.

Leonard Sipes: I do want to go back to Dr. Hamilton in terms of discussion as to how effective these instruments are, but Mason Burley I’m going to go to you. This whole issue of risk assessment instruments started with the insurance industry, did it not? The insurance industry for decades, multiple decades, has been assessing the risk of individuals on their caseloads, if you will, as to whether or not they’re going to be a risk in terms of health. Whether or not they’re going to have a heart attack. Whether or not they’re going to be unemployed. Whether or not they’re going to have health problems across the board. Am I right or wrong?

M. Burley: I think actuarial instruments have been used in a lot of different arenas. Certainly outside the public policy area and I wanted to emphasize… Insurance would certainly be one of those, but the history in Washington State really goes back to quite an extensive and evolving use of risk assessment in the criminal justice area, if I can focus on that for a second. Because I think the history’s pretty important in terms of the utility we found in the state. Initially in the late 90’s the juvenile justice system decided to look at some evidence based approaches and to target who might be best served in some of those programs they developed risk assessment instruments for all the juvenile courts in the state.

That later evolved into the supervision that Dr. Hamilton mentioned with the department of corrections and then looking at who was at most risk of further crime and looking at supervision resources and how those should be targeted to high risk individuals. That risk assessment has gone through several iterations and Dr. Hamilton and his institute really refined and improved as they’ve learned from what works with best with an instrument. It’s been adopted in other areas as he mentioned throughout the state with pre-trial and judges deciding information about bail and pre-trial decisions based on historic risk.

Then finally the work we recently released that the institute looked at, the mental health population and what individuals who have been involved in the forensic mental health system and the type of risk they pose. I think that it’s becoming more recognized, the value of it in Washington State and we provide a good test case in some of these scenarios as individuals move through different phases of the criminal justice system.

Leonard Sipes: Before continuing I do want to plug the Washington State Institute for Public Policy as putting out some of the most easy to read, clear, precise, research findings. Not just within the criminal justice system but across all phases of the government. I do want to congratulate the Washington State Institute for Public Policy for it’s dedication to put out the research that the rest of us, who are not researchers can understand and the policy makers can grasp and run with. You guys have probably over a decade of experience putting out nice, clear, and concise public policy research. Again their website www.wsipp.wa for the state of washington .gov.

Did you want to continue Dr. Hamilton?

Z. Hamilton: I think Mason covered a lot of what’s been done but it’s going back several years. Even back to 1997, when the Washington State Institute of Public Policy mainly one of their key researchers, Robert Bernowsky, created one of the first juvenile risk assessments that was used throughout the state. That spawned this idea of collecting data overtime, tracking offender populations and re-adjusting those assessment models to improve prediction over time. As people change, as the population changes, as even the criminal statues change. The focus of the assessment is fine tuned over time and that’s something that was put into place early with WSIPP. I think those traditions are starting to continue on now with these new adjustments to the adult risk tools as well.

Leonard Sipes: There’s an endless list of policy questions I do want to get into in terms of Microsoft coming out with an app that’s predicting future criminal behavior. Commercial applications that law enforcement is now using. The attorney general of the United States, Attorney General Holder, former Attorney General who criticized risk instruments used in sentencing about possible bias. Every time that there is a mass shooting there is a psychologist that gets on CNN and says that there is no way we can predict future criminal behavior. All of those are issues that I want to get on to or discuss. The biggest issue that people when they come to me and talk to me is, “Leonard, how effective are these things.” That’s why I love your research.

You mentioned the fact that you did something recent talking about the criminal population within the state of Washington but also whether or not the involuntary treatment population for mental health reasons. Whether or not the risk instruments that the state of Washington was using could be used for both groups. So I’m using that as the basis for this program. While you say while no risk instrument can predict future criminal offenses with 100% accuracy. The goal is to create an assessment that has strong predictive performance. How strong is that predictive performance?

Z. Hamilton: There’s different industry standards for how we identify predictive performance and as you mentioned you probably don’t want me to go too far down the rabbit hole in terms of giving a statistics lesson. The common metric of which people base an assessment is what’s called an area under the curve statistic. There’s really ways of identifying the strength of the instrument and industry standards that set cut points within the statistic to say what’s a weak prediction, what’s a moderate prediction, what’s a strong prediction. What we’re finding with these tools is that we’ve advanced our methods as we gather more data. As we’re able to refine and focus on specific types of crimes. Not just any recidivism generally but maybe focusing on what predictors predict violent crime versus property crime or drug crime. You’re able to really hone in on that prediction and get strong models almost every single time.

