Offender Reentry and the Arts

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/04/prisoner-reentry-and-the-arts-woolly-mammoth-theatre-company-2/

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sikes. The topic today, ladies and gentlemen, prison re-entry and the arts. We try to bring all perspectives to this issue of offender re-entry, this will be our third program with the arts community. By our microphones is Kristin Jackson, she is the connectivity director for the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company here in Washington DC. Also before our microphones, Teresa Hodge, she is the founder and director of innovation and strategy for Mission Launch, and we also have Justin McCarthy. He is the communications coordinator for Woolly Mammoth, and to Kristin and Theresa and Justin, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Justin McCarthy: Thanks Leonard.

Leonard Sipes: What is Woolly Mammoth, Justin?

Justin McCarthy: So Woolly Mammoth is a non-profit theater company in Washington DC. We’re currently in our 35th full season of operation.

Leonard Sipes: You guys have been around forever.

Justin McCarthy: Yep, that’s right.

Leonard Sipes: You have a great reputation.

Justin McCarthy: Well, thanks very much, and, you know, a lot has changed in those 35 years but one thing that’s sorta remained constant, and I guess this is the easiest way to sort of [inaudible 00:01:08] what we do that separates us from most theater companies out there, is to say that all of our plays have a sort of civic conversation around them

Leonard Sipes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Justin McCarthy: They all address social, cultural, or political issues, and …

Leonard Sikes: Why Woolly Mammoth?

Justin McCarthy: That’s a great question.

Leonard Sikes: Yes, it is a great question.

Justin McCarthy: Well, there’s a story behind that. Our founding artistic director and the partner with him who founded the company, they were up late one night brainstorming potential, you know, theater names and in the morning they found “Woolly Mammoth Theater Company” written on a cocktail napkin.

Leonard Sikes: There you go, the hand of God!

Justin McCarthy: So, it was a sign, but I guess you could say that the inspiration there is that we, the idea is that we are sort of nomadic, like the woolly mammoths of the ore, traveling from place to place and telling our stories, like, you know, like any paleontologist would tell you a woolly mammoth did.

Leonard Sikes: There you go, all right. Lights Rise On Grace is the name of the play that is currently running which is the idea behind the radio show today. It’s running now through April 26th at Woolly Mammoth, www. See if I get this right, w-o-l-l-y-m-a-m-m-o-t-h?

Justin McCarthy: Almost. Two O’s.

Leonard Sikes: W-o-l-l-y-m …

Justin McCarthy: So it’d be w-o-o-l-l-y-m-a-m-mo-t-h.

Leonard Sikes: W-o-o-l-l-y-m-a-m-m-o-t-h.

Justin McCarthy: Why didn’t you tell me this was going to be a spelling test?

Leonard Sikes: .net. Okay, cool, but I do want people to connect to the theater company because again, it’s a large, rather established theater company and this is an amazing play: Lights Rise On Grace, Kristin you’re going to tell me a little bit about that?

Kristin Jackson: I sure will. So Lights Rise On Grace is a play written by Chad Beckham, and it is actually part of a rolling world premiere, our production, and this is through the new play network, the national new play network, and so if you don’t catch it here at Woolly you can also check it out at Stageworks in Tampa, Florida and the Azuka Theater in Philadelphia.

Leonard Sikes: So this is gonna travel from city to city that’s great.

Kristin Jackson: The play will. This particular production is unique to Woolly

Leonard Sikes: Okay.

Kristin Jackson: But essentially what the play is about is three young people, from sort of the inner city and they are trying to sort of grapple with these questions of race, and sexuality, family, and you know, what are the families that you’re born into versus the families that you create, and one of the sort of big inciting events in this play is that Large, one of the characters, ends up incarcerated, and when he returns home, he’s sort of having to deal with these challenges of, you know, how he’s changed following his incarceration and how to sort of reintegrate back into the life he had before.

Leonard Sikes: Which is always difficult, and that’s one of the reasons that we have Teresa here, Teresa Hodge, founder and director of innovation and strategy for mission launch. Teresa, you’ve been caught up in the criminal justice system before.

Teresa Hodge: I have. I actually served a 70-month federal prison sentence.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Teresa Hodge: I was at Alder’s in West Virginia, little bit different than the character, because based upon how the story looks, I previewed it, it appears that he probably went to state prison and I went to federal prison.

Leonard Sikes: Right.

Teresa Hodge: And there is a difference between the two.

Leonard Sikes: Well, we should clarify for everybody throughout the country that’s listening to this that since the reorganization act in 2000 in Washington DC, you can violate DC code here in the District of Columbia, the nation’s capital, but you are sent to a federal prison.

Teresa Hodge: Right.

Leonard Sikes: So most people, you’re right, the vast majority of people who are incarcerated in the country go to state prison, so you went to a federal prison.

Teresa Hodge: I went to a federal prison, I’m actually a Maryland resident and so my case was a Maryland case but it was also a federal case.

Leonard Sikes: Okay, and so what is your connection to this play, Lights Rise On Grace?

Teresa Hodge: On tomorrow evening, I will be moderating a panel discussion. We will have, with me, there will be four other people who’ve been to prison, and after the play we’re going to discuss the realities of going to prison, and just maybe answer some of the questions that the audience might have as it relates to, was this, you know some of the scenarios that came forth on stage, how real is that?

Leonard Sikes: Why is it important that the arts community address the issue of people coming out of the prison system? Everybody has their own perspective, I bet. I could talk to cops, I could talk to people at corrections, I could talk to politicians, I could talk to community members, I could talk to people caught up in the criminal justice system themselves, and everybody’s going to bring a different perspective to the issue of people coming out of the prison system. What does the arts community bring to this discussion that’s new and unique?

Kristin Jackson: Well, part of what I think the arts community brings to this discussion, and part of what I know Woolly Mammoth tries to bring to this discussion is ensuring that there are folks coming to see the show, for whom these issues and these stories are either personally, or professionally, meaningful.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Kristin Jackson: And, we use our stories to really sort of open the hearts of folks, and I think that through the work that we do both on stage and also in fostering dialogue, what we hope, what we call sort of “explosive engagement,” that we are able to create understanding, we are able to foster community, and we’re able to change people’s hearts in a way that may not otherwise be possible.

Leonard Sikes: One of the interesting things about doing this show is I talk to lots of people who were once caught up in the criminal justice system, and these are people who step out of the norm. They create their own businesses, they create their own podcasts, they create their own manuals, they do community/public speaking, and I have to remind myself from time to time that’s one-tenth of one percent of the seven-hundred thousand people coming out of the prison system. The overwhelming majority of the people coming out of the prison systems every year throughout the United States have no voice. So, I would imagine, this brings an issue that most people feel uncomfortable about talking about, correct?

Justin McCarthy: Right.

Teresa Hodge: I definitely … one of the reasons why I do what I do, I am a person who advocates and I speak because I wanna show what prison looks like, and it doesn’t always look like what we think. So, I think that’s very important that we began to humanize who’s going into prison and who’s coming home. It is a very tough topic, people, it makes you uncomfortable, and it’s a complicated and complex topic, and there’s many paths that take people to prison.

Leonard Sikes: Right.

Teresa Hodge: So it’s important that we understand all the various paths that are going to be necessary for people when they come home from prison as well.

Leonard Sikes: But you, and the arts community ends up through either photography or video, or in terms of this particular play, Lights Rise On Grace, you provide a voice to people who essentially see themselves as voiceless. You provide a conduit to have a discussion that most people don’t really care about. The only thing that they hear about people caught up in the criminal justice system is what they hear on the evening news, what they see on local television, what they read about in the newspaper that ex-offender does something horrendous and goes back to prison for another 20-25 years. That’s their impression of people caught up in the criminal justice system. You’re trying to humanize what that process is and who these people are, correct?

Teresa Hodge: Yes, well, that’s probably …

Justin McCarthy: No that’s great, that’s very eloquently put. I think the important thing about art is addressing these issues, that, you know, I mean it certainly works the way that Kristin and Teresa put it. It certainly is wonderful for people who deal everyday with these issues.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Justin McCarthy: But, on the other side of the coin for people that are just interested in seeing a play, they’ll find that they’ll be engaging with these issues too. So we always say the most important part of our work, it doesn’t happen on stage, it happens before the show and after the show, when audience members are talking about the issues that we’re addressing on stage.

Leonard Sikes: It’s one of the reasons why Teresa, you’re going to be leading that larger discussion with people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, so they have the context of the play and they have the context of the people actually being caught up in the system.

Teresa Hodge: Absolutely. The individuals that will be coming to speak with us have been home for as little as six months, to six years, and so many of them are still facing some of the challenges of employment, of housing, a lot of them have been successful in getting back on their feet. But they’re going to be able to share what it’s like being in prison, but then also the challenges of coming home. Most people who come home from prison say coming home from prison is much harder than being in prison.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Kristin Jackson: One thing I also wanted to add, that Teresa and mission launch were very, sort of vital in helping us develop. It was part of our lobby experience for the show.

Leonard Sikes: Oh, tell me about that.

Kristin Jackson: Woolly does something pretty unique in that we have these interactive lobby experiences that help, sort of illuminate either the content, or the form, or the issues that are embedded in our plays. One of the things we did for Lights Rise On Grace was a sort of life-sized re-entry game board, where our audience members are able to go through some the, sort of, challenges and some of the, I guess you could say victories that we see that returning citizens are experiencing. So they are literally in this sort of fun and playful way, both learning about these experiences in a very personal way, and helping them to make those connections.

Leonard Sikes: But do you see the interesting aspect here in terms of the arts community, Comedy Central and Jon Stewart, so many millennials use that as their news source.

Justin McCarthy: Sure.

Leonard Sikes: I mean, they bring comedy, they use comedy as a conduit to talk about endless types of topics, and comedy brings a different perspective to it. Comedy brings a perspective that the average person, discussing whatever it is, simply wouldn’t bring up, they wouldn’t look at it that way, so you’re looking at it through new eyes, a fresh perspective. So I’m gonna go back to that question. What does the arts community, and what can the arts community, what do they do and what can they say to really drive home this point in a truly unique way? What is truly unique about this particular play and the arts community in terms of re-entry?

Justin McCarthy: What I will say is that, for Woolly in general, it’s really important to our artistic team that our shows be funny, and, you know, what that does is when you have sort of comedic elements, you know, in combination, in tandem with issues that are sort of difficult to discuss, it makes it easier to engage with, it provides a sort of humanizing element in a kind of … it makes it easier to connect.

Leonard Sikes: And you can get away with much more than you can in a straight discussion …

Justin McCarthy: That’s right.

Leonard Sikes: On the issue. I mean, I’ve been interviewed by dozens and dozens of radio talk shows, and so I have to represent a particular point of view, but with the arts community you’re free to say whatever it is that you want. So what is it that you wanna say that is not being said by those of us in the criminal justice system? Teresa, I’m gonna put that in your lap.

Teresa Hodge: Well I think, after watching this play, I think that the audience will walk away feeling like, this could’ve happened to me. It was just a very relatable moment.

Leonard Sikes: A shared experience.

Teresa Hodge: Extremely shared experience.

Leonard Sikes: Okay.

Teresa Hodge: So, I think that makes it a little bit easier for people to understand prison, prison re-entry, when you understand that, what took place, and I don’t wanna give a whole spoiler alert on the play itself, but when you actually consider the path that led this person to prison, it was a relatively easy path, and the court system didn’t take into consideration the history of his family and some other circumstances that kind of led him there. I think people will walk away thinking about this long after they’ve viewed the play itself.

Leonard Sikes: So it’s something that’s gonna stick around, it’s something that’s going to create a cathartic moment for them possibly

Teresa Hodge: Possibly.

Leonard Sikes: Something that they’re willing to discuss with their friends and neighbors, so it transcends just the audience, it goes way beyond that.

Teresa Hodge: Right and I think the next time you pick up the newspaper, or you look at the news, you’ll think about it.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and it may be, that’s the most important thing. If our only reference is what we’re seeing on television, if that’s our only reference to quote on quote “criminals,” people caught up in the criminal justice system, this is a new and fresh perspective.

Teresa Hodge: Absolutely. What I often talk to people, and I tell them what I do with Mission Launch, I’m amazed that they talk about ‘those people.’ They don’t think I’m one of those people when they’re talking to me.

Leonard Sikes: Right.

Teresa Hodge: Then after, I let them go on and then I’ll say well, I’m actually one of the people I’m talking about, and so I think it’s just really important. I’m excited that we were invited to be able to bring five people who’ve been to prison so that the audience will not only get to see the actors, but they will actually be able to interact with five individuals who, I’m confident, if they walked down the street they wouldn’t have known.

