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Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, CSOSA

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

DC Public Safety Radio

See radio program at

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentleman domestic violence is the topic of our program today, domestic violence in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month for the month of October. We have two people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency with us today to talk about their supervision and treatment process regarding domestic violence individuals. We have Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countiss. He is again the Community Supervision Officer – what other organizations call Parole and Probation Agents. Again he is with the Domestic Violence Program, Intervention Program here at The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, our website to Princess and to Marc welcome to DC Public Safety.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Thank you for having us.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright this is really important. I mean you all deal with people who have been adjudicated as somehow, some way a court has said you need to supervise this individual and that person has put this person on probation and says that you all need to both treat and supervise this individual and keep the victim safe. Do I have that right?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and do we involve people coming out of the prison system who are either on probation or mandatory supervision? Do we have, are they involved in the Domestic Violence Unit?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, that’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so again we have parolees, we have people who are mandatorily released which means that they have served their time 85% and now they are out and we have probationers. So we have a wide variety of people. What do we have, about 30 employees doing this?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay and we have how many teams, that’s broken into how many teams.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: They are broken into four teams. So there are three supervision teams and then there is one treatment team.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, we have a lot of the people who are being supervised and treated in the Domestic Violence Unit. Correct?



LEONARD SIPES: Okay, tell me about it. Tell me about your experiences. I mean domestic violence is a very important topic to me. I remember as a young police officer, an awfully long time ago, dealing with domestic violence issues and it scared me half to death. I mean I have never seen my parents fight. My first case involving domestic violence we rode up and there was a woman who answered the door, a neighbor called. She didn’t call and her face was like twice its size. Her husband beat her with a frying pan and I was just floored, I was just appalled over this vicious act against people who supposedly love each other. I have gone to other cases where a man was firing bullets into the wall with his wife on the other side of it. I mean domestic violence is a real issue. It is an insidious issue. It is something that impacts way too many American families. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes this is correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it; tell me about your experiences. How long have you been doing it Princess?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so, I have been here at CSOSA for eight years. I have been on the treatment team for two going on three years.

LEONARD SIPES: Were you on the supervision side for domestic violence before you worked for the treatment unit?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: I was for five years.

LEONARD SIPES: For five years, so you have been, your entire experience has been involved in domestic violence, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Right tell me about that. What are your feelings? You have eight years supervising at this point. You have come into direct contact with thousands of people involved in domestic violence cases, right?


LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about them.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so initially it can be a bit overwhelming. Folks come in with different belief systems and it is our job to penetrate those different belief systems. It is our job to help them and arm them with tools that they need in order for them to have healthy relationships. And so part of that is providing them with information about respect, accountability, boundaries, making sure that they are aware of their behaviors. You know domestic violence is something that can be intergenerational you know, it can be something that they witnessed as a child and so therefore they are mimicking the same behaviors that they had seen as children and no one has challenged them to change their behavior. The environments that they surround themselves in also perpetuate that same type of behavior. So it’s our job to give them the information that they need to make changes and have positive and healthy relationships.

LEONARD SIPES: For a lot of individuals Marc, on community supervision that we deal with, for the first time, in many cases for the first time in their lives they’re being told that they can’t do this.

MARC COUNTISS: That is correct. Because as Princess said, a lot of times when we talk about domestic violence, we are talking about something that is a learned behavior, where individuals have gone through different generations learning that and feeling that violence is acceptable and it’s appropriate and this is probably the first time that many of our offenders have been told that this behavior is inappropriate and the fact is, it’s not going to be accepted or tolerated.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is very difficult for a lot of them to accept because they have grown up in households where they have seen domestic violence. They see that as normal. They don’t see it as abnormal. They see it as normal behavior, the right to strike your wife or the right to strike your husband is a normal action that there is nothing wrong with it.

MARC COUNTISS: Right and typically we get a lot of resistance. We get a lot of defenses when individuals come to us for services because it goes against their core really. It goes against the belief systems and our challenge is to dispute these irrational beliefs and show them that there are healthier ways and more appropriate ways of being in a relationship.

