Predicting Criminal Risk and Behavior

DC Public Safety Radio

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

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2016/01/predicting-criminal-behavior-through-risk-instruments/

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, Predicting Criminal Risk. We’re going to be taking a look at risk instruments. What are they? How good are they? From the Washington State Institute for Public Policy we have Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University.

Joining Zachary will be Mason Burley, Senior Research Associate Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The website www.wsipp.wa.gov. Gentlemen welcome to DC Public Safety.

Male: Hello. Thank you for having us.

Leonard Sipes: All right, risk assessments. This is something that seems to be is the foundation of meaningful change within the criminal justice system. We now within the court services and and offender supervision agency, my agency, we’ve been using risk instruments for about 10 years. Risk instruments are being used for sentencing, they’re being used in all things inside the criminal justice system. Give me, first of all, whether or not you think risk instruments are the foundation of meaningful change within criminal justice. Then give me a layman’s definition of what risk instruments are.

Z. Hamilton: Well I can jump in on that. I do think risk assessments are the foundation of really how we move forward in the criminal justice system. A lot of what people have complained about in years past has sort of been the inconsistency, inaccuracy, and maybe the overuse of discretion within the system. What risk assessments do is they put everyone on an even playing field, or at least they attempt to put everyone on an even playing field, so that everyone’s judged in a similar manner. In terms of what a risk assessment is, in terms of layman’s language, it’s essentially a set of items that you use. Maybe a survey or a questionnaire, or maybe they’re items that are collected from a mix of self reported questionnaires or criminal history measures that are known within an agencies records.

These items usually contain a mix of what are called static items, that look at the offenders criminal history, their age, their gender maybe. But also some dynamic items too that try to focus on the offenders needs. Trying to examine whether or not they have issues with regards to employment, substance abuse, medical health, residency, any sort of things that may directly or indirectly impact their future criminal behavior or misbehavior on supervision.

Leonard Sipes: So we’re looking at criminal history, we’re looking at the age of the offender. We’re talking about possibly the sex of the offender. There are static issues as well as dynamic issues that go into this that formulate a sense as to who this person is, and what their level of risk is, and what their level of need is in terms of social services?

Z. Hamilton: That is correct and some of what you’re describing in terms of how risk assessments and needs assessments have been extended throughout the criminal justice system is about the idea that there’s certain behaviors that we would like to predict. Recidivism is one but there’s others that you had mentioned that may exist at a different point within the system. The individual coming into the system may have a first risk or needs assessment completed at the pre-trial phase. Maybe a judge might use that to identify whether or not this person would be a risk of flight. At that point you might be trying to predict recidivism but you might also be trying to predict failure to appear.

Once the persons incarcerated you might want to predict infraction behavior. Once they’ve been released or re-entered into the community you’d want to predict recidivism behavior but maybe you’d also like to predict compliance while on supervision. There’s a multitude of outcomes in which you can examine and utilize these tools to create essentially prediction models.

Leonard Sipes: What we have is law enforcement using them, pre-trial using them, the judge using them, in terms of sentencing. Parole and probation agencies using them to figure out how closely to watch this individual. Correctional systems, prisons, could be using them in terms of the potential for good behavior within the prison system. Across the board risk instruments are becoming a bigger part of the criminal justice system.

Z. Hamilton: Yes as more individuals are gathering data and more agencies are gathering data. Tracking offenders and identifying how you can utilize that data to better supervise, more efficiently supervise, or even remove individuals from supervision to create a better system is, I think, where risk assessment is heading.

Leonard Sipes: I do want to go back to Dr. Hamilton in terms of discussion as to how effective these instruments are, but Mason Burley I’m going to go to you. This whole issue of risk assessment instruments started with the insurance industry, did it not? The insurance industry for decades, multiple decades, has been assessing the risk of individuals on their caseloads, if you will, as to whether or not they’re going to be a risk in terms of health. Whether or not they’re going to have a heart attack. Whether or not they’re going to be unemployed. Whether or not they’re going to have health problems across the board. Am I right or wrong?

M. Burley: I think actuarial instruments have been used in a lot of different arenas. Certainly outside the public policy area and I wanted to emphasize… Insurance would certainly be one of those, but the history in Washington State really goes back to quite an extensive and evolving use of risk assessment in the criminal justice area, if I can focus on that for a second. Because I think the history’s pretty important in terms of the utility we found in the state. Initially in the late 90’s the juvenile justice system decided to look at some evidence based approaches and to target who might be best served in some of those programs they developed risk assessment instruments for all the juvenile courts in the state.

That later evolved into the supervision that Dr. Hamilton mentioned with the department of corrections and then looking at who was at most risk of further crime and looking at supervision resources and how those should be targeted to high risk individuals. That risk assessment has gone through several iterations and Dr. Hamilton and his institute really refined and improved as they’ve learned from what works with best with an instrument. It’s been adopted in other areas as he mentioned throughout the state with pre-trial and judges deciding information about bail and pre-trial decisions based on historic risk.

Then finally the work we recently released that the institute looked at, the mental health population and what individuals who have been involved in the forensic mental health system and the type of risk they pose. I think that it’s becoming more recognized, the value of it in Washington State and we provide a good test case in some of these scenarios as individuals move through different phases of the criminal justice system.

Leonard Sipes: Before continuing I do want to plug the Washington State Institute for Public Policy as putting out some of the most easy to read, clear, precise, research findings. Not just within the criminal justice system but across all phases of the government. I do want to congratulate the Washington State Institute for Public Policy for it’s dedication to put out the research that the rest of us, who are not researchers can understand and the policy makers can grasp and run with. You guys have probably over a decade of experience putting out nice, clear, and concise public policy research. Again their website www.wsipp.wa for the state of washington .gov.

Did you want to continue Dr. Hamilton?

Z. Hamilton: I think Mason covered a lot of what’s been done but it’s going back several years. Even back to 1997, when the Washington State Institute of Public Policy mainly one of their key researchers, Robert Bernowsky, created one of the first juvenile risk assessments that was used throughout the state. That spawned this idea of collecting data overtime, tracking offender populations and re-adjusting those assessment models to improve prediction over time. As people change, as the population changes, as even the criminal statues change. The focus of the assessment is fine tuned over time and that’s something that was put into place early with WSIPP. I think those traditions are starting to continue on now with these new adjustments to the adult risk tools as well.

Leonard Sipes: There’s an endless list of policy questions I do want to get into in terms of Microsoft coming out with an app that’s predicting future criminal behavior. Commercial applications that law enforcement is now using. The attorney general of the United States, Attorney General Holder, former Attorney General who criticized risk instruments used in sentencing about possible bias. Every time that there is a mass shooting there is a psychologist that gets on CNN and says that there is no way we can predict future criminal behavior. All of those are issues that I want to get on to or discuss. The biggest issue that people when they come to me and talk to me is, “Leonard, how effective are these things.” That’s why I love your research.

You mentioned the fact that you did something recent talking about the criminal population within the state of Washington but also whether or not the involuntary treatment population for mental health reasons. Whether or not the risk instruments that the state of Washington was using could be used for both groups. So I’m using that as the basis for this program. While you say while no risk instrument can predict future criminal offenses with 100% accuracy. The goal is to create an assessment that has strong predictive performance. How strong is that predictive performance?

Z. Hamilton: There’s different industry standards for how we identify predictive performance and as you mentioned you probably don’t want me to go too far down the rabbit hole in terms of giving a statistics lesson. The common metric of which people base an assessment is what’s called an area under the curve statistic. There’s really ways of identifying the strength of the instrument and industry standards that set cut points within the statistic to say what’s a weak prediction, what’s a moderate prediction, what’s a strong prediction. What we’re finding with these tools is that we’ve advanced our methods as we gather more data. As we’re able to refine and focus on specific types of crimes. Not just any recidivism generally but maybe focusing on what predictors predict violent crime versus property crime or drug crime. You’re able to really hone in on that prediction and get strong models almost every single time.

Without going too much into the detail of what those industry… We tend to exceed the industry standard for what are called strong models and a lot of our models tend to give in to those upper echelons of being able to accurately identify recidivism prediction across the population at rates of over 70%.

Leonard Sipes: Well over 70% would be astounding and I think that gives individuals a fairly decent benchmark in terms of understanding risk instruments. In other words there’s no way that we can do this with 100% predictive behavior. That’s impossible, but at the 100% level that’s pretty [dag-gone 00:12:20] good and pretty predictive. I want to get into the categories used in the research. What they tried to do was to focus on four particular categories. This was the division of correction there in the state of Washington. High Violent, High Non-Violent, Moderate Risk or Low Risk. They tried to keep it simple in terms of falling into one of those four categories, correct?

Z. Hamilton: Yes. Really it’s a big advance and they’ve been doing it for a while in Washington State but it’s a distinction that Washington State has that I believe is a big advantage as compared to other risk assessment instruments. Anybody who supervises the centers will tell you it’s not just the probability of any risk, it’s the type of risk that they pose. Many risk assessment instruments will essentially say, “Are you low, moderate, or high risk? What’s your probability of risk for committing a new arrest or a new conviction.”

That’s great but somebody that has, let’s just say, a 45% likelihood of committing a drug crime, versus an individual that has a 42% likelihood of committing a violent crime. Yeah the percentages are different but you’re going to supervise those individuals differently. The severity or the public perception of a particular crime is going to be of note. So an individual that may have a slightly lower probability of committing a violent crime may be supervised at a greater rate simply because the threat to society or to public safety is a little bit stronger than that person that’s more likely to commit a drug crime.

Is that coming through okay?

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, perfectly. That’s why I wanted to start off with the issue of fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Because it seems, in terms of evidence based practices, what we’re seeing is that we should be focusing our resources on the highest risk offenders and not focusing our resources on lower risk offenders. Because we’re talking about 5 million human beings on any given day under community supervision currently. Under community supervision on any given day according to US Department of Justice Data and Parole and Probation agencies throughout the country. They can have rations of 100:1, 200:1, I’ve seen 250:1. Luckily here in Washington DC our maximum caseload is 50:1, for specialized cases it’s much lower than that. But when you have that disparity between say, in terms of community supervision prone probation agents and enormous case loads, you’ve got to figure out who’s your highest risk and provide the resources to that highest risk offender. Correct?

Z. Hamilton: That is correct and one of the distinctions within Washington State, and this has been going on ever since 2007 I believe. It might even be 2005. They had a statute that went through the legislature called the Offender Accountability Act. What it essentially said was we’re going to use a risk assessment to determine whose lowest risk and those lowest risk offenders are essentially not going to be supervised. If we can determine what their probability of recidivism and it’s within a range of being of low or very low risk then we don’t feel it’s within our due diligence to give them extensive supervision. There’s a fair amount of research out there that identifies the individuals that are of low risk of recidivism, the more you supervise them actually the more likely you are to observe behavior and they end up becoming more likely to commit crimes simply because of these observation effects.

Leonard Sipes: We end up re-incarcerating the wrong people. That’s the bottom line.

Z. Hamilton: That is the bottom line. What Washington State has done and has been doing for years is essentially saying administrative supervision or no supervision for those individuals that are of these lower tiered risks. That not only has sort of, fell in line with risk need and responsivity theory but it’s also saved the state a lot of money. Evaluations of this change in statute has essentially identified no uptake in recidivism following it’s passing. The effect has essentially been a net win for the state.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than half way through the program. I do want to re-introduce our guest Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University.

Mason Burley is also by our microphone. Senior Research Associate Washington State  Institute of Public Policy. Once again I will continue to praise the Washington State  Institute of Public Policy for putting out extraordinarily good research. Some of the best in the United States. Www.wsipp.wa.gov.

Let me go into a little bit more about this individual research and then talk more about policy questions. What you did with this research was take a look at violent felony convictions, non-violent felony convictions, and any conviction over the course of a 2 year period to measure the accuracy of the risk instrument used for he state of Washington. You took all of that and basically you said that in some cases the degree of probability, one as high as 70%, and that was for the non-violent felony convictions. Was that correct?

M. Burley: Washington State has a long standing history of using risk assessment with the department of corrections and the prison population that are under supervision. So we’re able to kind of look at the risk elements that we use for that population and see if the same risk assessment is a valid tool for other populations as well. As you mentioned we looked at violent felony and non-violent felony for DOC and for the DOC population between the highest risk offenders 60 to 70 percent of those have a non-violent, repeat crime of a non-violent felony within 2 years.

Leonard Sipes: But those are the people that you designated in that category and the results we’re validated by saying that 70% of the people that we put into that category did have a non-violent conviction.

