Application of Crime Research to Cities and States-The Urban Institute-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes.  A real treat for us, ladies and gentlemen, today, John Roman, he’s the Senior Fellow of the Urban Institute.  The Urban Institute has been around since 1968.  They offer an endless array of good quality research.  It’s one of the most respected organizations in the United States in terms of dealing with research and urban problems, specifically crime problems.  John is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  He is also a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.  One of the things we’re going to discuss today is the application of crime research to cities and states; what does it mean?

In fact most cities and most states throughout the United States pretty much fly by the seat of their pants in terms of the decisions they make regarding crime policy.  In the District of Columbia, what the city and what the Urban Institute is trying to do is to take a look at a wide array of research, existing research, new research, to guide city government in the District of Columbia.  But it’s not about DC.  The larger issue is, like I said, the title: application of crime research to cities and states, and with that long introduction, John Roman, senior fellow Urban Institute.  Welcome to DC Public Safety.

John Roman:  Thanks for having me on.

Len Sipes:  John, it’s been a real pleasure.  You know, I’ve been reading your research over the course of years, and in essence what I’m getting from all of this is that what the District of Columbia, and this lesson again applies to every other city in the country, every other state in the country, what the District of Columbia is trying to do is to take your research from the Urban Institute, one of the most respected research organizations in the country, and say to themselves:  Is there any way that we can use research to better do what we do to increase public safety?  To reduce our costs?  To make us more efficient?  Do I have it?

John Roman:  That’s it in a nutshell.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do?  What does that mean?  Can you give me a sense as to what it is you do on a day-to-day basis?  You look at existing research?  You’re doing original research?

John Roman:  We’re doing both.  So the idea is that we want to work as a partner to the local and federal agencies who operate in DC, and that’s all the criminal justice agencies and youth agencies and family serving agencies, and think about crime as a problem that exists in a city that’s about the city and about the people there, and it’s not specific to specific actors or specific places or specific kinds of people.  It’s just a phenomenon that exists, and you need to think about it holistically if you’re going to do anything about it.

So if you’re thinking about juvenile justice, you have to think about the schools.  You have to think about families, peers – It’s not just about, you know, the facility that you take the worst kid to and lock them up for a period of time.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So what we try and do is we try and do a couple of different things, so we think about what is going on in the research community at large.  We think about what other people have learned, other places and other times, about what’s been effective for solving particular problems, and we try to figure out what it would cost to do those things in the District of Columbia, and what the expected benefits would be to the citizens of DC if we did those things here and try and make recommendation to the mayor’s office and to all the partner agencies about what we think we could do here to actually have less crime for less money, more public safety for less of an investment.

Len Sipes:  When I was starting off the program, I said most states fly by the seat of their pants.  When I was the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, I was in with the Secretary of Public Safety when the Governor of the State of Maryland called and said, “You know what?  I saw this ABC Special on boot camps.  I really like this thing.  We should do this.”

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And the decision to do boot camps in the state of Maryland was made instantaneously in terms of a 30 second phone call between the Governor and the Secretary of Public Safety.  That’s how most criminal justice, criminological decisions, criminal justice decisions are made in most states and most cities throughout this country.  That’s a guess on my part.  Is there, is it a very large guess?

John Roman:  Um, that’s absolutely right.  I mean, I don’t think there’s much of a research base in most public agencies, whether they’re state level or municipal.  They don’t have the capacity to do their own research, and in many instances, they’re really not interested in doing their own research, but the problem that you just highlighted about boot camps is sort of just the classic example that for every difficult problem there’s a solution that is simple, intuitive, and wrong.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The thing that is apparently easiest to sell to your constituents are – There are two kind of things, and neither of them work.  One, are these very simple solutions.  Things like Scared Straight; let’s bring some kids into prison and try to show them how bad prison life is.  Let’s do D.A.R.E.  Let’s bring a police officer into the schools and show them how dangerous drugs are.  Boot camps, let’s get kids up at dawn and make them do pushups.

None of that stuff works, because none of it addresses the underlying reasons why kids become involved in crime.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And then you have, on the other hand, you have deep deep-end solutions like mandatory minimums, three strikes, truth in sentencing.  Long prison sentences that lead to mass incarceration that lead to tremendous drains on state and local governments budgets, that miss the entire point of incarceration which is, there’s a huge body of research that says people make decisions about whether they’re going to commit crime or not depending on whether or not they think they will get caught.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The size of the penalty doesn’t matter.  Am I going to get six months, a year, two years, ten years?  That doesn’t make any difference in my decision making.  I just want to know if I’m going to get caught.