LEONARD SIPES: There are times where you have to say, “You can’t do that. You cannot continue this behavior. It is not only wrong, it is not only illegal, it is just flat out unacceptable and you can’t do it.” and I have talked to different people who have worked for our agency throughout the years, again Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and I should remind the audience throughout the country that we are a federally funded parole and probation agency serving Washington DC so that will give people a context in terms of when I say talk to our people. But I have talked to people on the domestic, in the Domestic Violence Unit for years and they have told me that it is very difficult sometimes to get through to the individuals who we supervise. “You can’t do this its wrong and I am going to try to give you the tools that you need to understand how you can respond appropriately to your loved one in the future.” Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And so the beauty of facilitating groups is that there are peer groups and so there are folks in the grope that are just like, you know, they’re all alike in a sense, you know, a lot of them come from the same backgrounds. They have been charged with similar offences, and so when they challenge one another it is authentic. You know it is something that they can appreciate and that they can respect as appose to a facilitator whose life and walks of life and background is quite different from theirs. And so that is the beauty of facilitating a group and allowing the peers in the group to challenge each other and let them know that, you know, what you are doing is wrong and these are ways that you can change things. Yes this is; you know I was arrested for this but these are ways that I can change my behavior. These are some of the things that you can arm yourself with to change your behavior as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we have individuals there who don’t do well under supervision and we do have to talk about the supervision process. One of the things that we here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency are dedicated to is a twofold process of both supervision and assistance. So you guys are in the assistance part of it, in terms of running the groups to try using the Duluth model I think it is which is a nationally understood, nationally known model of dealing with people who are in domestic violence case loads; but at that same time we do supervise them and we do hold them accountable for their behavior. So if there is a court order saying that you have got to stay away from your wife and you have to give, what’s the boundary for a typical protective order for a female involved in domestic violence or a woman, a victim involved in domestic violence, what is it?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: So that person would have to stay 100 feet away from the person, away from the school, child care, home, place of employment. Those are some of the boundaries that they would have.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, okay so we can actually, if we find that they are violating that or coming close to violating that we can put them on GPS tracking, Global Position System Tracking so we can keep track of their whereabouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I am not saying that somebody is looking at a computer monitor but we do come in and look at where he has been and where she has been and we can tell whether or not they are violating that restraining order correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes that’s correct. The GPS is another tool that we can use to help assist us in victim safety. We also do periodic case staffing, if we find that an individual is having difficulty remaining in compliance or following the stay away order so we are always meeting with the offender as well as the victim in the cases to make sure that we are doing what we can to make sure that she remains safe.

LEONARD SIPES: Now it is 90% to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, I am not asking you for exact numbers, but my experience has been 90% of the victims of domestic violence are women. Am I correct, for our particular case load? So we are talking about the overwhelming majority of cases men battering women.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, they could be married. They could be cohabitating, they could be dating but they are intimate with each other. They are not strangers to each other. This is not a stranger to stranger crime. This is the people who do know each other and have had a relationship with each other.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Yes, but I also want to make it clear that we also have female batterers groups and so females are also perpetrators of domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: Right and for those groups we have women who need to be given the same message that they cannot batter. That it is inappropriate and wrong and they can’t do it.


LEONARD SIPES: Do we find that women pick up on this better than the men, worse than the men, same thing.

MARC COUNTISS: I would say both men and women have some of the same belief systems so we have to make sure that we are challenging both those beliefs as well because when you talk about it being learnt behavior sometimes men learn that violence is acceptable as well as women learn the same thing.

LEONARD SIPES: But you know that is the interesting part of this. We are not talking about somebody who decides to commit an act, say, use drugs and its episodic and it happens every once in a while and that is a decision a person makes at 14, 17, 25 whatever. This is ingrained in that individual, in many cases, if not mostly all cases throughout their lives. This is something that is part and parcel to their own personality, part and parcel to their own makeup. So convincing them that this is not something that they can do, should do, convincing them that it is wrong takes a lot of doing does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And it does and we focus a lot on you know, changing that behavior. Talking about the flip side, well it is still the Duluth model but the equality wheel. We talk about respect, accountability. We talk about responsible parenting but we also talk about consequences. You know, the consequences of your actions led you to CSOSA, and so we defiantly talk about, you know, your actions can result in incarceration, can result in you being away from your friends and family that you love and so we defiantly talk about the outcome of your behaviors.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are not going to hesitate, if he violates the order, we go back to the judge. If he provides problems for us or her, if they don’t meet the stipulations of their supervision under our agency, we can take them back to the parole commission, we can take them back to the courts and they can go back to prison or go to prison.


LEONARD SIPES: I mean that’s a very serious consequence if they do not meet their mandate.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay we drug test them as well do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay I’m finding throughout my career that drugs and alcohol are heavily connected, correlated to domestic violence. Am I right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: This is true. A lot of the individuals that come to our program do have histories of alcohol use and drug abuse. However, we have to be very careful when we are looking at this issue of substance abuse because we don’t want to get to a point where we start to rationalize or justify an individual’s behavior and say that this is why they were violent or abusive, because they were on drugs or because they were drinking because it is often times that individuals are drinking and they are not violent or abusive. So we don’t want to give them an excuse to say this is why they became violent.

