Archives for April 7, 2016

Offender Employment

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. Ladies and gentlemen, a special show for you today on offender employment with two really knowledgeable individuals. John Rakis, he is consultant to the National Institute of Corrections, he is a workforce development specialist. Also at our microphones, back at our microphones, Francina Carter, she is a correctional program specialist for the National Institute of Corrections. She’s also the program manager of Offender Workforce Development.

To John and to Francina, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Francina: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Leonard: John, let me start with you. What is workforce development? What is workforce development within the context of employing people within the criminal justice system?

John: It’s not charity work. Workforce development in the context of the criminal justice system is about serving the needs of both, to two customers really, of the person who’s involved in the criminal justice system, the offender, and the employer. Right now, we’re shifting our focus, I think, to look at what the employer needs. We need to be examining and understanding what the employer needs are and addressing what those needs are. We’ve been very unsuccessful in the past, I think, by just pushing people out into the system without doing that.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prepare people that come out of the prison system or are on probation to give them the best preparation possible to find a job because a job is indicative of success while under supervision, correct?

John: That’s a part of it. We want to prepare people but we want to prepare people to meet the needs of the employers. We need to be focusing on what their needs are and understanding what their needs are. All too often I think we push people out and either they’re not ready for employment but even if they are ready they’re not meeting the employer’s needs, what the employer wants. That’s where the new focus is right now.

Leonard: Okay. Francina, you put together through the National Institute of Corrections a wonderful set of documents that address the employer’s need, address the offender’s needs, address the needs of everybody involved in the process, correct?

Francina: Yes.

Leonard: Okay. Tell me about those. Those are very clear-cut, very easy-to-read documents about all of the different steps that people need to take, anywhere from getting the offender prepared to go out into the work world, working in partnership with other organizations. They’re very comprehensive. Tell me about these documents.

Francina: Okay, Leonard. We really looked at developing a model. It’s a very simple four-part model. At the base of that model is using labor market information. I think too often we are preparing offenders for jobs that aren’t available in their communities. We really have to take a look at what is the labor market information telling us? What are the forecasts? What are the emerging occupations? If we’re going to be spending dollars, much needed training dollars, we need to make sure that there are viable options for employment for people who take advantage of those training programs. Everything we do, we need that base of the labor market information.

John: There are too many training programs out there where there’s a saying, “We train and pray. We train them and then we pray that we can place them.” We need to change that. That’s where labor market information is really important. There are two ways that a practitioner in the field can obtain labor market information. Much of it is on the internet. The US Department of Labor has just a wealth of information by community, by zip code, by state, any way you want to look at it. They can tell you where the growth is going to be, not only for this year but for five years down the road. That’s one of the most valuable resources that practitioners have today.

It is also important to develop relationships with labor market information specialists. Virtually every state has a labor market information specialist. Most of the one-stops that exist in our communities have people who are experts in labor market information. We urge practitioners to go out there and get on the phone, look on the internet, but meet and talk to those people. Find out in your community where the growth is going to be. Very frequently, these labor market information specialists who are based locally, they know which companies are coming into town to start a new business. They’re the ones that have the heads-up on that information. Knowing these labor market information specialists not only will help you with the long-term forecasts but it helps practitioners know what’s happening today and what’s going to be happening in the next couple of months.

Leonard: You can find the tool kits that I mentioned on the website of the National Institute of Corrections,, One is when an employer-driven model and tool kit suggestions for employment opportunities, strategies for developing employment opportunities. It just goes on and on with the various components of the criminal justice system, preparing job-seekers for employment. The whole idea is what’s the key, what’s the secret sauce in all of this to successfully employing people who are under criminal justice supervision.

Francina: Okay. Let’s go back to the model. We mentioned labor market information as being the undergirding of this model. In the middle is the target, employment. Three components of that model are: addressing the employer needs, preparing the job-seekers, and engaging partners. All three of those are equally important.

John has already mentioned that we really need to keep the employer’s needs in focus. We look at the labor market information. We see the emerging occupations. We see where the need for employees will be. We know we need to partner with these businesses to find out what their training needs are, to make sure that the training that we’re providing for the offenders is training that is industry-recognized, industry-standard training because we know that the employers are looking at their bottom line. They need people who are going to help them to deliver the services or the products that they are producing to make their businesses grow.

When we look at the job-seekers, we need to do some assessments. We need to see what their interests are, what their skills are, and put them into appropriate training programs where they will not only be able to get entry-level jobs but they will be able to pursue additional training, additional experience so that they can advance in those jobs and that promotes job retention. We know it’s really job retention that’s going to keep people out of the prison system. It’s the job retention that’s the protective factor against recidivism.

Leonard: I do want to remind everybody that on our own website here at Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency on the front page of that website,,, we do have a section called “Hiring Offenders”, hiring people under supervision where we have radio and television shows where we’ve interviewed both individuals caught up in the criminal justice system as well as employers and asked them about their experience in terms of the employment process when people are out under supervision.

