Systematic Change and Criminal Justice-Pew Public Safety Performance Project

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/11/systematic-change-criminal-justice-pew-public-safety-performance-project/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, our title for today’s show: Public Opinion, Sentencing, and Parole and Probation. We’re very happy to have Adam Gelb. Adam is the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project, which helps advance policies and practices in adult and juvenile sentencing and corrections that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and control correctional costs. As project lead, Adam oversees Pew’s assistance to states and also research. He’s been involved in crime control and prevention for the past 25 years as a journalist, congressional aide, a senior state government official. He graduated from the University of Virginia, and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Adam, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Adam Gelb: Great to be with you, Len.

Len Sipes: Full disclosure. Adam and I worked together in the state of Maryland when he was a senior aide to the lieutenant governor, who eventually ran for governor. And I was leading public information for a state agency, law enforcement and correctional agency. So Adam and I have worked together. I’ve seen Adam lead this charge in person. Nobody is a more passionate person and a more knowledgeable person on the issue of crime and justice. I want to read very quickly from one of the findings from Pew, in terms of the research that they do. “American voters believe that too many people are in prison and the nation spends too much on prison. Voters overwhelmingly support a variety of policy changes that shift non-violent offenders from prison to more effective, less expensive alternatives.” Number three. “Support for sentencing and correction reforms, including reduced prison terms, is strong across political parties, regions, age, gender, and racial and ethnic groups.” Adam, the whole idea of Pew and the Public Safety Performance Project, give me a definition in one sentence.

Adam Gelb: You said it very well yourself, right?

Len Sipes: Yeah, I did, but I –

Adam Gelb: We have –

Len Sipes: We need to hear from you, in one sentence.

Adam Gelb: We help states advance policies and practices that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.

Len Sipes: When you and I talked in the past and I say, “Adam, this whole issue of offender reentry.” You said, “Leonard, we’re not an offender reentry program. We’re about systematic policy change within the criminal justice system; within the United States. That does the things that you just articulated.” Correct?

Adam Gelb: That’s right, yeah. Our project does look at the bigger system than just the very tail end of the system and making sure that when offenders get out of prison they’re set up for success.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Gelb: We look at the whole system from front end to back end, and, right, the bulk of what we do is join into partnerships with states. When the governor, senior legislative leadership, the chief justice, and judicial leaders, say, “We’ve got a problem here, we’d like to take a look at it, see what we can do about bending the curve on our corrections growth and making sure that prisons are holding the right people.” And then we come in, and working with a bipartisan, inner branch taskforce, take a look at the state’s data. What specifically is driving the population, what’s caused it to rise? We also do a look at the corrections and reentry policies. To what extent is that agency or agencies implementing what we know to be evidence based practices? Based on that, and at only at that point, once we’ve taken a look at the data and the trends, do we then start to fashion policy solutions. And based on what the research says about what works, based on what other state experiences have been about what works or not, then we help the state put together a set of policy recommendations. And then thirdly, and this is really important about what we do, is that we don’t just help the state and that taskforce put together a nice pretty report with fancy graphs and great recommendations that’s going to sit on the shelf. All right, there’s an integral involvement of all the stakeholder groups and agencies from the get-go, and certainly the governor and the legislative leadership. And so our reports tend to make it across the finish line in the legislature and not sit on a shelf.

Len Sipes: What you’re looking for is systematic change at the state level. You’re looking for systematic policy changes that reduce cost to state yet at the same time improve public safety.

Adam Gelb: That’s exactly right.

Len Sipes: All right. And through that – and I’m going to say this, and it’s not my opinion. I’m not expressing my opinion at all. I’ve talked to a wide variety of people at the national level, at the state level. Some people believe – again, I represent the federal government. I work with a lot of federal agencies. I do not mean to embarrass them. I love them half to death. But a lot of people express the opinion that Pew is not a leader in this issue of systematic change within the criminal justice system, Pew is the leader. Pew writes material in such a way that the average person can understand it, the average member of the general assembly, that person’s aide; citizens can understand what it is that you’re talking about. You have a wonderful flow in your writing. You have a comprehensive strategy in terms of your media events, of the video that you create. There’s something very, very strategic in terms of the way that you communicate. You communicate in a way that government seems to be incapable of doing. Am I right or wrong?

Adam Gelb: Well, we have a few advantages there, both in terms of resources and in terms of the politics, right? Pew is an independent organization that’s self-funded to do this work and so we do have a little bit more freedom to be creative in the way that we communicate.