Leonard Sikes: We’re halfway through the program, a really interesting discussion on prison re-entry and the arts community. Before our microphones today is Kristin Jackson, she is the connectivity director for the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. We have Teresa Hodge, she is founder and director of innovation and strategy for Mission Launch, and Justin McCarthy, the communications coordinator for Woolly Mammoth. We’re talking about the play Lights Rise On Grace, running now at Woolly Mammoth to April 26th, and let’s see if I can stumble through the website without screwing this up: www.woolymammoth.net, you’re shaking your heads?

Justin McCarthy: It’s almost … the two O’s and the to L’s is, it’s tough.

Leonard Sikes: Oh! Goodness gracious, www.woollymammoth.net.

Justin McCarthy: I work there and I mess it up every day.

Leonard Sikes: Just search for Woolly Mammoth, ladies and gentlemen, Woolly Mammoth and Washington DC. How many Woolly Mammoth’s can there be?

Justin McCarthy: Right. We’re the only one.

Leonard Sikes: I have this group in New York that said Leonard, you can’t pronounce a name to save your life. Now they’re gonna say you can’t give out a website address to save your life.

Justin McCarthy: This is hard, you know, those to O’s and those two L’s …

Leonard Sikes: Oh, Lord. Okay, I don’t think I’m getting, I think I’m getting very controlled answers from the three of you in terms of what the arts community can provide to this. When I sit down and talk with people caught up in the criminal justice system before these microphones, as I said before hitting the record button, the best shows are always after I stop it, and then they let loose with all of this emotion about how people just don’t get it when it comes to people coming out of the prison system, what it means for them, what it means for their kids. You take a look at some stats, and one out of every thirty people is currently, you’re gonna come into contact with, is currently involved in the criminal justice system and if you expound upon that people who have been arrested and people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system before, certainly criminologists have said one out of twenty.

So, you’re interacting every single day with people caught up in the criminal justice system. So what does that mean to the arts community to have so many people caught up in the criminal justice system interacting with us, our family, our kids, every single day? What does the arts community have to say to that?

Teresa Hodge: Well I think this is a right-now topic. Prison is an important topic, it’s a very expensive topic to our communities, and I think it’s one of those, people suffer in silence. Nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to say, “I have a family member in prison, I have a son in prison, I have a daughter in prison.” But what I’ve discovered is, when I reveal that I’ve been to prison, everybody lets me know about their secrets to.

Leonard Sikes: There we go. So many of us know people in our family, in our friends, that have been caught up in the criminal justice system, it’s not all that unusual.

Teresa Hodge: Absolutely. I said, in the theater last week, and so there was a hundred plus people there, if the statistics were right, five people had probably been to prison.

Leonard Sikes: Oh, probably more than that out of the hundred, caught up in the criminal justice system. The theater has led the discussion in terms of gay rights, the theater has led the discussion and the arts community has led the discussion in terms of rights for women, rights for African Americans, rights for just about every group that has marginalized within the country, so the theater community has had that powerful voice over the sense of decades and has contributed mightily to the discussion of issues that people find a hard time discussing. So, as you said, Justin, you bring a sense of humor to it and that allows you to talk about things that are ordinarily uncomfortable.

Justin McCarthy: I think so. It sort of lets people have these moments where they say, “Okay, it’s not just me and criminals,” you know, it allows for this space of connection that you don’t see, and especially with an issue like this where it’s sort of socially, I mean it’s not something that you discuss if you’re someone who’s affected by it. We’re kind of opening the door to that discussion, and it’s something that we try to do in our shows, which we don’t just produce to entertain people, we’re trying to sort of model a form of civic discourse with what we do, and particularly with our plays that address issues like this, like incarceration and re-entry.

Leonard Sikes: One of the things that Kristin said is that it is a topic that is emerging as a point of discussion, it is a topic that more people are feeling more comfortable talking about, simply because governor’s in every state in this country have taken a look at their overall budgets and said what percentage goes into corrections, and can we have an impact on that? People from both the right and left end of the spectrum are now supporting a discussion and alternatives to incarceration, and a different way of doing things. So this is a discussion that’s building momentum, but yet the average person out there is not like, “Well, gee how did the national’s do last night, what do you think the weather’s going to be like tomorrow, by the way how’s your son in prison?”

Teresa Hodge: Yeah, that’s not usually what follows how the nationals were doing that’s for sure.

Leonard Sikes: Yes. But I mean, do you understand?

Teresa Hodge: Absolutely.

Leonard Sikes: As you just said, Kristin, a little while ago, this is a conversation that a lot of people feel uncomfortable with because they’re not quite sure who those people in prison are. They see, the average person sees themselves as completely separate from those people locked up. They don’t see any connection at all to those individuals, and we’re talking about 1.5 million people it prison, another 500,000 in jail, so we’re talking about two million people who are behind bars today, and we’re also talking about another five million who are under community supervision today, so we’re talking about seven million human beings today. A snapshot in time, with about 600-700 thousand coming out of prison every year, many more than that coming our of the jail system. So, you’re talking about just an enormous amount of human beings.

Justin McCarthy: That’s correct.

Leonard Sikes: Now, it seems like it’s an appropriate time for the arts community to get involved in this and lead this discussion as the arts community has led discussions in other difficult topics throughout the years, correct?

Kristin Jackson: Absolutely. I mean, we believe in theater as a tool for social change, theater as a site for examining and understanding everyday life. We, you know, we believe that the theater can serve as a model for the sort of participatory, creative, democratic society that we want, and that we aspire to.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Kristin Jackson: So, I certainly believe that, as arts leaders, as arts makers, it is our responsibility to, you know, use the platforms that we have and work with our partners who are, you know, carrying, who are engaged in the fight already, and find ways to use these different sites that we have access to in order to, you know, bring folks together and change their way of thinking. I mean, being here in Washington DC, like that is an incredible opportunity, because, you know, Woolly Mammoth, we welcome folks from all sides of the political spectrum.

Leonard Sikes: Sure.

Kristin Jackson: And, I think that by providing the opportunity for these really diverse audiences to get together, and to hear from folks who are passionate about these issues and really think about their own positions, it’s a phenomenal opportunity and it’s what drives us, I think, as a theater company to do the work that we do.

Leonard Sikes: You know who I think does a wonderful job in terms of social change in the arts?

Kristin Jackson: Hm?

Leonard Sikes: Chris Rock.

Teresa Hodge: Yes.

Justin McCarthy: I agree.

Leonard Sikes: I love watching his concerts because he’ll get involved in issues all over the spectrum, issues that make you laugh and issues that make you feel terribly uncomfortable, but issues that make you think: “Wait a minute,” he may have a point here, and so I think that’s what the arts community does. You all have leverage that the rest of us, in government and, we have to be so careful and we have to be so diplomatic, and the arts community is just out there saying, “Look, this is something that you need to look at.” Lights Rise On Grace, I would imagine, would be that sort of play. Something that people really need to look at but at the same time enjoy themselves in terms of the experience.

Justin McCarthy: It is. It is, and you’ll see these, sort of, humorous relatable elements happening alongside these really kind of dangerous and scary moments in the play. I’m thinking of one in particular, when the character who becomes incarcerated, the first person who becomes incarcerated that the audience encounters, he meets someone in his first few days in prison who’s been in the prison for long time, and their first interaction is so very funny and comic, because it’s just the awkwardness of two people meeting for the first time, but of course it’s prison so there’s also like the threat of violence and this awful kind of context hanging over it. So you can look at it in sort of one of two ways, you know, but of course the audience ends up laughing along because it’s something that’s relatable and …

Leonard Sikes: Sure.

Justin McCarthy: Something you can kind of understand, but all of a sudden these two people aren’t just like criminals that have no connection to you, they’re people just like you and so it’s this incredible moment and the play is full of moments just like that.

Leonard Sikes: Teresa, as somebody who’s been caught up in the criminal justice system, what is it that people need to understand about people caught up in the criminal justice system that they just need to understand, it’s something that they don’t think of on a day-to-day basis, they need to understand it, what do they need to understand?

Teresa Hodge: I think that first, we just need to understand that they’re people, and I think that right across the board that’s just an important piece. There are individuals who maybe made a mistake and their worst moment was put on trial, and going to prison is very scary for the person, it’s often traumatizing for the person to be in prison, to be away from their family, to be kept away from society, to be kept away from technology.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Teresa Hodge: It is incredibly difficult to come home from prison when we live in such a technology-savvy age, and every three months, technology is doing something new and different. I think that we have to be patient, and we have to try to find creative ways to engage people because it’s very expensive for people to come home and get back on their feet. I’ve found very few people who were sitting in prison wondering when they were gonna come back to prison, but yet I’m always baffled by the number of, for me, women who I engaged and encountered while I was in prison who had real strong dreams and hopes for their future, and six months later I find out that they’re back in prison.

Leonard Sikes: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Teresa Hodge: It makes me stop and wonder what happened. Where did a system break down? Where were they unable to latch to a community, and how were they unable to kind of attach to that last good thought that they had, which was in prison?

Leonard Sikes: I can’t imagine a more complex set of human emotions, when you do come out of the prison system because women have kids that they wanna reunite with, you have a drug habit that you’ve got to conquer, many people caught up in the criminal justice system have mental health problems, they have to come out and find work and yet people turn them down because of their criminal histories. You have the stereotype, I mean if a person comes back and says, “Hi, I’ve spent the last five years in prison,” you know, what does that mean to the social circle and, does that repulse does that intrigue people? I mean, these are just incredible human dimensions that just crash out of these six or seven hundred thousand people on a year-to-year basis when they come out of that prison system. The emotions are raw, the issues are real.

Justin McCarthy: Oh, absolutely, and you’re seeing, what you’re talking about, Len, is all of these, just this incredible, you know, laundry list of difficulties and challenges that are facing re-entering citizens.

Leonard Sikes: And I sometimes wonder, with all of the things that people have to deal with when they come out of the prison system, I mean, I have a women offender sitting by these microphones basically saying it is almost impossible to do what everybody wants me to do, it is almost impossible to succeed, and sometimes they get the sense that we stack the cards tremendously, which is one of the reasons why Lights On Grace that is running now, through Woolly Mammoth here at Washington DC, running now through April 26th, become such an important point and I’m glad we’ve had this possibility, this opportunity to discuss the play, and discuss Woolly Mammoth, and discuss re-entry. By our microphones today has been Kristin Jackson, she is connectivity director for the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. Teresa Hodge, founder and director of innovation and strategy for Mission Launch, and Justin McCarthy, he is communications coordinator for, again, for Woolly Mammoth, I wanna try this one more time: ww – Just, go ahead and Google Woolly Mammoth and DC. www.woollymammoth.net. I got it right for the first time at the end of the program.

Justin McCarthy: Nailed it.

Leonard Sikes: Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety, we appreciate your comments, we even appreciate you criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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The Task Force on 21st Century Policing

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/03/presidents-task-force-on-21st-century-policing-laurie-robinson/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. The title of today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Our guest, back at our microphones, Laurie Robinson. Laurie, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Laurie: Hello, Leonard, and happy to be here.

Leonard: I am going to read an introduction about Laurie. Laurie is a George Mason University professor. She was named Co-Chair to the President’s Policing Task Force or The Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The new task force is part of the White House’s response to the ongoing turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities. Robinson is Co-Chair of the task force with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Charles is a former Chief of Police here in Washington DC.

The White House said that the goals were to include new ways to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. The task force was asked to prepare a report within 90 days, which has been done. Robinson was twice appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs first by President Bill Clinton and then by President Obama. She is the longest-serving agency heads in its 45-year history of.

Laurie, I want to start off the topics. Do you have one sentence that you bring to mind as to the 80-page report, because it’s very comprehensive and involves a lot of implications for the criminal justice system?

Laurie: Yes, Len, I would say, I would sum it up as follows that every citizen and every community should be treated by the police respectfully and fairly, and then at the same time we need to recognize that law enforcement officers have very tough and very risky jobs. I think together that really sums up what we found and recommended in this report.

Leonard: It’s been called the most challenging job in America, American policing. I can’t imagine … I was a police officer for six years. I can’t imagine a tougher job, especially today.

Laurie: Right. We heard from over 120 witnesses, and got many submissions of testimony beyond that, and we heard both from community members and from a number of people in law enforcement and other citizens and professionals beyond that, and that really supports what you’re saying.

Leonard: It is extraordinarily tough. I am going to summarize the 80 pages. This is my summation, not yours. Here is what I got out of the report. Building trust between law enforcement agencies and officers and communities, real emphasis on data collection, a discussion of alternatives to arrest, improving police training, improving police communications, especially as it pertains to social media, but I think it goes far beyond that, and the best use of technology. Did I do a good job summarizing the report?