LEONARD SIPES: Right, but we do drug test them do we not? I mean we do test them for drugs and alcohol and that is often at times can be another factor that we have to deal with in terms of their, shall I say the word recovery. There are adjustments that we have to deal with. There are substance abuse issues, do we not?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so we do either refer them out to other agencies or if they are serious enough we take care of it ourselves here within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. What about mental health problems? Over a third of our case load has had histories of mental health issues. So I am trying to, I guess, provide layers of the complexity of what it is you have to do because you have to deal with mental health issues as well as substance abuse issues, as well as something that they thought was appropriate behavior.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is true, you know, as being on the Domestic Violence Intervention Team we have a treatment program that is specifically geared towards those that have mental health diagnosis and so one of the things that we do, we use the same curriculum but we defiantly take things in a different direction for them based on their mental health illness.

LEONARD SIPES: We are more than half way through the program. We are doing a program today on domestic violence and the way that we do it here in the District of Columbia but it represents efforts from throughout the United States in terms of parole and probation agencies. We have two people by our microphones today: Princess McDuffie, she is a Community Supervision Officer, again, what other agencies, virtually all other agencies in the United States call Parole and Probation Unit that she is with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and we have Marc Countess. He is a Community Supervision Officer with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program is the website for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

And we just did a program with the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia on the issue of domestic violence just a couple of weeks ago and I will put in the links to that show as well to give the listeners a comprehensive overview of what we do. We had the judge who was in charge of the Domestic Violence Program for the Superior Court. He was very complementary of CSOSA. Their program is special. They have two intake units throughout the city. They deal with close to 100 cases of domestic violence a day which I found astounding and they work with a lot of agencies including ourselves to try to provide services to individuals because people come to us with employment issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, child care issues and so we try, they and we try to do wrap around services to try to get that individual in as many services as possible to stabilize their situation right or wrong?

MARC COUNTISS: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Tell me about it.

MARC COUNTISS: There has to be a coordinated community response to domestic violence. The courts can’t handle it alone, intervention programs cannot handle it alone, victim servicers programs can’t handle it alone. We have to work in conjunction with each other to make sure that individuals are receiving the services that are necessary.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. Now on a community supervision side again we are, I mentioned GPS before, I mentioned drug testing. We are in constant contact with this individual in the community are we not, on the supervision side?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and so we are going and making home visits, sometimes unannounced home visits. We meet with them in the office so it’s just not you guys who are working on the treatment side, there are people within our agency who are concurrently supervising that person, making sure that they are not engaged in any other nefarious actives out there in the community. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Correct. And even on the supervision and treatment side, you know, we make sure that there is a coordinated response when things do happen. While we may not discuss in detail about the group process and what is talked about there, you know if we feel like someone may be in imminent harm or danger we will make contact with the supervision officer and we will have a coordinated effort to make sure that the victim isn’t being re-victimized.

LEONARD SIPES: And we are also working with law enforcement agencies, specifically in our case the Metropolitan Police Department, but there are lots of other law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia, they are the principal, by far, law enforcement agency but we will work with law enforcement agencies to coordinate the response and to pick up intelligent because often at times that law enforcement officer will contact us and say, “You know that person who beat up his wife, I saw him on the corner making noise and obviously he was, you know, drunk and neighbors were complaining so I’m passing that information along to you guys so you can take appropriate action.” That happens as well does it not?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That’s correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so all the agencies are suppose to be working together to protect the victim and make sure that the offender gets the services he or she needs.


LEONARD SIPES: Okay, how do you feel about this, by the way? I am going to ask you the same questions I asked a Superior Court Judge you know, how do you feel after years of dealing with folks in the Domestic Violence Unit? I mean that’s got to take its toll on you personally as members of this agency.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: It does at times but it’s one of those things where you want to make sure that the person who is the perpetrator is getting what he or she needs so that ultimately they can have a healthy family, a healthy life. Making sure that their children even recognize that there has been some changes in Mom and Dad because they have the tools that they need to be successful and be healthy.

LEONARD SIPES: Now I would imagine that an awful lot of these cases, if not the majority of these cases do involve kids, do they not Marc?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes they do.

LEONARD SIPES: Right so you’re talking about a man and a women, we are talking about kids, we are talking about in many cases substance abuse, mental health problems, in some cases joblessness, again we are not making excuses for those people who batter but we are saying these are realities of what it is you have to deal with. Correct?