Len Sipes: And government cannot. That’s the interesting thing. People have simply said Pew can, that’s the answer they’ve given, that Pew has the ability to communicate, government has an innate inability to communicate.

Adam Gelb: Well, take the polling that you started off the segment with here.

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Adam Gelb: We are able to go out and partner with some of the top pollsters in this country. One of the top Republican pollsters and one of the Democratic pollsters team together on the poll that you mentioned and were able to document, with research and public opinion, where people are on this, right. And I think the point that you’re making and one of the reasons why we’re seeing so much change around the country at this point is that elected officials are, I think, finally catching up with where voters and citizens are on these issues. People are sick and tired of the revolving door.

Len Sipes: How many states are you talking about, that Pew is involved in?

Adam Gelb: About half the states. Over the past seven years –

Len Sipes: So you’re talking about 25 year – 25 states over the course of the last seven years, systematic examination as to how they do business, systematic examination as to how they can change?

Adam Gelb: That’s right.

Len Sipes: 25 states in the United States and you’ve been able to do that on a systematic basis.

Adam Gelb: We’ve been working hard. We’ve had a tremendous amount of help from our partners at the Council of State Government’s Justice Center, the Vera Institute of Justice, the Crime and Justice Institute, and many others.

Len Sipes: Office of Justice Programs, yes.

Adam Gelb: BGA and the Office of Justice Programs, an integral partner in this effort. And it’s been an amazing public-private partnership, particularly in that our strength and focus of our dollars can be on the front end of these reforms, trying to make sure that there is a solid policy package put together and making it across the finish line to legislature. And then BGA has been able to really come in after that and provide some support to these states to make sure that the changes, and there are lots of them in many of these comprehensive packages, are actually implemented. Because I think we all realize that a lot of this structural policy change that you’re talking about sometimes isn’t worth the paper that it’s printed on unless there’s real follow-through by the courts and by probation and parole agencies.

Len Sipes: Okay. I do, just out of respect for Pew, is to get across the point that Pew is multilayered, Pew has been around for, what, 150,000 years, and multilayered, they do a lot of different things. It’s really surprising how Pew is a daily part of my life as a bureaucrat within a federal agency in terms of daily news summary, in terms of the material that you give me, in terms of public opinion of polls, Pew is multilayered.

Adam Gelb: It certainly is. There are projects in many different areas of public policy, health policy, environment policy, and it’s been fabulous that the Institution has committed as much energy and resource as it has over the past seven years to an area that is not really commonly thought of in a lot of philanthropic circles.

Len Sipes: Okay. Let’s get down to the 25 states. Office of Justice Program, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Pew, Council of States, I mean the lot of organizations involved in terms of systematic change within states. I talk to reporters and reporters say, “Okay, so this is all going on, this sense of systematic change at the state level. How many criminologists have we talked to over the course of our careers who said, “I really believe that we should systematically do it differently,” that we do over-incarcerate, that there should be more alternatives to incarceration? I contend that reporters and street cops are two of the most jaded groups of people on the face of the earth. They’re cynical. They look at me and their question is, “So what? Show me the results as to where the alternatives, whatever they happen to be, that are truly having an impact in terms of reduced crime, and improved justice, and at the same time reductions in costs for the criminal justice system. Show me. Show me. Show me.” When I respond, I run off a list of research that has had an impact, and their response is, “Okay, that doesn’t quite do it for me.” Because most research projects when they are successful, not all are successful, run in the ballpark of about 15% reduction in recidivism. They’re interested in a safer America. Can you deliver on a safer America?

Adam Gelb: I think we’re seeing governors and state legislators and judicial leaders across this country in those 25 states that have gone through the justice reinvestment process, I think we’re seeing them deliver.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Gelb: Right? And they are. And I hope it’s well known with your audience that Texas was one of the first states to go through this kind of process, and that in Texas, in the last seven years, the prison population has stabilized. They expected to have to spend at this point now more than two billion dollars to accommodate the increased growth that they were projecting. They haven’t had to spend that money. The recidivism rate, pro-revocation rate, in that state is down by well over a third. And public safety, the most important piece of this puzzle, has improved across the state. The crime rate in Texas is back down to where it was in the 1960s.