Without going too much into the detail of what those industry… We tend to exceed the industry standard for what are called strong models and a lot of our models tend to give in to those upper echelons of being able to accurately identify recidivism prediction across the population at rates of over 70%.

Leonard Sipes: Well over 70% would be astounding and I think that gives individuals a fairly decent benchmark in terms of understanding risk instruments. In other words there’s no way that we can do this with 100% predictive behavior. That’s impossible, but at the 100% level that’s pretty [dag-gone 00:12:20] good and pretty predictive. I want to get into the categories used in the research. What they tried to do was to focus on four particular categories. This was the division of correction there in the state of Washington. High Violent, High Non-Violent, Moderate Risk or Low Risk. They tried to keep it simple in terms of falling into one of those four categories, correct?

Z. Hamilton: Yes. Really it’s a big advance and they’ve been doing it for a while in Washington State but it’s a distinction that Washington State has that I believe is a big advantage as compared to other risk assessment instruments. Anybody who supervises the centers will tell you it’s not just the probability of any risk, it’s the type of risk that they pose. Many risk assessment instruments will essentially say, “Are you low, moderate, or high risk? What’s your probability of risk for committing a new arrest or a new conviction.”

That’s great but somebody that has, let’s just say, a 45% likelihood of committing a drug crime, versus an individual that has a 42% likelihood of committing a violent crime. Yeah the percentages are different but you’re going to supervise those individuals differently. The severity or the public perception of a particular crime is going to be of note. So an individual that may have a slightly lower probability of committing a violent crime may be supervised at a greater rate simply because the threat to society or to public safety is a little bit stronger than that person that’s more likely to commit a drug crime.

Is that coming through okay?

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, perfectly. That’s why I wanted to start off with the issue of fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Because it seems, in terms of evidence based practices, what we’re seeing is that we should be focusing our resources on the highest risk offenders and not focusing our resources on lower risk offenders. Because we’re talking about 5 million human beings on any given day under community supervision currently. Under community supervision on any given day according to US Department of Justice Data and Parole and Probation agencies throughout the country. They can have rations of 100:1, 200:1, I’ve seen 250:1. Luckily here in Washington DC our maximum caseload is 50:1, for specialized cases it’s much lower than that. But when you have that disparity between say, in terms of community supervision prone probation agents and enormous case loads, you’ve got to figure out who’s your highest risk and provide the resources to that highest risk offender. Correct?

Z. Hamilton: That is correct and one of the distinctions within Washington State, and this has been going on ever since 2007 I believe. It might even be 2005. They had a statute that went through the legislature called the Offender Accountability Act. What it essentially said was we’re going to use a risk assessment to determine whose lowest risk and those lowest risk offenders are essentially not going to be supervised. If we can determine what their probability of recidivism and it’s within a range of being of low or very low risk then we don’t feel it’s within our due diligence to give them extensive supervision. There’s a fair amount of research out there that identifies the individuals that are of low risk of recidivism, the more you supervise them actually the more likely you are to observe behavior and they end up becoming more likely to commit crimes simply because of these observation effects.

Leonard Sipes: We end up re-incarcerating the wrong people. That’s the bottom line.

Z. Hamilton: That is the bottom line. What Washington State has done and has been doing for years is essentially saying administrative supervision or no supervision for those individuals that are of these lower tiered risks. That not only has sort of, fell in line with risk need and responsivity theory but it’s also saved the state a lot of money. Evaluations of this change in statute has essentially identified no uptake in recidivism following it’s passing. The effect has essentially been a net win for the state.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than half way through the program. I do want to re-introduce our guest Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University.

Mason Burley is also by our microphone. Senior Research Associate Washington State  Institute of Public Policy. Once again I will continue to praise the Washington State  Institute of Public Policy for putting out extraordinarily good research. Some of the best in the United States.

Let me go into a little bit more about this individual research and then talk more about policy questions. What you did with this research was take a look at violent felony convictions, non-violent felony convictions, and any conviction over the course of a 2 year period to measure the accuracy of the risk instrument used for he state of Washington. You took all of that and basically you said that in some cases the degree of probability, one as high as 70%, and that was for the non-violent felony convictions. Was that correct?

M. Burley: Washington State has a long standing history of using risk assessment with the department of corrections and the prison population that are under supervision. So we’re able to kind of look at the risk elements that we use for that population and see if the same risk assessment is a valid tool for other populations as well. As you mentioned we looked at violent felony and non-violent felony for DOC and for the DOC population between the highest risk offenders 60 to 70 percent of those have a non-violent, repeat crime of a non-violent felony within 2 years.