Laurie: Well, you’ve certainly kind of boiled it down to a very few sentences. Let me emphasize some of those things and kind of expand a little bit beyond that. Certainly, it does talk about the need to build community trust. We talked about, as I mentioned before, fair, impartial, and respectful policing. We talk about the notion of procedural justice as an important issue of ensuring that people are fairly and impartially treated, and the notion of law enforcement adopting, what we call, the guardian mindset rather than a warrior mindset, as a notion of protecting the community.

In the area of better data that’s something that we thought was really important, and that there is an important federal role here as well. So better data, for example, on the use of force, on officer involved shootings, on deaths in custody, on diversity of departments. Now, the Bureau of Justice statistics has gathered data on kind of the makeup of departments over the years, but it’s very incomplete.

Part of that reason, Len, is that many of the departments in this country, as you know, are very small. About half of the 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in this country have fewer than 10 sworn officers. Obviously, those small departments don’t have a data collection department within them, and it’s hard for them to regularly collect data and submit it to the federal government. But we think there has to be a better effort made to collect data.

In the data arena, we think it’s very important as well for local departments to survey their communities annually to get a feel for how the community feels about the department. Now, turning to some other areas, training you mentioned.

Leonard: Yes.

Laurie: We do feel that training is a very, very important area, both for new recruits and also for existing officers. There are number of areas where we suggest that training is particularly important. One area for example is on handling the mentally ill.

Leonard: Which is a little bit tough to do.

Laurie: Very tough. And yet, there’s been training developed, what’s called Crisis Intervention Training, CIT, and a number of departments have already instituted that kind of training. But oftentimes it’s for a specialized unit and we recommend that every officer receive this kind of training because you never know when you’re going to need that, when you are going to encounter someone who may have those kind of mental difficulties.

A number of the incidents that have occurred around the country that have tragically escalated into an event with a shooting or some kind of injury, have involved individuals with mental illness. Having officers better equipped with information about how to de-escalate those events in a circumstance where nobody is in danger of immediate injury or bystanders, would be very valuable.

Leonard: It’s interesting that crime is going down over the course of the last 20, 22 years, but the incidents of amount of contact with people who have mental health history seems to be increasing not decreasing. Here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, those people diagnosed as having mental health issues and our response to it has certainly grown over the course of years. It just seems to be interesting how crime has had almost a continual decline over the last 22, 23 years, there have been … it’s every once in a while in terms of going back up, but how we are encountering more people with mental health problems?

Laurie: Right. I think we can attribute some of that to the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill over the last decade. Of course, we know that the criminal justice system has been the recipient of those individuals in many cases. Many of the mentally ill, of course, are homeless and encounter police and then the jail system and so on.

We also think the training on procedural justice, as we talked about a minute ago, is important, and also more generally on de-escalation of incidents. But one of the things, Len, that’s very interesting is that there is not much research available, we learned, on what kind of training works best. We urge that the federal government’s National Institute of Justice or elsewhere, invest more money in research to learn what kind of training for police is most effective, whether it’s scenario-based training or otherwise.

We’ve also recommended that the federal government develop and support some kind of postgraduate Institute of Policing for senior executives to educate upcoming police leaders from across the country as we are heading into the 21st century. That’s perhaps is somewhat like what Great Britain has.

They have a National College of Policing for upcoming police leaders, and something like that could be very helpful in kind of training the next generation of leaders in this country.

Leonard: But as you said 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, most of them small, it becomes an almost impossible task to try to set up some sort of comprehensive standards when you’ve got 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, as you mentioned before, we hit the record button. We’re not a European country, we’re not a unified system. It’s just almost impossible to get the word down to these 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies.

We do have police in correctional training commissions in every state, and I would imagine it’s their responsibility. But this is almost unbelievably difficult task that we’re talking about.

Laurie: I think that one of the great allies in this will be the professional associations, looking to groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Sheriffs, potentially the police unions, and also the Major City Chiefs, the Major County Sheriffs, and Police Executive Research Forum, PERF and others. I know the International Association of Chiefs of Police has held a seminar, or a webinar rather, recently to talk to their members about the White House report.

PERF has sent a copy of this to all of its members, I believe. Major City Chiefs has as well. Groups like IACP and the others are very tied to their member organizations, their member association of membership. Having peers working with peers, I think to educate them about recommendations in the report to have them involved in training of their members is one key or route to helping change the curve.

Leonard: I am going to read a quick passage from the beginning of the report. This is an incomplete passage. It became very clear that it’s time for a comprehensive and multifaceted examination of all interrelated parts of the criminal justice system. Within your report, you’re just not talking necessarily about law enforcement. You’re talking about the entire criminal justice system, because if memory serves me correctly, within the Ferguson situation a lot of the complaints were not just about law enforcement, but they were about courts, they were about fines, they were talking about the criminal justice system, in general.

Laurie: One of the things that did become clear, Len, during the course of our hearings, was that while the police are the faith of the criminal justice system to most citizens, that obviously the police are not responsible for, let’s say, the drug laws, or the length of prison sentences, and yet many citizens blame the police for things that they’re unhappy about with regard to the criminal justice system.

Oftentimes, I think the police may get unfairly blamed for things that, of course, they are not responsible for.

Leonard: Go ahead, please.

Laurie: The first recommendation, the very first recommendation in our report is that the President appoint a broader task force to look at the entire criminal justice system and look at the whole set of issues involved with crime and criminal justice, not just the system itself, but kind of harms and crimes, and how these broader issues should and can be addressed in our country.

Leonard: Recommendation number one, National Crime and Criminal Justice Task Force making recommendations on comprehensive criminal justice reforms. You see your 90-day report and your hearings throughout the country on 21st century policing and the problems that we’ve been having within communities, you see this as the springboard for a much larger discussion on the entire criminal justice system.

Laurie: Right. There is right now, as you know, a great deal of interest in criminal justice reform, on both sides of the aisle, if you will, both conservatives and liberals in Congress is an example and in state legislatures right now interested on, again both Republicans and Democrats, in looking at issues like sentencing reform, looking at drug issues, looking at mandatory minimum sentences anew. It’s a prime time to re-examine, as a society, how we’re approaching these issues, and it’s not a one-sided interest. It’s from many different viewpoints.

We thought it’s not that our recommendations should be ignored until that’s done because that probably would take a year and a half or so. But it’s definitely something that needs attention.

Leonard: We’ve had two previously, during my lifetime, President’s task force on crime and justice back in the 1960s, which propelled me into the criminal justice system by the way, and then we had another one. We don’t have these large task forces that often. It seems that now is a time to look at fundamental change within the criminal justice system once again. I wanted to make that point that these task forces that you’re recommending really don’t come along all that often.

Every once in a while we need to rethink what we’re doing, have a national conversation and rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing. That said, what you’re basically saying is now is the time for another conversation.

Laurie: That’s absolutely correct. The 1960s Lyndon Johnson Crime Commission, which by the way I teach to my students about that at George Mason University now, had remarkable impact on the field, on the criminal justice field, as you know. It helped to professionalize police; it helped to build a criminal justice education in the whole area of criminology. It instituted the 911 system, which did not exist before. It led to the creation of regional crime labs, many, many things in our area.

Leonard: I went to college, after I was a police office based upon those grants.

Laurie: Absolute, the LEEP grants. It led to the creation of the Law Enforcement Assistance administration, as you know, LEAA, and the successor agency, OJP, which I headed. It is time for another commission or task force of that kind, and so as I said that was our first recommendation in the report.

Leonard: We’re more than halfway through the program. Laurie Robinson is back at our microphone. She is a George Mason professor, University professor. She was named Co-Chair to the President’s Policing Task Force of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing with Charles Ramsey, the Philadelphia Chief of Police. I’m delighted to have Laurie back as one of the true representatives at the national level for the criminal justice system again.

She was the longest-serving head of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice in its history. Every time Laurie goes off to do something else like teach, we in Washington fall right back into the middle of a firestorm. Al right, let me get around [inaudible 00:17:11] conversations that I’ve been having with law enforcement officers.

There is a sense of confusion on the part of folks in law enforcement, who said for decades now we’ve been browbeaten with the New York City miracle, with the broken windows philosophy, with aggressive policing, because when I was a younger police officer, we were taught not to make all these arrests. We were taught only to bring in really good cases to courts, really good, either traffic stops, or really good criminal arrest, and be available for the calls as they came in, and to interact with the community.

Suddenly, over the point of decades, because crime plummeted in New York City through very aggressive policing and then that was exported to the rest of the country. I must’ve read hundreds of articles about aggressive policing, aggressive traffic stops, aggressive stops of people in the community as long as you have a legal right to stop that individual.

Now the cops are basically saying, hey, Leonard, we’re little confused. We’ve been schooled for decades about aggressive policing, and now maybe we’re supposed to draw back. Can you help them figure this out?

Laurie: Well, I think that what we’re seeing is that aggressive crime-fighting strategies need to be balanced with an understanding of what I said toward the beginning of the program about a guardian mindset. That is not all about being a warrior mindset, but a guardian mindset. By the way, one of the recommendations we have is that, any research that’s being done henceforth to evaluate crime-fighting strategies needs to not only look at the impact on reduction of crime, but needs to look at the collateral damage that has or can arise from those kind of aggressive crime-fighting strategies, collateral damage on community trust.

We’ve never looked at those kinds of things at least very rigorously. When we look at, oh, we’ve dropped crime in XYZ bill by X percent, but without looking at whether it’s eroded community trust. To those who are raising the question, do we need to reconsider, I’d say yes, we do need to reconsider. Because at the end of the day, when you’ve eroded community trust, you actually are eroding your ability to fight crime, because you need the community on board in order to reduce crime over time.

You and I talked before the show about difficulties in recruiting for police departments, and one thing we heard during our hearings was the difficulty some departments are encountering in recruiting among African-American populations in some cities, several of our witnesses said, well, you know it is hard to recruit among young men, young African-American men, in some of those neighborhoods, and what a surprise, she said, ironically, this one witness, when they are used to being treated not very kindly by lot of the police who are patrolling in those neighborhoods. It kind of goes hand in hand that you have to build respectful relationship and then you have people more on board, right.

Leonard: Absolutely, it’s crucial I think that we have to have the communities on board. The communities need to be partners with law enforcement, need to be partners with parole and probation, need to be partners with corrections. The community has to be on board or we’re never going to completely solve the crime problem that we have in the country.

The fact that we have a problem within our communities we need to examine that. I think it’s obvious from your report and I think we need to do a much better job of communicating and carrying out the will of the communities. The cops are, again, they are confused by all of this because they’re saying, Leonard, if you go to a community meeting, oftentimes you hear community members ask for aggressive policing in terms of a person who is bothering them, a person who’s keeping them up at night, kids hanging out in the street corner.

Again, they are saying, well, we do listen to the community, but when we do this, it becomes a problem. We have to have a way of figuring out. The communities got to communicate with the law enforcement. You in your report stressed that there are community responsibilities as well.

Laurie: Absolutely, yes. The community needs to, for example, work with law enforcement, serve on those community advisory boards of reach out and work with. We talk about the involvement of law enforcement in schools, but there also has to be community involvement in those schools, as an example.

Leonard: One person mentioned that there should be community leaders riding in police cars. There should be members of the clergy out there riding with police officers, community leaders riding with police officers, so they can see firsthand exactly what they have to experience. There’s a constant communication between the community and the individual law enforcement officers.

I think that in your report talking about the focus on community responsibility towards the problem, I think, is bringing a lot of people along, because on one side of the continuum there’s a lot of police officers who feel that they’re being unfairly maligned, and on the other side, they’re saying, but it’s just as much the community’s responsibility as it is our responsibility.

Laurie: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Leonard: Where do we go to from here in terms of bringing both parties together and making sure that law enforcement officers have the training, they have the equipment, they have the data, they have the level of sensitivity, they have alternatives to arrest that they are doing the proper job of communicating. This is going to involve a lot of money. It’s going to involve a lot of training, and it’s going to involve a lot of sensitivity.

We’re already taking the most difficult, and in some cases dangerous job in the United States and we’re making it even more complex. Police officers today need to go beyond the stereotypical enforcer to the ladies and gentlemen representing the community. That’s going to take almost a new philosophy and new training and a new kind of police officer.

Laurie: Well, one thing I want to emphasize is that a whole chapter in our report addresses officers safety and wellness. One of our key points was that procedural justice, that I talked about earlier, have to be applied internally within departments as well. There has to be procedural justice in disciplines proceedings for officers. There is a lot of stress for officers within their own departments and how they feel. Whether they feel they are being fairly treated.

