UK Criminal Justice Professionals Visit CSOSA

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[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: Hello, this is Cedric Hendricks, and this is D.C. Public Safety. Today we’re talking with three guests from Manchester, England that have come to visit the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Please introduce yourselves.

Neal Parnell(ph): I’m Sergeant Neal Parnell, I’m from Greater Manchester Police, and I’m involved in the management of sexual and violent high-risk offenders in Manchester.

Claire Fuller(ph): And I’m Claire Fuller, I’m a Senior Probation Officer, also from Greater Manchester. I work alongside Neal in the management of high-risk sexual and violent offenders across the Greater Manchester area.

Marianne Meekin: I’m Marianne Meekin, District Manager from Greater Manchester Probation and I oversee the projects that Claire and Neal work in, and also manage a district.

Cedric Hendricks: Now I met Claire I guess over a year ago when-well less than a year ago when me and some other colleagues from CSOSA visited the Manchester probation office and we were there to learn a bit about them. But Claire, you took it upon yourself to pull together the resources and a team to come over and visit CSOSA. What triggered your interest and desire to do that?

Claire Fuller: Well my particular interest was around your close working relationship with the MPD. The Unit that Neal and I work in is flagship unit really in the country because it’s a whole probation team that’s been collocated within a specialist unit of Greater Manchester Police. So we’re always on the lookout for developing our relationship between the two agencies, and I can see that CSOSA already had that particularly well imbedded. So I was particularly interested to see that. Our other big priority for us in the coming year is about taking the message about managing offenders effectively out to the community. And again, I can see from our small conversation with yourself and your colleagues that you had a good program and some good ideas that we were very happy to come over and see so that was the plan.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Marianne is Claire’s manager, what value did you see in letting her come over here?

Marianne Meekin: Well the important thing was that she made arrangements for me to come as well, so I’ve benefited a great deal. I have the overview of the project, I could see the work that Neal and Claire have been trying to do. And this was a way of improving what we were looking to do. But also, I have a district responsibility, so I’ve looked at how we could gain more information from lots of other areas of work that we could build on in the UK.

Cedric Hendricks: And Neal, as a police officer, what was the value in this trip for you?

Neal Parnell: Well it’s been really useful for me. I mean, as Claire touched on before, we’re involved in some groundbreaking work in the UK, joint work between police and probation particularly, but involving a lot of other agencies. And it was interesting for me to come across and see the links that CSOSA had with the MPD and how the whole thing links together and know it all works. And again, as we previously mentioned, issues surrounding community awareness, getting out there and giving out the message in the UK about the strict measures that are in place to manage offenders and how we actually go about that process.

Cedric Hendricks: Now we took you over to the Metropolitan Police Department Academy because we begin our engagement with them while they’re still trainees, and then you were able to see that relationship as it manifests itself out in the field. What was it about the visit to the police academy that you found most interesting or impressive?

Neal Parnell: I think the big thing for those are that we tend to, at this moment in time, concentrate our efforts in sharing practice and procedures between the agency-between specialists. And certainly what’s happening out here with CSOSA and the MPD is you’re hitting officers right from the outset and the training and you’re giving them the information that they need to be aware of the benefits of multi-agency working in relation to the management of offenders. And that’s one of the key messages I think that we’re going to be taking back to the UK with us.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Claire and Marianne, one of the other things we did was go to what’s called a commander’s meeting that was held at a CSOSA office, what did you find interesting about that operational engagement?

Claire Fuller: I found that to be really groundbreaking, the police were sharing information on a daily basis about what was happening in their districts and getting information back from the CSOSA offices which was helping them with their detections. And CSOSA was getting information from the police as well about the offenders that their supervising. So the message that was going out, I think certainly coming out to us was that you’re all working together, all pushing in the same direction and all giving the message to the community here that you’re really interested in reducing the crime rates in their area.

Cedric Hendricks: Now Marianne, one of the other things that you saw here was our investment in community relationships-community relations, you as a branch chief, do you engage of similar kinds of relationship building or partnership building with the neighbors in your community?

Marianne Meekin: We have started-we do lots of work, not the same level as I’ve seen here, but we are actually starting looking at the faith community and building that up because the value of seeing that over here and the extra support and mentoring and motivation and enthusiasm that we’ve seen is something that we are really starting with and it’s giving me the inspiration to explore that-take that back to our senior management and pursue that in more detail really.

Cedric Hendricks: Now one of the things that you’ve heard us talk about a lot is community policing and that involves officers out walking the beat, getting to know the neighbors, and policing on a very close and intimate basis. Neal, is something like that going on in the Manchester community?

Neal Parnell: Yes it is going on in the Manchester Community and like I said, as we progressed over the last five or six years, that’s happening more and more. I think it was particularly interesting to see the way in which the officers from the MPD and the CSOSA staff interacted with the offenders at the meeting that we went to the other day and the way that they’re seen as a partnership by everyone. No one sees them as separate entities, it’s all that it’s one section of offender management and public safety that’s being pulled together and being directed from a central resource and that’s really impressive.

Cedric Hendricks: And one of the things that you also had an opportunity to do was to see or interact with some of the offenders that we have under supervision, and I’m wondering whether the challenges-the needs that they presented are in any way similar to those presented by the offenders that you all worked with back in Manchester.

Claire Fuller: I would say there are a lot of similarities there and it was a privilege really to be involved in that particular group and I would like to thank the men who were involved in that group for letting us see what they were doing. I think you could see how difficult their lives had been and how hard they were trying to make a change in their lives. And we have a number of districts in Manchester which would have some broad similarities to the districts that you have in Columbia with high gun-related crime, lots of gang-related problems and drugs too. And so it was inspirational to see those groups like that and the changes those men were hoping to make.

Cedric Hendricks: And one of the things that we were of course trying to do with those groups was to introduce the men there to community-based resources and services to help them meet their needs, do you think that we were at all effective in our effort to do that?

Marianne Meekin: Oh clearly, I mean, after meeting the offenders and through the environment that they were working, you could clearly feel that they were comfortable in that group work. And if they’re comfortable in the group work, they’re going to take steps, they’re going to open up and clearly we saw that with that group of individuals. What I would like to take back really is that we in Greater Manchester and across the probation service really need to work more with ex-offenders, I thought that was inspirational looking at an individual who’s experiences he could draw upon to I suppose open discussion.

Cedric Hendricks: Okay. Claire, anything to add? Neal?

Claire Fuller: Well I would like to add that one of the things that I have noticed is how many community groups there are in the D.C. area who are coming forward to work with offenders and to embrace the reentry programs that you have. And there’s a wide range of services available for offenders if they want to do that, and linking that in with your sanctions program, we’ll make offenders perhaps take steps that they might not have done otherwise. And as Marianne was saying, some of the ex-offenders who’ve come and addressed us and offender groups too had a very good message about the experiences they’ve had from some of the-what we would call resettlement or reentry programs that they’ve engaged in as a result of their contact with CSOSA. And it is enlightening to see the community reaching out to offenders who are often people that the community don’t want to reach out to, and taking those steps and really making a difference.

Cedric Hendricks: Well as we conclude, I know that as we went through the various activities this week we found a great deal of interest on the part of CSOSA staff and you and what’s going on in Manchester, and I would hope that at some point soon we can send a delegation over and have an opportunity to visit with you all.

Claire Fuller: Well you’d be more than welcome. We would-

Neal Parnell: Most definitely.

Cedric Hendricks: Well we’ve been talking with Neal Parnell, Marianne Meekin, and Claire Fuller. My name is Cedric Hendricks and this has been D.C. Public Safety.

[Audio Ends]

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