Leonard Sipes: But those are the people that you designated in that category and the results we’re validated by saying that 70% of the people that we put into that category did have a non-violent conviction.

M. Burley: Yes, we looked at that category of the prison population under supervision and compared individuals in the mental health system in Washington State to see if the same kind of elements can be used to predict two year recidivism as well. Now for that population the recidivism rates we’re much lower. Two to three times lower in some circumstances. The risk assessment tool was still valid in that we could distinguish between low, moderate and high risk offenders along that continuum of risk.

Leonard Sipes: But what I’m asking is, is that the paper basically says that there was a … I’m simplifying things. An above 70% accuracy rate. What does that mean when you say it’s an above .75 accuracy rate? Which is to me, as a lame person, that basically says 75% of the time we were accurately able to predict. Am I right or wrong?

M. Burley: I misunderstood the question. Dr. Hamilton maybe you want to jump in.

Z. Hamilton: Yeah, it’s a little more nuanced than that. The way that you perceived that, what you’re determining the accuracy rate as is the area under the curve statistic. Essentially what it says, and I’m going to explain it as hopefully as simply as possible. If you have two groups and you separated your two groups of people you we’re observing into those that recidivated and those that did not. If you were to randomly select one person out of each one of those groups. Using this risk assessment you’d identify that the individual that recidivated had a higher risk over 70% of the time.

Leonard Sipes: Had a higher risk over 70% of the time.

Z. Hamilton: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: That doesn’t mean that they went out and under your criteria, or the criteria of the study, and were convicted within a two year time period, that they had that higher probability.

Z. Hamilton: No, no. What we do is we take that risk score. We create a continuous risk score from zero to wherever it ends up being at it’s highest. With that continuous risk score then you essentially dissect it into several pieces where you have a low, a moderate, a high non-violent and a high violent. In any one of those groups you can identify what’s the probability of somebody who falls into those categories recidivating.

Leonard Sipes: For the layman’s question ‘How accurate are these instruments?’ and using the example of what happened in the state of Washington. Is there a layman-esq answer to say that they would be accurate 70% of the time, 50% of the time, 60% of the time?

Z. Hamilton: Again it’s a little more nuanced than that. The instrument doesn’t come out and say, “This person is going to recidivate.” It doesn’t come out with a yes or no answer and say, “This person is going to recidivate. This other person, person B, is not going to recidivate.” What it does is the score will provide a probability of recidivism. Let’s say the score ranges from 0 to 100. Somebody that scores out at a 50 may have a 30% likely hood of recidivism. If that 30% likely hood puts them in the upper tier or high risk category than that category can then be identified as having their aggregate probability of recidivism.

It gets a little more complicated but essentially what we do is we utilize that area under the curve statistic to essentially rate that continuous risk score, to say how accurate it is and it also allows us to compare our instrument to someone else’s instrument. But to give a quick and easy answer, to say this persons going to recidivate and this person’s not. How accurate is the assessment? Risk assessments aren’t built to do that. They’re built to provide guidelines for individuals to say who is higher risk as compared to another person who might be of moderate or lower risk.

Leonard Sipes: But it’s inevitable that there are going to be false positives and false negatives. It’s going to be inevitable that there are a certain number of people who are designated as high risk are not going to come back to the criminal justice system. There is a certain inevitable … It is inevitable that a person that you would designate as low risk would come back to the criminal justice system. There has got to be a certain understanding by the public that these are not perfect predictive analysis. That there are going to be false positives and false negatives.

Z. Hamilton: That is true. I believe either in the report, or in one of the appendices of the report, we identified the probability of recidivism by falling into one of the many categories we’ve created the cut points for. So you can identify what’s the probability for recidivism for high violent, high non-violent, moderate and low.

M. Burley: I think I was answering that question rather than the overall predictive ability of the model. It think it’s important that what I learned from this, working with Dr. Hamilton as well is that the risk is on a continual scale and we we’re able to kind of look at … Even though there are false positives and false negatives. The likely hood of being able to tell which offenders are going to recidivate or which individuals are going to recidivate increases on a gradual basis as you move from low to high risk based on what you find in the assessment.

Leonard Sipes: I’m going to go back to questions I posed right before the break. We have everybody and their uncle now putting out risk instruments of one shape or another. Microsoft came out with an app. There are commercial entities that are basically saying that law enforcement agencies that we’re going to be able to tell you with higher degrees of probability who on the street is going to commit further crimes or commit violent crimes. We have a world that is now moving towards predictive risk instruments beyond criminal justice. The private sector is doing this. Do you have any concerns about this because it is inevitable that again we have false positives, we have false negatives. We’re going to be pin pointing people and talking about their probabilities for coming into the criminal justice system and we’re going to be wrong.