John Roman:  Uh-huh.

Len Sipes:  So huge investments in mass incarceration, long prison sentences.  That doesn’t work either, and there’s lots of stuff in the middle that does work.  People have to be open to the research to hear it.

John Roman:  You’re funded by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice.  It’s where the city gets the money to contract with the Urban Institute to do these things.  You know, there’s an awful lot of things that are intuitive.  There’s an awful lot of things that people, from a very gut level, feel that could work, should work. D.A.R.E is one example.  I mean, D.A.R.E is where you have the police officers in the schools.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  You’re teaching them drug education, and we’ve said over and over again that the research indicates that these programs do not work, and yet they’re very popular. D.A.R.E programs, there’s a lot of people who say, “I don’t care what the research has to say, I like it.”  There’s a lot of people out there who say “I don’t care what the research has to say, I believe a person should serve 20, 30, years in prison for a very serious crime.”  How do you overcome that?

John Roman:  Well, let me talk about D.A.R.E because it’s such a classic example of what goes wrong in the system, and let me talk about what we should do to overcome that.

So with respect to D.A.R.E, so what D.A.R.E does is, it depends on where you are, whether it’s fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth graders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And a police officer comes in.  He’s got his suitcase full of drugs.  He opens up the drugs, and he says, “This is cocaine.  This is heroine.  This is crack.  This is marijuana.  These are the instruments you use to smoke these, to ingest this, to inhale them, to do whatever with them.”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And what you are in fact doing is demystifying drugs for young people who have probably never been exposed to them before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it takes some of the fear out of it and makes it just a little less costly for them to start using because they have got some information.  They’re not as afraid.  Now places that like this model will say, “Well, okay, so it doesn’t reduce drug use, but it does have a couple of benefits.  One of the benefits is it reduces, it improves the legitimacy, it improves how students, school kids, see police officers because they see a police officer in a non-confrontational setting.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

John Roman:  And that makes them just a little more open to what the police officers say to them on the streets.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And the opposite happens where the police officers get to talk to somebody who isn’t in trouble with the law.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  Who’s normal, and that makes them a little better at their job.  But it’s solving a problem that it doesn’t intend to solve, and there might be better ways to do that.

Len Sipes:  We have a question for today’s show, very interesting, coming from Robert Pierre, an editor at the Washington Post.  He asked me the other day, via email, the percentage of the DC population behind bars, and throughout my seventeen-and-a-half years in the District of Columbia, first ten years with the two national organizations and 14 years in Maryland, back for seven-and-a-half years, I’ve constantly seen this reference to 60 percent of the population has spent time behind bars, or certainly over 50 percent of the population has spent time in prison.

Is there a valid basis for that observation?  I’ve never seen the methodology behind those observations, and I’ve never seen something come along and say, this is what we base that estimate on.  So how can you prove it or disprove it?

John Roman:  Right, I mean the way you’d have to answer that question is you’d have to get data from the Department of Corrections in DC, which is the DC Jail, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons – if you are sentenced on a felony in the District of Columbia, you go into the federal system.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  If you have a misdemeanor, you go into the local system, so you need to go to a federal database and a local database.  You need to pull decades worth of data, and you need to figure out how many people went in once, and how many people went over and over and over again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The way people do this, to try and answer this question, is they say, well, there were 50,000 arrests in DC, and over a 10 year period, that means half of all DC citizens must have been arrested, and it’s just not correct.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  That’s just wrong.  People get arrested over and over again.  I did a study of the Philadelphia prison system a few years back and found that 80 percent of the people who spent time in the Philadelphia Jail were there more than once.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  And so that means a very small percentage of the population gets into jails.

Len Sipes:  There’s a lot of turnover.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And my response to Robert Pierre, that I mentioned, is: There’s a lot of turnover within the system.

John Roman:  Yes, so, let’s say you have these people – they’re referred to as frequent flyers –

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  cyclers, whatever you want to call them.  Now there is a real issue in the District of Columbia, the Pew Charitable Foundation released a report last year that said that 1 in 31 Americans was somehow, on any given day – which is a kind of different question –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  on any given day, was somehow involved in the criminal justice system via they were incarcerated or they were under some kind of supervision, either post release from prison or awaiting a trial.