Sometimes that stress can get taken outside the department in the way they might deal with citizens. They have to feel that they are being fairly treated. Generally, as we’ve been spoken about, these are very high stress jobs for them. Frequently, there are higher than normal levels of divorce, of alcohol use and sadly of suicide among officer ranks. So departments need to make officers’ safety and wellness a priority.

We recommend that the Justice Department continue to make officers’ safety and wellness a top priority for the Justice Department as well. By the way, sadly my Co-Chair Chuck Ramsey very recently lost an officer within his ranks as well. This is something that it can have a devastating impact on the departments. We recommended that every police officer in the United States have a bulletproof vest and that there be a mandatory wear policy for officers and also mandatory seatbelt wear policy.

Many of the deaths of police officers in this country come from auto accidents, not from a bullet. Because officers are so committed, they are racing to the scene of a crime and they don’t put on their seat belts. They have a lot of equipment on, you probably know this. It’s kind of cumbersome to put on the seat belt on.

Leonard: In the final analysis we all want the same thing. Community wants what police officers want, which is community safety. Everybody wants fair and respectful treatment, everybody wants everybody else to support them in a larger goal of a peaceful crime free community. In the final analysis, we all, whether we’re part of the criminal justice system, or part of the community, we all want this conversation.

I guess, there are a lot of police officers who are simply saying, folks make up your mind, what is it that you want us to do, what is it that you want us to be, and once we’ve agreed to that then let’s accomplish it.

Laurie: That’s exactly right. But I will tell you, one of the strong themes that I heard throughout these two months that we worked on this report, Americans are problem solvers. They are going to come together and work on this. I am an optimist and I think we are on the road to improvement in this area.

Leonard: Well, that’s the interesting thing because if we do, we take that first recommendation, the National Crime and Justice Task Force to make recommendations on Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform, we could, indeed, enter a new era in terms of not just how we conduct law enforcement, but how we conduct ourselves in the criminal justice system to make sure that everybody sees a sense of fairness in terms of how the criminal justice system is applied, and how the laws are applied, and would examine laws themselves as to whether or not they should be on the books, whether or not they need to be enforced or enforce as rigorously as they are.

Laurie: That’s correct and that gives me hope too that we’re heading toward a fairer and more respectful criminal justice system overall.

Leonard: Again in 45 years of being in the criminal justice system, and we’ll have just 30 seconds to respond to this before we wrap up. 45 years in the criminal justice system, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to sit down and have a conversation that’s probably overdue, probably needed. I think the average police officer desperately wants to serve the community and the average police officer desperately wants the community to see them as a participant in their best interest and not an occupying force. I think you’d agree with that.

Laurie: I’m a huge fan of law enforcement and I believe that those are their goals, and that we can achieve that kind of justice together.

Leonard: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had at our microphones, back at her microphones Laurie Robinson. She is a George University, a George Mason University professor who was in-charge of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, a longest-serving agency head in their 45-year history. She was appointed to the Task Force on 21st Century Policing by President Obama.

She served with again Charles Ramsey, Chief of Police in Philadelphia. Laurie, I commend both you and Charles Ramsey for a report that leads us into a much better direction ladies and gentlemen. This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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Prison Reentry From A Former Offender’s Perspective

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main page at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/10/prison-reentry-from-a-former-offenders-perspective/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones, Lamont Carey, LamontCarey.com. Lamont is one of the most interesting spokespeople for offender reentry, people coming out of prison. We’re titling today’s program Views on Prison Reentry: A Former Offender’s Perspective. Lamont Carey, welcome back to DC Pubic Safety.

Lamont: Thank you for having me.

Leonard: All right. The best programs we do are with Lamont. Now when you go to an event and Lamont is speaking at events, because Lamont is an author, he’s a trainer, Lamont is everything. He’s a filmmaker. There’s nothing that Lamont does not do, but the most interesting thing that Lamont does is he gets up and he gives these monologues on our understanding of crime in the criminal justice system. Lamont, I want you to start off the program with a one to two minute monologue so that people have an idea as to what it is that you do.

Lamont: All right. See when I walked out that gate, I looked straight, leaving prison behind me, leaving the streets behind me. But my mother always told me that my past would always find me. See I had been looking for a job for almost a year and wasn’t nobody hiring. I’m glad that they done banned the box, but it’s that empty block on my resume that seems to be whispering, “He done been to the penitentiary.” They told me to forget my past and change people, places and things if I really want to change. Now I’m in this new job interview not knowing what to say or what to do, so I say what I’ve been taught, that I’m a hard worker, that I’m a fast learner, that I’m a dependable. She leaned over and said, “Sir what does that mean because that ain’t what we’re looking for? We’re looking for somebody with expertise in sales.”

I smiled on the outside because on the inside I was screaming, “That’s the reason that I went to jail.” Once I was able to tell her what I knew about sales without actually telling her what I knew about sales, I got the job. See they say when things go wrong we revert back to what we know, but there’s some skills from my criminal past that are indeed transferable. iTunes. All that stuff you can get that, the whole copy.

Leonard: I do love that. I heard that live a couple weeks ago and i was just absolutely fascinated with it. You understand, after listening to that monologue how convincing Lamont is. A very eloquent spokesperson, and a very forthright and forceful spokesperson for the issue of reentry because we’ve done radio programs before where we’ve argued, we’ve yelled at each other. People just need to understand what it is about people caught up in the criminal justice system and what it is that we should be doing. Crime is rising in some cities throughout the United States. People are starting to get angry at the criminal justice system again, and what we’re saying is that if you supply the programs both in prison and outside of prison, and if you supply community support, we can dramatically reduce the amount of people who are going back to prison, dramatically reduce the amount of criminality that people get involved in and we have been saying that, I have been saying that for a quarter of a century.

Lamont: Preach.

Leonard: I’m not quite sure people get it. I’m not quite sure people listen to what I have to say. Maybe Lamont Carey, they listen to what you have to say. What is the message?

Lamont: You said it. When I hear criminal justice system, let me just be straight up, I hear the system. From my personal perspective, my community reflects all the images that I see of the criminal justice system.

Leonard: What does that mean?

Lamont: That means on the news when there’s a crime committed and the picture is flashed, ninety-nine percent of the times it’s an individual that looks like me, that comes from the community that I come from. Actually on my way here, I saw a video of a young black girl, African American girl in the classroom. I don’t know what the whole story is, but this police officer forced, she was sitting in the chair holding onto the chair as tight as she could, slammed the chair back, snatched her out of the chair and tossed her. This is a grown man. This is a young girl in school, and I can’t think where’s the justification in her being treated so harshly.

She didn’t have a weapon in her hand that she was brandishing at anybody. She was holding onto the desk. Those images are what I saw growing up on a consistent and constant basis, every time I saw the police they were taking somebody that I know, somebody that I love. For me, that created that gap, that divide between me and the police because I saw the police as a threat to my well being, and that is how I saw the criminal justice system and also I saw the criminal justice system, because again, I say the system, is when I was in school and I stayed back in Kindergarten. I don’t know how you stay back in Kindergarten when all you do is color and sleep, but I stayed back in Kindergarten and I stayed back in the first grade.

When I got passed on to these other grades, I knew that I wasn’t ready. Now I’m seeing statistics and hearing people say that they’re basing third grade test scores on how many prison beds that they will need in the future. The criminal justice system for me begins in my community, and if those statistics are what they’re using as fact, that mean that there is an opportunity for there to be an intervention in third grade if that is what’s leading to defining where they will end up with the rest of their life. Why aren’t we being proactive and putting money into programs? Not only money into programs, why aren’t we getting rid of teachers and curriculum that aren’t preparing out children to go to the next grade where they will be producing test scores that say they are going to prison?

Leonard: Okay, you’re bouncing all over the place. Number one, there’s a basic mistrust either in the poor African American community or other communities, white communities, Hispanic communities towards the criminal justice system. You’re probably going to suggest that it’s more pronounced within the African American community.

Lamont: No, I’m just speaking of from my perspective.

Leonard: From your perspective, that’s what I’m looking for. Number one, what I’m hearing is there’s mistrust of those of us within the criminal justice system.

Lamont: Right.

Leonard: In your mind there’s probably a pretty good reason for that mistrust.

Lamont: Right.

Leonard: From the very beginning in terms of the schools, the schools are improperly prepared to lift people up even those people who want to be lifted up?

Lamont: Right. To you it might seem that I’m bouncing all over the place but to me it says it’s connected. It’s based off those test scores and it defines who goes to prison and nobody is trying to stop that, so all of that is connected. It’s saying these young people will end up in the criminal justice system. If nobody is not interrupting that, then they’re embracing it.

Leonard: What you’re saying it’s preordained and it’s embraced by the large society?

Lamont: Yeah. How else could I read into that?

Leonard: Why would it be embraced by the larger society?

Lamont: If this is the truth and they’re not putting money there, they’re not switching out the curriculum or the teachers, then this has been accepted as the norm?

Leonard: Why?

Lamont: Why?

Leonard: Yeah.

Lamont: Why was it accepted as the norm? Well it may be I know I’ve been hearing, I haven’t actually seen them so it may not even be true that there are contracts with prison systems that’s guaranteed that a certain amount of bed space will be filled, so maybe this is a part of that process of making sure that the states meet those quotas so they won’t end up in court because they have guaranteed that these bed spaces will be filled.

Leonard: Your sense is that it’s all preordained for whatever reason, whether it be race, whether it be class, whether it be for whatever the reason is, it is preordained for young men and young women coming up in our society throughout the United States that they’re not going to do well in school and they’re going to end up in the criminal justice system.

Lamont: Right. My thinking is if it’s not embraced as this is the norm, then it must be embraced that there is something truly wrong with African Americans, right? That we’re going to commit crimes, that we’re going violate the law in some form or fashion that’s going to put us behind bars. That’s saying that we are born criminals and that’s impossible for it to be true. I know we come from situations, in my community I grew up that my father wasn’t allowed to live in my household for my mother to receive the Section 8 housing.

Leonard: Is it because he was caught up in the system?

Lamont: No. What I’m speaking of, again, when I hear criminal justice I hear the system. Internally that’s what it says to me. I’m just stating from my view as a young person growing up to now as an adult trying to understand all of my experiences as a young folk. If my father was hiding under the bed and jumping in the closet so he wouldn’t be found that he was in my mother’s home so she wouldn’t lose where she was living. One, it seemed like my father, for whatever reason, that he wasn’t able to have a job that he was able to pay the rent for the housing for us, whatever that reason was that he couldn’t do that, but now my mother has housing and apparently she was under an agreement that says, “If we provide housing for you and your kids, the man can’t be living here.”

Leonard: For what reason? Was he caught up in the criminal justice system?

Lamont: No, it was just public housing.

Leonard: It was just public housing?

Lamont: It was just public housing.

Leonard: It excluded your father because they didn’t want men?

Lamont: They didn’t want men.

Leonard: Oh wow.

Lamont: He could not live in a house with us. I know in D.C., because it wasn’t HUD. HUD said it wasn’t their policy, it was the policy of the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority in D.C. is re-looking at that and trying to bring families back together.

Leonard: The bottom line, what I’m hearing you say Lamont is that there is institutional bias towards people, towards themselves caught up in the criminal justice system, caught up in failing schools. They grow up a certain way viewing the criminal justice system a certain way, viewing society a certain way.

Lamont: Right.

Leonard: what does that mean? You grow up in tough schools, you grow up in tough communities, you grow up mistrusting the criminal justice system and all that means what?

Lamont: All that means, for me I felt isolated. I felt like that there wasn’t options for me, that I felt limited. Because I heard things like the school system isn’t preparing you for a future, the textbooks are old or the white man is not going to let you be nothing. This is what I heard verbally. Now I see on TV every year, every couple of months about how bad the inner city or the public school system is. Now it’s not something that I’m hearing verbally from people who have given up on life, but now it’s being broadcast and so it’s the same messages that’s being fed to our kids.

As a kid, growing up, I’m like, “All right, why should I go that route if they’re saying that route is a dead end.” I chose the streets.

Leonard: You’re not going to succeed anyway, so why not choose the streets?

Lamont: Right. How the streets seemed like an option, because those who chose the streets lived better than I did. I wanted to get out of this despair. People in my neighborhood, you can look in their eyes and see that they have given up, that they are completely hopeless. I didn’t want to be a drug addict. I didn’t want to be an alcoholic living on the corner. The drug dealers because the difference in my community. They had the cars, they had the money, they moved out of the community and it was accessible to me. I learned how to sell drugs playing in the yard.

Leonard: You understand that what you are describing, I’ll name the following five groups and there’s going to be somebody who will object because I have [inaudible 14:13]. You’re talking about Italian street corner gangs, you’re talking about Jewish street corner gangs, you’re talking about Greek street corner gangs.