This is a multi-stage process. That’s the most important thing in all of this. John, it’s just not a matter, as you said, to train them and pray but it’s a matter of systematically gaining information about the labor market systematically, preparing individuals for employment systematically, working with partnerships and working with potential employers. It’s a multi-stage process to do this correctly, correct?

John: Exactly. Assessment is so important. It’s not just a quick assessment. All too often I think people are in a hurry to get things done and they don’t do a thorough assessment. One has to look at risks and needs. What are the strengths that a person has? What are the barriers that they face? As Francina mentioned, what are their interests? What are their values? You don’t want to place a person in a job where they have no interest in doing the work for the long-term. You want to give them a career ladder so you want to match them to a job that meets their interests and their values. You want to determine how well they can work as a team. How flexible are they? How adaptable are they? Do they have the ability to accept criticism? These are all things that need to go into an assessment before you even think about sending somebody out to meet with an employer.

Do the assessment, deal with every barrier that exists. I frequently tell people that it’s the barrier that you don’t address, the one that you miss, the one that you just “We’ll deal with it later”, that’s the one that’s going to cause someone to either not get a job or to lose a job in a few months. It’s so important to identify all of those barriers, address the barriers, get that person ready, identify what their interests are, and then begin to make the match.

Leonard: I’m sorry, go ahead.

John: I think the same thing holds true when one meets with employers. I’ll let you ask your question. I know you want to follow up.

Leonard: I was talking to our employment people before the radio program. They were telling me that we have comprehensive services here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in terms of both education and in terms of employment. It’s a multi-stage, very comprehensive process. Our shtick, if you will, our main approach to communicating this message is that we have people who are job-ready now. We don’t have risks to public safety. We have people who are job-ready now who need to find work. We’re encouraging employers to work with us.

They also said in many cases you have to stabilize them first before they get involved in these services. If there are mental health or substance abuse issues or other issues, anger management, you have to go through the process of fixing those issues first before getting them involved in the job preparation part of it or the education part of it. Are they right or wrong?

John: No, they’re 100% right. People have to be ready for work although the first message that I would give employers is not that we have people that are ready to work for you. The first thing that you want to actually do is listen to the employer. Find out what their needs are. All too often I think what happens is that we get people ready for work and they are ready for work, they are job-ready. Then we run out and we tell employers we have job-ready people for you. That’s not the right approach.

The right approach is listen to what the employer has to say. I’ll give you an analogy. Imagine if you walked into a car dealership and you were going to buy a sedan. A car salesman ran up to you and said, “Do I have a van for you. It’s a great van. It’s the best-selling van that we have. You’ve got to buy it.” You’d walk right out of the store because you’re not there to buy a van. You’re there to buy a sedan. He didn’t ask you what you wanted.

It’s the same thing with employers. One has to asses what their needs are, know the business really well before you make that referral. That’s where I think this tool kit … There’s a lot of emphasis in the tool kit on that, listening to what the employer has to say, understanding that employer when you go out and meet with an employer for the first time. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. You have to listen first, not sell. What are your needs? What are your hiring challenges at this point? Find out what those are and then you can start making matches.

Leonard: The question that I [crosstalk 00:11:50]. The question, either one of you, is because of the comprehensive nature of the documents that I have made reference to from the National Institute of Corrections, the multi-stage process, are probation agencies throughout the country prepared for that systematic approach to finding employment for people on supervision? Do they have the resources? We have them here at Court Services but we’re a federally funded agency. We have more resources than most. Is this level of complexity … Do most probation agencies, do they have the resources and the personnel to give this level of complexity justice?

Francina: You know Len, the most important thing is people need to look at partnerships. None of us can do all of this work by ourselves. I think most agencies look within themselves to see what their capacity is and how they can do this work. That’s certainly a good place to start but then they need to look at other agencies within their community, not just government agencies but also community-based agencies, your nonprofits and your faith-based organizations. There should be an engagement of partners in this work. Partner with the workforce investment board in your area. Partner with the Chamber of Commerce. Partner with nonprofits that do much of this work. Partner with other criminal justice agencies, even educational institutions. Look at who’s offering apprenticeships and if they have apprenticeships, who offers the education component of those apprenticeships. Each agency does not have to do all of this alone. As a matter of fact, some of the best programs are those that have these multi-agency partnerships as well as a public/private partnership, so public agencies as well as private and nonprofit agencies.

Leonard: John, I’m assuming that you would agree that this is not just a job for parole and probation, it’s just not a job for community corrections, it’s a job for the entire community and it has to be approached through a partnership basis.

John: It is. One of the things that I always recommend that agencies do is map their stakeholders. Who would be interested in this? That would include employers. It would include the Chamber of Commerce. It would include the workforce investment board. Map out your stakeholders, everyone that would be concerned or interested in this work, and then reach out to them. Then develop partnerships along those lines.