M. Burley: Yes, we looked at that category of the prison population under supervision and compared individuals in the mental health system in Washington State to see if the same kind of elements can be used to predict two year recidivism as well. Now for that population the recidivism rates we’re much lower. Two to three times lower in some circumstances. The risk assessment tool was still valid in that we could distinguish between low, moderate and high risk offenders along that continuum of risk.

Leonard Sipes: But what I’m asking is, is that the paper basically says that there was a … I’m simplifying things. An above 70% accuracy rate. What does that mean when you say it’s an above .75 accuracy rate? Which is to me, as a lame person, that basically says 75% of the time we were accurately able to predict. Am I right or wrong?

M. Burley: I misunderstood the question. Dr. Hamilton maybe you want to jump in.

Z. Hamilton: Yeah, it’s a little more nuanced than that. The way that you perceived that, what you’re determining the accuracy rate as is the area under the curve statistic. Essentially what it says, and I’m going to explain it as hopefully as simply as possible. If you have two groups and you separated your two groups of people you we’re observing into those that recidivated and those that did not. If you were to randomly select one person out of each one of those groups. Using this risk assessment you’d identify that the individual that recidivated had a higher risk over 70% of the time.

Leonard Sipes: Had a higher risk over 70% of the time.

Z. Hamilton: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: That doesn’t mean that they went out and under your criteria, or the criteria of the study, and were convicted within a two year time period, that they had that higher probability.

Z. Hamilton: No, no. What we do is we take that risk score. We create a continuous risk score from zero to wherever it ends up being at it’s highest. With that continuous risk score then you essentially dissect it into several pieces where you have a low, a moderate, a high non-violent and a high violent. In any one of those groups you can identify what’s the probability of somebody who falls into those categories recidivating.

Leonard Sipes: For the layman’s question ‘How accurate are these instruments?’ and using the example of what happened in the state of Washington. Is there a layman-esq answer to say that they would be accurate 70% of the time, 50% of the time, 60% of the time?

Z. Hamilton: Again it’s a little more nuanced than that. The instrument doesn’t come out and say, “This person is going to recidivate.” It doesn’t come out with a yes or no answer and say, “This person is going to recidivate. This other person, person B, is not going to recidivate.” What it does is the score will provide a probability of recidivism. Let’s say the score ranges from 0 to 100. Somebody that scores out at a 50 may have a 30% likely hood of recidivism. If that 30% likely hood puts them in the upper tier or high risk category than that category can then be identified as having their aggregate probability of recidivism.

It gets a little more complicated but essentially what we do is we utilize that area under the curve statistic to essentially rate that continuous risk score, to say how accurate it is and it also allows us to compare our instrument to someone else’s instrument. But to give a quick and easy answer, to say this persons going to recidivate and this person’s not. How accurate is the assessment? Risk assessments aren’t built to do that. They’re built to provide guidelines for individuals to say who is higher risk as compared to another person who might be of moderate or lower risk.

Leonard Sipes: But it’s inevitable that there are going to be false positives and false negatives. It’s going to be inevitable that there are a certain number of people who are designated as high risk are not going to come back to the criminal justice system. There is a certain inevitable … It is inevitable that a person that you would designate as low risk would come back to the criminal justice system. There has got to be a certain understanding by the public that these are not perfect predictive analysis. That there are going to be false positives and false negatives.

Z. Hamilton: That is true. I believe either in the report, or in one of the appendices of the report, we identified the probability of recidivism by falling into one of the many categories we’ve created the cut points for. So you can identify what’s the probability for recidivism for high violent, high non-violent, moderate and low.

M. Burley: I think I was answering that question rather than the overall predictive ability of the model. It think it’s important that what I learned from this, working with Dr. Hamilton as well is that the risk is on a continual scale and we we’re able to kind of look at … Even though there are false positives and false negatives. The likely hood of being able to tell which offenders are going to recidivate or which individuals are going to recidivate increases on a gradual basis as you move from low to high risk based on what you find in the assessment.

Leonard Sipes: I’m going to go back to questions I posed right before the break. We have everybody and their uncle now putting out risk instruments of one shape or another. Microsoft came out with an app. There are commercial entities that are basically saying that law enforcement agencies that we’re going to be able to tell you with higher degrees of probability who on the street is going to commit further crimes or commit violent crimes. We have a world that is now moving towards predictive risk instruments beyond criminal justice. The private sector is doing this. Do you have any concerns about this because it is inevitable that again we have false positives, we have false negatives. We’re going to be pin pointing people and talking about their probabilities for coming into the criminal justice system and we’re going to be wrong.

M. Burley: Yeah. I have lots of concerns about that. Not necessarily that it’s a private sector doing that. There’s plenty of companies that exist in the private sector that create great risk assessment instruments. My fear is individuals from the private sector potentially taking large data sources not knowing how exactly they fit within the jurisdiction that they’re evaluating and essentially spitting out a model that is accurate to a degree, but that accuracy isn’t really developed within the known quantities of that particular jurisdiction. Every single location in the United States is slightly different. You do have a certain stability in terms of certain items being predictive. Age being one of them, prior convictions being another. But individuals that are creating risk assessment instruments that don’t have knowledge of that on the ground usage, or the variations in the population, could potentially create models that are not as accurate as their claim.

Leonard Sipes: Every time there is a mass shooting. Every time there is a horrific violent crime in this country a psychologist will do an interview for CNN and say, “Even though the person had a history of mental health treatment. Even though the person had a history of schizophrenia …” I do want to point out that even though there are a higher percentage of the people that come from mental health backgrounds involved in the criminal justice system the overwhelming majority of people who have mental health backgrounds are not going to be coming into the criminal justice system but a psychologist or psychiatrist will stand up on CNN and say, “It is impossible to predict future criminal behavior. Yes he had contact with the mental health system, but to predict this level of violence is just literally impossible.”

Then media will pick up the phone and call me and say, “If these individuals can not be … If you can not predict their future criminality then is it … Psychologists are saying it’s impossible to predict future violent criminal behavior. Then the risk instruments that you talk about, what good are they?”

Do you see the level of confusion that folks in the media and the general public would have when a psychologist gets up and makes a statement like that?

Z. Hamilton: Yes. I can. The issue is that the risk assessment instruments that were discussing and that we’ve created, they’re built for a specific population. They’re built for people that have contact with the criminal justice system. If nobody’s had any contact with the criminal justice system they’ve never been assessed for risk. That’s one limitation right there. The other is that there’s individuals that typically commit these crimes a lot of times you’ll see those psychiatrists come up and say, “They have a mental illness, or an undiagnosed mental illness.” Again if there’s no data to be able to identify any of this persons prior behavior which is a lot of what risk assessments are built upon then it’s difficult to assess somebody’s risk.

Again going into the general population and identify someones risk of recidivism is usually not what risk assessments are built for. They’re built for release decisions, pre-trial decisions. Decisions on probation or parole and supervision. They’re not necessarily built for that particular purpose. To be even more blunt they’re built on an aggregate population so we’re addressing the aggregate risk or the average risk of a person within the population that we’ve had assessments for.

That individual that commits the serious offense or a mass shooting, that had never entered into one of those populations to be assessed. You’re not going to have any identification of risk for that particular individual and those events are so rare that they cant be predicted based on the average events that normally criminals and offenders commit.

Leonard Sipes: Our guests today have been Dr. Zachary Hamilton, Assistant Professor Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice at the Washington State University. Mason Burley’s been by our microphone. Senior Research Associate Washington State Institute for Public Policy. www.wsipp.wa.gov.

Ladies and Gentlemen this is D.C. 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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Pretrial in America

DC Public Safety Radio

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

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/12/pretrial-in-america/

Leonard: -From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Pretrial in America ladies and gentlemen is our topic for today. Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia is a back at our microphones www.psa.gov. Cliff Keenan welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Cliff: Leonard, thank you for having me back.

Leonard: One of the reasons that we invited Cliff here today is to talk about pretrial in America. Though I think American United States there is an on-going discussion about reform in the criminal justice system. For those of you who follow the show last week we did a show with Pew about fundamental change in the criminal justice system. pretrial is a component of this on-going discussion in terms of fundamental change in criminal justice policy throughout the country.
We have a discussion at the pretrial level because a lot of people don’t quite understand why a person who was out there on a Tuesday night, and let’s say he is arrested for aggravated assault. He is released from jail either on personal recognizance or bail within a three-hour time period. Citizens are sitting back and going, “Wait a minute, I thought he was arrested. I thought he went to jail. Why is he back out on the street?” Cliff Keenan why is he back out in the street?

Cliff: Well, Leonard you bring up several different issues there, but let’s talk first about why is the person back out on the street. It is a fundamental principle of the American Criminal Justice System that everybody who is arrested is presumed innocent. That person’s liberty interest should not be denied simply because of the arrest.

Leonard: He wasn’t presumed innocent he was seen by a bunch of people beating up his brother in law with a beer bottle. It’s aggravated assault. He’s not presumed innocent. He was witnessed by lots of people possibly witnessed by the cops. Why is he presumed innocent?

Cliff: Well, presumed innocent is the term we use in the eyes of the law. I’m not saying the person didn’t do it, but I’m saying is that even though the officers may have had more than enough probable cause which is the basis for the arrests to be made, that person is still presumed innocent because until a judge or a jury makes a finding of guilt that person is entitled to all of the protections that go along with the presumption of innocence. That begins with setting appropriate conditions of release again. Appropriate conditions of release pending the person’s future court appearances. That determinations needs to be made not by the police officer, not by the prosecutor but by the judge who is going to be making an independent determination as to whether or not this person should be released, and if so under what conditions should that person be released.

Leonard: We really do adhere to the United States Constitution which provides a presumption of innocence until proven guilt. As far as the criminal justice system is concerned legally that person has not been convicted of anything he is being charged with something.

Cliff: Absolutely. Let me go back to the first thing that you referenced which was there seems to be changes taking place today in America. One of the changes is the whole notion of pretrial processes. That seems to be a current phenomenon in the eyes of many around the country, but actually this is something that goes back more than 50 years ago. In fact, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy back in May of 1964. I’m always astounded by this because this was within six months of his brother’s assassination. He convened here in Washington DC the first national conference on bail in criminal justice.
Let me read to you just two quotes. The first was on the opening ceremony of that conference here in DC. What Attorney General Bobby Kennedy said, “There is a special responsibility on all of us here. A special responsibility to represent those who cannot be here, those who are poor those who are unfortunate. The 1.5 million persons in the United States who are accused of a crime who haven’t been yet found guilty, who are yet unable to make bail and serve a time in prison prior to the time that their guilt has even been established. For these people, for those who cannot protect themselves, for those who are unfortunate we hear over the period of the next three days have a special responsibility.” He recognized back then how important the whole bail process was.
On the last day of the conference on May 29th of 1964. Attorney General Kennedy said the following, “What has been made clear today in the last two days is that our present attitudes toward bail are not only cruel, but really completely illogical. What has been demonstrated here is that usually only one factor determines whether a defendant stays in jail before he comes to trial. That factor is not guilty or innocence, it is not the nature of the crime, it is not the character of the defendant. That factor is simply money. How much money does that defendant have?”

Leonard: The interesting thing and I do want to get further along in the program and talk about the difference in the way that we conduct pretrial services here in the District of Columbia because your stats are astoundingly good. You have a whole organization devoted to the pretrial process. Before getting there and talking about what we do in DC and what we do throughout the rest of the country, it is a fact that the vast majority of people however since the attorney general made that announcement are released upon bail. Today, in 2015 we still have that status today. A person generally speaking is released upon their own personal recognizance, if I could ever say that word correctly or they’re released on bail. Today we still a system where how much you can afford to put up is dependent upon whether or not you were released.

Cliff: Well, let me tell you why it works that way today around the country, here in Washington DC and not in the federal system. That 1964 conference on bail convened by Attorney General Kennedy resulted in the passage of what was called the Bail Reform Act of 1966. Within two years of that conference congress was able to pass legislation that started to move the federal system as well as the local court system here in Washington DC because we are the Nation’s capital. At the time we were under congressional authority. Those laws began the change back in 1966. My agency the Pretrial Services Agency had a precursor agency called the DC Bail Agency which was created by an act of Congress in 1967.
We’ve been around for many, many years and over the years our system has changed and has moved dramatically away from the use of money bail or bond, commercial surety bond as a condition of release. Whereas, other states and other jurisdictions around the country have not kept up. That I believe is the marked difference between our jurisdiction and other jurisdictions.

Leonard: Am I correct in the stating that the vast majority of agencies throughout the United States right now still rely upon bail and still rely upon personal release? If you can prove that you are established in the community, that you own a home, that you have a family, that your flight risk is minimal, that’s the … That’s the basis for release today. Correct?
Cliff: In many jurisdictions but not in all jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions it’s still the case that if a person is arrested for a particular crime, say commercial burglary. There’s a bond schedule in that jurisdiction. Commercial burglary in this particular jurisdiction may carry a bond of $10,000 which means if the officer arrested the person for commercial burglary, that person has put up $10,000 otherwise that person stays in jail …

Leonard: Or they go to a bail bondsman who puts up approximately 10% of that.