Len Sipes: And reporters are going to say, “Well, Leonard, but most states have seen reductions in crime across the board.” We’re just coming off an almost continuous 20 year reduction in crime across the board, as measured by the FBI, as measured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. However, for the last couple years, it’s starting to go up, both on the property and violent crime. So the fact that there have been reductions in the past in any state can be explained, as a journalist would say, by the reductions in all states. So how do we through  systematic change, prove that we’re improving public safety, that we’re making people’s lives safer?

Adam Gelb: I think the numbers clearly show it, right. There’re national trends and then there are state by state trends. And what you really have to do if you want to examine this closely is take a look at Texas, take a look at South Carolina, take a look at Georgia, take a look at Ohio, and some of the other states that have made these changes. And what’s clear is that they’ve been able to save a tremendous amount of taxpayer money by not having to build and open and staff new prisons. And they’ve been able to do so while continuing along with that general national trend towards lower crime over the past several years. And in the last couple years the numbers also sort of mirror the national average. So what’s starting to happen, Len, is that there’s the myth that incarceration and crime rates move together in some lock step. That myth is being shattered. It’s being shattered in state after state across the country, where states that have reduced their incarceration rates have also reduced their crime rates. In fact the 29 states that have reduced their incarceration rates over the past few years, the crime rate has gone down in all of them but three.

Len Sipes: So and that’s your point. The point is, is that there has been systematic change in these states if you’re going to predict the fact that there’s been less incarceration, that your crime rate has gone up, that hasn’t happened.

Adam Gelb: No it hasn’t and –

Len Sipes: So it’s gone down concurrently with a reduction within prison population?

Adam Gelb: It has. And I think the conversation at the national level when you talk at sort of a big conceptual level, that it immediately does go toward, “Well, what’s the relationship between crime and incarceration?” At the local level, the state level, what policy makers are starting to realize, when they’ve seen, “Okay, we’re not building these prisons, okay, we’re scaling this back and crime is going down.” or it’s maybe starting to tick up a little bit, nationally what’s going on here? They start to look at other factors that influence the crime rate, particularly the police. And this is where, right, that you need to make sure, in part of these conversations, what’s happened with the ranks of police forces across this country gets some time in that conversation. Because police forces have had to lay off, in some cases, tremendous portions of their –

Len Sipes: Oh, in New Jersey there are towns that have laid off 50% of their people.

Adam Gelb: So –

Len Sipes: It’s been amazing what’s going on throughout the country.

Adam Gelb: Right. So at the local level people are starting to see, this is not all just about how many people you put in prison and how long you keep them there, definitely one factor. Nobody in this conversation, in a serious conversation about these issues is going to argue that the increased imprisonment didn’t have any impact on the reduction in crime.

Len Sipes: And that’s a good point.

Adam Gelb: What we’re seeing now, though, is that most people, including policymakers, realizing that we have passed a tipping point on this. We’ve long since now passed a point of diminishing returns, where not only will more prisons not necessarily reduce crime, they’re just not even close to the most cost at more prisons, not close the most cost-effective way to reduce crime.

Len Sipes: I want to get very quickly to the other thing that I’ve heard from reporters, this issue is principally a way for states to cut costs, not necessarily public safety, but a way to cut costs. But before I get to that I’m going to reintroduce you. Adam Gelb is at our microphones today. He is the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project of Pew. And certainly Pew, as I said before, I’m not quite sure that I can be more praise or suggest more praise for Pew than I possibly can. It is either the leader of change in the criminal justice system in this country or certainly a partner with a lot of other organizations in terms of systematic change within the criminal justice system within this country. www.pewpublicsafety.org, www.pewpublicsafety.org. The criticism that, “Leonard, okay, so all these states are doing all these things because they’re tired of spending so much money on incarceration and that’s all you’re doing. Yes, you’re cutting costs and that’s well documented, but they’re doing it solely for that, they’re not doing it for systematic change within the criminal justice system.”