MARC COUNTISS: Yes, what we have to do is we have to make sure that when individuals come to our groups that they know that this offence not only impacts them and the victim it also has an impact on their children, it has an impact on society and our community and to let them know that there are healthier ways of managing conflict and dealing with dispute. So it’s an ongoing battle and struggle to get this across because normally individuals may not get it the first time. So that’s why our groups are approximately 22 weeks long. And so over that time individuals get an opportunity to practice their skills and utilize the tools and normally their defenses become lessened and they embrace more of the information.

LEONARD SIPES: Well they have to come to grips with this because it just doesn’t affect them it affects their spouse, it affects their kids. I mean if we can intervene here at this level and straighten it out and make sure that the kids understand that what Dad did or what Mom did is wrong by involving them in the process, we could be putting a stop to, Princess, you mentioned something that is often at times intergenerational. This is something that has been going on for decades and sometimes grandparents and parents and kids are all part of the same spectrum.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct and part of it is making sure that the parents are armed with what they need to be armed with so that it then trickles down to the children and so we can stop the cycle of abuse. We have to make sure that they are implementing the concepts that we are talking about when we are talking about, you know, isolation – what does that mean? Have you seen this done before. How can we prevent those types of things? And again we talk about consequences. What are the consequences of your actions? Making sure folks are held accountable for what they have done and taken ownership of what they have done.

LEONARD SIPES: Well I think that you guys probably have one of the toughest beats I can possibly imagine because when I was a police officer I said to myself, you know there is no way I could handle this sort of thing day in, day out. There was just no way, it was too traumatic. Give me an armed robbery, give me a terrible automobile accident, give me anything besides seeing people who supposedly love each other, destroy each other and to see that the kids are involved in it at the same time. For me it was very emotional. I found it to be probably the most difficult thing that I handled beside you know a fatal accident or somebody dying, the probably most difficult thing I had to handle as a police officer. That is why I was asking you how does it impact you directly as people.

MARC COUNTISS: It does have a direct impact on us but it is also important that we as facilitators, we as community supervision officers make sure that we take care of ourselves as well, so self care is a big part of it, dealing with this level of stress, this level of secondary trauma. So it is important that we do the things that are necessary to take care of ourselves.

LEONARD SIPES: Do we, I’m assuming we have our fair share of victories. I’m assuming we have our fair share of individuals who come to grips with the fact that they can’t do this and understand the impact that it is having on the kids and understand the impact that it’s having on their spouse or their loved one? That’s got to be gratifying at the same time when they finally come to grips with, they can’t do this. Now they understand the damage that they have done. Now they own up to it and now they are looking for ways to end this pattern.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And so in treatment like Marc said. They are 22 weeks with us. I mean that is just shy of six months on a weekly basis for an hour and a half. You meet with us, we have a group. And so as Marc also said initially they are resistant, you know they are defensive, they don’t want to talk about the issue. They want to blame everybody else. But you notice some change talk within those 22 weeks. You notice them coming around. You notice them, you know, being accountable for what they did. You notice them saying, “You know what I am responsible for what happened. I am responsible for being here in this setting but there are some things that I can do to change that and this is what I am going to do.” and so that is the beauty of the treatment process in that you can see someone who was very resistant start to change, start to accept responsibility and say, you know, today is a new day and I am going to do things differently.

LEONARD SIPES: Do they really apologize to their kids? Do they really apologize to their spouse for their behavior?

MARC COUNTISS: In some cases where they may have contact with that individual there is a portion where they can make amends. When we talk about accepting responsibility and acknowledging it and being able to apologies and say that they are sorry. So in the event that there is a stay away order in place we don’t advise it. However, if an individual still maintains contact or sees their children, we recommend that the individual apologize and they try to make things right.

LEONARD SIPES: And in the program in terms of the courts that we did that there are safe places where the batterer can come into contact with his kids, that is being supervised by the courts or supervised by us, where they can interact with their kids and the victim does not have to worry. Correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: That is correct, the visitation center.

LEONARD SIPES: So there is all sorts of contact that is still going on even though a protective order may be in place but it’s a supervised, safe place for the victim?


LEONARD SIPES: Now we deal with same sex couples as well.


LEONARD SIPES: And is there anything different in terms of same sex couples?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: No the curriculum is the same.

MARC COUNTISS: And really when we look at the dynamics of domestic violence, you find a lot of similarities whether they are same sex couples or not.

LEONARD SIPES: Young adults, we have younger individuals on our case loads and they have been involved in acts of domestic violence. I would imagine dealing with the younger folks as a bit more difficult than dealing with the older folks. Am I right or wrong?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: There are challenges. There are definitely challenges when you talk about age, the difference in age. And so what the facilitators tend to do is to use some of the things that pertain to that particular population and so whether that is pulling something out of the headlines, whether that is music. We use the Duluth model but we also try to use some different things so that it’s relatable.