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: Or he puts up 10% and the bail agency puts up the other 90%.

Cliff: Well, no. The other 90% is not actually put up at all. That’s one of the problems with commercial surety, with bondsman. Many jurisdictions in fact, don’t require the bondsman to actually put up anything. It’s basically a promise or a guarantee that the person will come back and it’s up to the court if the person fails to show to then take action against the commercial …

Leonard: Whether or not it’s enforced. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Cliff: Yes. Some jurisdictions have found themselves to be on the short end of receiving some of the receipts that they should have from the commercial bond industry because they are again are just not following up on those acts.

Leonard: Okay, but personal release and release by bail is not the least bit unusual in the United States today.

Cliff: Correct, but the reality is if you look at jail populations around the country estimates are between 60% and 70% of the jail populations are pretrial defendants who are unable to make the amount of bail which has been set as condition of release.

Leonard: No, that gets us back to criminal justice reform because what folks or on the conservative side are basically saying that you folks in the criminal justice system all of us need to be far more efficient, and it means to cost taxpayers less money. You’re spending way too much money and you’re not providing the right efficiencies. If 70% of that jail population is there, they are there on a pretrial basis. If there are lower level offenders, we all have heard the stories of people possession of marijuana, lower level crimes in jail for months until the trial comes along. Because they can’t afford to put up a small bail amount say $1,000 or $500. They languish in that jail and yet taxpayers are picking up the tab for keeping them every single day for the months that it takes. That seems to be wildly inefficient.

Cliff: Leonard you’re absolutely right. That’s why many jurisdictions around the country are starting to examine their pretrial justice systems. Because they realize not only is it inefficient, not only is it costly, but it’s also fundamentally unfair. Typically the persons who are not able to post their bond are people who are less affluent than the middle class. Typically they’re persons of color and this desperate impact that these setting of bail are having on some of those populations it’s just fundamentally unfair. That’s why I think many, many jurisdictions are starting to take renewed interest in trying to make some appropriate changes.
Let me also say this here in Washington DC our jail on any given day in this has been consistent for the last several years is operating at about 50% capacity. We don’t have people sitting in jail because of a money bond that they cannot make. Our system is one which is predicated upon people who are dangerous. A finding haven’t been made by a judge that a person is dangerous or a flight risk stays in jail because of that potential risk.

Leonard: I do want to examine that a little bit more. It’s just not DC but throughout the country. Those people where that judge feels that individual who has been charged with a crime is a dangerous individual is a clear and present danger to society, does pose a flight risk based upon what’s happened in the past. They still can keep that person regardless of the system.

Cliff: That’s absolutely correct. In fact, many jurisdictions do not allow the judicial officer to consider safety as a factor in setting conditions. New York for instance, in New York the only conditions that a judge can impose are in order to assure return to court. If a person is an extremely dangerous individual, what the judge will do is set a very high money bond $500,000 or $1 million in the hopes that the person doesn’t have the resources to in fact make that bond, and subsequently get out. Once again there you’re playing with potential risks to community safety because if a person has means and can actually post the bond amount, then there’s no guarantee of safety to the community or return to court guarantees.

Leonard: All right. Well, that’s surprising because I thought in every jurisdiction you could based upon dangerousness. In many jurisdictions throughout the country it is solely based upon the probability of that person returning for trial.

Cliff: Yes that’s absolutely correct.

Leonard: Okay. The bottom line assessment on the part of the Attorney General in 1966 Robert Kennedy, his assessment was those who have money get out and those who don’t have money stay in regardless as to your criminal justice status or guilt or innocence or anything else. It’s still principally predicated on whether or not you have the money to get out.
Cliff: Correct. That’s the way it continues to be to this day in the United States which is why I applaud the efforts that many jurisdictions in fact are undertaking. For instance, New Jersey. They had to pass a constitutional amendment to their state constitution in order to rectify their pretrial justice system. In New Jersey everybody was considered to be bailable. You need a robust preventive detention statute. Some mechanism which is going to protect the due process rights of the accused but also balancing that against the interest of society, the community, and that decision needing to be made by the judge. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, other states around the county. In fact, are looking at making constitutional changes to their state constitution in order to have a stronger statutory foundation in which to operate.

Leonard: We’re about halfway through the program I want to re-introduce our guests Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia. Www.psa.gov. Cliff is considered one of the top experts in the United States in pretrial services. There are a lot of organizations looking to reform a pretrial. Cliff throughout the United States. There’s a National Association of pretrial services or …

Cliff: That’s correct. There’s also an organization here in Washington DC called The pretrial Justice Institute. Anybody who is interested in either looking at historical material or the current state of affairs nationally could go to their website which is just www.pretrial.org. There is a wealth of information. One of the most I think compelling arguments recently is there is a fair amount of research which has been generated both through PJI as well as through the Arnold Foundation which finds that some of the negative collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of incarceration. As little as one two or three days can have on a person.
Think about it. If you’ve been arrested even though you’re presumed innocent but a judge has put a $1,000 bond on you and you can’t make it because you don’t have a $1,000 you know bondsman is going to underwrite a $1,000 bond because it’s not in their interest to do so. You may sit in jail for one two three days perhaps a week if you’re self-employed. You’re not generating any income, if you’re working in the service industry and you’re not showing up for work, you’re not going to be generating any income. If you’re a single parent responsible for watching your kids, housing issues, there are so many collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of detention that I don’t think America is really taking its responsibility to be fair, and to make sure that people who have been assessed as being a risk to the community, or a risk of returning to court are the ones who stay in jail.

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about those return rates. The District of Columbia does it differently from … I’m still going to say most of the organizations in the country. You’re a federal agency in the same way that court services and a federal supervision agency my agency is a federal agency. We have federal funding to do it properly. You have pretrial services agents who do take all individuals because in the District of Columbia the presumption is release. Unless there is a reason to hold the person beyond that, the presumption is release. The presumption is that if you’re charged with a crime, in the District of Columbia beyond dangerousness, or beyond flight risk, that means the great majority of people charged with crimes are going to be under your supervision. You have special units, you have GPS, you do immense about drug testing. You have the money and the structure and the wherewithal to supervise these individuals properly until they go to trial. Correct?

Cliff: That is correct.

Leonard: Most organizations don’t have the resources that you have is that also correct?

Cliff: That is correct, but I would defy any organization or agency or jurisdiction to point a finger at us here in Washington in the pretrial service agency saying we can’t do what you do because you’re a federal agency because you have so many resources. We actually looked at the basic services that a pretrial agency such as ours would actually cause the jurisdiction. There’s looking at the recommendation process in terms of making a recommendation to the judge at the initial hearing in order to help the judge decide whether or not the person is of re-appearing or not, or re-offending or not. We found that that along with the basic supervision to include GPS and some of the other supervision strategies, costs approximately $18 per day per defendant.
Now the current rate for housing a prisoner at the DC jail is about $205 per day. Once again you identified earlier we’re paying a lot of money in keeping people locked up. People who probably don’t need to be locked up to assure community safety or return to court. We’re spending that money without any regard to the negative collateral consequences that the person in his or her family may be subjected to. The flip side is for such a small fraction of that we could be doing what we’re doing here in DC. That’s the message that we’re hoping to get out nationally that there are ways of doing things in a smarter, more effective, more efficient way which are not going to be unfair or prejudicial or biased against one portion of our population as opposed to another.

Leonard: The statistics prove your point of view because the overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load do come to trial. The overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load are not involved in new criminal activity before that trial date. I’ve taken a look at your stats in the past. I have compared those statistics to National Statistics and your rate of return, and your rate of people who commit crimes before trial. Your data shows you to be phenominally successful.

Cliff: Well, again I agree with that …

Leonard: Is that a stretch or …

Cliff: No, no, no. I said I agree with that. The question is how does one define successful?

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about how we define successful.

Cliff: Let me give you some statistics. We have been tracking how many of our arrested population get released before a case disposition. For the last five years the average has been about 90% of the people who have been arrested by various law enforcement agencies here in DC end up being released at some point after their arrest prior to case disposition which is huge.

Leonard: That is huge 90% are released.

Cliff: Of those persons who are released and this is not just preach trials supervision but those who are also released on personal recognizance. We think is a good percentage of the population. Of all of those who have been released, about 89% on average for the last several years come back for all of their court appearances.

Leonard: All of them?

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: 89%?

Cliff: Right.

Leonard: Multiple, multiple, multiple times return for trial?

Cliff: Correct. Now once again you have to look at definitions because we consider the first failure to appear even if it subsequently excused by the judge, is still a failure to appear. We’re looking to scrub that number to see how many people end up actually being responsible for willfully failing to appear. I think that number will be even smaller than it is that we’re currently looking at. The other statistic that we look at is how many persons remain arrest free while they’re on pretrial release. That number has been averaging about 88%. For the last several years roughly 88% of our released population do not get re-arrested for any offense. The reality is those persons who are re-arrested it’s typically for minor things. Somebody may have a possession of cocaine case pending, they pick up another possession of cocaine case. The persons who are re-arrested we find that less than 1% are rearrested for a violent crime. Which we think reflects the fact that …

Leonard: Less than 1% are re-arrested for a violent crime while under the supervision a pretrial services agency?

Cliff: Correct. Once again I think you know no pretrial function can guarantee success. We’re dealing with human beings and people are going to do what people will do.

Leonard: There are no guarantees in community supervision.

Cliff: Correct. We do the very best we can and I think that our statistics reflect as you said very successful results. I think that the stakeholders here in the DC Criminal Justice System including the judges in the courts as well as our law-enforcement partners as well as the prosecutors, the defense and even the community recognize our bail system, our pretrial system of doing justice as being a model that others around the country can learn from.

Leonard: That is true that’s no stretch to the imagination they consider people in re-trial look to your system the system that you run here in the District of Columbia as being a model agency. It’s not the public affairs person just blowing smoke. It really is … You are considered to be one of the best in the United States if not the best in the United States. People constantly refer back to what it is that you’re doing as something that other agencies should emulate throughout the country. Not necessarily on constitutional or philosophical grounds although how can you ignore that? How can you ignore the Constitution? How can you ignore the law? Based upon principally, your stats.

Cliff: Correct. Actually Leonard if I could urge your viewers who may not be familiar with the American bail system, if they get the opportunity, an individual John Oliver has a program on HBO which we call The Week in Review. About two months ago he did an entire segment on Bail in America. While it’s humorous It’s also sad because many, many people do not realize the implications that our reliance upon commercial bail, surety bail, if you will has on the average individual who ends up getting arrested. I think even though it’s humorous I think he puts a very appropriate perspective on how illogical as Attorney General Kennedy said, “Our system is if it comes to rely upon money.”
There are two countries that rely upon commercial surety bail to the same extent around the world. Two out of the entire world. The United States in the Philippines. No other countries utilize commercial bail the way we do here. It’s something which I think continues to need to be modified in order to make for a more fair system.

Leonard: But we touched upon this at the beginning of the program. Why this sense of allegiance to monetary bail? There is something philosophically … Something of this philosophically driven I think that where people are saying to themselves, “I know that he’s innocent before being proven guilty.” I understand that but in all probability he is guilty, and at least with the bail system or sometime in jail at least there’s some punishment for the crime that he’s committed. There’s got to be a reason as to why decade after decade, after decade we’re still principally reliant upon monetary bail, or personal release.

Cliff: Well you hit upon an interesting point because there is no way that a person or an individual who gets caught up in the criminal justice system in America should be punished prior to finding of guilt. In fact, in a Supreme Court case back in 1951 the court’s finding was that one of the purposes of bail is to ensure that again presumed innocent persons in fact, are not punished prior to that finding of guilt. Yeah that’s the reality. I think the use of commercial bail and bond schedules is a very easy way for systems a) Some of them rely upon that money to help support court costs. They use it as a revenue generator. Some jurisdictions consider to be An easy way to deal with many, many cases because the judge doesn’t need to make an individualized decision about this person’s flight risk or potential harm to the community.
Again, commercial burglary equals $10,000. Very quick, very simple. To be frank I think many judges abdicate their responsibility to uphold the constitution of the United States as well as their own state by imposing money bail because they can say should something happen if the person were to be released and did something wrong, they could say, “Hey I did what the statute or what our court rules require which was to impose this bond.” Again that shouldn’t be the function of the judge in setting these conditions of release. We shouldn’t do it the easy way, the most expedient way, the quickest way, we should do it in a way that preserves true American justice.