M. Burley: Yeah. I have lots of concerns about that. Not necessarily that it’s a private sector doing that. There’s plenty of companies that exist in the private sector that create great risk assessment instruments. My fear is individuals from the private sector potentially taking large data sources not knowing how exactly they fit within the jurisdiction that they’re evaluating and essentially spitting out a model that is accurate to a degree, but that accuracy isn’t really developed within the known quantities of that particular jurisdiction. Every single location in the United States is slightly different. You do have a certain stability in terms of certain items being predictive. Age being one of them, prior convictions being another. But individuals that are creating risk assessment instruments that don’t have knowledge of that on the ground usage, or the variations in the population, could potentially create models that are not as accurate as their claim.

Leonard Sipes: Every time there is a mass shooting. Every time there is a horrific violent crime in this country a psychologist will do an interview for CNN and say, “Even though the person had a history of mental health treatment. Even though the person had a history of schizophrenia …” I do want to point out that even though there are a higher percentage of the people that come from mental health backgrounds involved in the criminal justice system the overwhelming majority of people who have mental health backgrounds are not going to be coming into the criminal justice system but a psychologist or psychiatrist will stand up on CNN and say, “It is impossible to predict future criminal behavior. Yes he had contact with the mental health system, but to predict this level of violence is just literally impossible.”

Then media will pick up the phone and call me and say, “If these individuals can not be … If you can not predict their future criminality then is it … Psychologists are saying it’s impossible to predict future violent criminal behavior. Then the risk instruments that you talk about, what good are they?”

Do you see the level of confusion that folks in the media and the general public would have when a psychologist gets up and makes a statement like that?

Z. Hamilton: Yes. I can. The issue is that the risk assessment instruments that were discussing and that we’ve created, they’re built for a specific population. They’re built for people that have contact with the criminal justice system. If nobody’s had any contact with the criminal justice system they’ve never been assessed for risk. That’s one limitation right there. The other is that there’s individuals that typically commit these crimes a lot of times you’ll see those psychiatrists come up and say, “They have a mental illness, or an undiagnosed mental illness.” Again if there’s no data to be able to identify any of this persons prior behavior which is a lot of what risk assessments are built upon then it’s difficult to assess somebody’s risk.

Again going into the general population and identify someones risk of recidivism is usually not what risk assessments are built for. They’re built for release decisions, pre-trial decisions. Decisions on probation or parole and supervision. They’re not necessarily built for that particular purpose. To be even more blunt they’re built on an aggregate population so we’re addressing the aggregate risk or the average risk of a person within the population that we’ve had assessments for.

That individual that commits the serious offense or a mass shooting, that had never entered into one of those populations to be assessed. You’re not going to have any identification of risk for that particular individual and those events are so rare that they cant be predicted based on the average events that normally criminals and offenders commit.

Leonard Sipes: Our guests today have been Dr. Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University. Mason Burley’s been by our microphone. Senior Research Associate Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen this is D.C. 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 in America

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard: -From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Pretrial in America ladies and gentlemen is our topic for today. Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia is a back at our microphones Cliff Keenan welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Cliff: Leonard, thank you for having me back.

Leonard: One of the reasons that we invited Cliff here today is to talk about pretrial in America. Though I think American United States there is an on-going discussion about reform in the criminal justice system. For those of you who follow the show last week we did a show with Pew about fundamental change in the criminal justice system. pretrial is a component of this on-going discussion in terms of fundamental change in criminal justice policy throughout the country.
We have a discussion at the pretrial level because a lot of people don’t quite understand why a person who was out there on a Tuesday night, and let’s say he is arrested for aggravated assault. He is released from jail either on personal recognizance or bail within a three-hour time period. Citizens are sitting back and going, “Wait a minute, I thought he was arrested. I thought he went to jail. Why is he back out on the street?” Cliff Keenan why is he back out in the street?

Cliff: Well, Leonard you bring up several different issues there, but let’s talk first about why is the person back out on the street. It is a fundamental principle of the American Criminal Justice System that everybody who is arrested is presumed innocent. That person’s liberty interest should not be denied simply because of the arrest.

Leonard: He wasn’t presumed innocent he was seen by a bunch of people beating up his brother in law with a beer bottle. It’s aggravated assault. He’s not presumed innocent. He was witnessed by lots of people possibly witnessed by the cops. Why is he presumed innocent?