Len Sipes:  Right, and BJS has put out the same figures, the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

John Roman:  Right, and in some places, they find that the number – that for Africa American men between 20 and 34, those numbers are as small as 1 in 6, or 1 in 7, or 1 in 8.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So clearly in a city like DC, you have lot of young men who are going to be involved in the criminal justice system on any given day, and that’s an important story.  Sort of making up a number to try and, you know, make it seem like a bigger problem than it is – I don’t think this is the way to get this into the debate, into the public discourse, about trying to do something about this issue.

Len Sipes:  The whole idea is to bust myths in terms of using criminology, using criminological data, using hard data, to come up with good clear solutions instead of, again, flying by the seat of your pants.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  In terms of dealing with something that gets you some coverage, it certainly gets you some attention if you come out and say, quote a statistic that grabs people by the intellectual throat, but there are better ways of doing it, and that’s hard, cold, clear, research, and that’s what you’re advocating.

John Roman:  Right, and I think I can give you a bunch of different examples of this, and why this is important.  I heard an add on the radio last night, and I can’t remember the name of the – it’s an alarm company that responds to burglaries, and I can’t remember their name which is good.  I don’t want to give them any publicity, but the add starts with this sort of ominous message from the announcer saying, “The economy is terrible, and crime continues to increase, and thus you should get our product.”

Well, the reality is that crime has been going down since 1991.  It’s been going down for two decades, and the crime decline has actually accelerated the last couple of years.

Len Sipes:  Almost continuously, and that’s a –

John Roman:  Almost continuously, and we are at crime levels now that we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon was President.

Len Sipes:  Since the 1970’s.

John Roman:  Right, or mid-to-late 60’s.  So if you were 40 years old today, you are probably safer today than you have ever been in your life, and I don’t think that message is getting out, and I think it has one particular consequence which is really too bad.  So the if it bleeds it leads on the news –

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And every time there’s a – crime is very volatile.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So you’ll see a rash of burglaries in one place and then nothing.  You’ll see a deadly weekend where there’s three, four, homicides, and then nothing.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And people only hear about these, these little mini crime waves in their neighborhood or their part of the city, or in the city as a whole, and they use it to conclude that everything is spiraling out of control.

Len Sipes:  Spiraling out of control.  Let’s put up the bars.  Let’s put up alarms, and let’s run for the suburbs.

John Roman:  And let’s pay to have people incarcerated for 30 years.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

John Roman:  When we don’t need to.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Well the whole idea is to get over those myths.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean in the District of Columbia, it is like the national crime scene.  Crime has gone down, certainly not by the national levels or the same amount as the national levels, but crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia.  Violent crime has steadily decreased in the District of Columbia, but if you watch the evening news, if you read the paper, it doesn’t apply to DC; it applies to any city in the United States; you’re going to get the impression that crime is going up.

When I tell my wife that crime is continuously, almost continuously, gone down for the last 20 years, she looks at me as if I had three heads.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  If you go and do a public forum, if you say that crime has almost continuously down for the last 20 years, again, you have gasps.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s just inconceivable to imagine.  If you watch the network, and it’s amazing, and E has it, The History Channel has it.  Lots of these big cable channels have these shows.  Hard Time, or other sort of – Gangland or other sort of shows, if you – your exposure to the media tells you that you are in danger, and you want these people put in prison for the longest possible period of time, and then you can’t blame people for feeling that way.

John Roman:  So I did an interview last month for The Guardian, which is a distinguished paper in England, and going through all the reasons, explanations for why crime has declined, and there’s actually 15 or 20 different things that we could talk about to explain some of the crime decline, and we sort of walked through all of these things, and this article got a ton of response, hundreds if not thousands of comments, and the overall majority of them were “Well, I don’t believe this.  They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Crime is going up.”  So if you can’t – if you can’t understand the nature of a problem, you cannot solve it.

Len Sipes:  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute.  They have been around, ladies and gentlemen, since 1960.  It is one of the most respected institutions to look at urban problems, study urban problems, study crime problems.  They have been around since 1960.  John is also the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.

What we’re trying to do is look at the application of crime research to cities and states, not just in the District of Columbia, but throughout the United States, and then try to find the lessons learned.  All right John so –

John Roman:  If I might, I just want to correct one thing you said.

Len Sipes:  Please, please.