LEONARD SIPES: But I would image especially with younger people but I think it crosses over to everybody involved, that we do have the music, we do have the culture. I am amazed when I listen to music, of music that does, almost encourage violence towards women, movies, television shows, sometimes I feel that they are not just getting the wrong message from their upbringing they are getting the wrong message from society as well.

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: And that is correct. And what we try to do is personalize it. You know, would you want that going on with your Mom or your sister? We try to make sure that we speak to them in a way that you know, they can understand. Speak to them in their culture, in their language, making sure that they understand the consequences of their actions.

LEONARD SIPES: But we’re trying so hard to provide services and instruction so that they can straighten out their lives, so that they can understand that it is wrong but again I do want to emphasis that if that does not work we will go back to court and we will go back to the Parole Commission and say, “I think this person needs to be off the streets.” If that person violates the protective order we take a look at our GPS coordinates, we hear from police that he is in the area. We can put him back; we can put him in prison or put him back in prison, correct?

PRINCESS MCDUFFIE: Well we can take them before the judge and have the judge make that recommendation.

LEONARD SIPES: Right we don’t do it but we have to take them to the judge and we have to take them to the Parole Commission so the bottom line is that we will do it if necessary but we will do, we will take all steps necessary to try to convince them that they need to straighten out their path. Correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Alright, I want to thank both of you for being on the program today. I can’t think of anything more difficult than the domestic violence beat and I want to personally thank both of you and everybody in this agency and parole and probation agencies throughout the county that are dealing with domestic violence victims. Ladies and Gentleman our program today has been on domestic violence here in the District of Columbia and again I think it is very typical what we discussed today happening throughout the country. This is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Our guests today have been Princess McDuffie and Marc Countiss, again they are with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very, pleasant day.


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Offenders Participating in the Census-DC Public Safety-200,000 Requests a Month

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes:From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. We have I believe to be a very interesting program today. We are talking about the census, and why people under community supervision should participate in the census, and quite frankly, it’s far more important than many of you realize. This is a program that is going to address the fact that the offender’s family, the offender’s children, could greatly benefit by his or her participation in the census. We have Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. The address for the Census Bureau is www.2010.census Before we get into the show, I want to remind everybody that we are just completely happy, very happy, with all of the responses that you are giving to us. We appreciate all of your comments, whether they’re good or bad or negative or suggestive, to get in touch with me directly. It’s Leonard Sipes, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes You can follow us on Twitter at, and by the way, CSOSA does stand for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington, D.C., a federal parole and probation agency. Back to our guest, Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager of the U.S. Census Bureau. Welcome to D. C. Public Safety.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Nunzio, it is really – to me, this is a tough topic, because what we’re going to do is to try to convince about seven million human beings, two million incarcerated, five million involved in community supervision programs, and I would imagine the prison part of it you’ve pretty much taken care of, but the five million human beings who are under community supervision, finding them and including them in the census process, I would imagine is a dire and daunting undertaking.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, it is. We want to reach everyone who lives in the United States and we want each person, each household that they live in, to fill out their form and mail it back.

Len Sipes:Yeah, but, you know, that’s a challenge, because we’re talking about people who quite frankly do not trust government. I mean, first of all, they don’t trust the criminal justice system, and we’re talking about sending people from the Census Bureau to knock on their door. We’re talking about trying to track the folks down to get them to fill out the census, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing the radio show. For those people who are caught up in the criminal justice system who are listening to this radio program, to encourage them directly, but you’re mostly talking to people who represent the criminal justice system, the mainstream criminal justice system, who deal with people on supervision, and I imagine what we’re trying to do is to convince those people, under their supervision, to participate, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct, and an important thing to get across to your population, to the people who are under your supervision, that we the Census Bureau employees take an oath of office. When we’re hired, we must take this oath of office to protect the confidentiality of census responses. This is an oath for life. Any employee who reveals any personal census information is subject to severe penalties. It includes a fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years. We take it seriously. In addition, why we can say that the information provided to the Census Bureau for this important undertaking is, by law, no other government agency, no law enforcement agency, no national security agency court, or anyone else can access responses from anybody who responds to the census by anyone for any reason.

Len Sipes:The bottom line is that not only are you duty bound, you could be thrown in prison and fined considerably if you release this information that you collect via the census to anybody.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, and no law overrides the confidentiality law that protects personal information collected by the Census Bureau or can force the Census Bureau to share the census responses with anyone. The Justice Department recently confirmed that no provision of the Patriot Act overrides the confidentiality law that protects census responses. So that’s why we say it’s safe.