Leonard: It preserves the United States Constitution and at the same time it’s pragmatic because it costs taxpayers a lot less to keep a person on pretrial than in jail. That’s the efficiencies that many people throughout the country are calling for in a criminal justice system. You’ve been able to prove those efficiencies. The case seems to be made.

Cliff: I agree. I think that we are in a very good place here in Washington DC both because of our statutory framework as well as because of the resources that we the pretrial service agency are able to bring to the table. Most importantly I think it’s also because all of the actors especially the judges … they understand what their responsibility is in terms of administering pretrial justice and the way it’s supposed to be administered.

Leonard: Final minute of the program before we have to close Cliff. Is there something we’ve left out of this discussion? Again, so many people come to this program and there are newbies of some congress person, or mayor, or state senator as their aides to discover what the issues are in pretrial. That’s one of the reasons why we do these programs. Is there anything we left out of this discussion?

Cliff: No. I would just urge other jurisdictions to look at all of the reforms that are taking place either within their own jurisdiction or nearby jurisdictions. This is something which … and I chalk a lot of it up to former Attorney General Eric Holder who convened the second Bail Reform Conference just four years ago. I think as a result of that and the work of many of our leaders in the pretrial field, we’re seeing progress around the country and we would like to see it continue.

Leonard: Are we going to be moving towards more of a pretrial services agency in the District of Columbia style of bail and less of a reliance upon monetary bail?

Cliff: In other jurisdictions absolutely. New Jersey is kicking off their pretrial Service Agency program in 2017. We’ve been asked to speak to Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, New York, any number of jurisdictions are starting to do exactly what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years.

Leonard: At our microphones today Cliff Keenan, the Director of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia. Www.psa.gov. 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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Fundamental Change Within the Criminal Justice System

DC Public Safety Radio

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

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/07/fundamental-change-justice-system-adam-gelb-pew/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, back at our microphone is Adam Gelb. Adam is the director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts, with an S, T-R-U-S-T-S, .org/publicsafety. Adam and Pew, certainly one of the best organizations, if not the best, in terms of fundamental change within the criminal justice system, and that’s today’s show title, . Adam Gelb, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Adam: It’s great to be with you again, Len.

Leonard: Adam, this is such an interesting topic because it is bubbling all throughout the United States, fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Pew has done a yeoman’s job in terms of working with a wide variety of state, and counties, and cities to try to analyze their criminal justice system and to come up with ways to protect public safety but do things differently, correct?

Adam: That’s right. Len, there are really two pieces of knowledge that have driven a lot of this over time. There’s a political dynamic that’s been afoot in the country for a long time that said we should just be tough on crime and lock as many people up for as long as possible, but the extent to which there are two pieces of information are driven. One is that the notion that if you kept prisons growing, then you would keep crime shrinking. If we just kept building more and more prisons and locking up more and more people for longer, then crime would fall.
The second has been that on an individual level if we kept offenders behind bars longer, they would be less likely to reoffend when they got out. Those are the two relationships that have underlay a lot of the policy in this area. It turns out both of them are not true, and that research that we have done on a national level and many other organizations have as well, but also at the state level, has really shown that those are in fact myths, that you can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time and that keeping most offenders in for long periods of time actually doesn’t do anything to reduce recidivism. It increased costs and it certainly increased punishment, and many offenders may be deserving of that, but longer lengths of stay do not equate to lower levels of recidivism.

Leonard: Go ahead, Adam.

Adam: We start to see these numbers in the states, and it’s been over five years now, Len, that states have been reducing crime and incarceration rates, that this ironclad relationship that a lot of people thought existed between rising imprisonment and falling crime is no longer the case. With respect to studies in individual states, when you compare similar offenders who have different lengths of stay, and make other changes, we see no evidence there either. These two fundamental pieces that are starting to crumble is what’s fueling a lot of the fundamental change in the justice system that you talk about.

Leonard: You’re talking about improving public safety. You’re talking about making people see for focusing on people who are truly dangerous doing “something else” with all the others. We’re not just talking about lessening the rate of incarceration. We’re just not talking about fewer people going to prison. Your fundamental message is not that. Your fundamental message is, we can protect public safety and at the same time use our resources to their best possible advantage.

Adam: That’s exactly right.

Leonard: Okay, but why? What started all this? What started this discussion about, “We don’t have to send everybody to prison, we don’t have to send everybody to prison for the length of time that we’ve done in the past”? Where did this conversation start and why did it start?

Adam: We really trace it back, Len, to Texas. You and I have talked about this a number of times, that in 2007 the Texas legislature, and Rick Perry was governor, just said no to the Corrections Department’s request to build another 14,000 to 17,000 prison beds over the coming five years. Now this is the state, Texas, that in 1987 had 50,000 people in prison and 20 years later had 150,000 people in prison, and were being asked in that legislative session to keep on that same path and to keep building. There’s an assumption out there I think, Len, that a lot of what’s happening in the criminal justice arena today and over the past few years has been driven by a need to save money and by budget concerns. There’s no question about that. You’d be naïve to think that that doesn’t play into it at all, but if you think back to 2006 when the plans in Texas were beginning to hatch and then into 2007, the economy was humming at that point.
In fact, Lehman Brothers didn’t collapse till the fall 0f 2008, and the economic downturn started at that point. You had a situation in Texas where leadership just said, “No, we’re not going to keep continuing on this path. Let’s find some more cost effective things to do,” even though they weren’t under the budget gun at the time. As you can imagine, Texas is the very symbol of law and order in this country. Nobody believes that if Texas is going to do something on criminal justice, it’s going to be soft on crime or soft on criminals. The fact that Texas did what it did in 2007 has resonated very loudly in capitals around the country and more than any other single thing I think has helped motivate this wave of reform that we’re seeing.

Leonard: In my discussions with my counterparts throughout the country, I think it’s justifiable to say that every governor in the United States has had a conversation with every Public Safety Secretary, Director of Corrections in the United States. The fundamental question is how can we bring down our expenditures, because in many states, Corrections is the second largest expenditure in their states? I’ve seen in some states it’s close to being the first or the largest expenditure, that every governor has had a conversation with every Public Safety Secretary basically saying, “How can we protect public safety and control the amount of money going into Corrections?” Is that right or wrong?

Adam: I can’t speak for all 50 states, but certainly there have been over 30 states now that have enacted some type of comprehensive reforms. Those conversations in those states have happened, and it’s this Texas example where not only did they not build those prisons, but they put hundreds of millions of dollars into various alternatives, the proverbial “something else” you mentioned a few minutes ago, various treatment and diversion options on both the front and the back end of the system, and the results they’ve gotten, which include a dramatic reduction in parole revocations, include now cumulative about three billion dollars in savings that they count from not having to build over what is now the past seven years, and most importantly, the crime rate in Texas falling right in tandem with the national average. Those kind of results speak loudly to governors and Corrections directors across the country.

Leonard: The conversation is just not Pew. I did want to point that out. I mean I love Pew, but I think Pew is truly the leader in this, but it’s the Department of Justice, it’s lots of other agencies at the national level who are joining together, the National Council of State Governments, American Probation and Parole Association, and many others are all coming together and pretty much basically saying that there’s no way that the Criminal Justice System can continue as it’s been, we can’t afford it, or they’re fundamentally opposed to it philosophically, but for whatever reason, this conversation has been going on since the recession. Pew certainly has been at the forefront of it. Explain to me and explain to the audience what that means. You go in and work with the states to analyze their systems. Take it from there.

Adam: Sure. I appreciate your kind words in pointing out the partnership that Pew does have with the Justice Department, Attorney General Lynch, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, and in particular, the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Denise O’Donnell. It really is an extraordinary public/private partnership. It’s not just that in name but that we really couldn’t be doing this kind of work and supporting the states in this way without the relative strengths that we have in our organizations and this partnership. What we do is have conversations with leadership in these states and assess the extent to which they are ready, willing, and able to tackle a comprehensive analysis of their system and then act on the findings. There have been, as we said a few minutes ago, more than two dozen, it’s really coming up on three dozen, states now that have raised their hands and said, “We want to do this process,” which we call justice reinvestment. Once they do that, the participating states then go through at least three phases of work. The first is an analysis of their system to identify what’s been driving the prison growth and where the Corrections systems in those states are and are not in alignment with evidence based practices. Once those things are ascertained, then you move to the second phase, which is policy development, saying, “Okay, we know where the problems are, the solutions, and what does the research tell us about what would be effective, and what does the evidence from other states that have done reforms tell us about what works and what doesn’t?”
Then we help facilitate consensus on a bipartisan interbranch working group that includes prosecutors and defense counsel as well as legislators and Corrections officials on a comprehensive package of reform. The last phase of course is to make sure that this is not a great report with wonderful recommendations based on evidence, and data, and research that then sits on a shelf. We do provide support to these working groups and to state leadership to help make sure that the recommendations cross the finish line in the legislature and are implemented.

Leonard: You mentioned it before. I want to hammer it home. Within the majority of the states that you’ve worked with, rates of incarceration have come down concurrently with crime decreasing. Am I right or wrong?

Adam: That’s correct. More than 30 states now in the past five years are seeing reductions in both crime and incarceration rates.

Leonard: That’s phenomenal, don’t you think, because, again, we have spent decades, if not longer, philosophically believing that the more people you lock up, the safer people are going to be?
Adam: That’s absolutely right. That’s one of those two myths we talked about up front. More than half of the states now are dispelling it. It’s a hugely important piece of the puzzle here. I can’t overstate it.

Leonard: I just want to refocus again that people who are truly violent, dangerous, we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about “everybody else.” People who pose a clear and present danger to the public safety, we’re not talking about doing anything else with them besides incarceration, but that leaves literally just lots of other people caught up in the Criminal Justice System that we can do alternatives, we can employ alternatives, and do something else with them. Do I have that right?

Adam: You do have that right, though the conversation is changing. If you look at what Texas did and the first few states that engaged in this process in 2007, 8, and 9, you would see fewer reforms and reforms that were mostly focused on slowing the revolving door, and particularly responding differently to violations of probation and parole, and making sure that the violations and violators are held accountable for those violations through various means, whether it’s curfew or community service or short jail stays, but not through revocation back to a $29,000 a year taxpayer funded prison cell, that there were more effective, less expensive ways to deal with violators.
If you look the last three years, and the comprehensive reform packages that have been passed in Mississippi, and in Utah, and in South Dakota, and Georgia, and North Carolina, these are much more comprehensive packages that look at the front end of the system and particularly at property offenders and drug offenders, and in many cases change those laws directly up front to say certain offenders who we have been sending to prison shouldn’t be going to prison at all in the first place. One of the most common reforms has been to change the felony theft threshold, which determines whether something is a misdemeanor or a felony and eligible for state prison.
A number of states have raised those thresholds and also changed the thresholds of drug quantities and the amount of drugs that trigger a felony level and penalties and prison exposure. As this has happened, I think it’s opened up the conversation. Len, you’re probably aware that there’s a group out there now called Cut50, and actually several groups, which now have as their outright objective to cut the prison population in half over the next several years. I don’t think you would have seen that back in 2007. I don’t think anybody would have bothered trying to make that suggestion. It may be a big stretch at this point, but enough people think that the problem is big enough and that the solutions are now exposed that we know what to do, that it’s a goal that’s worth talking about.

Leonard: We’re halfway through the program. Our guest today is Adam Gelb, the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts, with an S, .org/publicsafety, www.pewtrusts.org/publicsafety. Again, as I said at the beginning of the program, I’ll say it now, Pew has certainly been a leader and some will suggest the leader in terms of fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System, which is the title of today’s program. Full disclosure, Adam and I both work with each other in the state of Maryland, and I’ll tell this story very quickly, Adam. I was sitting with Public Safety Secretary, Bishop Robinson, years ago, and I came to him in his office, and I sat down, and he goes, “Sipes, do you know how many people are violators of parole and probation from our intake population here in the state of Maryland?”
I said, “Mr. Secretary, I have no idea. I think it was 70%.” Then he looked at me rather sternly and said, “Do you mean to tell me all 70% of our intakes, all of these people, each and every one of them really needed to come off the street, really were a clear and present danger to public safety?” I said, “Well, Mr. Secretary, that’s probably a very good question.” We’ve gone from that very good question to actually operationalizing that concept, who do we take back into the prison system, and why, and under what circumstances, correct?

Adam: That’s absolutely right. This has been the biggest area of reform. As I mentioned, states have been at it for quite long. I wish we had national data on this. If we did, I suspect it would show that across the country the percent of prison admissions that are offenders from probation and parole being returned for technical violations has dropped, and I’d hope that it has dropped fairly substantially. This is the area of perhaps the strongest consensus around the country.