John Roman:  So at the peak of the crack epidemic in the late 80’s and early 90’s when crime, violent crime in particular, peaked in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  There were little more than 24,000 homicides.  Last year there were less than 15,000.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  So that’s a pretty substantial drop.  Not quite 50 percent.  In the District of Columbia, at the height of the crack epidemic, there were more than 500 homicides, almost 500 homicides.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  This year, DC is on track to about quarter, about 108.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

John Roman:  So that’s a decline of 75 percent or more.

Len Sipes:  That’s unbelievable.

John Roman:  Twice as much as the decline nationally, so a lot of good things have happened in this city.

Len Sipes:  You know, I remember this city being, back early when I was working for the National Crime Prevention Council, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and I remember – we’re going back 30 years now, and you were afraid.  I mean, I’m a former state trooper in Maryland, newly minted with a master’s degree, and coming down and working for these organizations, and being afraid to walk the streets.  DC has changed.  A lot of cities have changed.  You have cities like New York.

Len Sipes:  Right, where you can touch and feel it and smell it, but if you go into Baltimore, Cleveland, lots of cities throughout the United States, and again, if you say that crime has gone down nationally, and crime, in fact, has gone down in your particular city which it has in Baltimore, that people are just going to look at you as if you have 25 heads.

John Roman:  Right, and so it’s really interesting.  If you look at the top – there’s something coming out next week.  I’ll give myself a commercial. WWW.URBAN.ORG, where we look at the top –

Len Sipes:  Oh, I have not mentioned the website, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  It’s one of the reasons I write these things down, so I will repeat that.  I’ll have it in the show notes, and I’ll repeat it a couple of times throughout the course of the program.  Go ahead John.

John Roman:  So Urban Institute has a blog.  I have a post coming out next week where we look at the top 25 cities in the United States, and compare their peak homicide rates to the homicide rate in 2000, to the homicide rate in 2010, and it declines in all 25 cities, and it declines pretty uniformly.  There are some exceptional success stories, Washington DC, New York City as you mentioned, Dallas – are exceptional success stories, but otherwise, you see this incredibly consistent trend across cities in the United States.  You see a couple of cities, like Milwaukee for one, where crime has gone back up since 2000, but overwhelmingly, the crime decline is a national story.

Some cities have been even more successful than the average city in the United States, but crime is down everywhere, and it’s down substantially.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting that there are many in the criminological community who will suggest that crime is an international story.  The decline – that it’s also going down in Great Britain.  It’s also going down in New Zealand.

John Roman:  Yep.

Len Sipes:  It’s also going down in Australia, it’s also going down in Germany, that we have not just a phenomenon for the United States.  We have a phenomenon for the western industrialized world.

John Roman: And it’s a wonderful insight, and it calls into question a lot of explanations that we have in the United States because we only look at the United States for why crime declined, and we miss these stories, and so, for instance, the mass incarceration phenomenon is a US phenomenon.  These other nations you mentioned haven’t experienced it, and yet they see similar kinds of crime decline that we have seen here.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  There’s been a lot of changes in how police – police that occur internationally, and that makes you say, well, the policing story has more credibility to me than the prison story.  Maybe all of this incarceration hasn’t bought us that much because in other industrialized nations, they have gotten the same crime decline without this incredible – I mean we have four times as many as people in prison today as we did 30 years ago.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And the effect on state budgets are just astronomical, and here we are in the midst of this great recession, the financial collapse, state budgets are under tremendous pressure.  The federal government budget is under tremendous pressure, likely to make the state situation even worse, and yet we aren’t talking very much at all about, about state spending on corrections, which makes up an enormous percentage of state budgets in most places.

Len Sipes:  Well the states – virtually every state in the United States is complaining bitterly about the amount of money that it puts into corrections, and states throughout the United States are struggling.  I mean it’s the dominant topic within the media and crime and justice for the last two years, the fact that the states are saying, we can no longer afford the level of incarceration.  Now we’re not going to get into a debate as to – is that good or bad from a criminological point of view.  It simply is saying that the states are saying that they can no longer afford it.  So we within the criminal justice system have to come up with something to kind of guide them, and I think Urban and Pew and the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Corrections are doing just that.