Len Sipes:Well, it sounds safe, but you know that our people – interestingly enough, there are people who are under active supervision who do listen to this program, and they’re going to sit back and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Nunzio, that’s what you’re supposed to say. That’s – you’re in government and you want me to participate.” Number one, okay, so fine, I buy into the fact that you have an oath of office, but the key thing is that he or she is going to say to themselves – again, they distrust government; they don’t like government. As far as they are concerned, government does nothing else besides put them back in the criminal justice system. Their participation means what?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Two important things: what’s in it for them? Number one, our founding fathers made it part of the Constitution, Article 1, section 3 directs us to count every person, regardless of citizenship, whether to document it or not. What’s in it for them and their family members – and the purpose of this census – is for proper apportionment, which is the process of determining the number of representatives that will represent the family members, everyone, in Congress, that we have proper representation. The second thing, what’s in it for them, is every year, the federal government redistributes over $400,000,000,000 a year, annually, back to the fifty states. Now, this is based upon a formula, and a big part of that formula is the population count – that is, the census. So if you want to get your fair share of the money, this four hundred some odd billion dollars that’s going back to the fifty states, it’s going to be based on a population count. If you don’t respond on the census, you’re not going to get your fair share. The family members will not get their fair share – the mothers, the children, their spouses will not get their fair share. Now, this money is used for usually infrastructure needs. Now, we’re talking about road, hospitals, schools, daycare centers. Now, if a state or a county has this money to allocate for these important structures, that frees that state or county or municipality up to provide money back to services such as training, education, health services. It’s a balancing act, so what’s in it for them? Representation. What’s in it for their family members? Fair representation. What’s in it for them is their fair share of the money that’s allocated, based upon a population count.

Len Sipes:Okay, so the bottom line is that we may not be talking about them, because they can be pretty cynical and very mistrustful of government, but what we are talking about are their children. Seventy percent of offenders have children. We’re talking about their children. We’re talking about their mother. We’re talking about their sisters. We’re talking about their little brothers. We’re talking about their family and their friends directly participating and benefiting by getting more money for the programs that community needs by their participation in the United States Census.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, Leonard.

Len Sipes:Okay, and that’s a little profound because we’re not asking a lot from them. It’s my understanding, because – I’m sorry, I’m such a coward, here – my wife does the census form. I haven’t even seen it. The census form is ten questions, right?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, it’s ten topics. It’s the shortest census since 1790, which was the first time we did the census. And we asked for the name of the person, their gender – male, female – their age, race, origin, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a very short form. The information on here is mandated. The questions we asked are mandated by Congress. The questions are approved by Office of Management and Budget. I mean, we’re asking what we’ve been approved to ask and it all funnels back to those two items I mentioned before about fair representation –

Len Sipes:But the bottom line is that they’re really simple questions that anybody can answer. You’re not going to have to look up tax forms. You’re not going to have to look up your social security number.

Nunzio Cerniglia: No, that’s not even a topic. Social security number and anything related to an identifier like that – again, citizenship is not an issue here. Documented or not, not one of the questions. Not at all.

Len Sipes:Okay, so let’s go down the list very quickly. Number one, the information cannot, will not be used against you. Number two, your family and your friends are going to directly benefit from your participation in the census. Number three, it’s extremely easy to fill out, and there’s no question that you can do it and take care of it in what, ten minutes? I hear ten questions, ten minutes?

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s it. Ten questions, ten minutes, and you’re benefitted by it for ten years.

Len Sipes:Okay, and we want the individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system who do listen to this program – we want you to directly participate in this. Now, what if the person sits back and says, “Okay, fine, I’ll participate. I trust Mr. Sipes. I believe whatever Mr. Sipes has to say,” and if that’s true, I wish we could transfer that magic over to my wife and daughters, but let’s just say the person listening to this show is caught up in the criminal justice system, and buys into what we just said, and wants to participate. How does he or she participate?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We will be mailing a form to over 130,000,000 addresses, and when that form arrives, we ask them to fill it out and mail it back. It’s a self-stamped envelope. It’s pre-addressed. There’s no cost to mail it back. If for some reason they don’t receive it, we have a toll-free number to call.

Len Sipes:Ahh, okay.

Nunzio Cerniglia: And I can give you that number.

Len Sipes:Yeah, what’s the number?

Nunzio Cerniglia: One way to do that – that’s a toll free number. It’s 866-872-6868. That’s in English. There are other – they can direct you to other numbers that would be in different languages.