Cliff: Well, presumed innocent is the term we use in the eyes of the law. I’m not saying the person didn’t do it, but I’m saying is that even though the officers may have had more than enough probable cause which is the basis for the arrests to be made, that person is still presumed innocent because until a judge or a jury makes a finding of guilt that person is entitled to all of the protections that go along with the presumption of innocence. That begins with setting appropriate conditions of release again. Appropriate conditions of release pending the person’s future court appearances. That determinations needs to be made not by the police officer, not by the prosecutor but by the judge who is going to be making an independent determination as to whether or not this person should be released, and if so under what conditions should that person be released.

Leonard: We really do adhere to the United States Constitution which provides a presumption of innocence until proven guilt. As far as the criminal justice system is concerned legally that person has not been convicted of anything he is being charged with something.

Cliff: Absolutely. Let me go back to the first thing that you referenced which was there seems to be changes taking place today in America. One of the changes is the whole notion of pretrial processes. That seems to be a current phenomenon in the eyes of many around the country, but actually this is something that goes back more than 50 years ago. In fact, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy back in May of 1964. I’m always astounded by this because this was within six months of his brother’s assassination. He convened here in Washington DC the first national conference on bail in criminal justice.
Let me read to you just two quotes. The first was on the opening ceremony of that conference here in DC. What Attorney General Bobby Kennedy said, “There is a special responsibility on all of us here. A special responsibility to represent those who cannot be here, those who are poor those who are unfortunate. The 1.5 million persons in the United States who are accused of a crime who haven’t been yet found guilty, who are yet unable to make bail and serve a time in prison prior to the time that their guilt has even been established. For these people, for those who cannot protect themselves, for those who are unfortunate we hear over the period of the next three days have a special responsibility.” He recognized back then how important the whole bail process was.
On the last day of the conference on May 29th of 1964. Attorney General Kennedy said the following, “What has been made clear today in the last two days is that our present attitudes toward bail are not only cruel, but really completely illogical. What has been demonstrated here is that usually only one factor determines whether a defendant stays in jail before he comes to trial. That factor is not guilty or innocence, it is not the nature of the crime, it is not the character of the defendant. That factor is simply money. How much money does that defendant have?”

Leonard: The interesting thing and I do want to get further along in the program and talk about the difference in the way that we conduct pretrial services here in the District of Columbia because your stats are astoundingly good. You have a whole organization devoted to the pretrial process. Before getting there and talking about what we do in DC and what we do throughout the rest of the country, it is a fact that the vast majority of people however since the attorney general made that announcement are released upon bail. Today, in 2015 we still have that status today. A person generally speaking is released upon their own personal recognizance, if I could ever say that word correctly or they’re released on bail. Today we still a system where how much you can afford to put up is dependent upon whether or not you were released.

Cliff: Well, let me tell you why it works that way today around the country, here in Washington DC and not in the federal system. That 1964 conference on bail convened by Attorney General Kennedy resulted in the passage of what was called the Bail Reform Act of 1966. Within two years of that conference congress was able to pass legislation that started to move the federal system as well as the local court system here in Washington DC because we are the Nation’s capital. At the time we were under congressional authority. Those laws began the change back in 1966. My agency the Pretrial Services Agency had a precursor agency called the DC Bail Agency which was created by an act of Congress in 1967.
We’ve been around for many, many years and over the years our system has changed and has moved dramatically away from the use of money bail or bond, commercial surety bond as a condition of release. Whereas, other states and other jurisdictions around the country have not kept up. That I believe is the marked difference between our jurisdiction and other jurisdictions.

Leonard: Am I correct in the stating that the vast majority of agencies throughout the United States right now still rely upon bail and still rely upon personal release? If you can prove that you are established in the community, that you own a home, that you have a family, that your flight risk is minimal, that’s the … That’s the basis for release today. Correct?
Cliff: In many jurisdictions but not in all jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions it’s still the case that if a person is arrested for a particular crime, say commercial burglary. There’s a bond schedule in that jurisdiction. Commercial burglary in this particular jurisdiction may carry a bond of $10,000 which means if the officer arrested the person for commercial burglary, that person has put up $10,000 otherwise that person stays in jail …

Leonard: Or they go to a bail bondsman who puts up approximately 10% of that.

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: Or he puts up 10% and the bail agency puts up the other 90%.

Cliff: Well, no. The other 90% is not actually put up at all. That’s one of the problems with commercial surety, with bondsman. Many jurisdictions in fact, don’t require the bondsman to actually put up anything. It’s basically a promise or a guarantee that the person will come back and it’s up to the court if the person fails to show to then take action against the commercial …

Leonard: Whether or not it’s enforced. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Cliff: Yes. Some jurisdictions have found themselves to be on the short end of receiving some of the receipts that they should have from the commercial bond industry because they are again are just not following up on those acts.