Len Sipes:  And I think, we have learned a lot in the last three decades from a research perspective about what works.  Let’s talk about some of that, because we have been talking – we’re two-thirds of the way through the program, and we haven’t talked about what does work yet.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We’ve talked about what the problems –

John Roman:  Right, and I think, you know, there’s a lot of good things happening in the District of Columbia.  It’s a great example of things that work.  You have a police chief here, Cathy Lanier, who is very open to research.  She reads the research.  She can talk knowledgeably about some pretty obscure pieces that are very important about how you figure out who’s most risky, and who the police need to target their scarce resources to.

I think policing, changes in policing have been effective: more professional policing, more problem oriented policing, more proactive policing.  Hopefully in the next generation, we’ll get into a more forensically oriented police force.

Len Sipes:  You mean, somehow, some way, we live up to all the nonsense that people see on television?

John Roman:  Let me take a 60 second digression.  We could go on for the next five years about that.

Len Sipes:  That’s my pet peeve, but go ahead, please.

John Roman:  And nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  Really.

John Roman:  Nothing you see on CSI is true.

Len Sipes:  It’s shocking.

John Roman:  Yeah, I know it’s shocking.

Len Sipes:  That’s shocking.

John Roman:  So it tends to take months for a piece of evidence to get through from beginning to end, but the most important takeaway is:  In this country, almost no suspects are identified by forensic evidence.  We use forensic evidence in this country –

Len Sipes:  to back up the arrest we’ve already made.

John Roman:  to back up the arrest we’ve currently made.  So coming back, so what else works?  Well, we know a lot about alternatives to incarceration programs.  It’s taken us decades to learn something that should be patently obvious which is that if you are somebody who has a substantial problem that causes you not to be able to contribute to society: You have a mental health problem; you have a substance abuse problem; you have family problems.  Whatever these things are that cause you to commit crimes in support of these problems that if you address the underlying problem, in many cases, you can keep people from committing crime.

Len Sipes:  You are four times more likely to be caught up in the criminal justice system if you have a mental health issue.  I’m not saying that everybody with a mental health issue has contact with the criminal justice system, but the odds, the pure stats, is that they’re four times more likely to become involved.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So why is it, when I take a look at the stats, the overwhelming majority of the stats say that the overwhelming majority of the people caught up in the criminal justice system do not get mental health treatment? do not get the substance abuse treatment?  There’s a dichotomy.

John Roman:  Right.  So the problem is – the story is a little better on the mental health side because correctional systems have a responsibility by law to provide medication to people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Now, there’s a lot more that needs to be done for those folks other than just to medicate them.

The drug story is far worse.  We provide almost no treatment to people while they’re incarcerated, which is a real missed opportunity.  If I get you for two years –

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  and can give you residential treatment, your chances of getting out and doing better are just vastly improved.

Len Sipes:  Right.

John Roman:  The problem is that it would take a big upfront investment.  We did a study a couple of years ago, and we looked at what the upfront investment would be to treat everybody going into the correctional system for their drug abuse problem rather than incarcerate them, and the estimated cost – US 10 or 15 billion dollars to create the infrastructure to do that.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  The returns though would be 50 billion dollars in terms of crime rates going down even further from where they are, from not needing to use criminal justice resources to investigate, arrest, and incarcerate folks because they don’t need it, because they’re not committing crimes, because they’re not using, and then you have all these other benefits like our correctional systems are places where HIV, aids, tuberculosis, hep-C, all these really chronic horribly expensive conditions, where the rates of – are just, 3, 5, 10 times the rates that you see in the population.

The correctional systems have to spend money to care for those folks, and then they come out, and they have to use public health resources.  And keeping people out of prison, stopping them from using, from sharing needles, and getting hep-C and HIV, all of these things are far more cost effective than just mass incarceration and just housing people.

Len Sipes:  WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWWW.URBAN.ORG.  So it’s basically, we know what to do in law enforcement.

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  We know what we should be doing in terms of treatment of people caught up in the criminal justice system.  We know that we can probably provide alternatives that are maybe more cost effective and that may protect public safety better in the long run in terms of – depending upon the risk of the offender.  So those
are three things that you’ve mentioned right there, that are lessons learned, that are, kind of can be applied to DC, can be applied to Milwaukee, can be applied to anyplace.  What else?

John Roman:  I mean there’s a laundry list of things we can do.  We have people who leave prison, and they have been inside prison, for a year, two years or more, and they’re completely unprepared.  They come out.  They don’t have any identification.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  So it’s impossible for them, you know – How do you even get into a government building to meet your probation officer, right?  Much less go and get a job.  They come out without any medication.  So they were being treated for their mental health problem, and they come out, and 48 hours later, they’re in crisis because they didn’t have – they didn’t have a prescription with them the day they left.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but let me take –

John Roman:  They didn’t have a place to stay.