Len Sipes:All right. That will give you the option in Spanish and other –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. 1-866 –

Nunzio Cerniglia: Also, we have what we call questionnaire assistance centers. That’s a place that anybody can go to and if they have the form and they have problems filling it out, we will have someone at these locations, local locations, that will assist in the filling out of the form, or they can bring it with them if they did get it. If they didn’t get it, they can go to this location and still receive a form for themselves. We have the forms in six languages at that site: it’s English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese. But we also have language guides in fifty-nine different languages, so if it’s not one of those six languages I mentioned, we have a language guide in fifty-nine languages that can help us help them fill out the form in one of those other languages. So there are two options. So you can go to a questionnaire assistance center locally – which, again, going to that website,, you can find out where those locations are in your area – and we’ll help you fill out the form, or call the questionnaire assistance center with that other toll-free number: 866-872-6868, and we can help you fill out the form or mail you another one.

Len Sipes:All right. Basically, you guys have pretty much thought of everything, because a lot of people under supervision, they move from place to place to place, and they’re with their mom, and the mom gets tired of them coming in and bothering her sleep and simply says, “Okay, well, you’ve been here for three months. You need to move on.” Then over to his brother’s house, and then after a couple months there will move over to a girlfriend’s house.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly, now –

Len Sipes:So the mail will never find them.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, right. The parent or brother may have filled out the form, and they may be at the house and they say, “Well, I wasn’t counted.” That’s why we say call that questionnaire assistance center or visit a local area for a questionnaire assistance center. You know, that’s where they can fill out their individual form.

Len Sipes:Okay, so 1-866-872-6868, and ladies and gentlemen, these numbers – the website and the number – will be in the show notes. 1-866-872-6868, Now, Nunzio, how do you count people in the prison systems?

Nunzio Cerniglia: We count them in their facility. We work with the administration at the facility and there are a couple of ways of counting everyone there. It would be either a census taker would go and interview each person in the facility, or we would swear in your members who work there, and they would do the enumeration. They would be under the same oath of office that I’m in, that I’m sworn under, and they would collect the data. Or we can provide that information through what we call administrative records. But we will get a complete count one way or the other. We like to promote, and we’ve had a good reception with, the facilities we’re working with nationwide to the point where we provide them literature for their inmate population so that they would be aware of it. Their family members when they visit would be aware of the importance of the census for the reasons we’re mentioning here. So there are several ways to conduct an enumeration at the facilities, and it’s been very receptive and responsive from the folks we’ve been talking with nationwide.

Len Sipes:Ladies and gentlemen, we’re halfway through the program. Nunzio Cerniglia, the Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau, 1-866-872-6868 in terms of additional information. So Nunzio, we’ve talked about the prison situation, and they’re pretty much counted, and that part of it, the seven million under correctional supervision in the United States, the two million who are incarcerated are pretty much taken care of. There is an additional five million who are under community supervision. You’re basically asking parole and probation agencies, sheriff’s departments, those sort of agencies to help you help the individual caught up in the criminal justice system to participate in the census. What were telling them is that the information cannot, will not be used against them, that there are immense fines and jail time for any member who participates in the census to provide that information to anybody else outside of the Census Bureau. We’re saying that it’s easy. It’s a ten question questionnaire. It’s not difficult at all to fill out, and if you have questions or if you’re not at your old address, so those forms are missing you via the mail, 1-866-872-6868, and they’ll send you out a new form. Now, there’s a certain point, Nunzio, where you guys go and start knocking on doors so you can complete that ten question survey, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yes, that’s correct. And the first day we do go out and begin knocking on doors will be May 1st. We have a list of the housing units for which we did not receive the form, and we’ll be contacting those households over May, June, into early July.

Len Sipes:So basically, it’s a three-month effort.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Up to three months, correct.

Len Sipes:Okay. Oh, by the way, in terms of summarizing why do all of this – I’m sorry, I forgot the principal reason. Because I do believe a lot of folks caught up in the criminal justice system don’t see the value to themselves. They’re in many cases fatalists. They see the world moving in one direction or another beyond their capacity, but certainly they have sympathy and a desire to be sure that their kids are taken care of, their family members are taken care of, their little brother is taken care of. So an immense amount of money – all that money that flows from the federal government into individual communities is divided based upon how many people live in that area. The more people who are counted, the more money that jurisdiction gets, so it can have a direct affect, not only on the individual offender, but that person’s family.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. I just wanted to go over that one more time. Now, so your door knockers are out there beginning soon. It will go on for a three month process. Anywhere within that three month process, I’m assuming they could call 1-866-872-6868, have the form mailed to them, and participate. I mean, it doesn’t have to be now, it doesn’t have to be May, it doesn’t have to be June, it doesn’t have to be July, but sooner or later, we want that person to do that, correct?