Lamont: Right.

Leonard: You’re talking about just about any other group out there. Everything that you’re describing describes exactly all the other folks who got involved in the criminal justice system.

Lamont: Guess where I learned that out.

Leonard: Where?

Lamont: I learned that in prison.

Leonard: Tell me about that.

Lamont: I learned that each group has the same or similar issues as the African American communities deal with. Italians kill, rob, sell drugs to Italians. Asians do the same and vice versa. I’m only speaking from a perspective that I grew up in. I can’t talk about an Italian kid, how they grew up.

Leonard: I want to get back to that and I want to get around the criminal justice policy, but I still think that our program should be two hours long, not thirty minutes. It’s impossible. The discussion about all of this, Lamont Carey’s at our microphone. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, views on prison reentry from a former offender’s perspective. LamontCarey.com, L-A-M-O-N-T-C-A-R-E-Y dot com. It’s impossible to describe Lamont in terms of his public appearance, in terms of writing books, in terms of video, in terms of other projects that Lamont is involved in. It’s just a fascinating, fascinating person. LamontCarey.com, go to his website.

We have fifteen minutes left. In terms of criminal justice property, in terms of something that everybody else listening to this program right now needs to understand about the reentry process is what? Everything that you experienced as a child, put that off to the side for a second.

Lamont: And go to as an adult?

Leonard: What does the larger society need to understand, what does the larger society need to do to reduce crime, to reduce the amount of people going back to the prison system? Then reduce of our tax burden?

Lamont: Okay, so starting from inside of the criminal institution, starting inside of prisons. One of the things that was life changing for me is that I had access to education. With me saying that, the Pell grants are so important because …

Leonard: Federal funding for college programs.

Lamont: Federal funding for college, right. Having access to education broadened my worldview. As I said in the poem that I was reciting earlier, that people told us to change people, places and things if we really want to change. If I didn’t have access to education while in prison I would have came out worse than I went in. I wouldn’t have only grown as a criminal. Education combated that. Education when I was in business management, it taught me that I was a businessman, but I just had illegal product. All I had to do was change my product and the services that I offered. Without access to education, I wouldn’t have learned it. That is how I’m in front of you now with books out, with films and plays. Education helps change the way a man or a woman sees themselves, sees the world and it shows them what exists out there.

Leonard: Before prison, you said you viewed yourself in a certain way and you saw your future as hopeless. How did that change in terms of college programs in prison?

Lamont: I didn’t see myself as hopeless, I saw myself as finding a way out and that’s why I chose turn to selling drugs, even though it was the wrong choice. How did that help me in prison? It made sense of my life. It made me see that black people wasn’t the only people that existed in the world. There are black people that are successful, and if you figure out what you want out of life and you be determined enough to achieve it, having access to college in prison helped me create a roadmap to success. It taught me that I can take my life, package my life, which I have done because I don’t have a product or service. My business is created of me, of my experiences that I was able to turn into books and CDs to motivational speaking. That’s what college did for me. If not having access to college, I wouldn’t have know that I could do that.

The other thing that we need, having a job, having housing is phenomenal, but more than that we need goals. We need to be able to set life goals for ourselves. We need to be able to think, be able to make decisions that’s going to benefit our life. We need life skills that’s going to help us to confront and overcome those obstacles we’re going to face.

Leonard: You’re talking about fundamentally rearranging how people see themselves through education.

Lamont: Yes, and education somehow, whether that’s a trade or whether that’s just through education, because we work. What society doesn’t understand is that in prison you have two choices. You either work or you go to school. It’s not like we have never worked before. We get up every morning, probably depending on what your job is, and work just about seven days a week. We are accustomed to working. We are accustomed to being on time. I think we just need the opportunities and that the community as a whole, employers understand that there is some value. One, we have skills. We’re used to working, and that we have skills that we’re not even utilizing. One of the skills that have that I learned from the streets is that I learned I know marketing. I know customer service. I know branding. Those were skills that I learned from a criminal lifestyle. I figured out through college programs how to see that in a different light, see that in a positive light, and repackage that and turn it into a positive product or service.

Leonard: We cut the prison programs, we cut most of the prison college programs. President Obama is trying to re-institute them on a limited basis, on a trial basis, but we cut most of the programs that you find near and dear. Most prison systems throughout this country lack career programs, lack vocational training for all offenders. They have them but only a small percentage of the prison population can take advantage of them. Vocational training is not there as necessary. Educational training, substance abuse, mental health, all these programmatic activities, they exist in every prison in the United States but they only serve small numbers. Why is that? If you’re saying that that is the key, then why do so few prison inmates actually get to be involved in these sorts of efforts.

Lamont: In some institutions it depends on how much time you’re serving.

Leonard: Correct.

Lamont: Right?

Leonard: Right, if you’re a lifer you’re not going to get it. If you’re there for nine months, you’re not going to get it. But for the eighty percent left?

Lamont: My thinking is that everybody should have access to some form of program. It shouldn’t be voluntary, it should be mandatory. If you don’t have a high school diploma, like when I went to prison because I was a juvenile, because of federal laws or what have you, I had to go to school and get a GED. That was the eye opener for me. That’s what led to college. Because at first I didn’t think I was smart enough to be able to take tests to pass grades, but once I got the GED I was like, “Okay.”

Leonard: I want two quick answers from you. Why is there a lack of programs, and B, if we had the programs, what would be the impact? Would we reduce recidivism by fifty percent, sixty percent, twenty percent? Why don’t we have these programs?

Lamont: I think the institutions focuses on warehousing for the most part. It’s on warehousing and maybe the impression is that we don’t want to learn. I’ve went to a prison in North Carolina, they have no program. They don’t even have a law library. In my opinion, I believe that it will have a great impact on the recidivism rate if you have those kind of programs. Most of us don’t even know that we have mental issues. Today I know that I’m affected by my incarceration because if my wife open a door in the bedroom, I still pop up or my eyes pop open because it was a safety measure in there. Those are some things that could have been addressed beforehand. Me, you know me, man I’m writing a book on.

Leonard: Yes you are.

Lamont: How to identify institutional behavior and possible ways you can help them overcome it. I think having education and access to programming, it’s cool if they give us the programming and education, but society has to be willing to accept that we have this training and if they’re going to offer us programming in the institution, let us be certified in it.

Leonard: That’s the other part of it, the larger society has got to care about people coming out of the prison system. They’ve got to be personally invested for their own protection. I mean just in terms of …

Lamont: Of safety.

Leonard: … crime, just in terms of their own tax paid dollars. It is in our collective best interest to give a break, to have some degree of understanding the people coming out of the prison system.

Lamont: Let me tell you, when I felt like I was a part of the American dream, when I cast my first ballot. I think it’s important that individuals that return home from prison should be given their voting rights back because I had never paid attention to politics until I was in prison because it was on TV.

Leonard: how much of all of this is the individual person’s responsibility? Because people listening to this program are going to go, “Okay Lamont, fine. Programs fine, I’ll give you that. Acceptance, fine, I’ll give you that. How much of it is the responsibility of Lamont Carey and everybody else coming out of the prison system?”

Lamont: It as a huge responsibility of Lamont Carey, but you also got to look at in a lot of institutions it’s controlled by gang activity. Either you’re in a gang or you pray. I just always stood on my own, was willing to deal with whatever and learn how to navigate those systems. An individual who doesn’t have the same outlook on life and confidence in themselves going to end up in those gangs, but if you give them opportunities like education and job training, that’ll help combat some of that stuff that’s dealing with the gang and all of that, because if we don’t put programs and I’m trained as a gang member. Quickly, I ended up in the federal prison when they closed D.C. Prison Lawton down. Now I’m in there with cartel leaders that could easily say in conversations say, “Lamont, when you get home I’m going to make sure you’re all right. I’m going to supply you with a hundred kilos or a thousand kilos.”

Leonard: I’ll take care of you. You don’t have to worry about it.

Lamont: Right.

Leonard: Nobody else cares about you, we do.

Lamont: Right. Before I came to the federal prison, I didn’t have access to cartel leaders, but because I had access to education while I had access to cartel leaders, I chose to use the education that I got versus the opportunities that the cartel leaders were presenting me. That’s what’s important when you’re talking about reentry. Either we’re getting a good education or we’re getting an education that’s going to help teach us how to prey on the community. The majority of the individuals that I was incarcerated with, they want to come home and they want to be upstanding citizens. They don’t want to do wrong, but they come home and we hear all of these no’s. No to job, no to voting. We don’t have access to so much stuff.

Leonard, out of all the amazing things that I’ve done since I’ve been home, I still can’t go on a field trip with my son. That’s not allowing me to be a hundred percent father. I can’t go on a field trip, and I go in schools and I talk to kids about being at risk, ending up in a prison incarcerated, but I still can’t go and volunteer.

Leonard: Regardless of your success and your success has been profound, you are still an ex-con.

Lamont: Yes. I’m still an ex-con. I still can’t even get in the White House. I’ve been on programs and I can’t get in.

Leonard: There’s a bit of a contradiction there.

Lamont: Out of all the success that I’ve had, imagine somebody with no success. Can’t even participate in a field trip with their kid.

Leonard: I think the larger issue, I mean there are the Lamont Carey’s of the world that do extraordinary things. I’ve had dozens of them before these microphones, the other people like Lamont Carey, and there’s ninety-seven percent who are still struggling with the basics. You’re laying out the issues for all of them. It applies to everybody.

Lamont: My goal is to use myself and any other individual that came home and successfully transitioned to change the face of reentry. Because I think when people hear ex-con, they still see the image of who I used to be. They don’t see this individual that’s sitting across from you or this individual that was the lead in a production at the Kennedy Center last month. They don’t see that individual that can go into a company and teach companies employees on professional development.

Leonard: They just see your past.

Lamont: Right. As long as you see my past, you’re going to miss how extraordinary I am today, because that’s what I am Leonard.

Leonard: But it applies to other people as well.

Lamont: Right, because there are thousands of us.

Leonard: That’s your point. Is it the majority, is it twenty-five percent, is it fifty percent, is it seventy percent? What is it?

Lamont: I think depending on what community that you’re in, it’s a minimum of fifteen percent of the individuals come home and successfully transition. Then again, there are those of us who have jobs, that the employer told us, “Don’t let nobody know that you ever been to prison.” If you out there listening, I need for you to get on board to abandon the box, removing “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” from the job applications. Support getting the Pell grants back into the institutions.

Leonard: Always a very fascinating conversation Lamont Carey. Thank you very much for being here. LamontCarey.com. Ladies and gentlemen, DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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Women Offenders

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/02/programs-women-offenders-womens-reentry-forum-dc-february-14/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer, talking about women offenders. My agency, our agency, the court services and offender supervision agency reorganized around women offenders a couple years ago. We want to talk about that and talk about upcoming events, www.csosa.gov. Marcia Davis, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.

Marcia: Thank you, Leonard.

Leonard: Marcia, you’re a veteran of these radio shows. You pretty much know what to do. We’re going to be talking about women under supervision, talking about their social characteristics. First of all, in terms of some stats, we have close to 2,000 women under our supervision services, correct?

Marcia: Yes, Leonard. We currently have 1,963 women on supervision which is about 15.5 percent of our population.

Leonard: We did reorganize around women offenders a couple years ago. We have a lot of really interesting programs that focus on the needs of women, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: Before getting into that, I do want to remind everybody that the purpose of this program today is to support an event on Saturday, February 14th from 8:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. where we will have a daylong exhibition of services and issues and support services for our women under supervision. It’s one of the most extraordinarily interesting things that I’ve ever seen in my 45 years within the criminal justice system. We do want to talk about that in a while.

First, let’s get back over to what we do in terms of the reorganization. I mean, we have a re-entry and sanction center which is, I don’t know of any other parole and probation agency in the country that operate as a center. It’s huge. We have an entire floor for women. We have developed gender-specific teams for women because we recognize that women need to be supervised/assisted in ways different from men. We have, now, a day reporting center which I think is really unique where it’s just a women’s day reporting center. We have WICA, Women in Control Again, that program. We have expanded that. We have done a lot of things in between all of that. Marcia, where do you want to begin in terms of talking about the reorganization of our agency around women offenders?

Marcia: What our agency did was, they went back and they looked at the research. What the research shows is that when women are on supervision, if you want your women to be successful, it’s important that you create programs that are gender-specific to deal with the issues relative to your females.

Leonard: Is it a given that that women offenders are different from men?

Marcia: The issues that women face are different from men. When we look at the profile for the female offender, a lot of our women, victims of childhood sexual abuse, they have low education, they’re homeless, they have low employment. Due to that victimization from their childhood, a lot of them as adults are still involved in toxic relationships, their children have been removed, they carry a lot of guilt and shame. These are issues that most of our men don’t face.