Leonard: Okay, but personal release and release by bail is not the least bit unusual in the United States today.

Cliff: Correct, but the reality is if you look at jail populations around the country estimates are between 60% and 70% of the jail populations are pretrial defendants who are unable to make the amount of bail which has been set as condition of release.

Leonard: No, that gets us back to criminal justice reform because what folks or on the conservative side are basically saying that you folks in the criminal justice system all of us need to be far more efficient, and it means to cost taxpayers less money. You’re spending way too much money and you’re not providing the right efficiencies. If 70% of that jail population is there, they are there on a pretrial basis. If there are lower level offenders, we all have heard the stories of people possession of marijuana, lower level crimes in jail for months until the trial comes along. Because they can’t afford to put up a small bail amount say $1,000 or $500. They languish in that jail and yet taxpayers are picking up the tab for keeping them every single day for the months that it takes. That seems to be wildly inefficient.

Cliff: Leonard you’re absolutely right. That’s why many jurisdictions around the country are starting to examine their pretrial justice systems. Because they realize not only is it inefficient, not only is it costly, but it’s also fundamentally unfair. Typically the persons who are not able to post their bond are people who are less affluent than the middle class. Typically they’re persons of color and this desperate impact that these setting of bail are having on some of those populations it’s just fundamentally unfair. That’s why I think many, many jurisdictions are starting to take renewed interest in trying to make some appropriate changes.
Let me also say this here in Washington DC our jail on any given day in this has been consistent for the last several years is operating at about 50% capacity. We don’t have people sitting in jail because of a money bond that they cannot make. Our system is one which is predicated upon people who are dangerous. A finding haven’t been made by a judge that a person is dangerous or a flight risk stays in jail because of that potential risk.

Leonard: I do want to examine that a little bit more. It’s just not DC but throughout the country. Those people where that judge feels that individual who has been charged with a crime is a dangerous individual is a clear and present danger to society, does pose a flight risk based upon what’s happened in the past. They still can keep that person regardless of the system.

Cliff: That’s absolutely correct. In fact, many jurisdictions do not allow the judicial officer to consider safety as a factor in setting conditions. New York for instance, in New York the only conditions that a judge can impose are in order to assure return to court. If a person is an extremely dangerous individual, what the judge will do is set a very high money bond $500,000 or $1 million in the hopes that the person doesn’t have the resources to in fact make that bond, and subsequently get out. Once again there you’re playing with potential risks to community safety because if a person has means and can actually post the bond amount, then there’s no guarantee of safety to the community or return to court guarantees.

Leonard: All right. Well, that’s surprising because I thought in every jurisdiction you could based upon dangerousness. In many jurisdictions throughout the country it is solely based upon the probability of that person returning for trial.

Cliff: Yes that’s absolutely correct.

Leonard: Okay. The bottom line assessment on the part of the Attorney General in 1966 Robert Kennedy, his assessment was those who have money get out and those who don’t have money stay in regardless as to your criminal justice status or guilt or innocence or anything else. It’s still principally predicated on whether or not you have the money to get out.
Cliff: Correct. That’s the way it continues to be to this day in the United States which is why I applaud the efforts that many jurisdictions in fact are undertaking. For instance, New Jersey. They had to pass a constitutional amendment to their state constitution in order to rectify their pretrial justice system. In New Jersey everybody was considered to be bailable. You need a robust preventive detention statute. Some mechanism which is going to protect the due process rights of the accused but also balancing that against the interest of society, the community, and that decision needing to be made by the judge. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, other states around the county. In fact, are looking at making constitutional changes to their state constitution in order to have a stronger statutory foundation in which to operate.

Leonard: We’re about halfway through the program I want to re-introduce our guests Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia. Cliff is considered one of the top experts in the United States in pretrial services. There are a lot of organizations looking to reform a pretrial. Cliff throughout the United States. There’s a National Association of pretrial services or …

Cliff: That’s correct. There’s also an organization here in Washington DC called The pretrial Justice Institute. Anybody who is interested in either looking at historical material or the current state of affairs nationally could go to their website which is just There is a wealth of information. One of the most I think compelling arguments recently is there is a fair amount of research which has been generated both through PJI as well as through the Arnold Foundation which finds that some of the negative collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of incarceration. As little as one two or three days can have on a person.
Think about it. If you’ve been arrested even though you’re presumed innocent but a judge has put a $1,000 bond on you and you can’t make it because you don’t have a $1,000 you know bondsman is going to underwrite a $1,000 bond because it’s not in their interest to do so. You may sit in jail for one two three days perhaps a week if you’re self-employed. You’re not generating any income, if you’re working in the service industry and you’re not showing up for work, you’re not going to be generating any income. If you’re a single parent responsible for watching your kids, housing issues, there are so many collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of detention that I don’t think America is really taking its responsibility to be fair, and to make sure that people who have been assessed as being a risk to the community, or a risk of returning to court are the ones who stay in jail.