Leonard: We’re just about halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests. John Rakis, he is a consultant with the National Institute of Corrections. He is a workforce development specialist. We also have in our studios Francina Carter. She is a correctional program specialist and a program manager. She is program manager for the Offender Workforce Development Program of the National Institute of Corrections,,, for these amazingly good documents in terms of laying out this whole process.

Going back to either one of you, the real skill here from what I’m hearing from both of you, the real skill in all of this is having somebody in parole and probation who has those organizational skills, who has those public outreach skills, the public relations skills to pull together a rather large coalition and bring them all together and say, “We have a common problem. I can’t do this. We can’t do this on our own. Catholic charities and the local construction company and the workforce development people and everybody else involved in the process, you need to help me. We need to sit down and figure out together how we’re going to do the very best job possible to get people under supervision employed.” That’s a real skill on the part of somebody in parole and probation, is it not?

Francina: It is. It can often start as a steering committee, putting together a steering committee. John talked about mapping stakeholders, inviting those people to the table. It may just start with something pretty informal like a breakfast or a luncheon, kind of a brown-bag luncheon to talk about what the issues are, how they need to be addressed, and who needs to be at the table. A lot of jurisdictions have such steering committees and they meet on a regular basis.

Another way to start is with training. Have an opportunity for a half-day training where you bring people into the room. Oftentimes they have these same needs and they are struggling with some of these same issues. Having a training program where you really look at what are the skills needed, the competencies needed by the service providers to be able to do this work. NIC offers training programs such as re-entry employment specialists and bringing folks together in the room to share some of these common issues but also some of the common solutions to the issues. There are some ways to get some folks up to speed on how to do this in a community.

Leonard: One of the things that we’ve done here at Court Services is to get the employers themselves to sit here before these very microphones and to go into television studios and to explain the process, why they’ve hired people under supervision and the fact that it’s worked for them, to hear it directly from them. That testimony needs to come from the employers as well as the people in community corrections, right?

Francina: Absolutely.

John: One of the things that we recommend is that any program that serves the employment needs of justice-involved individuals should have an employer advisory committee. That committee should meet on a regular basis and then it should be taken … Get employers involved in that way. Many will contribute. They will let you know if you’re doing the right thing or if you’re doing something that doesn’t work for them.

Once you’ve engaged them in that activity, over time engage them as champions for your work. Get them to join you on radio shows like we’re doing today and to speak to the public about their involvement with the program and what they’re doing to make it work and how well it’s worked for them. Videotape them, if you can, and put them on your agency’s webpage, talking about their involvement with the program. Employers like to see other employers talk about how things work.

Have a page. I believe every probation agency should have a page. Every program that works with justice-involved individuals in terms of meeting their employment needs, should have a webpage dedicated to employers which sells the benefits to employers that your program has to offer. That’s where a testimonial would work really well. Use a brief video. It’s not difficult to do. Upload it to YouTube and link it to the website, the employer talking about his experience with the program.

Leonard: Having a really strong social media component to this campaign would really help.

John: Not only will it help, I think it’s mandatory at this point in time. As more and more companies get involved with social media, more and more people are getting involved with social media, it’s the way to go. It’s inexpensive. You can reach a number of different people really very, very quickly.

Most recruiters nowadays, 90% of all recruiters are using LinkedIn to identify candidates for jobs. If you’re working to get somebody a long-term career opportunity, they need to have a LinkedIn profile, perhaps not for an entry-level job but for the future, for the jobs that really pay well, pay a sustainable wage, a client must have a LinkedIn profile if he or she is going to be found by a recruiter.

A page that’s dedicated to employers, we want to get the message to employers that we have a service to provide. We have benefits to provide. Here are the candidates that we have. One of the ways you advertise that, one of the ways you market that is through the web and having a page that employers can find. I’m urging programs, if you have literature, brochures describing the services that you have to offer to employers, use QR codes. You know what QR codes are, those little square boxes that you hold your smartphone to and then it automatically connects you to the webpage. I think every brochure that’s out there marketing programs like this to employers needs to have a QR code. The QR code should take them immediately to the webpage which describes the benefits that companies, probation, parole agencies have to offer. This way, they can quickly find out what services are available, what benefits are available, and how they can connect.

Leonard: Go ahead, please.

John: We basically just have to … Time is money for employers. We really need to, if we’re going to reach out to them, we have to be efficient in the way that we do it. If we’re going to give them information, they have to obtain it as quickly as possible.

Leonard: I’ve always been under the impression or the belief that what we should also do is to put up videos of the individual offenders themselves. I think they would be in the best position to describe their own skills and their own attributes. I’ve done a lot of interviews, again both on television and radio. We have stigmas. We have stereotypes of people who are under criminal justice supervision. Those stereotypes seem to melt and seem to disappear when somebody sees the individual in a coat and tie talking about the fact that he does have a good work history and talking about his skills, talking about who he is and what he is. I think that’s something that we in the criminal justice system should be doing, not only employers but the individual people under supervision themselves.