Adam Gelb: Budget trouble is definitely bringing states to the table; it’s just not the meal.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Gelb: Right? Policymakers across the country are not holding their noses and saying, “I know this going to really cause an increase in crime and I hate to do it, but we do have to, at the state level, make ends meet, we have to balance our budget, so we’re just going to have to make some of these tough policy calls.” That is not what we see happening in state after state. What we do see happening are three things. First is they are seeing the success of states like Texas and South Carolina and other states that we just talked about, states that have significantly bent the curve on their prison growth, and even reduced population, and are seeing reduced recidivism because of the reinvestment into stronger probation and parole programs, and they’re seeing those state crime rates go down. So they’re starting to see this iron linkage broken between locking up more people and having safer streets. The second thing that’s happening is they’re becoming increasingly aware of where the public is on this and I think our polling has helped there; but more and more just in daily conversation you find that people realize at this point after 25, 30 years of ever increasing prison populations that we’re not going to build our way to public safety and that there are much more effective and less expensive approaches for lower level offenders. They also are aware and think that they don’t have some specific amount of time that they want to see offenders behind bars for. The want to see a high percentage of the sentence served, but they don’t really care if that’s a five year sentence or a three year sentence. They just want to know when the judge says three years; you’re going to serve pretty much all that three years. That is starting to seep into some of these conversations. Other parts of the public opinion constellation here include victims speaking out and also saying, “Now, this is not all about locking up as many people for as long as possible.” This is, “I realize these people are going to get out and I want them to pay restitution, I want them to be held accountable, but I also don’t want them to claim new victims.” And so we need to strengthen reentry. We have business leaders, Len, stepping forward in many of these states and saying this is now an issue just the overall economic vitality of the state. The corrections budgets have been the second fastest growing part of state budgets behind only Medicaid.

Len Sipes: That’s what I want to explore.

Adam Gelb: And this is not the right way to go. Let me just add that you certainly have a lot of conservative voices that you’ve mentioned that are speaking up here now and realizing that having 1 in 100 adults behind bars is not consistent with conservative notions of limited government and fiscal discipline.

Len Sipes: Let me get into that. For the first time in my over 40 years within the criminal justice system, I’m seeing people on both sides of the political asile come together under one banner, under one topic, and that is, again, systematic change. Doing it differently, getting a better result for our criminal justice dollar. I’ve not seen that before. I’ve not seen some of the public opinion data that you’re sharing swinging in the direction of, “Hey, let’s not have 75%, 80% recidivism in terms of re-arrests, let’s not have 50% recidivism in terms of re-incarceration. The state simply can’t afford that. My God! We don’t have money for schools; we don’t have money for colleges. Can we reduce this rate of recidivism? Can we rearrange how we do things?” I’ve never seen such a coalescence of opinion from despaired groups before on this issue of crime and justice.

Adam Gelb: There’s a tremendous shift that’s happening and it’s hard to put your finger on exactly why it’s happening. Why is Jeb Bush, why is Newt Gingrich, why are Grover Norquist, Bill Bennett, David Keene, why are these folks who are and have been leaders of the conservative movement coming forward now and saying the system has gotten too big, it’s gotten too expensive, it needs to be rethought dramatically?

Len Sipes: It needs to be more effective at what it does.

Adam Gelb: And it really derives – right, the point in time is sort of what’s hard to fix. The reasons behind it are not difficult to discern at all, right. One is straightforward limited government. 1 in 100 behind bars, almost 1 in 31 under some form of correctional supervision, prison, jail, probation, parole, it’d be even a little higher if we counted pretrial. That is big and it’s costly. And so that’s one perspective, the limited government perspective and the fiscal discipline perspective. There’re also big strains of this movement that look at the victim piece of this and recognize that serving time in a state prison does not do anything to help make that victim whole, particularly lower level property offenders, that it’s more consistent with conservative notions of justice.

Len Sipes: The focus is violent offenders versus nonviolent offenders. And so much of this focus is looking at the nonviolent offenders and can we do, “Something else with the nonviolent offenders.”? The violent offenders – we’re basically making room for the more dangerous folks, are we not, in terms of this whole concept of effectiveness?

Adam Gelb: That is a constant theme in the States. What policymakers tell us they want to see out of the policy packages, and they certainly see this when they look at the data, in terms of increasing numbers of technical violators taking up prison space, is that’s not who they want behind bars. They want behind bars the serious, the chronic, the violent, and the high-risk offenders.

Len Sipes: Okay. We only have eight minutes left in the program. I want to ask a personal question and I want to move on to more policy issues. Number one, you’ve ridden this horse from the very beginning, and I would imagine, as you’re sitting on top of your horse, when started with Pew, when you’re looking out at all you can see is 10,000 cattle milling about. And you’re saying to yourself, “It’s impossible to get all these critters moving in one direction.” And you have. So what is your personal sense of accomplishment after all these years, or non-accomplishment?