Leonard: The interesting part is that, you’re talking about justice reinvestment, and you’re talking about the idea of taking whatever savings states have and reinvest them back into either drug treatment or parole and probation so they can do a better job. All of this comes with agreement on people on both sides of the political spectrum, so now this is not just an issue that is driven by, if you will, the left. The people who are staunch conservatives are also behind this. They want to see a more efficient Criminal Justice System do a better job, and they feel that if they do a better job, and if they use research and best practices, it’s going to cost that state less. What they’re looking for is efficiency and a greater impact. You have all sides of the political spectrum supporting justice reinvestment or a fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System, correct?

Adam: That’s exactly right. I think this is where the influence of Texas is once again felt, and that is that the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which participated in the efforts back in 2005, 2007, that we’ve spoken of, has taken what happened in Texas on the road, if you will, and as a state based conservative think tank made connections with other leading conservatives who were starting to say supportive things about justice reform, being concerned about mandatory minimums, and the separation of powers, and some constitutional concerns there, as well as the overall size of Correction system, which as you know our report from Pew in early 2008 called 1 in 100 where we counted and documented that for the first time the nation’s total incarcerated population had reached 1 out of every 100 adults in this country being behind bars, that conservatives felt like that was not something that was consistent with principles of limited government and to the separate concept obviously from fiscal discipline.
You have now this organization called Right on Crime that that pulls together people like New Gingrich, and Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie, and Ken Cuccinelli, and others who for a variety of reasons and conservative principles that also include family preservation and of course at its core public safety are saying there are more effective, less expensive ways for the government to secure the public safety.

Leonard: One of the things I want you to do at this time, Adam, is to paint a picture as to where we could be, where we should be within the next five or ten years, but I do want to throw some caveats up here. I mean you’ve got over 30 states involved in this. It’s a national discussion. It seems to be picking up steam. We’re moving in the right direction. Let me throw a couple of roadblocks in the conversation. The numbers, sheer numbers, and the rates of incarceration, they’ve decreased but they haven’t decreased that much. There still seems I know in some states, there’s been a significant decrease, New York comes to mind, but the aggregate, the national numbers, if they’re coming down, they’re coming down very slowly, so people still seem to be vested in this concept of incarceration.
There still seems to be a sense of, “Okay, we need to change it, but let’s move very slowly. Let’s move very cautiously.” Am I right or wrong, and is that a roadblock? Is it going to take a long period of time to do this? Once we get beyond that, what happens five years, ten years down the road?

Adam: I think you’re right. This is tough to characterize because a few years ago, I think everybody thought that the prison population was going to defy the law of physics, everything that goes up must come down. Yet for 38 years in a row, the prison population went up. I don’t know of anybody you would have asked in 2005, 6, 7, “Are we going to see an actual decrease in the prison population or the incarceration rate,” I don’t think you would have many takers on that. The fact that we did go steadily up for nearly four decades, since the early 70s, and then actually level off and start to bend down is a see change in and of itself.
The 1 in 100 from 2007 actually became 1 in 110 at the end of 2013, and I think when the Justice Department releases the full census from the end of 2014, I think we’ll actually see it down another couple of notches, so a full 10% reduction in the nation’s total incarceration rate. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The question you’re asking about how long can we go is obviously a crystal ball kind of question I couldn’t answer, but I think the research supports that it could go a good bit lower without endangering public safety.

Leonard: Veterans courts, I just did a program on veterans courts with the National Institute of Corrections, and I don’t want to have a discussion about veterans courts, but that’s one example of diverting people out of the Criminal Justice System, drug courts, family courts, parole courts. The idea of not everybody needs to go back. There are other mechanisms to use instead of putting people in prison or putting people back in prison, reducing the sentences for individuals. We now have a case through the Federal Sentencing Commission that 8,000 individuals came out of the federal prison system, approximately 10% of their sentence early.
I think it averaged out to about two years. They’re leaving federal prisons, and I forget the total number, but I think it approaches 40,000. You have these efforts throughout the country to shorten sentences, to provide alternatives, not to send people automatically back to prison, and yet to hold individuals accountable with a Project Hope of Hawaii that’s now being replicated in two states through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, providing arrest and every time the person does something wrong, and for very short jail stays, one day, two days, three days, depending upon the circumstances. That seems to cut down on recidivism considerably and technical violations. Again, there’s all sorts of different ways of approaching this that I think is building towards a critical mass. I want you to define what that critical mass could be.

Adam: I wish I could, but you’re putting your finger on something that’s very important here, and it goes to that second myth I mentioned up front, which is the lack of relationship between length of stay and recidivism. Hawaii Hope, which was started by a former federal prosecutor, became a judge in state court in Hawaii, is maybe the ultimate example of that. People who were doing long stints are now recidivating less with just looking at a couple of days in jail. That kind of evidence is really starting to be produced and to make its way into policy makers’ hands.
Politically speaking then, that doesn’t automatically produce change, and there still are plenty of people who think that the best way to reduce crime is to lock up people and to keep them there as long as possible. I think a couple of things that are happening across the country right now do suggest that additional reform or deeper reform are going to become more difficult. One is the increase in the heroin problem. Second is the reported increase in murders in some cities across the country.

Leonard: Violent crime beyond murder, so we’re dealing with that issue as well.

Adam: Yes, no doubt. Now I think many of the commentators on this and mostly the people who have been asked to weigh in on why is this happening, why might we be seeing an increase in violent crime and murders in some cities across the country, most of them have pointed to factors that have nothing to do with the Corrections and sentencing systems or reforms. They’ve talked, in fact, about the increase in opioid addiction and heroin markets that have sprung up around that. They’ve talked about many other factors. Those who have talked about repeat offenders being responsible for this, and of course repeat offenders are contributor to crime, that’s why we have high revocation rates, but at the same time, it’s really important to note that the number of prison releases last year, 2014, were down 15% from their peak in 2008. It’s not as if the numbers support at all the notion that some kind of big increase in offender releases has any connection whatsoever to do with a rise in the actual crime rate.

Leonard: What we have to do, we within the Criminal Justice System, we have to struggle through all of these issues, whether they be policy, whether they be philosophical, whether they be crime related issues, but this is not something that’s going to go away. Fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System seems to be here, and I’m guessing that it will grow because, again, I’ll go back to veterans courts. I know I’m cherry picking, but you have a lot of people from the military, ex-military, and they end up in the Criminal Justice System. Some end up in prison, and yet within the military community, within the veterans community, they flood that person in terms of mentorship.
It’s just not the Criminal Justice System. I’ve never seen so many mentors come out of the woodwork to help an individual brother or sister in arms when they’ve made a mistake or committed a crime and they’re caught up in the Criminal Justice System. These sort of things seem to be inevitable. I’m not quite sure they’re going to stop. It’s just a matter of providing best practices and guiding them in a way that all people can agree upon.

Adam: I think that’s spot on, Len. Forty years ago, more than forty years ago now, when we started down this prison building path as a nation, we quite frankly didn’t know very much about what works to stop the revolving door. We didn’t have an evidence base of effective practices that would change offender behavior. Now we do. We know that if we use risk/needs assessments, we can figure out what levels to supervise people at and what programs to put them in and match them to appropriate treatments that will tackle their criminal risk factors. We know that if we use swift and certain sanctions, like in the Hawaii Hope program, that we can change their behavior through that kind of strategy as well.
We know that offering rewards for positive progress, not just sanctions when you mess up, can be a powerful motivator change, and many other building blocks of an effective Corrections system. The research base is there. No magic bullets, but when you do the things that the research says work, you can have a significant impact on recidivism, and policy makers are becoming more and more aware of that. That’s why I think you’re right that over time, there may be some political cycles and things that occur that feel like in the short term will be a drag on reform momentum, that this evidence base will continue to build, and as long as there are organizations and effective mechanisms for making sure the policy makers have access to that information, I think we’re going to see this issue continue to move in a smarter and more cost effective ways.

Leonard: We’ve been talking to Adam Gelb, always a fascinating conversation, Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts.org/publicsafety. 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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Veteran Treatment Courts

DC Public Safety Radio

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

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/11/the-growth-of-veterans-treatment-courts/

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, veterans treatment court is the topic for today. We have three extraordinary guests before our microphones. Aaron Arnold is the Director of Treatment Court programs at the Center for Court Innovation. Aaron oversees the Center’s national training and technical assistance for drug courts. Greg Crawford is a Correctional Program Specialist at the Community Services Division at the National Institute of Corrections. Greg’s experience prior to the National Institute of Corrections includes over fourteen years as a probation department person and a community based mental health agency expert. We have Ruby Qazilbash. Did I get that right or did I screw that up? Qazilbash.

Ruby Qazilbash: Qazilbash. Good enough.

Leonard Sipes: Ruby is the Associate Deputy Director for Justice Systems Policy at the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the US Department of Justice. She leads a team of policy staff in program and policy development aimed at improving safe local and tribal justice systems. To all three of you, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Greg Crawford: Thanks, Len.

Leonard Sipes: Veterans treatment court, it is exploding. It is growing like wildfire throughout the United States, so Greg, give me an overview of what veteran’s treatment court is.

Greg Crawford: Basically what a veterans treatment court is, is a hybrid integration of drug court and mental health court that serves military veterans, and sometimes active duty personnel. The first veterans court was implemented in 2008 up in Buffalo, New York by Judge Robert Russell, and since then, there’s been over three hundred implemented across this country.

Leonard Sipes: That’s an amazing amount of growth. Aaron, to my knowledge, I can’t think of another criminal justice program that has grown as much or as fast as veterans treatment courts.

Aaron Arnold: I’d have to agree with you. I mean drug courts have been around longer, and there are more of them, but they didn’t grow quite as fast as we’re seeing veterans treatment courts grow today.

Leonard Sipes: Ruby, the role of the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the US Department of Justice, you are the Associate Deputy Director for Justice Systems Policy. Obviously, you’re here to support BJA’s involvement in veterans treatment courts, correct?

Ruby Qazilbash: That’s correct. BJ provides training, funding. In fact, we’ve set up almost two hundred veteran treatment court teams around the country, training soup to nuts, making sure that those team members understand what their roles and responsibilities are, that they come out of that training with a policy and procedures manual, and they’re ready to go and open those doors to veterans. We, also, provide federal funding to the drug court programs, solicitation, and veteran treatment courts are eligible to come in for federal funding, federal grants to support the implementation of these courts around the country.

Leonard Sipes: I can’t think of any other program where everybody’s on board. Everybody’s enthusiastic, everybody wants this to occur. The question is why? Why is it growing so fast? Why is everybody on board with this?

Aaron Arnold: I would say because they work, Len. First of all, veterans are not typically criminals prior to their military service, and some veterans have experienced things and done things that most of us can’t imagine, and they come home, and sometimes they struggle. Sometimes they self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, and they, unfortunately, find themselves involved in the criminal justice system, and really what veterans treatment courts do is they’re an opportunity to intervene in the lives of veterans before things escalate for them in the system. What they’re doing, is they’re restoring veterans’ lives. They’re reducing recidivism. They’re enhancing public safety, and saving taxpayer dollars, so it’s checking all the boxes.

Leonard Sipes: Is there an issue with veterans and a crime?

Aaron Arnold: Well, typically, like I said, veterans are not criminals prior to their service, and they’re coming home and they’re really struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury, and it’s taking them down a path, and I think that’s why it’s so critical for our system to intervene before they go down a deeper path.

Leonard Sipes: People so far are seemingly bullish about veterans treatment courts, and the question either goes out to Aaron or to Ruby. Most people seem to feel that they do better than the typical drug courts or the typical treatment courts, that veterans, given the chance, have an opportunity to rearrange their lives and straighten their lives out, but they need assistance. First of all, am I right with the perception that veterans treatment courts seem to have greater potential than other specialty treatment courts?

Ruby Qazilbash: There are obviously a proliferation of drug courts around the country. As Aaron said, that movement has been building and growing for the past twenty-five years, but, since then, we’ve, also, seen other specialty or problem solving courts address the special needs of individuals in our communities, including mental health courts, and then, of course, veterans treatment courts. I think that the issue is to find the diversion opportunity. You want to reduce incarceration and get people the help and the services that they need, so they can lead productive lives, crime free, to find the right intervention for them, and the project that we’re talking about today we hope is going to lead us down that road.
Do they see equal or better outcomes as drug courts that we know of? I think more research, for sure, needs to be done, but outcomes are looking good so far.