Len Sipes:  you in a different direction in terms of the limited time that we have left.  So we have to have programs for offenders, and they have been proven to be cost effective through a variety of things.  We know that we have to be more aggressive in terms of law enforcement and working with the community, and the way that you apply law enforcement to places and people, specifically targeting –

John Roman:  Right.

Len Sipes:  rather than mass efforts are more effective.  Drug courts.  Let’s go over to the judiciary.

John Roman:  Okay, so, drug courts, again, this is a place where I think this is part of the explanation for why DC has been more successful than average, and you see this in New York as well, where they have really – Here they had the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, which is a program that I evaluated back in 1999.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And found that it was effective in preventing recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

John Roman:  And it’s been going on here for 12 years, and the basic idea is that if you take drug involved arrestees and instead of incarcerating them for their crimes, you put them through this 12 to 18 month program where they get intensive judicial supervision, intensive treatment supervised by a judge and a case manager, where they work through their – they work through relapses such that if they actually relapse, they don’t just go back to prison like you would under most parole arrangements or probation arrangements.

Len Sipes:  They are supervised by us.  That’s my commercial.  Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Pretrial Services.  Yes, go ahead.

John Roman:  And the idea is, people who are in recovery relapse, and you need to get people through relapse to get long-term recovery, and the data suggests that not just in DC, but around the country, we just finished the National Drug Court Evaluation at the Urban Institute.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  Last month.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

John Roman:  And you know, the story is that it’s pretty effective.  It reduces recidivism 10 or 15 percent.  It’s not a magic bullet.  It’s not going to reduce it by half or something, nothing will.  But if you do all of these things together, you can really reduce crime in a major way.

Len Sipes:  I’m going to stop you right there and ask you the final question before we close the show.  The average person out there says to themselves:  I can’t keep up with all this.  I get stuff from Urban; I get stuff from the different criminological institutes; I get stuff from BJS; I get stuff from the FBI; I get stuff from the National Institute of Corrections; I get stuff from the National Institute of Justice; I get stuff from the Office of Justice Programs.  I can’t deal with all of this.  How can I simplify it?  and how can I find out these lessons learned?

John Roman:  I actually think there are actually some public media outlook, Gangland and Lock-Up, and all those shows infuriate me as much as they do anybody else because if you watch Gangland, you’re looking at 1990 footage, so that’s annoying, but there are actually shows like PBS FRONTLINE that do a terrific job, and they have covered many of those issues over the years, and they do podcasts, and NPR does wonderful podcasts.

Len Sipes:  But the average police chief is not going to be listening to –

John Roman:  Well, but the average police – so –

Len Sipes:  Watching FRONTLINE, the average mark out there in the criminal justice system, how do they keep abreast of all this research?

John Roman:  Well, I would say though, that you could go to NPR or FRONTLINE.  I did a study that found that if you collected forensic evidence, and you use it to aid a burglary investigation, you could ten-fold increase the likelihood that you get an arrest.  I went to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting, 17,000 police chiefs, and we had maybe a hundred in the room.  You have to start by being open to what the research says, and then it’s pretty easy to go out and find places that can tell you what’s important.

Len Sipes:  Are we doing the best job that we can do within the criminological community to distill it down to the barest bones?

John Roman:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  And apply lessons learned?

John Roman:  No, I mean, I think there’s a lot of work that can be done, but there are a lot more groups like Pew and Urban that are trying to be more translators than evidence creators.

Len Sipes:  And I think it’s obvious in terms of the publications you put out and the publications Pew puts out and the Office of Justice Programs is making that transition as we speak trying to make it simpler because the big complaint is that:  I’m overwhelmed by the data.

John Roman:  Right, I mean National Institutes of Justice has National Institute Journal.  Nancy Ritter is the writer there.  She does a terrific job, and it’s a wonderful resource, probably a great place to start.

Len Sipes:  John, you’ve been a blast to have on the program.  John Roman, senior fellow of the Urban Institute, WWW.URBAN.ORG, WWW.URBAN.ORG.  He is the executive director of the DC Crime Policy Institute.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We do appreciate your calls; we do appreciate your emails; we appreciate your criticisms; we appreciate your compliments, and we appreciate your suggestions in terms of future show topics, and please, please, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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