Adam Gelb: There are a lot of cynics who think that this is all about the budgets. As you just said, that we’re really not adding a lot of value here, this would be happening anyway or it’s happening only because the budgets. That there’s really not some fundamental shift in the national conversation here and even if there is it’ll be temporary and it won’t last much longer beyond when budgets recover. That’s not what we see happening. We do see a fundamental shift in the conversation and the perspective on this issue happening. We had for a long time a situation where policymakers thought it was the right approach to this issue and it was their job to say, “How do I demonstrate that I’m tough on crime?”

Len Sipes: Right.

Adam Gelb: Now what they’re saying is, “How do I get taxpayers a better public safety return on their correction spending?” And I think that’s an important shift and it’s one that’ll last.

Len Sipes: Give me five specifics. Because I think it was a very modest answer. I think I would’ve been scared half to death sitting on top of that horse looking out at the sea of cattle that I’m trying to get moving in one direction. I think you’re being modest. Number two. And I think Pew is being modest. I think Pew should crow more about what it’s done. I think it’s been a sea change. Number two. Give me, and reporters ask me this all the time, give me the five fundamental changes that one needs to advocate for to provide a systematic change that reduces cost and improves public safety all at the same time. The first from a parole and probation perspective that I always give is to do an independent analysis of that individual to judge their risk to public safety and to judge what their need are so you’re dealing with that person individually and not just as a class so you can design a program that will specifically deal with what it is that he or she needs. Risk and needs assessment. That’s one of my answers, do you have others?

Adam Gelb: There’re many. To build off of what you were just saying. We do know now what works to stop the cycle recidivism. No magic bullets. No way to guarantee that somebody’s not going to commit another crime. But we do know how to do risk assessment much better. We do have much better surveillance technology. We know –

Len Sipes: GPS, is that what we’re talking about?

Adam Gelb: We’re talking about GPS; we’re talking about rapid result drug tests.

Len Sipes: All right.

Adam Gelb: So we know more about how to change behavior, we have better technologies to help us do that. We need to get –

Len Sipes: To better accountability tools?

Adam Gelb: Across the board.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Gelb: It’s very different. The challenge is less so in terms of knowing what to do but in terms of actually getting it done.

Len Sipes: Right.

Adam Gelb: And what we’re seeing in these states is the recognition that there are a good number of lower level offenders in the prison system, particularly those who are technical violators and not having committed a new crime or not been convicted of a new crime. And if you can change laws and practices about who goes in, and you can capture some of those savings and reinvest them into some of the probation and parole programs that follow the evidence based technologies then you can have a tremendous impact on both cost and on public safety.

Len Sipes: All right, so the state saves 20 million dollars, you want 10 of that reinvested in the programs, parole and probation or rehab programs or treatment programs that could have a direct impact on the rest of the people staying out of the criminal justice system.

Adam Gelb: That’s the formula.

Len Sipes: Okay. What else?

Adam Gelb: One of the things that we’re seeing a lot of interest in the states in is in swift and certain sanctions. The states are realizing that you have to hold people accountable –

Len Sipes: Sanctions mean the guy under supervision screws up and you’ve got to do something about it.

Adam Gelb: There’s an immediate and a swift response, but it’s not severe. You don’t wait until somebody violates 10, 12 times and then do something about it. There’s a lot of interest in incentives, all right? For a long time the prison system has incentivized good behavior behind the walls by saying you could earn credits off your sentence. What we’re seeing now is a lot of states interested in transferring that concept to the community and saying, “If you’re out on probation or parole and you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re going to treatment, you’re testing clean, and so on, you’re paying your victim restitution, then you can earn time off your supervision period.” And that does two things. It incentivizes good behavior by offenders in compliant behavior, and then it calls off the lower risk offenders off of case loads, right, so that supervision officers can actually spend their time on people who are not complying. And that’s what research tells us is going to produce the biggest impact on public safety.

Len Sipes: People have suggested to me that we’ve got to reduce the amount of time spent on parole and probation. If you have a person for five years on parole and probation that person’s going to go back. You cannot, the pope could not live a clean life during an endless period on parole and probation. I apologize if I’ve been disrespectful to anybody. Few could live five years on parole and probation without messing up, without the possibility of returning back to the system. So what some people suggest is that you tell the person, “You give me one good year of no violations, you work, no drug positives, you do all the things you’re supposed to do. If you’re a nonviolent offender, I’ll go back, and then after a year of compliance, I’ll go back and recommend that we no longer supervise you.” But across the board, people are recommending lower times for supervision on parole and probation.

Adam Gelb: That’s right. I think practice is starting to catch up with the research on this question.

Len Sipes: Anything else quickly? We’ve got about 30 seconds left.