Leonard Sipes: Everybody seems to be very encouraged about that. Everybody seems to be very encouraged in terms of the outcomes thus far. We’ve had 2.5 million men and women serve in our country since 9/11, and 1.5 million serving overseas. Veterans come home. They struggle with combat related issues. As Greg said a little while ago, PTSD, major depression, homelessness, suicide, and some are ending up with us, within the criminal justice system. This is not just a matter of good criminal justice policy. This has a moral issue attached to it as well, does it not, Greg?

Greg Crawford: I think so. Absolutely. Here’s the deal, like you said, we had 2.5 million serve our country since 9/11, and really it’s a volunteer service. These people are serving our country as volunteers, so the rest of us don’t have to go overseas and fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or wherever they are, so absolutely, I think we have an obligation to try to help them.

Leonard Sipes: Where are we going with all of this? The Bureau of Justice Assistance in the US Department of Justice is providing funding for the expansion of drug court. We are talking about evaluating drug court. We are talking about creating specialized instruments for drug court. The National Institute of Corrections is coming out at a certain point with a white paper that describes what best practices in drug court.

Greg Crawford: Yeah. What we want to talk about here today is … The white paper actually served as a platform for all of NIC’s veterans specific initiatives. We’ve, also, done a three hour live satellite broadcast on veterans treatments court, and, also, with that, I contacted Ruby over at BJA about a potential collaboration to develop a risk needs assessment tool that factors in trauma for justice involved veterans. As a former probation officer, back in the day I would get cases, and these veterans coming in from joint base Lewis McChord over in Pierce Country, Washington. They would be ordered to do domestic violence treatment, and nothing on the court order would touch their underlying issues of PTSD and TBI that I think are a major cause of them bleeding into the system, and that’s why we partnered on this project, because we thought there needs to be some science behind what we’re doing in these veterans treatment courts. I don’t want to steal Aaron’s thunder, but I’ll let him talk a little bit about the project.

Leonard Sipes: Go ahead, Aaron.

Aaron Arnold: Thanks, Greg. Greg hit it on the head. We’re trying to put some science behind what veterans treatment courts are doing, and I should just give a little context to say that in the drug court field, for a number of years now, courts have been eager to adopt evidence based risk need assessments, and all that means is to use a standardized set of questions that courts or probation departments will ask to offenders who are coming into the court system to try to identify what are their actual needs that we can help to address to reduce their risk of re-offending, and those tools exist. There are many of them that are being used in the drug court context. They have been proven over and over again in the research to help courts do a better job of getting people the appropriate kinds of supervision and treatment they need, and reduce their long term risk of re-offending.
What has not existed, up till now, is a specialized risk need tool designed specifically for the justice involved veterans population. That’s what this project is intended to create. Here at the Center for Court Innovation … We’re a nonprofit justice reform organization in New York City, and what we’re doing is, with our in house research department, is to create the first evidence based risk need assessment tools for use in veterans treatment courts.

Leonard Sipes: It’s important that whatever risk instrument that we come up with, that it really works with that particular population, whether it be juveniles, whether it be women, whether it be men, whether it be adults, whether it be pre-trial, whether it be supervision, adult supervision, whether it be … It doesn’t matter. The whole idea is to create a risk instrument that is going to be germane to that particular population. What is unique, Aaron, about the veterans and in a risk instrument?

Aaron Arnold: That’s exactly right. We’ve actually spent the last twelve months working, like I said, with our in house researchers, with our partner agencies around the country, like the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and Justice for Vets, other organizations who work in this field, as well as a hand picked committee of experts in the field, who are helping us to identify what are the specific unique factors that veterans bring to the justice system, and how can we reflect those in a new evidence based risk need tool. Some of those we’ve already talked about: the exposure to combat trauma and the resulting post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other mental health issues that emerge from that, the substance abuse and other behavioral health factors that can emerge after folks return home. Making sure that all of those very specific needs are reflected in the instrument itself, so that courts have the tools they need to make sure that folks are getting the appropriate levels of supervision and treatment.
The tools are essentially done at this point. We’re excited. After a year, we’ve drafted up the tools, and they’re ready to be tested in the field.

Leonard Sipes: Ruby, this is exciting. You represent the Bureau of Justice Assistance from the US Department of Justice, and within the Obama Administration, what they have done through federal agencies and through funding to state, local, tribal agencies, is to expand the concept of alternatives to traditional ways of conducting criminal justice. This is exciting, because it’s moving in a dozen different directions. We are basically reinventing the way that we operate the criminal justice system on a wide variety of platforms. The veterans treatment court is just one of them.

Ruby Qazilbash: Without a doubt. I think we know so much more about what contributes to criminal behavior, and what this project lends itself towards is furthering to narrow that, and to get the right people into the right program at the right time, and I think Aaron hit on it when he said that the intention for this risk and needs assessment is to figure out for the individual that you’re presented with in that courtroom and that day.

With using an assessment tool that’s accurate for that population and for that person’s peers. What is their risk level, so that we can assign supervision accordingly. We don’t want to over supervise. We don’t want to under supervise. We want to get it right. For needs assessment, what kinds of potentially substance abuse treatment might that individual need, what kind of mental health counseling. What should that look like? What should the dosage be, so that we can give people what they need. The point here is to increase their functional outcomes, the way that they behave and act in society in a way that’s beneficial to them and to the rest of us, and to reduce recidivism, thereby enhancing public safety for the community that those folks live in.
Leonard Sipes: The larger question is that it becomes a larger issue. Veterans treatment courts go hand in hand with regular treatment courts, go hand in hand with all sorts of opportunities and endeavors that the federal government, and state governments and local governments are trying to employ nowadays to operate the criminal justice system differently, to intervene in the lives of individuals earlier, to defer them or to keep them out of the mainstream criminal justice system, if at all humanly possible, to provide treatment services in prison, and on post release.
This is part of a larger effort, correct?

Ruby Qazilbash: Without a doubt. It is the move towards risk based decision making, while striking a balance between reducing unnecessary incarceration and maintaining or increasing public safety. That’s the goal.

Leonard Sipes: Because every governor in every state has had a conversation with their state public safety secretaries or their directors of corrections, and basically said look, the correctional budget is now the second largest component of our state budget. We cannot continue to bring in the numbers of people that we have. It’s impossible to sustain this level of funding, so we need alternatives. You can look at that from a cost effectiveness point of view. You have now both sides of the political aisle. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on. They are now supportive, because they want a bigger bang for tax paid dollars. They want more results.
This is all part of a unique and growing and interesting aspect to criminal justice administration. I’ve been in this system for forty-five years, and I have never seen what I’m seeing now in terms of that emphasis on programs, that emphasis on treatment, that emphasis on is there another way of handling this person besides simply throwing them in prison, so the veterans treatment court seems to be a natural outcome of that. It’s the growth that astounds me for veterans treatment courts.

Aaron Arnold: Yeah. You talked about the numbers. Since the early 80s, we’ve seen nearly a four hundred percent increase in the US prison population, and I think the writing was on the wall. I think everybody’s on board that alternatives are critical to turning this thing around for our country. We have basically one in thirty-five adults under some from of correctional supervision, whether it be prison, probation, parole, so something needed to be done. When this first court was implemented in 2008, we immediately started seeing results, and not only is it effective, it’s a humane way to go about treating our veterans.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program, ladies and gentlemen. We’re doing a show today on veterans treatment courts with the National Institute of Corrections, and with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and with the Center for Court Innovation. Aaron Arnold is Director of Treatment Programs for the Center for Court Innovation, Greg Crawford, is a Correctional Programs Specialist at the Community Services Division of the National Institute of Corrections; and Ruby Qazilbash … I hope I’m not screwing that name up. Ruby is the Associate Deputy Director for Justice Systems Policy at the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the US Department of Justice.
Where do we see drug treatment courts going. Aaron, I’m going to start off with you. For the next ten years, if we’ve had this explosive growth, and since 2008, we have three hundred veterans treatment courts throughout the country. Where does that take us ten years from now?

Aaron Arnold: I think part of the trend is what we’re discussing here today, is to make science based decisions. There’s tons and tons of research from the last twenty-five years on drug treatment courts, and we can be very confident, at this point, that drug treatment courts, when implemented correctly, reduce the risk of re-offending, keep people in treatment longer, promote recovery, and all of the things that we’re trying to accomplish in the justice system.
There is less research, as Ruby mentioned earlier, that’s focused specifically on veterans treatment courts, so one area that we need to continue to push in the next decade is to bolster the amount of research that’s specifically geared toward veterans treatment courts, verify, as we’ve done in the drug court world, that we’re getting the results that we want to see, and create tools, like we’re creating in this veterans treatment court enhancement initiative, to help these courts make decisions that are rooted in science and help to get the best long term outcomes for the justice involved veteran population.

Leonard Sipes: I would imagine somewhere along the line what we want is for every court system in the United States to have a veterans treatment court component to it, correct? I mean if we’re expanding the reach of the criminal justice system into dozens of different specialty courts … Here in Washington, DC there are probably seven specialty courts dealing with domestic violence, dealing with child custody cases. This is something that we see, I would imagine, expanding to every court system in the United States. I would imagine if there’s any particular group of individuals that people feel some sense of allegiance towards, it would be our veterans.

Aaron Arnold: I think you’re right, and as you mentioned earlier, there seems to be very broad based support for these courts, even more so than some of the other specialized court models, and I think we’ve already established that part of the reason for that is a desire to help veterans who have volunteered, as Greg was saying earlier, and risked their own lives to protect all of us, so there’s definitely plenty of reason that we want to see these courts spread, and, again, part of the reason for creating these specialized risk need tools and other tools to support these courts, is so that we can facilitate their spread in all kinds of state, and county, and local jurisdictions that want to create them.

Greg Crawford: Len, real quick. I just wanted to say that, building off what Aaron just talked about, NIC’s vision for this, and I’m hoping BJA and CCI, I’m pretty confident to say that this is our vision, to have this risk needs assessment tool and protocol be the standard for the field. We’re trying to, as we talked about, develop the science, and we want to make this available to the field, and think Ruby can talk about the funding opportunities that would support this tool.
Leonard Sipes: Ruby.

Ruby Qazilbash: Happy to. Every year, the Bureau of Justice Assistance releases a drug court program solicitation, and courts can come in for funding to implement brand new programs, to enhance existing programs, and that means ramping up your capacity and the types of services that are being provided, to ramp up the number, the percent of the arrestee population for whom this is a good option, has the option to go through a drug court or a veteran treatment court program.
I, also, just wanted to mention that for the past couple of years, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has seen a new appropriation, a line item to the tune of five million dollars that is aimed just for support for veteran treatment courts, so we’re, also, seeing an increase in appropriations to be able to support these courts.

Leonard Sipes: Where are we going with this in terms of growth? Right now, we’re talking about five million dollars from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. You agree with me, that we would like to see this in every jurisdiction in the United States, and an opportunity for every veteran to partake in these sort of programs?

Ruby Qazilbash: I think that is a noble goal. I think we’ve got thirty-three hundred counties around the country. We’ve got pretty close to that in the number of drugs courts, and I think you need to look at your population. If you have a sizable amount of veterans, then it makes sense to develop a track where you can attach these resources, and we should talk about some of the things that make veteran treatment courts different than drug courts.

Leonard Sipes: Please.

Ruby Qazilbash: Greg started out by saying these are hybrid drug and mental health courts. I think that is one potential difference. There are a lot of resources and partnership that come from the Department of Veteran Affairs, and access to benefits, and supports, and services through the VA that are attached to these courts in most jurisdictions. The idea, the mentor is new, and I think is not a part of most drug courts around the country, and I think a theme or a trend, and Aaron or Greg could talk more about this, but the people that choose and self-select to work in veterans treatment courts oftentimes are veterans themselves: judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others that support the services within that court, so there’s a camaraderie, and there’s a feeling as if we want to support our fellow veterans to heal, to recover, and to stay crime free.

Leonard Sipes: I have a friend of mine, who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima during the Second World War. He’s a veteran, and he’s not being taken care of in terms of his medical needs, and I was assisting him in terms of trying to get him the attention that he was looking for, and I didn’t have to search far. All the veterans’ groups that I contacted and said, “Look, we’ve got a World War II ex-Marine who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima and survived, and he needs help,” and, boy, that help came rather quickly, so within the veterans community, there is support across the board for fellow veterans, is there not?