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about those return rates. The District of Columbia does it differently from … I’m still going to say most of the organizations in the country. You’re a federal agency in the same way that court services and a federal supervision agency my agency is a federal agency. We have federal funding to do it properly. You have pretrial services agents who do take all individuals because in the District of Columbia the presumption is release. Unless there is a reason to hold the person beyond that, the presumption is release. The presumption is that if you’re charged with a crime, in the District of Columbia beyond dangerousness, or beyond flight risk, that means the great majority of people charged with crimes are going to be under your supervision. You have special units, you have GPS, you do immense about drug testing. You have the money and the structure and the wherewithal to supervise these individuals properly until they go to trial. Correct?

Cliff: That is correct.

Leonard: Most organizations don’t have the resources that you have is that also correct?

Cliff: That is correct, but I would defy any organization or agency or jurisdiction to point a finger at us here in Washington in the pretrial service agency saying we can’t do what you do because you’re a federal agency because you have so many resources. We actually looked at the basic services that a pretrial agency such as ours would actually cause the jurisdiction. There’s looking at the recommendation process in terms of making a recommendation to the judge at the initial hearing in order to help the judge decide whether or not the person is of re-appearing or not, or re-offending or not. We found that that along with the basic supervision to include GPS and some of the other supervision strategies, costs approximately $18 per day per defendant.
Now the current rate for housing a prisoner at the DC jail is about $205 per day. Once again you identified earlier we’re paying a lot of money in keeping people locked up. People who probably don’t need to be locked up to assure community safety or return to court. We’re spending that money without any regard to the negative collateral consequences that the person in his or her family may be subjected to. The flip side is for such a small fraction of that we could be doing what we’re doing here in DC. That’s the message that we’re hoping to get out nationally that there are ways of doing things in a smarter, more effective, more efficient way which are not going to be unfair or prejudicial or biased against one portion of our population as opposed to another.

Leonard: The statistics prove your point of view because the overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load do come to trial. The overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load are not involved in new criminal activity before that trial date. I’ve taken a look at your stats in the past. I have compared those statistics to National Statistics and your rate of return, and your rate of people who commit crimes before trial. Your data shows you to be phenominally successful.

Cliff: Well, again I agree with that …

Leonard: Is that a stretch or …

Cliff: No, no, no. I said I agree with that. The question is how does one define successful?

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about how we define successful.

Cliff: Let me give you some statistics. We have been tracking how many of our arrested population get released before a case disposition. For the last five years the average has been about 90% of the people who have been arrested by various law enforcement agencies here in DC end up being released at some point after their arrest prior to case disposition which is huge.

Leonard: That is huge 90% are released.

Cliff: Of those persons who are released and this is not just preach trials supervision but those who are also released on personal recognizance. We think is a good percentage of the population. Of all of those who have been released, about 89% on average for the last several years come back for all of their court appearances.

Leonard: All of them?

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: 89%?

Cliff: Right.

Leonard: Multiple, multiple, multiple times return for trial?

Cliff: Correct. Now once again you have to look at definitions because we consider the first failure to appear even if it subsequently excused by the judge, is still a failure to appear. We’re looking to scrub that number to see how many people end up actually being responsible for willfully failing to appear. I think that number will be even smaller than it is that we’re currently looking at. The other statistic that we look at is how many persons remain arrest free while they’re on pretrial release. That number has been averaging about 88%. For the last several years roughly 88% of our released population do not get re-arrested for any offense. The reality is those persons who are re-arrested it’s typically for minor things. Somebody may have a possession of cocaine case pending, they pick up another possession of cocaine case. The persons who are re-arrested we find that less than 1% are rearrested for a violent crime. Which we think reflects the fact that …

Leonard: Less than 1% are re-arrested for a violent crime while under the supervision a pretrial services agency?

Cliff: Correct. Once again I think you know no pretrial function can guarantee success. We’re dealing with human beings and people are going to do what people will do.

Leonard: There are no guarantees in community supervision.

Cliff: Correct. We do the very best we can and I think that our statistics reflect as you said very successful results. I think that the stakeholders here in the DC Criminal Justice System including the judges in the courts as well as our law-enforcement partners as well as the prosecutors, the defense and even the community recognize our bail system, our pretrial system of doing justice as being a model that others around the country can learn from.