Leonard: We know that women do better under these circumstances when it’s a gender-specific program than when it’s not a gender-specific program. I think it’s safe to say … I’m not quite sure if it’s safe to say. I’ve been told that most parole and probation agencies throughout the country have not gone to a gender-specific program. We, at the court services and offender supervision agency, have. That makes all the difference in the world, correct?

Marcia: Right. The reason we have done that is because CSOSA is evidence-based. We are an agency that uses evidence-base …

Leonard: Practices.

Marcia: Right. Practices.

Leonard: The best research. The best research that unless you break it down to services specifically designed for women, the women aren’t going to be that successful. If you do that, they’re going to be more successful.

Marcia: Right. We are seeing the success with the women that we are supervising now. We are seeing the successful outcomes.

Leonard: It’s really amazing to be that we haven’t done this decades ago. I mean, every state in the country is talking about how many people are in their prison system, how difficult it is, how much it cost. If we can stabilize individuals in the community and give them the services; the mental health substance abuse, the group services, you reunite them with their kids, find housing. If we can do all that, we can reduce the load on the prison system throughout the country, plus, make safer communities.

Marcia: That’s one thing. When we look at the prison system, we can see that the population of our female offenders is growing. When you look at the prison system, the research shows that in the year 2000, the female general population had the fastest growing rate in the correctional institution. The annual rate for females, it was an increase of 3.4 percent.

Leonard: I think it was 2010 data that you’re referring to. That’s fairly a recent data. It’s the fastest growing correctional population, what they were talking about that percentage of the jail population. More and more women are coming into the criminal justice system and that can be addressed by giving them the services they need while on community supervision.

Marcia: Right. To avoid going to the prison system.

Leonard: Tell me if I’m right or wrong, we’re taking a look at national data now. Women have higher rate of substance abuse, higher rates of mental health problems, and profoundly higher rates of being sexually victimized, particularly, when they were children. The women that we have to deal with, they come out of the prison system where they’re on probation and they have to deal with all of these issues. The fact that they don’t have, in most cases, a good work history. In most cases, they don’t have a GED or a high school diploma. They’ve been battered, they’ve been beaten, they’ve been bruised by life and by those around them. Considering that most of them have children and we have a general stat that says it’s 63 percent of the people that we have under supervision, our parents, but I think that figure would be much higher for just the women population, how did they possibly succeed if they have all that to deal with when they come out of the prison system, when they come out of jail or we get them on probation. When they’ve got all that against them, how can they possibly succeed?

Marcia: Tackling those issues one at a time. In the gender-specific unit, we have programs to address all of those factors. We have programs. We have the Women in Control Again program. That’s a program that deals with women who are early in recovery. In that program, they look at things such as the self, where you’re looking at your family history, you’re starting to look at the trauma that the women have suffered. We also talk about relationships in that program. They can look at the relationships that women have with their families, the relationships that they’ve had with their partners. We look at sexuality and we talk about spirituality. Also involved with the WICA program, we’ve added a new group which is a trauma group to address some of that past and present victimization that our women deal with.

We have a daily reporting center where we have a group called, thinking for a change which deals with anti-social behavior and it deals with anti-social thinking. We have a vocational and educational program where we can refer them for an assessment and for job placement assistance. Also, where they can go back to school and they can work on getting their GED or their high school diploma. We have substance abuse treatment. We can refer them to our re-entry sanction center, where we talked about earlier, where we have a floor that is dedicated to our females. At the re-entry sanction center, our population, they can get a thorough treatment assessment and they come out with a treatment plan for a continuum of care.

Leonard: That’s a lot of services that most parole and probation agencies do not have. Now, let me ask you this. Years ago, I ran a group for males. Men caught up in criminal justice system and the Maryland prison system. I’ve sat it on groups for men in our agency and I’ve sat in with the groups for women within our agency. The women’s groups are profound. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. This is why I always like to talk to women under supervision that come from these groups on this radio show which we’ve done about, maybe, up to 10 times. They are profoundly honest at a certain point. Once they set me into the group and once I listened to their interactions with each other, they are profoundly, brutally honest. To sit there amongst these 15, 20 women listening to them talk to each other about their lives and about what’s going on is just the experience of a lifetime. Tell me about the group interaction.

Marcia: That was another reason why we needed to have the gender-specific groups. Because in the past, we have the co-ed groups where the women were mixed with the men. If you was to sit in that group, you would notice that the women would sit quietly. It would be a totally different group. In the gender-specific group, the first thing we let the women know that this is a safe environment where you can share. One of the main rules is that, what is said in the group stays in the group. We make it a point that anything that’s said in the group has to remain in this room and it cannot leave the room, so that they can feel safe enough to share those past stories.

Leonard: Those past stories are brutal. To sit there and one woman, basically, is struggling with getting to her appointments on time. You hear the other women basically saying, “I don’t want to hear that. This is your shot. This is your one shot to get clean, to get right, to get your children back. You can’t come in here and tell us about how difficult it was for you to make your appointments.” I thought that that was amazing.

Marcia: Although it’s a lot being said in the group, it’s also a lot of strength in the group. The women can see the resiliency from the other women. They can see, “Well, wait a minute. If she has this tragic story to share and she’s making it, hey, I can make it too. She said she was someone who share that, hey, I may have been molested, I may have been sexually abused, I may have been physically abused when I was 8 or 10, but I’m putting all that stuff in the past and I’m going to continue on. I’m not going to let that hold me back anymore. I want to get my kids back. I want to get a job. I want to get my education. I want to get a home. I want to complete supervision successfully.” That strength, it helps the other women and then they build off for that and they help each other.

Leonard: Critics of supervision, not necessarily within our agency but supervision across the board throughout the country basically say, “Look, Leonard, you’re asking way too much of individuals coming out on a criminal justice system.” I mean, here, we’re asking them to deal with substance abuse, we’re asking them to deal with mental health, we’re asking them to deal with their profound histories of abuse, we’re asking them to reunite with their children, we’re asking them to find housing, we’re asking them to find employment. We’re asking it awful lot and the new people who come into the group are saying, “There’s no way I can do this,” and then they’re sitting with their counterparts who have experienced all of that themselves and they’re doing it. They sit there and watch a new person watch everybody else. You can see the spark going off in their head saying, “Well, she is no different from I am and she is doing it. Why can’t I do it?”

Marcia: They know each other from the communities. D.C. is a small area. Some know each other from the community. They have seen the struggle that some of the other participants have been through. To see them go through that transformation and to see the new person, that gives them hope to know that they can do it too.

Leonard: Most of the women that I’ve encountered in the system, tell me if I’m right or wrong, are not necessarily coming from backgrounds of violence. A lot of it is drugs, a lot of it is theft, a lot of it is prostitution, a lot of it is creating some sort of disturbance in the community. Am I right or wrong about that?

Marcia: You’re right about that. A lot of that comes from the victimization. The past victimization that was never dealt with.

Leonard: When I flip that switch in saying, a lot of it is dealing with the men who were in their lives. When I was with the Maryland correctional system, how many women did I talk to who, basically, were in there for fairly long stretch is, under the premise that this guy says, “If you don’t take these drugs down Interstate 95, I’m going to hurt you. I’m going to hurt your children.” If I’m being stereotypical or if I’m wrong, tell me. A lot of this is due to the dysfunctional men that they keep in their lives because of their background. Am I right?

Marcia: Right. That’s the continuation of the victimization. They’re continuing in these toxic relationships.

Leonard: If they got those services that were necessary, and I always ask you and whoever else I’m dealing with and in the women under supervision themselves, what percentage of women would not go back to the correctional system if these services were offered not just in Washington, D.C. but throughout the country. What’s your percentage; the most of them would succeed, 40 percent, 30 percent?

Marcia: I would say, maybe, 40 percent. That would be 40 percent.

Leonard: Yeah. That 40 percent would not go back. We have a national recidivism rate in this country of about 50 percent. You’re talking about 40 percent not going back. That’s a huge difference. In essence, we can do a much better job if we put those services on the table. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Marcia: Yes. That’s the bottom line.

Leonard: I do want to talk more about under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency but we’re more than halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guest today, Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer with our agency, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, www.csosa.gov is our website. On there, you will find the information about an event coming up February 14, 2015 at the Temple of Praise where we do a women’s re-entry symposium with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Success. It is an extraordinary event. The public is welcome. If you have an interest in this issue, we encourage your involvement. Also, we want to talk about our city-wide re-entry assembly where we celebrate the success of our faith-base mentors and that’s Thursday, February 19, 2015 at a brand new location, The Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Again, you can find out information about all of this on our website, www.csosa.gov.

Marcia, we have gender-specific teams, we have the day reporting center. How important was that day reporting center?

Marcia: The day reporting center is very important because this provides the outlet for our women during the day. We have programming through the day reporting center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It takes out a large chunk of the day for our female offenders. It gives them somewhere that they can go. They can be safe, they can discuss their issues, they can get the services that they need. Throughout the reporting center, we provide vocational services where they can go for their GED assessment, they can go for job placement assistance. We have Thinking for a Change program. That’s the program that deals with anti-social behavior and anti-social thinking. We have a relationship group in the program …

Leonard: That’s important.

Marcia: … to help women who are involved in those toxic relationships. Our DRC coordinator, Ms. [Copeland 16:48], also will make referrals to our victim services program which is another important initiative that we’ve added. The victim services program helps victims of the domestic violence, get the assistance they need if they need to get civil protection orders or if they need to get housed and they will assist them through that process. Through the daily reporting center, we also provide tokens to our offenders. Those who are not financially able to get back and forth to the supervision office. One other important thing we do for our females is that we recognize them. Once a female completes any of our groups, we always hold a graduation so that we can recognize them for the positive steps that they’re making.

Leonard: Day reporting centers are there, traditionally, for those individuals who are unemployed and those individuals who are struggling. We provide them with structure and education throughout the course of the day. The interesting thing about what you’re saying is is that the day reporting center for women provides a sense of fellowship.

Marcia: Right. Daily programming. Yes.

Leonard: We run groups. Majority of the women that we have under supervision end up in groups, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: They end up within a group structure. This is a continuation of that group structure. When I go to the day reporting center for men, I don’t see a lot of group interaction. Once again, in terms of the day reporting center for women under our agency, there is a lot of group interaction.

Marcia: Right. There not only group interaction, they also refer to a vocational development specialist. They may go to the vocational development specialist to complete the educational or the job placement assessment. It was not just groups. They may go there individually or they may be referred to our center intervention team for substance abuse assessment.

Leonard: When I ran group a lifetime ago, people coming into the system, they were what I said they had, a chip on their shoulder, the size of the State of Montana. They were very difficult to break through. A lot of women are very mistrusting of us in the criminal justice system. How do you break through that history? How do you break through that hard shell of it so many women under supervision bring to the table? How do you break through all of that to the point where you reach their sense of humanity to the point where they would open up and share what’s happening to them now and what happened to them in the past?

Marcia: One of the things the agency did was training. They’ve trained all of the staff on cognitive, behavioral interventions, and motivational interviewing. Part of it just listening to the offender to see what their goals are and what their needs are from their point of view. Sometimes, when you just listen to see what their concerns are, that’s a lot to break down the barriers.

Leonard: You’ve got to admit, I mean, they’re not the easiest folks in the world to deal with or they’re new into the group setting.

Marcia: For women, one of the main issues is that their voice there is not heard. Once you listen and start hearing, some of the things that they say, just for them knowing that, “Hey, this person is listening. Okay. Maybe some of the goals that I’m including is being included into my case plan.” Those are things that are concerning to them.

Leonard: I’ve seen women, the new ones, it’s like, “My God, you’re asking me to do what? You’re asking me to deal with mental health, my substance abuse, my background, all of that and then you want me to go out and find work and then work with me in terms of the reunification with my kids. That’s overwhelming.”

Marcia: Now, one of the first things we do when an individual comes to a supervision, we want to do risk and needs assessment which is a comprehensive assessment so that we can determine what their risk to the community is and what their needs are. From that, we develop a case plan. From the case plan, we say, “What things you need to accomplish while you’re on supervision?” We set the plan and set target dates. Everything is not due at the same time. We will set a schedule and set a target date working with the female and realizing, “She’s not going to be able to do everything at one time especially if it’s someone with mental health needs.”

Leonard: It’s still overwhelming. I mean, that list by itself even if you stretch it out is overwhelming.

Marcia: We’re right here to work with them and that’s the most important thing. Not only that, when they’re assigned to a call service agency, we work in partnership with the call service agency. It was all of us working together for the success of the female even sometimes with their families.