Adam Gelb: Yeah, I think you were asking about interventions and programs.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Adam Gelb: I’d like to really put the emphasis on the process.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adam Gelb: I think one of the reasons why states have been as successful as they have been working with us and CSG and others on this is that they have not put the cart before the horse. They’ve taken a look at their data; they’ve taken a look at their systems, and from that, determined what policies and programs are missing and what’s the best fit. And that has just been an absolutely critical part of this process. It’s changed the whole thing around from, “What’s a good program? Or what should we do ideologically?” to “What does the data say?”

Len Sipes: So if we’re going to have systematic change we need systematic analysis. And that’s where Pew, and BJA, and OJP, and the Center for State Governments, that’s where they all come in.

Adam Gelb: That’s right.

Len Sipes: All right. Adam, it’s been a fascinating conversation. It went by way too fast as it always does. Adam Gelb is the director of the Public Safety Performance Project for Pew. www.pewpublicsafety.org, www.pewpublicsafety.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticism. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Green Corrections’ Impact on Cost Savings and Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/04/green-corrections-impact-on-cost-savings-and-reentry-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen. We have a show on green corrections which is more than the concept sounds. What we’re talking about is economic development, what we’re talking about is saving millions of dollars for state correctional facilities throughout the United States. We’re also talking about inmate training today and using green corrections as a way of transitioning offenders from the prison system to the larger community. We have via Skype from the State of Washington, Washington Department of Corrections, Dan Pacholke. He is assistant secretary, www.doc.ua.gov. Also, we have Stephanie Davison. She is a senior program officer for FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Again, both Dan and Stephanie are here to talk about green corrections. Dan and Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dan Pacholke: Thank you.

Stephanie Davison: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. Good. Before we start, what is FHI360, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison: FHI is an international development organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals internationally.

Len Sipes: Okay and you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections which is the producer of today’s show, Donna Ledbetter, was kind enough to set up this show today. So you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice, correct?

Stephanie Davison: Yes, we’ve coordinated several activities for green corrections through NIC for the last few years.

Len Sipes: All right. Stephanie, the first question goes to you. What in the name of heavens is green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Green corrections is a series of programs in which correctional system can operate the prison system to be more environmentally friendly and hopefully save money and then also operate education and training programs for offenders geared toward job placement once they exit.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty interesting because we’re talking before the program, Dan, that the State of Washington had save, what, well over $3 million by implementing green corrections?

Dan Pacholke: Yes and between the years 2005 and 2010, we saved about $3.5 million by using basically, you know, environmental greening principles.

Len Sipes: And give me a sense as to what you mean by environmentally friendly principles?

Dan Pacholke: Well, I mean – I mean some of it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint. We have zero waste garbage sorting centers, composting. We’ve done a lot on different energy packages, strategies to save water, strategies to save waste water, so just in some of those bulk areas about, you know, ways in which you spend money that aren’t wise or unproductive so we’ve reduce a lot of expenditures in those areas and ultimately we’ve asked questions about why we buy things only to throw them away and try to eliminate those items upstream also.

Len Sipes: People don’t understand, Dan, that the correctional systems are like big cities and I don’t know how many prisons that you operate there in the State of Washington but each and every one of them – when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had 23 correctional facilities throughout the state. They all held between 2000 to 3000 individuals. I mean they were operating like little cities so there are, I would imagine, endless opportunities to go green and save any state a tremendous amount of money.

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely. I mean there’s what, 2.3 million people incarcerated in federal state and county prisons and jails across the country.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: And as you look at some of these strategies that, you know, as we’ve kind of talk about it, at least a couple of them, you know, we’re giving you examples of a relatively mid-sized prison system so if you apply that you know across the country I mean there’s lots and lots of money that can be saved just in the sense of savings and on top of that you can begin to use prison as a mechanism to assist a community in meeting other needs as well.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s an amazing concept. I’m really enjoying this because in this day and age where all of us within the criminal justice system are charged with saving taxpayer dollars. I mean we would do that regardless but nevertheless. I mean this is one way of saving tax paid dollars and providing job training for people coming out of the prison systems. Stephanie Davison, why don’t you tell me a little bit about that concept of training people – training inmates for jobs in green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Right. So training individuals for green jobs is very similar to training individuals for regular jobs. You’re just tweaking what you’ve done.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: For example, FHI has worked with the State of Minnesota to green their programs in which we worked with their teachers to think about how to use green products and green training concepts…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …to connect inmates to jobs in green fields after exiting.