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, the sooner the better. It would be more timely. Actually, as we get into May, we’ll probably take information over the phone. By the time that it gets mailed to them, it might be a little bit late, but we will take callers on through all that time period and we’ll address any question they have relative to the questions on the form and we’d be happy to take that information over the phone.

Len Sipes:Ahh, I didn’t realize that. So your fall-back measure is don’t worry about it, I know the form has missed you and the census taker has missed you. Just call 1-866-872-6868 and we’ll take the information over the phone.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Right. Up to a point, we can send a form back. After that point, April 21st, actually, then we’ll be working with our callers and taking information over the phone and process it that way. So we just want to make it as easy as possible, and it’s more timely to at some point just take the information over the phone and go from there.

Len Sipes:Okay, but I would imagine, once again, and I think you just mentioned this, that you would prefer to be in writing. The government works on written documents. I mean, the government exists for written documents, so we are written documents.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Yeah, I mean, like I said, we have these questionnaire assistance centers locally, to provide the census form to anyone who feels that they’ve not had an opportunity to fill out the form and be counted, and we have that toll-free number to call to have it mailed up through April 21st, and then at all times, we can take it over the phone.

Len Sipes:Okay, but you would prefer it to be in writing, but we will take it over the phone if at all necessary.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly.

Len Sipes:Okay. And I guess we’re into the final parts of the program, because I guess we’ve covered just about everything we need to cover. But we go back to the very beginning of the program, their reluctance to participate in anything government. I think we’ve covered every possible base, that it benefits their children, it benefits their family members, it benefits their communities. It’s not going to be held against you. The information cannot be released to anybody else, under penalty of law. But again, I’ve spent forty years in the criminal justice system, and a lot of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are just suspicious of anything that I say, of anything that you say. I guess there is no magic bullet to overcome that suspicion, beyond what we’ve already said.

Nunzio Cerniglia: That’s correct. I mean, it’s understandable why there’s apprehension, why your people on supervision would be reluctant to participate. We try to, through channels like yourself and other media, try to promote, again, what’s in it for the individual and their family. And it’s those two important criteria – one, proper representation and money that can be allocated, over $400,000,000,000 a year that could be put back to the communities, and there would be an opportunity for them to give back to the community, to give back to their families, like you mentioned, their spouses, mothers, brothers, children. Give them an opportunity to see some benefit from this funding which is being given back to the communities. It’s going to happen whether they participate or not. It’d just be less given back to the communities. It’s hard to believe that taking ten minutes for ten items – it’s the best investment I can think of for ten minutes over ten years. It’s the best investment I can think of in spending time. I don’t think there’s a better way of spending time to get something back, that goes back to the community for the reasons I mentioned: those infrastructure, supporting for schools, hospitals, daycare centers, which allows that state to have more funding for other things that would benefit their family members. And themselves.

Len Sipes:All right, extremely well-put, and the final part of it is that the bulk of the people who listen to this program manage criminal justice systems. They are either sheriffs that have correctional facilities under them, they are community corrections administrators, prison administrators. We do have a lot of people from the law enforcement community, the social work community, who do listen to this program. When you’re talking to them, all the things that we just mentioned apply to them as well. As administrators, why should they participate in encouraging the individuals under their supervision, why they should participate in the census, encouraging the people under them to participate. The same thing applies to them; it’s still their family as well. It’s their kids as well. It’s their community as well. It is a vote of confidence for your community for the criminal justice administrators to participate.

Nunzio Cerniglia: Exactly. The population we’re talking about here are your people under supervision, but everybody in the United States, be they law enforcement officers and every profession in that community or profession, to benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Len Sipes:It’s a win – that’s exactly what I was going to say, Nunzio. It’s a win-win situation for anybody. All right, we’re going to close. Nunzio Cerniglia, Assistant Regional Manager for the United States Census Bureau. The web address is 1-866-872-6868, 1-866-872-6868. All of these numbers will be in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Again, we are extremely appreciative for all of your calls and emails and letters and everything else that you do in terms of communicating with us. It’s what makes the show. We continue to ask for your participation in terms of suggestions and/or criticisms. You can reach me directly, You can follow me via Twitter, which is, or you can do what an awful lot of you do is simply go to and write in your comments in terms of the comments section for both the television shows, radio shows, the blog, and transcripts. And to Nunzio Cerniglia, thank you for participating and ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very, very pleasant day.

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