Francina: Absolutely. I think we need to show our success stories. We need to see people who have been the product, the beneficiaries of some of these training programs who have successfully entered the world of work, who are retaining employment, who are advancing on their jobs. Seeing those success stories, I think it speaks volumes. I think, like you said, it dispels some of the myths, some of the stereotypes about people who have a criminal record. They can serve as role models for other individuals who are just starting their path and just starting to get into the world of work. It’s almost, “If I see you … If you can do it, I can do it.” I think it’s very important to highlight our participants who have been successful.

Leonard: I’ve also talked, once again, to the people who are job developers here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They tell me that the bias against people caught up in the criminal justice system is strong. The fact that they’ve had very employable individuals, people who there’s no reason, absolutely no reason for that person not to be employed. The person hasn’t had a drug-positive in a long time. The person hasn’t had any problems under supervision. The person has real skills from the past. We’ve even had people with college degrees under our supervision and yet the barrier to employment in terms of the stereotype of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, they say it’s one of the most difficult things that they have to deal with. Either one of you want to comment on that?

John: It’s a challenge. It always will be a challenge. It has been a challenge. It’s improving, I think. What’s important is developing those relationships with employers. It takes time, understanding what their needs are, meeting their needs. Over time, you will build trust. That’s what it takes to work in this field. Nothing happens overnight. As I said, you approach the employer, you make a good impression the first time by listening to what they have to say, hearing what their needs are, meeting those needs. Over time, then people trust you. When people trust you, they’ll accept referrals. It’s all about trust but trust takes time to build. There’s no shortcuts to this.

Leonard: Go ahead, John.

John: You can prepare people well, obviously identifying all the barriers, doing the proper assessment, making sure that they’re ready for employment. One of the things that I always like to recommend, encourage the person coming out of prison to do some volunteer work, put that on their resume. Even if it’s only for a few hours a week, it’s something that shows the employer that they’re keeping busy while they’re searching for employment and that they’re contributing back to society. They’re doing something that’s positive. It always reflects well. It doesn’t matter who that person is. That goes for people that even aren’t ex-offenders that are looking for work above the age of fifty-five. Put something on your resume that shows that you’ve been active and that you’re contributing to your community. That will reflect well and that increases the odds that you will be called in for an interview.

Leonard: In terms of developing the relationship with the employers, again, I talked to our six workforce development people, our job developers, within Washington DC it’s almost impossible to reach out to every employer in Washington DC. In some cases, you may find “X” company is receptive in terms of that company’s executive but the branch offices may not be. Forming that bond, forming that relationship with all employers when you’ve got six people is almost impossible. Are we not talking about something larger in terms of engaging them, John? We were talking a little while ago about social media, talking about doing this systematically, it’s really hard to one-by-one-by-one to every employer within the metropolitan area to reach out to them personally.

Francina: I think a couple-

John: You could do things like, for example in St. Louis, the federal probation office developed a public service announcement video that was aired on TV. It actually featured the mayor of St. Louis and four probationers, federal probationers, who spoke to the camera about their success. That was Mayor Francis Slay. I believe the video is still out there on the internet, a simple thing that had ramifications city-wide.

Leonard: That’s a great idea. Francina?

Francina: A couple of things come to mind. One is the Ban the Box Initiative that is really taking hold in a lot of jurisdictions. What Ban the Box means is that a lot of cities and some jurisdictions are taking off that question about have you ever been convicted of a felony from the application. It doesn’t mean that the question can’t be asked later. All offenders should be rehearsed and prepared to be able to respond very directly to that question. At the same time, it moves it further along in the process, in the hiring process, so they get their foot in the door. They get to show who they are. They get to talk about their skills and their abilities and what they bring to the table.

The other important thing, I think, is a good job match, to make sure that the kinds of employment opportunities that are out there fit not just the individual’s interests and skills but also the criminal record so that there’s nothing that would prohibit them through any kind of statutory requirements or licensure requirements that would prohibit them from seeking that kind of employment, making sure that there’s a good job match in the kind of work that the candidates are going for.

Leonard: Final minutes of the program. Go ahead.

Francina: Those are just a couple of things that help a little bit to reduce that barrier. We talked about the success stories, even employers and their testimonials, breakfast, an awards breakfast for employers who have been successful in hiring and retaining individuals who have criminal record and telling their stories. All of these are ways that we start to mitigate that big barrier of having a criminal record.

Leonard: Okay. We also have tax credits and the bonding program, correct?

Francina: Absolutely.

Leonard: There are direct incentives for employers. Okay, final minute of the program. Bottom line behind all of this is that this is not an academic discussion, this is a public safety issue. This is a matter of putting people who are caught up in the criminal justice system into jobs, becoming taxpayers, not tax burdens, supporting their kids. Much rests upon this, correct?

Francina: Absolutely. We know that employment actually stabilizes people. If a person is in the community and he has employment or she has employment, they’re able to take care of their families. They’re able to pay their fines. They’re able to pay their taxes. They’re able to find housing. For any of us, employment really is a stabilizing factor in our lives so we are talking about public safety when we’re talking about employment.