Len Sipes: But give me a sense as to what sort of jobs are we talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Sure [PH] jobs. So almost any job can be made green.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: A common one would be carpentry. You may be using green cleaning products green finishing materials. You’ll also learn how to produce your products where you create less waste.

Len Sipes: Okay. But are there specific training like an electrician, like a plumber, like any other person involved in hard skills. I mean is there green corrections that would lead to a career path?

Stephanie Davison: It can, yes. There are a lot of green certifications. They’re valued in different ways within different communities throughout the US. For example the US Green Building Council has a lead certificate to do construction in green manners.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That can be great. It requires some time so it’s not necessarily valued in every community.

Len Sipes: Right. But I mean there are hard and fast jobs where that inmate can come out into the community and find himself or herself employed as a result of being involved in green corrections.

Stephanie Davison: Yes. Some of the solid ones would be landscaping.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That’s considered a green job. It’s something you can be trained within the correctional facility especially states like Washington have gardens that could be used to train offenders.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And then they can be – enter those sorts of jobs once they exit.

Len Sipes: Okay, Stephanie. Dan is not light up. So you’re going to have to answer this question. Why would the National Institute of Corrections, which is part of the bureau – Federal Bureau of Prisons, part of the US Department of Justice, why would the National Institute of Corrections care about green corrections? Why would they’d be involved?

Stephanie Davison: I think there are two reasons. One is it can save the taxpayer’s money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …and, two, it can have benefits to the offender upon reentry.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: There are jobs. There are also some behavioral aspects that we can talk about different programs that can benefit an offender when they leave.

Len Sipes: Okay. Talk to me about the behavioral aspects.

Stephanie Davison: So there are some programs and I’ll let Dan jump into this little bit more such as dog training programs that they’ve learned or from experience can find that offenders within the yard are calmer. There’s less incidence of violence and then when they exit, reentry is often smoother.

Len Sipes: Dan, you mentioned in the pre-show about this concept of making safer correctional facilities. In the 14 years that I spent with Maryland Department of Public Safety, our philosophy was anything that made that day productive for that inmate created a safer prison facility. I would imagine you will go along with that thought?

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely and I believe that’s one of the reasons why NIC is interested. In addition to cost containment and cost savings for reentry, on top of that what you want to do is make for a safe operating environment in the prison both for the staff that work there and the offenders that live there as well. So part of what can be done, I supposed, in the greening effort is to create opportunities for an inmate to contribute and I use that word opportunity to contribute because it’s meaningful activity in the sense – from the sense of an inmate. So whether it’s dog restoration or training dogs or whether it’s working with endangered species, both plants and animals, or whether or not it’s contributing to scientific research, what the inmates gain from that is the sense that they’re contributing to a broader social need. It’s something your family can benefit from. It’s something the community can benefit from and what we’ve found is that inmates that are involved in those kinds of activities tend to be less likely to violate rules. It makes them more – a more therapeutic environment in that regard. So it does enhance institutional safety and ultimately begins to change the nature of prisons so that community partners and organization see a prison as a benefit to someone that can contribute to local geographic community needs and there are several states that are doing environmental restoration today.

Len Sipes: How many states are involved in green corrections, either one of you?

Stephanie Davison: I would say a large proportion of states are involved to one degree or another.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, many states are involved just because the governor has set forward executive orders that reduce the set goals for energy reduction over time.

Len Sipes: Right and, Dan, give me an honest answer here. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years and somebody came to me and said, Leonard, you’re now going to be doing green corrections. I would have sat there and went, eh? What is green corrections? Because the order came down on high from the governor’s office to reduce expenditures but when – after talking with you and talking with Stephanie, I get the sense that this has major payoffs economically, major payoffs in terms of the safety of the institution, and major payoffs in terms of reentry upon release.

Dan Pacholke: It does. I mean when you think of corrections, the center of the plate is always like evidence-based practices, doing things that reduce the likelihood that inmates reoffend upon release. Over the last five years, we’ve been in extremely lean economic times nationally…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Dan Pacholke: …and so we tend to engage in issues that are more on the margin that are complimentary to an evidence-based framework. So on the one hand, its low cost opportunities to program offenders, to get offenders involved in meaningful activity. Engage more offenders to make the prison safer. There is the environmental economics to it. They’re going to reduce the operating cost over a long period of time, over life cycles, and then, of course, you know there is the benefit to the community that kind of goes along with that, the reentry, the job training, the skills upon release. So it’s really complimentary to that framework and it begins to broaden kind of the scope of corrections in a way that we wouldn’t have done in good economic times. I think it is the product of tougher economic times where partners are reaching out for each other in order to accomplish a goal.

