Archives for March 24, 2016

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.


Women Offenders

DC Public Safety Radio

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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.