Leonard: Marcia, how long have been doing this?

Marcia: For 16 years.

Leonard: 16 years. Is it 16 years with the court services or 16 years dealing with women?

Marcia: 16 years with court services, dealing with both men and women. I’ve been dealing with women for the last 6 years.

Leonard: 6 years. Do you ever go home and yell at people or kick the dog? I mean, your job is difficult.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: You’re taking people who can be saved, who can lead a life where they’re tax payers and not tax burdens, where they’re parents and their kids aren’t elsewhere. That’s a huge task to break through that barrier and to find the services and to make that connection with women who have had pretty difficult backgrounds.

Marcia: It can be challenging at times. I come in everyday willing to give 115 percent. I have a good staff on my team. We have a good unit. I mean, I go home everyday. It’s challenging but I go home everyday and I go to bed. The next day, I’m up and I’m ready to do it all over again. I love my job and I love working with the women.

Leonard: It is hard for people who are listening to this program now to understand that within the criminal justice system, there just don’t seem to be an awful lot of successes and you can get burned out from doing this sort of a job. Most, if not all, of our staff that I’ve talked to are pretty enthusiastic about what it is that they do. When I walk in among these people under supervision and for them to smile at me, it’s just a real interesting experience. All right. Women in Control Again, that was a program that was put together by your predecessor, Dr. Willa Butler. It’s been expanded. One of the focuses here is on high risk individuals. Tell me about that.

Marcia: Women in Control Again is a program that was developed for females with co-occurring needs. Women in Control Again, it deals with high risk offenders who have substance abuse and mental health and is developed to help them make better decisions in the future. Under Women in Control Again, we have 3 groups. The first group deals with women in early recovery. The second group goes through the 12 steps, it goes to each one of the 12 steps, and the third group is our new piece which deals with trauma. From that group, we have a psychologist that comes in a clinical person. She comes in and she works with our females. At times, we can also get our females, if needed, individual counseling.

Leonard: One of the things I do want to point out that we reorganized around women, we reorganized around younger offenders and we reorganized around high risk offenders. Within that category of young and high risk in female, you can have cross over. That’s all part of the women’s program as well.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prioritize the people who are at greatest risk for reoffending and to make sure that they get the services that are necessary for them not to reoffend again. We take a look at our data and our data has improved in terms of recidivism, in terms of successful completion. Obviously, you all are doing the right things.

Marcia: Thank you.

Leonard: Tell me more about that. I mean, how does it feel to make that sort of a difference?

Marcia: It feels good. I mean, I know just as having a gender-specific unit, it really means a lot to our females. If you could just see their faces when we have the graduation ceremonies, even at our re-entry event, the upcoming event. At that event, we do a dress for success makeover to help prepare those females who are re-entering society, to help prepare them to return to the working world. Just doing that dress for success makeover to see the transformation for these women. We get clothes donated from organizations within the community. To see them go through this transformation, to get the business attire, to get the makeup, to get the shoes, and to do the fashion show, I mean, it’s really exciting.

Leonard: The bottom line behind all of this in terms of having a gender-specific program and having people specifically train to deliver that gender-specific program is that we can meaningfully intervene in the lives of the people under our supervision. We can end that whole sense of the never ending rate of recidivism, people in the system, out of the system, in the system, out of the system. We can really help people overcome all of that and we can really help people overcome some very serious problems.

Marcia: Right. At least to address some of the issues, some of the things that I’ve held back in the past such as the trauma, such as the unemployment, such as the low education and the substance abuse.

Leonard: As I have experienced, when you go in the groups or when you listen to women talk to each other about these issues, it is profoundly real or profoundly stark. When you interview women at these microphones, they are about as honest as honest can possibly be. I think the biggest difference between women and men is that women were more than willing to be honest.

Marcia: Yes. They are.

Leonard: More than willing to talk about the reality of what’s happened to them in their lives.

Marcia: Right. That’s only when they feel safe and comfortable.

Leonard: I want to remind everybody that we do have 2 events that are coming up. The women’s re-entry symposium 2015 with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Services on Saturday February 14, 2015 from 8:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s going to be at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. Behind that, we have a city-wide re-entry assembly. That is where we celebrate the success of the mentors and mentees regarding our faith-base program. That’s going to be on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. You can find information about all of this on our website, www.csosa.gov. Our guest today has been Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer dealing specifically with women offenders. Again, the website, www.csosa.gov. We’ll list all of the changes and all of the upcoming events and we encourage your participation. We appreciate you listening and we want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.

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Understanding Crime in America

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/02/understanding-crime-in-america-the-urban-institute/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC public safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. Understanding crime in America is our topic today. Ladies and gentlemen nobody better to explain crime in America than John Roman, he is a senior fellow with the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, www.urban.org. You can follow John on twitter @Johnkroman. John, welcome back to DC public safety.

John: Thank you very much sir.

Leonard: There is nobody better to explain the topic of crime in America than you because it gets really difficult to understand. For the last twenty years, it has been an almost containable decrease in crime. In the United States, it has been almost continuous with a couple of blips here and there yet at the same time we have the Gallup organization coming out with poll suggesting that most Americans believe that crime is increasing. We have again another Gallup poll talking about household victimization that even included cyber crime. This is a one year basis criminal victimization. Household victimization is a up to forty six percent.

If you take a look at Ferguson, if you take a look at other issues of importance, if you take a look at what is happening in cities throughout the United States where crime is a problem. If you say that crime has gone down continuously for the last twenty years, it gives you a blank stare. Can you place all of these in the context for us?

John: Sure. I think what happens is throughout, most of the middle of the last century, crime is pretty stable in America for a bunch of reasons we can talk about. In the sixties, crime, particularly violence and particularly crime around drug use and drug distribution, starts to skyrocket and skyrocket throughout the seventies. It stays very high throughout the eighties. It declines in the nineties and sort of stabilizes. Then, in the last five or six years it has declined again. Only the decline in the nineties sort of happened everywhere with the decline in the last five or six years has been focused in particular geographies and not everywhere. People’s experiences with crime decline has been very different of-late.

Leonard: Explain those geographies.

John: Sure. What you see is places like New York City, Washington, Dallas and San Diego are places that have experienced a second large decline in violence. Places like Chicago, Philly , Pittsburgh, and other  cities have seen much less decline in violence. Even in some of these cities  even little uptake in violence over the same period.

Leonard: How do you put all that into perspective. I mean, if you tell the average person that crime has had an almost a continual twenty year decline, it has been a little tick or it has gone up in here in Rio, but over the last twenty years plus crime has gone down. Yet, the average person as recorded by Gallup feel that crime has gone up. I did a radio show yesterday about coverage in America where the Pew studies in 2011 was sited saying that crime is one of the most popular topic the people want in terms of news coverage, I think sports and weather were the only topic that beat it.

People are really concerned about crime. Again, you tell them twenty year decline in crime and you they look at you as if you have three heads, especially if they are from Boston, Detroit  or from Chicago.

John: I think the story is, violence in America according to the FBI has declined towards the last twenty three years. As I said, it declined everywhere in the nineties, sort of stabilized in early more focus in specific places are having better experiences with crime. All that said, the national narrative is one about a violent America being dominated by violent criminals. You can go on cable TV and easily find a show like Gangland that show picture of violent groups of heavily armed people distributing drugs and attacking strangers.

If you are careful on how you look at issues, you know that most of them are showing footage from late eighties and early nineties and almost none of them are showing footage that is carried in the last generation. The message is still penetrates, the message is still is, anytime there is a violence incidence in America, anytime there is a kidnapping, anytime there is a shooting incident with multiple victims. That’s the news that dominates everywhere and everybody inside his home. It doesn’t matter what is happening in your neighborhood, the narrative is America is violent, you need to be scared.

Leonard: Well, America is violent you need to be scared, but it’s wrong because again, crime has been down for the last twenty years. American watch our television shows. You and I had the discussion before we hit the record button of where I can’t stand to watch the crime shows because you have very young, very good looking people with the best possible equipment with all the time in the world surfing crime almost instantaneously through technology that doesn’t exist. Its a myth.

I think people are being pulled in a lot of different direction in terms of what it is that they should believe. There is something called the CSI effect in court rooms where there are actually losing court cases because the Jury comes in with an expectation that what they see on television is what is real. The point is, is that what is real? How should American see crime and how the American lace it within it’s proper context? The follow up question is going to be the hardest question of all. Question that I get from time to time from news media is, why is crime down over the course of the last twenty years?

John: If you are over the age of forty, you’ve never lived in a safer America that you do today. That is true virtually everywhere in America. The popular TV narrative about the criminal mastermind, the hacker, the serial killer, those people don’t really exist. What causes crime in America is dense communities of low skilled young men. We’ve gotten better as a society about policing. Those communities are getting better about how we change what to make up a public housing is and frankly we have taken a lot those young men and we put them under the formal justice system. They are less able to commit crime.

We’ve been effective across a number of different domains in reducing crime in America. That message has not gotten out. There is a saying on capital health and efficiency has no constituency. The idea that we have become more efficient and more effective isn’t a message that anybody is out beating the drum about because there is nobody who is going to be responsible to it.

Leonard: Efficiency has no constituency, that is an interesting thought. Very interesting thought.

John: Anybody who want to the story that the world is getting better, doesn’t really have anybody to tell it to. If you want to tell the story of world being worse and being dangerous, and you showed yourself buy a home security system. I think one of things that are under sold in all these is corporate America. If you look at these ad about home security system, they are really upholding those messages, you know, a young mum in home with her young daughter and guy breaking in through the window, I mean it’s absolutely frightening. Those sort of things don’t actually happen very often and they happen less and less frequently over time, but the messaging has gotten more vivid and more and more scary. I think that causes Americans to be more and more afraid.

Leonard: We never have lived in a safer America, which is perfectly true. Now, there are two sources of information, one on crime report of the laws enforcement and then there is the crime survey, which is reported non reported crime through survey. Both are basically saying the same thing. You may find different variation from time to time, but the trend lines certainly are down for both the national crime survey and the crime report of the law enforcement.

If you take a look at other indices such as drug use, such as people in school … Younger individual in school being involved in crime, there are a dozen of others, they all seem to be down. It’s just not about John’s opinion. This is the bulk of research, good research over decades basically saying the same thing.

John: I think that if you said compared to 1990, is crime down at least fifty percent in America particularly violent crime, I think you are on a solid ground, I think the FBI did reflect that, I think the victimization survey reflects that. I think that if you look at any local law enforcement agency that happens to go back that far, I think they reflect that. I think that story is inarguable true, the question is the one you posed, why has this happened and what can we do to continue  the trend?

Leonard: That is what criminologists want to know. There was a point where, I forget exactly what the year, but the FBI at a certain point said homicide were at their lowest rate in decades.

John: Since the early 1960s. Homicides are really a very good indicator for all these because the rest of the kind victimization is. One of the things that is happening in America is that we are getting older on average and we are getting wealthier on average and that means we are more scared, we are more risk , we want there to be even less crime than there is.

Reporting about crime might change a little bit as people get older and scared, richer, and they have more to protect and might tend to report things as being crimes that they may not have reported when they were younger and poor and less scared. If you look at the national reporting data, it’s inarguable that crime is way in America. It’s very interesting every year, I talk to reporters right around January 1st when we tell the story and I go to the common section of these big international national newspapers and there hundreds if not thousands of columns about why I’m absolutely wrong.

Leonard: Right. I guess that is the point. When you talk at different people they look at you like you have three heads when you start saying the data. It’s not just John’s opinion, we are talking about, again, not to beat the point to death, but in terms of survey data, in terms of crime report of law enforcement, in terms of other surveys, lots of other [inaudible 00:10:05] all follows the same trend line. There is no doubt that you are correct. The criminologist’s question, the reporter’s question, can you give me an explanation as to why crime is down over the course of the last twenty years and my response is called January.

John: I appreciate that. I think we know that the other supporting bit of evidence is that in none of the last national elections has the issue of crime being even addressed in any sense. It’s really was something that we needed to change our policies around. It would come up anytime. That is important. Crime is down for five reasons. Crime is down in the nineties because we quadrupled, we increased four hundred percent the number of people in America who were incarcerated.

That doesn’t mean its a good policy. That doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly inefficient, it doesn’t it’s not a waste of tax payers money to incarcerate that many people, but inevitably if you put enough people behind bars and under supervision, you are going to reduce crime if that happen. At the same time, the crack epidemic in 1991 and this is the lowest number of people using crack cocaine in the last three generations is in 1991. People stopped using it as those drug market dried up, there was less violence around them. Those two explanations explain why the crime declined in 1990s.