Leonard: Our research shows that they do much better under supervision if they are employed. John, do you have any final wrap-up words, thirty seconds worth?

John: It’s not only the offenders that are being assisted but it’s their families. Many, as you know, a high percentage of the people coming out of prison that are on probation and parole have family members. If we can help them get back to work, their families will do better as well.

Leonard: It’s a fascinating conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, by our microphones today, via Skype, John Rakis. He is a consultant through the National Institute of Corrections. He’s a workforce development expert. Also, we had Francina Carter, correctional program specialist, program manager of the Offender Workforce Development. The documents that we mentioned today are available at, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.


What do victims of crime experience

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC public safety. I’ve your host Leonard Sipes, ladies and gentlemen back at our microphones. Will Marling he is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance The show title today ladies and gentlemen is what do victims of crime experience? Will, we were talking before we hit the record button one of the things that people do not understand, those of us in the criminal justice system we don’t have a clear understanding as to the victim experience.

Unless we’ve been through it ourselves we don’t have a clear understanding as to what victims of crime whether it be property crime or a violent crime what they experience correct or incorrect?

Will Marling: That is a common observation when and thanks for having me.

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: The realities that victims experience sometimes are fairly profound but what many times people don’t understand, they don’t comprehend is that they’re fairly organic and by that I mean when we are victimized which is a word to the can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, when we’re victimized or when we’re harmed by another human being specifically there are actually biological reactions that happen within our brains in our bodies that just happen. We are not even cognizant of those. It would be like I was sitting on the deck with my wife last summer. We were  having coffee and these two birds that were flying chasing each other flew within inches of my head as they were flying.

I could not do anything but react very organically very naturally. It was all instinctive and so many times victims are responding and what we try to quantify in that is the understanding of trauma and the loss that causes trauma. That’s really where we try to look at this and say okay victimization is really about loss and loss results in trauma.

Leonard Sipes: Well we again before hitting the record button we were talking about change fundamental change that is occurring within the criminal justice system throughout the country the massive discussion that is now taking place on both sides of the political aisle where we and they are discussing who should go to prison, whether or not that person should be imprisoned, whether or not that person should be on community supervision, now all the discussion through the MacArthur foundation is switching over towards jails, do we use jails to their best possible potential?

Do we need to put as many people in jail as humanly possible? We have this discussion and it’s happening from a philosophical point of view and it’s happening from a limitation of government and best use of taxpayer dollars point of view.

I’m not hearing the victim brought up in all of this and so it strikes me that if I been burglarized or if I’ve been robbed or if I’ve gone through another sort of crime that discussion becomes academic. I simply want to be safe. I simply want the criminal justice system to act responsibly I understand that but I simply want to be safe. That drawls out some interesting juxtapositions on the part of victims of crime does it not?

Will Marling: It does the struggle many times is that folks who experience something like the harm that somebody brings on them whether that’s the loss of a valuable piece of property or the loss of physical function because you’re assaulted or the horrible things that occur like the child-abuse, sexual assault, homicide those have naturally occurring responses and are just as thinking as a human being, wait a minute. This isn’t right. This person should be held accountable. Many times there’s just an instinctive restitution dimension that we bring into that and I don’t mean that in the in some kind of official formal sense. I just mean justice or sense of rightness, says no wait a minute. A person should be held accountable. In many situations we would we would want them to repay and that’s the difficulty because the system itself is trying to address those and yet many victims would say if they’re not part of this process they would say the system really doesn’t necessarily serve my interest for doesn’t hear me and that’s why in the movement I’ve been in and and honored to be part of there’s been attempts over the past 30 years specifically and intentionally to get victims more involved in the process or to allow them should I should say to have a stronger voice like with victim impact statements in sentencing or victim notification of processes and procedures.

When you’re talking about some of these important discussions and I want to affirm that these important discussions about jail and incarceration overcrowding, I’ve been fortunate to be asked to participate in some of these conversations and in so doing I would still affirm that many people aren’t considering the victim’s perspective necessarily. They’re concerned about a lot of issues but not necessarily how the victims might contribute to solutions that we’re trying to address.

Leonard Sipes: Any member of the Gen. assembly at the state level, any member of the United States Congress is going to sit there and say to themselves, okay we’re talking about individuals that we ordinarily would put in jail and ordinarily we would put in prison and we’re talking about not doing that any longer and I think it’s inevitable because of the victim’s movement for the last 30-40 years, it’s inevitable for that member of the legislature whether it be state or federal to sit there and go well how does that impact the individual who’s been victimized? What does it do to them? Do they see this as justice? Do they see we within the criminal justice system taking their point of view into consideration or quite frankly are we making their circumstances as victims even more dangerous? All of that comes into it does it not?