Aaron Arnold: Absolutely. What we’re seeing when we go out into the field is, as Ruby mentioned, mentors. There’s not a shortage of mentors out there. Veterans volunteer to help other veterans, and they live by the motto to leave no veteran behind. You go into the courtroom, and a veteran is immediately assigned a mentor, and the mentor will take him in the hallway and they’ll start talking to them. They’re not part of the veterans treatment court team. They’re there to help them through the labyrinth of the criminal justice system.
A veterans treatment team will consist of a judge, a prosecutor, defense, probation, court coordinator, and critical to the success of these programs is the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the community treatment providers. Basically it’s the court system, the VA, and the community treatment providers working together for a common goal, but the mentors are really as, Judge Russell called them, in our live broadcast, the secret sauce. They’re the ones that really make this thing work. They fill in the gaps, get them a mattress, a bus ticket, help them overcome the obstacles, have a cup of coffee and just talk them through it, and that is very unique to these diversionary programs. That doesn’t happen, as Ruby mentioned, in other courts.

Leonard Sipes: No. We have our own mentors here at the court services of the federal supervision agency, but there is not enough of them. That’s the thing that I find really interesting about veterans treatment courts is that there always seems to be that league of veterans, who are willing to help this individual in trouble.

Aaron Arnold: Yeah. I’ve been out to several sites. I’ve been to a couple of national conferences, and without a doubt, everybody I’ve come across is not just collecting a paycheck.

Leonard Sipes: But theses are volunteers. This is what I’m talking about.

Aaron Arnold: I’m talking about both the people working in the courts, and, also, the volunteers. Volunteers are committed to helping other veterans.

Leonard Sipes: This is a mission. This is just not a criminal justice program. This is a mission. These are people who are wildly enthusiastic about veterans treatment courts. This is something that’s growing rapidly. Fastest growing program I’ve seen, and different people that I’ve talked to about this concept, you can have an individual veteran before the bench, and find himself or herself with not just a mentor, but two, three, four, five mentors. That’s exciting, and that’s why I’m predicting that veterans treatment courts is going to continue to grow like wildfire, and continue to show good results, because of that treatment team, because of the volunteers who are willing to help that individual. Aaron.

Aaron Arnold: I agree with you. One of the things that we see at the Center for Court Innovation in the last twenty years, is a little bit of fatigue sometimes with the fact that, as you mentioned earlier, the creation of all these specialized court parts. There are people who wonder why do we need so many specialized court parts, and are we going to have a specialized court part for everything under the sun, but with these veterans courts, whatever you’re feeling on that question, is with these veterans treatment courts, we see that having veterans together with other veterans, supported by mentors, supported by, as Ruby said, staff and judges who themselves oftentimes are mentors and have requested to be part of this team, it creates a special environment that gets better results, and, at the end of the day, I think it’s hard to argue against a system that gets better results and treats people in a more thoughtful, humane manner, and gets them the support that they need.

Leonard Sipes: Judges seem to have a magical place within the criminal justice system. We, within the adult correctional system, can intervene in the lives of individuals all day long, but nothing seems to get the attention of the individual before the bench as a judge does, so a very involved judge seems to be the secret sauce in some ways, as to why specialty courts work. Anybody want to take a shot at that?

Ruby Qazilbash: That bears out in the research. I think some of the strongest research effects are seen in judicial interaction with a participant in that court program. It is the way that they interact, the eye contact that they make, the amount of time that they spend with that individual, remembering personal details about the individual’s life, celebrating successes or milestones that they’ve been able to reach has borne out to be very impactful, and definitely have better outcomes for those folks.

Leonard Sipes: I would guess as well is that the reason why this is growing like wildfire, is that judges themselves seem to have that magic ability to bring the entire criminal justice system together for change in ways that others within the executive branch cannot. Judges have a way of producing these specialty courts or veterans treatment courts. Maybe it’s because of the judges themselves that this is growing as quickly as it is.

Greg Crawford: That’s exactly right. In fact, you said exactly what I was thinking, is that … You were asking earlier about where do we see the growth going. In many cases, it is the motivated judge at the local level, who is a veteran, or has family members who are veterans and has a special place in their heart for this kind of work. They’re oftentimes the ones who are driving the creation of these programs and making them successful, rather than having a statewide administrative decision making process. These are oftentimes locally driven initiatives, because people care about serving their veterans.

Leonard Sipes: Ruby, we’ve got about a minute left.

Ruby Qazilbash: I was just going to add, I think this is an area that we can learn from drug courts. Drug courts began with a leader judge in that community or judicial district, that got a team together and used the power, the authority of the bench to be able to do that. When drug courts became institutionalized in communities, and that started to be a rotational judgeship, or you had people that didn’t self-select into those positions, sometimes you lose some of that secret sauce, and so I think we need to learn from the drug court movement, and make sure that we’re setting up veterans treatment courts in a way that they’re sustainable.

Leonard Sipes: Ruby, you’ve got the final word. I find this to be a fascinating concept, an encouraging concept and I really want to thank Aaron Arnold, the Director of Treatment Programs at the Center of Court Innovation, Greg Crawford at the National Institute of Corrections, and Ruby Qazilbash, the Deputy Director for Justice Systems Policy at the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

 

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Tablets in Corrections

DC Public Safety Radio

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

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2016/03/tablets-and-corrections/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s topic is tablets in corrections, a pretty interesting topic, I think so. Chenault Taylor, Director of Public Relationships for Edovo, www.Edovo.com, is by our microphones. Randy Kearse, a re-entry consultant at www.ReentryStrategies.com … Randy has a book and a video. The video is Beyond Prison Probation and Parole. To Chenault and to Randy, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Randy: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Leonard: All right. Guys, give me a sense at to … I’ll start off with you, Chenault, and give me a sense at to what Edovo does, and how you got to meet Randy and incorporate Randy’s materials into what you’re doing.

Chenault: Yeah, absolutely. Edovo is an educational technology company that operates in correctional facilities, and we use tablet technology to bring daily access programming to incarcerated users across the country. We focus on educational programming, meaning academic, vocational, and behavioral therapy programming. We connected with Randy. Actually, Randy reached out to us about bringing his theories and the work he does onto our tablets. I’ll let him speak more in depth as to what he does, but his resources and his time, both in incarceration and [inaudible 00:01:36] work he’s done since, has been enormously interesting to us. Particularly, from a social psychology perspective, it’s always more valuable when you have people who have been in their shoes, people who have been incarcerated, and people who have been successful afterwards, talking to you as an incarcerated individual. That’s how we connect with Randy, and I’ll let him tell you exactly what he does. We’re really excited about it.

Leonard: Randy, go ahead.

Randy: As you know, I’m a prison re-entry consultant, based on my personal experience of being incarcerated. I have a company Prison Re-entry Strategies, and we create media content to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals successfully transition back to society. What we do through books, and film, and interactive media, we create programs that will hopefully help people make that transition back to their communities, their families, and society as a whole. I connected with Edovo because I liked what they were doing, the innovative, bringing tablets into prisons.

Most importantly, I did the research on them, and I liked their model for focusing on the education and vocational, and all of the things that they do to prepare people. I’m sure we’re going to get into the pros and cons of tablets being in the prisons, but I created a film series called Beyond Prison Probation and Parole. It’s a series that focuses on people who have formerly been incarcerated and have transitioned back to society successfully, so it was a good fit. What they did was take what I’ve done, the film series, and created a whole curriculum around that film series, which … It’s an awesome opportunity to help people make that successful transition back to society.

Leonard: Many in corrections see tablets as the holy grail, allowing unfettered contact with family and other pro-social elements, plus use of tablets for educational and vocational purposes. I say that from the standpoint and with a recognition that I’ve been around the re-entry movement now for decades. We’ve all talked about the need for vocational training, for substance abuse training, for mental health issues, for making sure that the offender inside of a prison has constant contact with pro-social elements, his family members, his mom, his dad, other people in the community that could help him. Yet, all of that, that whole package, everything that I just described turns out to be enormously expensive, and most correctional systems don’t have the money to do it.

The sense was that if you could have a person in the country, say, from one location, say, the Department of Justice, say, it’s Randy, and Randy could be doing courses either recorded or live, and deliver that information via tablets, we could open up vocational, educational programs, substance abuse programming, to inmates, millions of inmates, if necessary, throughout the United States. That’s the hope, that’s the dream, that’s the promise. I’m going to start with you, Chenault. How far are we away from that, in terms of technology?

Chenault: Even in the few years that we’ve been operating, we’ve seen a huge shift in the mindset of the administrators in corrections. A few years ago when said we’d like to bring wired technology and tablets into facilities, some people looked at us like we were crazy, and now we’re finding a really receptive audience that’s aware of the benefits that the technology and tablets can bring for education, for programming, for a number of reasons. Like you mentioned, some statistics have only 20% of those who are incarcerated getting regular access to programming, and that’s really detrimental.

Edovo was started because we were in the Cooke County Jail and saw that people were watching Jerry Springer, and people were watching the Price is Right, and didn’t really have access to that programming. Like you mentioned, there’s many in corrections who want that to be different, but it’s a real challenge to have programming with an in-person teacher for a lot of reasons, being cost, the fact many incarcerated [users 00:06:04] are not at the same level of education and don’t have the same interests. What we see, and what I think many in corrections are seeing is the tablets are helpful because they’re scalable.

If you have someone like Randy’s program curriculum, upload it, and, as you said, millions could access it. You’re also able to meet users at their level. If they’re at the GED level, if they’re at an early literacy rate, if they’re post-secondary, content can be on there that they can access at any level. It’s also really valuable from a data perspective, and from a continuity of care perspective. What our model does and what tablets can do is give administrators in a facility the ability to see how users are learning, what’s popular. We can use that data [inaudible 00:06:58] offer more courses like that.

Our hope, and what we’re working on now, is making sure that parole and probation officers also have access to that data, and the ability to say, “Look, we see that you completed three courses on substance abuse, here are resources for you now that you’re back and out in the community,” or, “We see that you’re halfway through your GED course, you can continue that course from your time incarcerated now that you’re on the outside.” We see that potential, you see that potential, and we are finding a lot of receptive people in the corrections arena, as well.

Leonard: Now, Chenault, are these programs online or are they loaded into the tablets?

Chenault: What we do, and this is different based on the tablet providers, we have wired technology. The way we explain that is, if you think of the internet as a highway system, what we’ve done is created an internet access point that really acts as a tunnel with no on-ramps and no off-ramps. There’s no access to the broader internet, like Google or Facebook. You are only able to connect to Edovo itself. We think it’s really valuable and important that these devices are connected to the internet.

That is how you’re able to have data, that is how you’re able to track your progress, that is how you’ll be able to use your work and your certificate on the outside, and continue to [fill 00:08:23] your educational and vocational programming. It also allows us to upload new content, so the work that we’re doing with Randy, we’re able to upload videos of success stories and add to our curriculum in a way that’s meaningful and important for those who are inside. We have a connectivity, but it’s not just the broader, if that makes sense.

Leonard: It does. It is online, but only through channels that you provide, nothing else?

Chenault: Exactly, through a secure server. Obviously, in corrections, security is an issue, so we use a server through an [ABTN 00:09:01] tunnel, the same type of security that the finance sector uses, that healthcare data uses. We’ve obviously really thought about this, and this is an essential piece of making this work.

Leonard: Chenault, I do want to come back to you in terms of questions of security, because that’s what’s on the mind of every correctional administrator throughout the country. Randy Kearce, let me go over to you for a second. You and I both know, for you, from your personal experience, and me, from my experience within the criminal justice system and the research that I read. I think Chenault is being generous when she’s saying that 20% of inmates are gaining some sort of educational services. The last time I took a look at data, it was closer to 10%. Whether it’s 10% or 20%, the overwhelming majority of people sitting in a correctional facility are not getting any services at all, period. We’re saying that isn’t it better, that if they have access to Randy Kearce and the material that Randy produces, or the material that other people produce, isn’t it better for inmates to be exposed to vocational, educational, substance abuse, decision-making materials on a tablet. We would prefer a instructor, we would prefer a classroom. We’re never going to get that, so if we don’t do it via tablet, it’s not going to get done, am I right or wrong?

Randy: No, you’re absolutely right. We got to go with the times, and times is dictating that technology has to be brought into these facilities because it just makes sense financially for institutions to implement these type of technology, because you get more bang for the buck. More people will be able to use it, more people will be exposed to the materials, and it just makes sense because if you’re trying to prepare someone to come out into society and function on a level of being able to take care of themselves, you have to prepare them and give them the tools and the resources to help prepare them. The thing we have to look at is, number one, what type of programming will these tablets have? You’re going to have several or more companies come online and say, “Wow, this is a great idea. How can I make money from it?” This is the problem.

I think this is the thing that we have to ask ourselves, is what type of material will we allow inmates to be exposed to. We don’t want an inmate to sit there and be watching videos all day of music videos, or entertainment videos. There should be an allowance for some of it, but the majority of it should be focusing on them being able to properly prepare for getting out, and changing their mindset, and changing their behaviors, and things like that.