Leonard: That is true that’s no stretch to the imagination they consider people in re-trial look to your system the system that you run here in the District of Columbia as being a model agency. It’s not the public affairs person just blowing smoke. It really is … You are considered to be one of the best in the United States if not the best in the United States. People constantly refer back to what it is that you’re doing as something that other agencies should emulate throughout the country. Not necessarily on constitutional or philosophical grounds although how can you ignore that? How can you ignore the Constitution? How can you ignore the law? Based upon principally, your stats.

Cliff: Correct. Actually Leonard if I could urge your viewers who may not be familiar with the American bail system, if they get the opportunity, an individual John Oliver has a program on HBO which we call The Week in Review. About two months ago he did an entire segment on Bail in America. While it’s humorous It’s also sad because many, many people do not realize the implications that our reliance upon commercial bail, surety bail, if you will has on the average individual who ends up getting arrested. I think even though it’s humorous I think he puts a very appropriate perspective on how illogical as Attorney General Kennedy said, “Our system is if it comes to rely upon money.”
There are two countries that rely upon commercial surety bail to the same extent around the world. Two out of the entire world. The United States in the Philippines. No other countries utilize commercial bail the way we do here. It’s something which I think continues to need to be modified in order to make for a more fair system.

Leonard: But we touched upon this at the beginning of the program. Why this sense of allegiance to monetary bail? There is something philosophically … Something of this philosophically driven I think that where people are saying to themselves, “I know that he’s innocent before being proven guilty.” I understand that but in all probability he is guilty, and at least with the bail system or sometime in jail at least there’s some punishment for the crime that he’s committed. There’s got to be a reason as to why decade after decade, after decade we’re still principally reliant upon monetary bail, or personal release.

Cliff: Well you hit upon an interesting point because there is no way that a person or an individual who gets caught up in the criminal justice system in America should be punished prior to finding of guilt. In fact, in a Supreme Court case back in 1951 the court’s finding was that one of the purposes of bail is to ensure that again presumed innocent persons in fact, are not punished prior to that finding of guilt. Yeah that’s the reality. I think the use of commercial bail and bond schedules is a very easy way for systems a) Some of them rely upon that money to help support court costs. They use it as a revenue generator. Some jurisdictions consider to be An easy way to deal with many, many cases because the judge doesn’t need to make an individualized decision about this person’s flight risk or potential harm to the community.
Again, commercial burglary equals $10,000. Very quick, very simple. To be frank I think many judges abdicate their responsibility to uphold the constitution of the United States as well as their own state by imposing money bail because they can say should something happen if the person were to be released and did something wrong, they could say, “Hey I did what the statute or what our court rules require which was to impose this bond.” Again that shouldn’t be the function of the judge in setting these conditions of release. We shouldn’t do it the easy way, the most expedient way, the quickest way, we should do it in a way that preserves true American justice.

Leonard: It preserves the United States Constitution and at the same time it’s pragmatic because it costs taxpayers a lot less to keep a person on pretrial than in jail. That’s the efficiencies that many people throughout the country are calling for in a criminal justice system. You’ve been able to prove those efficiencies. The case seems to be made.

Cliff: I agree. I think that we are in a very good place here in Washington DC both because of our statutory framework as well as because of the resources that we the pretrial service agency are able to bring to the table. Most importantly I think it’s also because all of the actors especially the judges … they understand what their responsibility is in terms of administering pretrial justice and the way it’s supposed to be administered.

Leonard: Final minute of the program before we have to close Cliff. Is there something we’ve left out of this discussion? Again, so many people come to this program and there are newbies of some congress person, or mayor, or state senator as their aides to discover what the issues are in pretrial. That’s one of the reasons why we do these programs. Is there anything we left out of this discussion?

Cliff: No. I would just urge other jurisdictions to look at all of the reforms that are taking place either within their own jurisdiction or nearby jurisdictions. This is something which … and I chalk a lot of it up to former Attorney General Eric Holder who convened the second Bail Reform Conference just four years ago. I think as a result of that and the work of many of our leaders in the pretrial field, we’re seeing progress around the country and we would like to see it continue.

Leonard: Are we going to be moving towards more of a pretrial services agency in the District of Columbia style of bail and less of a reliance upon monetary bail?

Cliff: In other jurisdictions absolutely. New Jersey is kicking off their pretrial Service Agency program in 2017. We’ve been asked to speak to Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, New York, any number of jurisdictions are starting to do exactly what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years.

Leonard: At our microphones today Cliff Keenan, the Director of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.