Will Marling: All of that comes into it and that’s a conversation that we really do need to have. Sometimes the struggles of course with these conversations is that folks are very aligned with a perspective that they are tenaciously holding onto. I would suggest that there is more in agreement in many ways than in that we have a different permit. I sometimes try to describe this is let’s talk about what’s more at the center for all of us than what’s at the edges in this discussion. If we can have that kind of conversation and engagement, first of all legislators would find more sense and common sense and support from people who have been harmed than they realize. Many times when they engage folks they are catching a person at that worst possible moment when the emotional reactions are quite profound and intense but that typically doesn’t define that person fully.

It defines that moment of trauma and those things can come out in justice proceedings because that’s the focal point of the pressure. I’m looking for  “justice” in the justice system and it’s understandable that the expressions and reactions to that process are going to come out in court proceedings for instance or around a declaration at the end of the trial with sentencing.

What I say is the people I’ve met who’ve experienced harm  most of them are quite sensible people. If they were sensible before that experienced they’re still sensible but they’re just far more informed and that’s why it really can help for people within the system to understand how victimization in other words how trauma that is a result of loss is actually working itself out in the life of a person because if we can understand that better we can be more supportive of the individual. We can engage them in more effective ways and we can involve them in a process that at the core it centers on them or it should center on the. The system is really the state versus the perpetrator typically but we’ve become we become more sensitive to the fact that wait a minute that might be legally this case but we’re learning that the victim voice should be included in that.

Leonard Sipes: There are multiple stages the stages of grief that an individual victim of a crime goes through in the same way that any individual any human being goes through multiple stages of I’m not quite sure that word grief applies in every set of circumstances but they have to process it and in many ways it can become a profoundly meaningful experience and a profoundly negative experience in their lives especially if they feel that nobody is listening to them. The story that I’ve brought up multiple times in the past is a television producer moving into the city of Baltimore wants to be part of the Baltimore experience and bikes were stolen from that person’s garage and it happened a third time and boom they moved. Here was Baltimore city’s loss.  Here was a loss to a metropolitan area, a loss to that person in terms of engaging all the wonderful things that can happen as you will live in the city of Baltimore. Everybody was lost of that because of a property crime.

Now nobody’s suggesting a person go to prison for a property crime but at the same time that experience that those individuals went through, they told me it was a grief related process. It was fear, it was grief. They didn’t like the way the criminal justice system responded to them. They didn’t like the way that the police officer responded to them and they withdrew.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: That was a property crime.

Will Marling: Right, oh what a great example. You’ve got a lot of experience from your law enforcement days in interacting with people who suffer loss. We commonly talk about the loss of innocence. That is a very common theme among people who are victimized and experienced harm at the hands of others whether that be a property crime or something around physical violence and the like.

We we want to believe that the system is working or we want to believe the working in a society that cares or that law enforcement is supportive and then we discover it isn’t quite the way we thought. You weren’t far off in terms of grief because there’s a theme in our victim’s world that perpetration is about control power and control and what we’ve come to recognizes that we can’t always say that about every perpetrator. The guy who steals your car I mean who knows what his motives are. I really don’t know. There’s some crimes we say yeah it’s about power and control.

We typically see that in domestic violence for instance. The one thing we can say I think very consistently very confidently and that is every victimization victims experienced the loss of power and the loss of control and I suspect if we would interview the individual that the producer he is describing that, that sensation of I feel like I’m out of control here. I don’t have control in the situation. I’m going to take control translated, I’m moving. I’m moving to an area where I feel like I’m more in control or there are more resources available to me, more of a greater commitment to safety.

Leonard Sipes: It just strikes me again we talk about this in terms of a particular family but it is the community’s loss. It is a city’s loss. It is a loss of tax paid dollars. It is the loss of the joy of of living in a major metropolitan area and all the good things that go along with that so there are multiple losses to multiple people at multiple levels. It’s still for a “just a property crime.”

Will Marling: Yeah and it’s great that you’re really helping unpack some of the struggles that people have  and the tension that’s created when maybe law-enforcement and others respond and say well it was just a property crime. We’ll get your paint over the graffiti or whatever. Another thing you’re pointing out as you use the word grief is fair because a common reaction to loss is grief. Now people don’t necessarily think about it that way, apart from maybe homicide or some other things. a

A very intimate relationship that is broken divorce we grieve the loss of that relationship but in reality that is many times what people are going through and they don’t even realize it and of course society or others are telling  them well why are you grieving over the fact that had vandalism or stolen bikes? Well there’s a lot that could be behind that just like you’re describing.

Specific to that loss of that innocence that life people my society was one way and I’ve learned now that it is different.

Leonard Sipes: The bottom line in all of this Will is that do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Does of the member of that legislator legislative body when he or she is trying to decide who goes to prison who goes to jail what compromises are we going to make because we do clearly understand that not everybody to go to jail. Not everybody to go to prison. There are limits and there are better ways on the part of some to operate the criminal justice system in a way that is fair, in a way that protects public safety, in a way that reduces the burden on taxpayers so all of those things are in play but when we are saying all of this and when we’re interacting with victims of crime as judges as police officers as parole and probation agents the bottom line question to me is do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Do we really understand those dynamics?