Going back to the questions of family and keeping in contact with family, you’re going to have companies that come aboard, and now that there was the decrease in how much phone companies can charge incarcerated individuals to call home, now you’re going to have companies trying to basically monopolize off of these tablets on, “How can we generate money by allowing people to use emails,” or just focusing on how they can stay in contact with their family. Those are the things that we have to watch out for. Those are the things that we have to be prepared for, so it doesn’t become a money-making machine versus an entity that can help people integrate back into society.

Leonard: The companies aren’t going to do it unless there’s profit.

Randy: Excuse me?

Leonard: The companies aren’t going to do it unless there’s a profit motive. Why do it unless there’s a profit motive? I’m just curious. I don’t want to go in there deeply, because I would love to see state government, federal government, come out and pay for these sort of things, but at the moment, they’re not going to do it unless there is a profit.

Randy: One of the things that attracted me to Edovo is that they have a more social model. They don’t focus on profit. I can’t tell you the specifics or how they operate, but it’s not profit-driven. Go ahead.

Leonard: Let me get back to the larger question. Randy, do giving information via tablets in the correctional setting … The correctional setting is loud, it’s ruckus, it’s noisy, it’s not very conducive to a learning environment. You’re sitting in your cell, and your watching programs dealing with substance abuse, or an educational program, or a vocational program, or job hunting. How effective could or would tablets be?

Randy: Very effective because that allows you to go in your cell and tune everything else out around you, that’s going on around you that’s not positive, that’s not productive. You can go in your cell, and you’ll basically have your own teacher. You have your own facilitator teaching you or showing you different programs and taking you, walking you, through these programs. They would be very effective. I guess one of the best-selling items in the commissary would be a radio. Everybody has a radio in the prison because that allows you to escape.

These tablets would definitely be a tool to keep people focused on the journey ahead, and not what’s going on negatively around them. When you factor in the privilege part, as well … Tablets are a privilege, they’re not mandatory. People are going to be on their best behavior to have access to these tablets. You’re going to cut down in a lot of areas when it comes to discipline, when it just unfocused behaviors going on around you, because everybody’s going to want to keep their standings to be able to use those tablets. Trust me on that one there.

Leonard: We’re halfway through the program. Let me re-introduce both of you for a second before we get on to the rest of the program. Chenault Taylor, Director of Public Relations for Edovo, E-D-O-V-O, www.Edovo.com, and Randy Kearce, my Facebook friend and a very nice man, re-entry consultant, www.ReentryStrategies.com. He’s produced a video and a slew of materials including a book, but he didn’t want me to promote the book. He wanted me to promote the video, Beyond Prison Probation and Parole. I appreciate both of you being on the program with us today. All right, for the second half of the program, Randy, I’m just going to be a bit more of a devil’s advocate before going back to Chenault on the security question. You’re not going to be able to teach a person to lay bricks, you’re not going to be able to teach a person to be an electrician via a tablet, you’re not going to be able to teach a person how to read via a tablet. These are things that almost require classroom instruction, do they not, or am I wrong?

Randy: I have to disagree with you.

Leonard: Go ahead.

Randy: I have to disagree with you vehemently because a lot of things that I’ve learned in the last two or three years, I’ve learned on YouTube. Video is very great way to teach people because a lot of people can learn by looking and being able to follow the instructions of … Like Chenault said, literacy is a big problem in prison, and everybody’s not reading and comprehending on the same level, so what people can see, they’re more apt to want to be able to follow those instructions. Everything and anything that you want to learn is on YouTube, so this is just giving people a better or more opportunity to learn in a different kind of way. We’re living in a video society, we’re living in a technology that … We have to incorporate instructive learning via instructors that will be able to give them great courses where they can be able to learn in that way. Video’s the best and great way to help these guys prepare for getting out.

Leonard: Chenault, the security question that I alluded to before … Every correctional administrator in the country is saying, “Leonard, I get it. I think tablets would be nice. I think having online access would even be nice, but how do you do that and protect public safety at the same time? Anything that we bring in via the internet is going to be abused, and in fact, a lot of prisons don’t have any internet connection at all, simply for security reasons.” Do you want to comment on that?

Chenault: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen a couple people … It’s not a couple people, many facilities that, fortunately, are addressing that security issue head-on. What we’ve done in a lot of facilities is we do need to come in and bring in that connectivity to a facility. As I mentioned earlier, the way we operate, and I think that the way that … There really is the potential to have connectivity and access to wonderful resources … Is that you can only access Edovo. You have a tunnel vision of internet that can only access Edovo. There’s also the ability to access communications in certain tablets, depending on the facility, and depending on their provider.

What we’ve seen really is that this hasn’t been the issue that people were afraid it would be in the facilities that we’re operating in. What we’ve seen is that all of the content that we’re putting onto these tablets is that it’s both by us and by the administration in these facilities. They have final say on everything. We’re not giving access to Google and Facebook. What we think instead is that having access to technology is really valuable. As Randy said, and we actually spoke a couple weeks ago, he learned about the internet by reading about it from the newspaper. When he was released from the facility, he’d never used the internet, he’d never seen a tablet, he’d never used a cell phone, like an iPhone.

It’s crucial to have that technological literacy. Technology’s only going to become more important in our communities, and [you see that 00:18:59] … I’m sure every one of us every day uses technology in a massive way. This really hasn’t been the security issue that I think a lot of people expect, because we’ve done a lot of diligent work to make sure that we’re using the security mechanisms that the finance sector does, that the healthcare sector does. We’re using our own servers, as well. I understand the concern, but I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about bringing tablets into the facility go visit one of our facilities, and talk to the administrators there. This is something that we’ve figured out.

Randy: Let me add to that little piece.

Leonard: Go ahead, Randy.

Randy: In any prison environment, you’re going to have the guy that is going to try to hack the system. That’s just going to be, but what these tablet providers have to do is just stay diligent and be prepared for those who will try to connect to the internet, find some type of backdoor, whatever the case may be, and if it happens, how to learn from that, to make it even stronger and better. Listen, some of the best organizations or people get hacked. You got financial, banks get hacked. Everybody gets hacked, so what we have to do is learn from those experiences to make it better so that the masses will be able to enjoy and be able to benefit from them. That’s the reality right there.

Leonard: All right, I’m going to take both of you past your comfort levels, and it’s not what Edovo is currently doing, it’s not what Randy Kearce is currently doing, but this whole concept of using tablets as a way of communicating with mom and dad at home … Everybody that I’ve talked to at my organization today, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, when I was telling them about the phone call and the interview this afternoon, they simply said, “Okay, we are all for pro-social contact, but how do you keep the nefarious person off the line?” Whether it’s an email back and forth, which requires pure internet access, or whether it’s a phone call, or whether it’s a video chat, this is a way, theoretically, of constantly having pro-social contacts, even doing job interviews in the community over a tablet, but how do you do that in such a way is to make sure that public safety is not jeopardized and that the right person is on the phone, not the wrong person. I know this is taking us way beyond the boundaries of what we talked about, but Chenault, do you have any sense as to that?

Chenault: Sure. What I would say is that video visitation, and phone calls, and emails, are already occurring in facilities, not all facilities, but in many. The same security protocols and the same monitoring that occurs currently could easily be adapted to communication on tablets. As we’ve seen in the research, some of the most valuable things you can do while incarcerated to ensure successful re-entry are to have access to meaningful, high-quality programming, and to have access to communication with the outside world. We are 100% in agreement with [inaudible 00:22:18] that that’s valuable. I think using security protocols that are in existence, and adapting those to the tablet is not a huge leap. Some of these facilities are already utilizing these forms of communication, and tablets would allow greater access to that.

Leonard: Go ahead, Randy.

Randy: When I was incarcerated, we only had phone calls, but, number one, you had to get an approved phone call list, you had to get approved people. They had to be approved for you to be able to call that certain number. You didn’t just have an opportunity to pick up the phone and call numbers randomly, that’s number one. Number two, you had someone who monitored most of the calls, all of the calls, going in and out of the prison, at any given time. When someone in the administrative felt that the conversation was suspect, or wasn’t going according to the policy of the prison, and there was some type of [thread 00:23:15], or whatever the case may be, they shut it down, they shut you down. Your phone call privileges could be taken, they could be even monitored even more, scrutinized. Those type of security process can be applied to the tablets easy, and I think it would probably be easier because you got a guy sitting there watching, and he can gauge whether or not this conversation is going the way it’s supposed to, and there’s any type of problem, so I don’t see that being a problem. I don’t really see that as being a problem.

Leonard: Both of you alluded to Randy’s lack of technology-savvy when he was in prison, and Randy learned about all of this a little bit in prison, but mostly when he came out. The average inmate is not technologically-savvy. The average inmate has never picked up a tablet in their lives. The average inmate may know about Facebook, may know about the computer, but the tablet technology would be foreign to them. How comfortable are they going to be with this tablet, Randy, and how amenable are they going to be to pick up quickly on this new technology?

Randy: The first thing inmates have a lot of is time, and they’re always looking for something to occupy their time. The tablet will give them an opportunity to fill the void of time, that’s number one. That’s why it’s important to have the necessary resources and tools on the tablets, so when they’re trying to just pass time, that they’re not just passing time like they would do in a day room just watching TV, frivolously doing nothing. You have a huge opportunity to provide them with the necessary tools, and programs, and resources, that as they’re trying to kill time, that they’re learning at the same time. That’s most important right there.

Leonard: Chenault, how many correctional facilities is Edovo involved in now?

Randy: Yeah, we’re operating all across the country, and we have over … We’re launching a couple in the next month. We have around a thousand tablets in the market right now, and we’re working on increasing that number. Just to piggyback off of what Randy said, when we come into a facility, we train people, we train the correction officers, we train the administrators, we also interact with the incarcerated users to make sure that they’re comfortable. This really is something that we put a lot of time and thought into, and it’s a user-friendly interface. As Randy said, this is a two-in-one benefit. You’re both getting access to educational programming, and you’re learning how to interact positively with technology at the same time.

Leonard: Do either one of you envision the day that I spoke about at the beginning of the program, where you have a person at a central location providing GED instruction to literally tens of thousands of inmates at the same time? It’s exactly what colleges are doing now, in terms of long-distance learning and virtual learning. It’s really no different from what many colleges are doing now. Many colleges are doing it live. When I taught for the University of Maryland, and when I taught an online course, it wasn’t live, but a lot of colleges are going to the live format, which I really welcome. Any vision of doing a live format for prison inmates throughout the country?

Chenault: I think that’s a great idea. We’re already utilizing open-educational resources, like you spoke about. I definitely envision the day when we [see 00:27:01] tablets in a number of facilities that are reaching many of those who are incarcerated. Something to add there is that … You asked Randy about headphones, and if this is a good learning environment. What we see is, we come in to a facility, and officers and administrators are skeptical of the value of a tablet at times, but within three to five minutes, the facility is quiet, and there’s real engagement going on. You see decreased instances of violence, and officers and administrators really bought into this, because it’s win/win. I’m really optimistic, and I’m hopeful also that in programs that already have teachers and educational programming, that we can be a supplement to that learning, as homework, or as documentaries, or as extra [inaudible 00:27:55] or real-time videos. That’s something that we see, as well, so absolutely.

Leonard: I’ve been in and out of prisons hundreds of times, Randy, and they’re noisy, they’re raucous. It’s really a chaotic experience. The vision that I have is walking into a prison and seeing eight hundred inmates walking around with tablets and earphones, and it’s quiet, and they get a wide array of educational programming that will keep them content and satisfied throughout the course of the day. Is that your vision?

Randy: That’s my vision, and we’re heading in that direction. It might take a while to get everybody [staying 00:28:33] on-board and seeing that vision, but that’s where we’re headed. Re-entry, it’s a big issue that we have to conquer, and that’s pretty much bringing technology into the [fore 00:28:46] will help that. I just want to say that I envision a day that one day my programs and what I’m doing, and maybe even me, will be like you said, beamed into prisons all across the country, and I’m giving that course, I’m giving those instructions to audience. I think we’re a little far from that, but we’re heading that direction. It just makes sense. It just makes sense, because when it comes to financially, having the ability to do that, it’s going to be more cost-effective to use technology to give people a better opportunity than the old traditional ways. You can pay someone $30, $40 thousand dollars a year to [crosstalk 00:29:27] …

Leonard: Got to wrap-up quickly, Randy. Go ahead.

Randy: Yeah, I see us going in that direction. Technology is here to stay, and it’s making its way into the prisons. It’s just going to be more beneficial as we go forward.

Leonard: Our guests today, Chenault Taylor, Director of Public Relations for Edovo … That is www.Edovo.com. Randy Kearce is also by our microphones. Once again, re-entry consultant, www.ReentryStrategies.com … Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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