Why is crime declining today? Beginning about 2007, crime started to decline again. As we stated, it’s not everywhere, it’s Washing, New York, Dallas, and San Diego, it’s not more to Philadelphia and Chicago. Why is that? There is three reasons for that and there are other reasons why people will look at you like you have three heads. One reason is that some of these cities became very friendly to immigrants. On average, according to the criminologists that I believe, a community of recent immigrants that is basically poor living in dense place will have on average a lot less crime associated with that community than exact same impoverished community of people who lived here for generations.

What happened is, and you have seen cities like DCs and New York, you can transact business in with government of these cities. They have really tried to attract immigrants as anew source of labor. What happens is, neighborhood that are cheap and poor become safer and they attract people who want to live and want to own their own home but they cannot afford it and they don’t want to buy in dangerous places and all these places in Washington Dc and places like that. This is true, in every city you can find these communities. They overall become safer and cheap. So people move in, they buy, and they invest. That investment brings more investment and overtime that part of the community starts to thrive and becomes less segregated.

Leonard: Are we saying that these are market forces taking place that are just as important as the criminology efforts?

John: I’m saying that almost every explanation for why crime has declined in the last ten years has pretty much nothing to do with criminal justice policy. I think we have got better policing, I think technology have gotten better, but if you look at the other explanations I don’t know that they have a lot to do with how we spend out public resources. There is a reason why the car that is most often in stock in America was manufactured in 1999 because you can take a Flathead screwdriver and shove into the ignition, twist it and drive off with it. Try to doing that with a cars that was manufactured in the last ten years.

Leonard: You can’t do it.

John: Can’t do it, doesn’t work. That is a big part of the explanation.

Leonard: All that is down, are you taken a look at all the areas where you have security devices coming into play and the discussion in terms of stolen iPhones, stolen computers and now we are talking about making sure that they cannot operate when they are stolen. There were technological advances that are economic advance, advances in criminal justices system, those who vest in criminal justice system will say what we did was to stabilize these communities to the point where they could change economically. They are going to take credit for that, from a law enforcement point of view or a correction point of view. You have all of these plus what?

John: I think all of that is exactly right. I think we have learnt a lot about how to do better policing, I think we have learnt a lot about how to do better supervision of people in custody. Whether it’s a community correction or within criminal justice correctional system itself. I think we have gotten much better about treating the underlying causes of people’s criminal offending whether that is alcohol abuse or drug abuse and health problems. Whatever it is that makes people unhappy with their state in life.

We have gotten better a lot better in trying to address the underlying problem rather than locking people up. The technological and the security improvement all these things create a trend that should cause there to be more crime if it just get out of it’s way.

Leonard: This are the ever amazing conversation every time I have John Roman senior fellow from the Urban Institute by the microphone. I’m always fascinated by the discussion. There are a lot of those within the criminology community who do wonderful research, but I’m not quite sure they can explain it well as John. John again is with the Urban Institute justice Policy Center, www.urban.org. You can follow John at twitter @Johnkroman. We are talking today about understanding the crime upheaval in America putting it in the context and explaining it because of the continued twenty years reduction in crime yet there are a lot of people out there who remain very concerned about crime per Pew and Gallup and just people who are living in cities who are having crime problems.

John, in those cities that are continuing to have the crime problems, you look at criminal justice … Summaries from criminal justice reporters every single day and you take a take a look at Chicago, if you take a look at the Boston. People there are concerned, how do you solve their problem? How do you bring … How do they follow what is happening in Washington Dc, in New York and other cities where we have been successful?

John: Some of it is acknowledging what your weaknesses are and some of it is acknowledging what your strengths are. If you look at the map of Chicago, compare to a map of new York and you look at the distribution of people where they live by their weights. What you will see when you look at Chicago is an incredible segregated city. What you look at when you look at New York is not a perfectly integrated city, but a much more integrated city.

It’s that isolation of people where they are never exposed to anybody who has a different experience than they have, who int poor, who is a job, whose dad isn’t incarcerated. In New York, you are much more likely to have those multiple experiences and exposures. That allows you to have hope to try and work on making your life better and in ways that don’t happen in places like the outside of Chicago where all experiences in angle were bad.

Leonard: The integration and immigration and other market forces once again as much as they are criminology efforts.

John: I think that’s right. It’s what we said. The natural trend of the world is far more safety. Security is getting better, the ability to secure your property is getting better, you call your home yourself, police are getting better investigating arresting people who are involved in criminal opportunities. There are all kind of other things going on in the world that make the world safer.

If you want to buy drugs today, you don’t have to go to an open air drug market where you are going to be surrounded with dangerous people some of whom are drug seeking, some of whom are selling and they are armed. You can with your cell phone and call someone and they will bring ti to you. The world is getting safer, the trend is towards more safety. The question is, what can cities do to help accelerate that trend?

Leonard: What can they do?

John: One thing they can do is being friendly with the immigrants. Allow these communities to develop out people who can live in a city to help the city grow, bring new resources to it, help accelerate the trend of justification, help decelerate the trend of segregation and create an atmosphere that is more conducive to lower crime and more economic development.

Leonard: You take a look at the Worldwide crime trend rate, me and you talked about this in another show, I remember in advanced criminology course a long time ago looking at the crime trend for New Zealand, for Australia, for Great Britain, for Canada, the other western industrialized countries, crime seem to go up and seem to come down with the same trend line. Not necessarily the same numbers, but the trend lines seem to be there. Not only are we talking about an explanation of crime in America, we are talking about an explanation of crime in the we stern and industrialized world.

If all basically rises and fall s at the same time, it’s just not an explanation within United States, it’s the western and industrialized explanation.

John: I think that is exactly right. There are two things going on that are very interesting. The one is, do the trend line in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the US are they the same? And they are. What is interesting about it is that none of those other countries have the same experiences we had with crack cocaine and none of them had the mass incarceration response.

If you think that the world is trending together and you want to know why the crime is declining, it does make you want to scratch you head a little bit and wonder why other nations that didn’t have the crack cocaine, didn’t have mass incarceration are experiencing the same level of decline. There are some explanation for that. One of the explanation for that is a simple one, which is that we took lead out of gasoline and in 1970s, in sudden most western industrialized countries.

When I think about lead poisoning I think of kids eating lead paints which is against … But it’s not what is dangerous, what was dangerous was the leaded gas, the regular gas. In 1970s, people exposure to lead in the blood stream to be much higher than it is today and that of lead poising that lead exposure causes people to behave in more in antisocial ways, to be less able to exhibit self control and it postulated that that is part of the explanation.

Another part of the explanation is that security technology has got better everywhere. Another part of the explanation is that, we have learnt a lot about policing. Policing in Australia, Canada, US, and Great Britain all talk to each other, they go to the same campuses, they go to the same researchers. They are all …

Leonard: It’s the criminology system

John: I think it’s right. The focus has been much more on trying to do things in the community, trying to keep adolescent out of juvenile corrections, and in family based therapies, trying to treat underlying disorder rather that incarcerating people, teaching police how to be part of the community rather than a police a force. All those things have contributed in stabilizing communities to allow these other to accelerate the county crime.

Leonard: Within the context of all this, declining crime, but yet as I said before the Gallup poll indicating that people are more concerned about crime. Gallup poll saying that the less cyber crime forty six percent of household on a yearly basis experience crime. Within that context of criminologists and reporters and average people trying to put all this in it’s proper context, we have Ferguson. The other issue is that now we are having a very intense discussion over the role of the police, the role of the community, what is proper, what is just, what we should be doing.

It’s a conversation I think we in the criminal justice system welcome, but it’s confusing to people because they are told that the New York city miracle, I think it is a miracle, but done through very aggressive law enforcement. That was the issue that held crime down in New York and that has been exported to criminal analysis, crime mapping, very proactive law enforcement. That has been offered as an explanation for why crime has gone down in certain cities. Put that up against the conversation we are having now about praising law enforcement in America, how do you make sense of all that?

John: In 1990, in New York city, there were over twenty two hundred homicides, last year, they were under four hundred. Twenty two hundred to under four hundred.

Leonard: It’s an unbelievable decline.

John: There were hundred and ten thousand motor vehicles stolen in New York city in 1990, last year, they were about ten thousand and all that was due to very aggressive policing. Now, contrast that with Washington Dc, which had four hundred and seventy nine homicides that same year, 1990, which got it’s lowest eighty eight a couple of years ago. Four hundred and seventy nine to eighty eight in a …

Leonard: Huge drop.

John: Eighty plus percent is a …. What chief [inaudible 00:23:31] has done in Washington Dc is community policing. She has all officers write their cell phone numbers on the back of the business cards, tell them to call me anytime day or night if you think a beef is developing and is going to turn into something serious. Call me and I will come.

Leonard: In both cities you can feel this.

John: You can feel it right.

Leonard: You can feel it, touch it, smell it, taste it. Those of us who have been to New York city several times, those of us who work in DC or live in DC you can feel this. What about strangers, let’s talk about Ferguson, what Ferguson means in that context of these different policing style.

John: I think one of the one of the take away from Ferguson that hasn’t gotten any attention is an acknowledgment that the way we feel about law enforcement in America has changed. In 1990, in New York city, when there were over two thousand homicide in a single year, which is an astonishing number, the tactics that were employed in Ferguson and in Cleveland and in Long Island. There was much violence and we all accepted that we needed to get these places stabilized as you said. I think that is right.

Today, we have gotten to the point where crime is declining, where people don’t believe there is as much violence. They are not accepting these kind of police tactics as they would have been twenty years ago.

Leonard: It’s a new conversation.

John: It’s a new conversation.

Leonard: It’s a new conversation for a new time.

John: It’s almost, in many ways, it’s an optimistic conversation. Right. The fact that people were willing to … It’s worth noting that it takes an enormous amount to get people to go out into the street. To put their liberty at risk. In order to make a statement about a policy issue like how the police police. The fact that we see all these huge gatherings across America, eventually every city is a sign people caring no mercy about this issue. Then, we have seen almost virtually every single of these demonstrations have been non violent.

This is unlike the sixties or the riots.

Leonard: People need to understand that context. I mean, we lived through decades where there was a lot violence associated with the demonstrations and there was endless demonstrations for endless reasons. Now, most of these, the great majority of these are non violent demonstrations.

John: It goes to your other question, which is very interesting part. If I am sitting there as a criminologist watching these demonstrations thinking about what it means in terms of policy, my reaction is, this is very hopeful, this makes me feel good about the world of people care enough to go out and voice their opinion on this topic that they are non-violent. The chief of  police in Philadelphia. He followed the demonstrators and would tweet thing like, citizens exercising their rights. That is wonderful.

Leonard: It’s opportunity for new conversation, but maybe that conversation is welcome and necessarily.

John: It is, but the problem is that the news media is focusing on few people who are part of those demonstrations who are breaking into the seven and eleven taking casing of water and will have that done over their faces how masking they were identities because that makes for better television even though this conversation has been overwhelmingly positive than news media portrayal of it has been frightening to a segment of American whose risk are to begin with.

Leonard: That is why we are calling the program understanding crime in America because again people need to have some sense of context reporter citizens needs to have, we in the criminal justice need to have some sort of context in terms of not just to what happens within the last two years, but to what have happened within the last thirty or forty years.

John: That is right. The big change in America has been our urban policies. Urban policies in fifty and sixties were designed to divide. We build big estate and highways that separated, segregated and isolated huge portions of our citizens lanes. We are beginning to take those things down. We are beginning to build subways that integrate our communities, we are encouraging immigration,  we are encouraging economic development, we are encouraging all sorts of racial interaction that didn’t exist before.

All those natural forces along with technological growth, the growth of security, the maceration and evolution of our policing agency. All those things present a trend where America the next generation should be even safer than it is now. Those policies could be accelerated if American could be convinced that the world is in fact a good place today and they will be willing to invest in those things.

Leonard: Fine, at middle of other programs John, we did have a point where five six years ago, we were talking about the super predators when they were coming increasing in crime, that hasn’t happened. How long can we take this declining crime? How far out?

John: I think it can go along way. There have been a lot research … As a researcher, I find that it’s where that research penetrates, but one bit of research did, this was some studies that Larry and colleague did at the Temple University where they did studies about brain evolution, maturity, social, and emotion maturity of young people. What they concluded was people continue to evolve into their late twenties and the threshold of eighteen being an adult is arbitrary.

I think criminal do know justice system should really respond to this message and began to think about young people differently. It has helped us to avoid having this super predator thing happen.

Leonard: We have a better understanding of crime in America which is the title of our program. Ladies and gentlemen we have had John Roman, senior fellow with the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Before our microphone we get a lot of positive comments in terms of John’s ability to explain very complex issues. Www.urban.org, @Johnkroman if you are interested to following John on twitter. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have themselves a very present day.   

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