Will Marling: That’s right and that’s a really great insight because we should not fear trying to understand what they’ve experienced. That doesn’t mean that we have to throw out the justice system or throw out rule of law or throw out due process. Quite frankly we’ve experienced the opposite and this kind comes back to the victims rights issue but you and I talked about the constitutional amendment issue the that we have been working to promote a new United States constitutional amendment for a number of years. Why? Because victims under the law should have standing. The accused has standing under the United States Constitution and all that is important particularly under  the Bill of Rights. The victims of the same crime for which that individual’s accused should have standing under the law to be able to have a place to speak to engage to act and those rights should be protected.

First they need to be inculcated first because you’re engaged on this issue that 33 of the 50 states have victims rights in their state constitutions. It’s a recognized value of among the states but still the consistency for that and then of course 17 states not having victims rights makes it very difficult not only in those states but if you’re in one state and you go across the border to a non-victims rights state, that complicates your life as well. We’ve just been affirming that. Understanding victims their needs their rights gives us a greater awareness of how we can respond in a fair and just and compassionate way to the needs of people who’ve been harmed by others.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program. We’re talking today to Will Marling. He’s been by these microphones many times in the past. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance

Going back to the constitutional amendment Will again the question is for the victims movement and for victims of crime the question was do we understand we in the criminal justice system society do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? What victims are essentially saying is that if I don’t have constitutional protections they’re coming to the conclusion that that they the states that do not have constitutional amendments or they members of Congress don’t understand what it is that we’re going through because we need a national constitutional an amendment to the United States Constitution to protect the victims of crime at the federal level.

We need it at the same time at the state level and I guess sometimes they’re simply saying we don’t have it because they don’t understand our experience and it’s part of that continuing discussion of do we really understand what happens to victims of crime?

Will Marling: That’s right you know that the Constitution and a rule of law society the issue becomes is it written down? Is it inculcated somewhere? We can say this is the right thing to do but until we say this is the right thing to do and put it in writing so to speak then it can’t be argued legally. It can be argued morally, ethically and so on but that the courts don’t argue from that standpoint. Specifically they open the law books.

They opened open up the precedential imperatives and say okay where does this particular thing stand? That’s why we contend that raising the profile of crime victims in this country through a constitutional amendment is a profound opportunity to emphasize justice and really to deal with even some of these other issues that the focus on over incarceration over criminalization actually could be helped in my view by a discussion about victimization because then the victims could talk about really where those issues lie with them rather than just passing laws that everybody says well that that’s a violation you get arrested you get charged you get sent to jail.

That’s really not effective and historically we’ve seen where those kinds of approaches and attitudes really aren’t necessary productive. There’s been this migration from tough on crime to right on crime to straight on crime and this stuff of stuff and all of those are our meaningful attempts in some ways I think. To focus on justice as I want to presume people have good intentions but at the heart of the question is who really suffers the most when it comes to crime? How do we address it? How do we promote safety and security in a fiscally responsible way in our society and really look at the core issues not caricatures not emotional reactions but really at the heart of it or what rights people should have who’ve suffered at the hands of another person.

Leonard Sipes: The issue with compassion and I think that that’s how victims see it but it goes all the way from the individual police officer, who first contacts them all the way up to Congress, all the way up to the highest levels of the federal government. I think that’s the way they see it. When I was a young police officer and I was out there I would have times where I would be running from call to call to call you but. That doesn’t give you an awful lot of time to meet human needs.

If it’s a property crime or if it’s a violent crime I need to get as much information as I possibly can to try to solve that crime, to pass it on to detectives and to process a crime scene. I really don’t have a lot of time to hold your hand ma’am and I think that is a realistic point of view an unfortunate point of view all at the same time. The police officer he or she can only do so much, yet that person has just going through something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

It is compassion. Do we build in compassion? Do we build an understanding all the way from the police officer to the prosecutor to the courts to the public defender to the entire criminal justice system? Understanding the victim experience becomes do we have sufficient compassion for that victims] experience and at the same time do we have built in the processes to be compassionate to that individual?

Now that’s a very complicated question. I hope it made sense.

Will Marling: It did and what I would want to say is actually there’s tremendous hope for engaging other people in ways that demonstrate compassion because you can be empathetic and that’s an ability to understand and feel what people are experiencing in some ways. Compassion work as it’s commonly called many times are people who actually get that intuitively instinctively. They look  at a person. They hear their story and they recognize okay I understand maybe what may be going on in a deep way. Compassionate self is an opportunity to demonstrate to another person that I’m hearing you and I’m supporting you and those things can be done on the front end very simply.

How many times a week have I taken a victim assistance call here at our office and we have a toll-free victim assistance number 800 TRYNOVA. I’ve probably taken 3500 to 4000 victim assistance calls myself in my tenure as executive director and the person says I called police. They wouldn’t take a report. That’s all they wanted. They didn’t want to hug from the officer. They didn’t want handholding. Most people understand that officers have a difficult job to do. What do they want out of that officer? They want them to listen to them and respond in a meaningful and professional way.

As I like to say law enforcement demonstrates a commitment to serious response when they do one of three things typically: they take out the pen to take report, they take out their handcuffs to make an arrest, or they took out their firearm to put down a very bad situation. At the very least when an officer pulls out his or her pen to take a police report they might not realize that that act right there is the beginning of demonstrating that I’m listening and I’m caring because I’m taking official action.

I’ve been on the street with officers, worked with law enforcement and it’s a real temptation to talk people out of doing paper because it’s work. Yeah it’s work but you don’t know why they want that and you don’t know why they need that. The fact is that that issue right there might be so powerful to being heard that it helps move them forward. Go ahead.

Leonard Sipes: It’s also the fact that we have built in certain mechanisms into the criminal justice system getting us back to the constitutional amendment but I want to be a lot more basic than that. We have victims advocates now. We have victim’s advocates here at the court services and offender supervision agency. We have victims’ advocates within the court systems. We have victim advocates’ in law enforcement. We have independent victims’ advocates. We have victims’ advocates for domestic violence. We have domestic victims’ advocates for rape and other sexual assaults. We have victims’ advocates for child related crimes so we now have people who are either paid or volunteer to provide that handholding all the way through the criminal justice system. Yes we do want the police officer to take the report. We do want the police officer to show some degree of compassion but we now have specialists who are in place to help that person through the system and solve their immediate needs.

Will Marling: Yeah I agree. Those victim advocates are really part of our family. We consider like ourselves a very tiny tip of a incredibly rich and deep iceberg of victim advocacy. The challenge we face though Len is that first of all we’re a land of jurisdictions and even how the advocates are placed where they serve can be quite varied from place to place.

Some advocates are placed in place departments and actually they might be nearly a first responder. Others are placed out of a prosecutor’s office so their engagement with a victim might be well down the path. That’s what we emphasize the fact that law-enforcement’s commitment to training and understanding how to engage somebody who’s been harmed is really paramount because they’re commonly the very first engagement with the justice system one way or another.

The people that I know that who are advocates are pound for pound the most incredible dedicated people there are and they do amazing work but within the justice system there are many opportunities to help victims be heard and move forward. I’d like to say that the best demonstration of this kind of thing is a three-legged stool where you have compassion, you have competence, and you have commitment.

The compassion really is the first thing that people see but if you only have compassion you don’t really have an opportunity to follow through with the skills necessary as an officer for instance to do an investigation or do the paperwork or an advocate to engage because there’s a  lot of skills associated with this. That compassion resource kind of wears thin to people. They’re like well he’s a nice guy, she’s a nice woman, but they didn’t really help me in this investigation and then of course you need the commitment to bring it all together.

I’ve seen some incredible officers law-enforcement individuals who really demonstrate those three things and it’s very common to see advocates that way but that’s really what we’re trying to promote here is that compassion is the very first thing people see. If you don’t give that communication to them that you’re wanting to hear, you’re wanting to understand even when you’re saying you’re going from call to call, it’s hard for them to get to the next step and say well I’m going to trust this individual to take my report in sometimes.

Leonard Sipes: It’s hard in terms of the fact that we depend upon victims of crime to cooperate with us within the criminal justice system in terms of the prosecutorial process and in terms of the remediation process. If they blow that relationships in the very beginning it makes all the rest of it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Will Marling: No question, like anything.

Leonard Sipes: Final minutes of the program, I do want to get on the training because of what we’re doing what the national organization for victim assistance has been doing for decades and what you’re currently doing for the Department of Defense is training individuals to deal with these issues at all levels not just at the individual level of dealing with that individual person who was has suffered through the criminal victimization but all the way up to the advocacy level. It’s a matter of structure to deal with these issues and training and that’s the heart and soul of what you guys have been doing over the course of the last couple decades correct?

Will Marling: Yeah at our core we’re all about training because again you’ve got compassion to have competence you have to competencies and those revolve around skills and training and refined experience and continuing education that enhance our ability to service people. Now just to clarify you’ve been a very supportive person for us at Nova.

Our engagement with the department offense specifically is a certification program because the department of defense has its own prescribed training as you can imagine, each of the services. We recognize that the value that the military is trying to bring to training in this area of advocacy is growing and we appreciate that. I obviously can’t speak for them but I can I cannot affirm that I appreciate the efforts that are being made there and so what we’re trying to continue to do is to speak and all kinds of training context.

We have a NOVA victim assistance Academy that we have developed because there are academies in many states and there’s also national victim assistance Academy through the office victims of crime but we’re really trying to fill voids that don’t exist in areas of training as well.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to have wrap up. Will as always it’s been an enlightening experience. Every time I talk to you I learn something addition, something new in terms of all victims rights and what we within the criminal justice system need to understand about victims rights.

Ladies and gentlemen our guest today has been Will Marling. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance 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.