Len Sipes: All right. It’s taking lemons and making lemonade.

Dan Pacholke: Correct.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah I like that. Now, but help me with this sense and a lot of people that are going to be listening to this program today may not be familiar with the inside of prison systems. I have always maintained that you can walk inside of a prison and either feel that lack of tension or feel the tension almost instantaneously as soon as you walk in through the front door. Feel free to correct me, feel free to disagree, but a lot of the institutions that I’ve walked into in the past that have been based upon a therapeutic environment, based upon the inmates involved in lots of different things, their days are filled with different issues where – that they find humanizing. You can walk inside of that prison and immediately feel it. You can immediately feel the lack of tension because the inmates there are – again, they’re involved in constructive activities. I’m getting the sense that some of the things that we’re talking about with green correction fills that bill. Am I right or wrong?

Dan Pacholke: No, you’re absolutely right and you can certainly, you know, feel the difference in institutions that have a lot of activity than those that don’t in such attention. So, yes, you know green corrections are the philosophy of a sustainable prison. Certainly aids to a much calmer operating tone, a much more pro-social environment, you know, in area that has greater humanity which really is an environment that’s more conducive to the educational, vocational training, or cognitive behavior change…

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: … is that the context to prisons begins to change in a humanizing sort of way.

Len Sipes: If all the states of the United States employed green corrections and I am going to come back to you guys for more – for a larger number of specific examples as to what green corrections is because I’m still a bit confused. I understand landscaping, I understand dealing with animals, I understand mulching, I understand that sort of thing, but I’m getting a sense that it does go a little bit beyond that. I may be missing that but in essence what we’re dealing with here is stakeholder buy in. We’re talking about is that you don’t do this on your own. I would imagine the state of Washington and other states have to reach out to other people to help them implement a green corrections program. Either one of you can talk to me about that?

Stephanie Davison: So when we worked with several states, they find external partners both from other state agencies and then community-based organizations are critical.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, in Maryland, they used the Department of National – Natural Resources…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …to give inmate opportunities to do restoration projects within their community. That’s critical.

Len Sipes: Okay. So they take the prelease offenders and they go out and they do restoration projects.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. So, again, help me with the cynical side of spending 40 years in the criminal justice system. Okay. So they go out and dig holes and put in trees. I mean but we are talking about the possibility of jobs upon release. So anybody can go out and dig a hole put in a tree.

Stephanie Davison: Right.

Len Sipes: So help me understand that.

Stephanie Davison: So they’re learning how to maintain the tree and either an urban forest or a traditional forest over the long term.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So that’s an important skill. Another example in Maryland is right to know they were leaning how to deconstruct an old prison and then they’ll build signs made out of the old bricks.

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: It’s an interesting project.

Len Sipes: And that’s – and that’s the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup?

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Yes. That’s the prison you’re talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Yes, I am.

Len Sipes: I’ve been in there a thousand times under – under nasty circumstances.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: And I’m so happy when they closed the prison down. So they’re taking the – their dismantling the prison and they’re doing what with it?

Stephanie Davison: And they will be using the bricks from the prison to create signs within the community.

Len Sipes: That is neat.

Stephanie Davison: It’s a cool project and it’s great because the old building won’t be going into the waste stream.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And all of those products will be in a very visible way contributing to their community.

Len Sipes: Well that’s neat. Maryland should start a buy-a-brick program. This is an authentic brick. You know what we used to call that institution?

Stephanie Davison: No, I don’t.

Len Sipes: The cut.

Stephanie Davison: Oh.

Len Sipes: Yes and it has a world famous because it was an old prison it was called the cut, some people say he was named after the railroad cut that ran by it and the other people say it was nicknamed the cut because of the all the stabbings at the place. So it has a very, very – just in case the listeners are remotely interested, it has a very unique background. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on green corrections and I find this really interesting. Dan Pacholke, he’s the assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections, www.doc.wa.gov. Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360. It’s www.fhi360.org. They are a contractor to the National Institute of Corrections of the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the US Department of Justice and they’re trying to implement this concept of green corrections throughout the United States. There is a website that I do want to say which is a website at the National Institute of Corrections specifically focusing on green corrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. I’ll give that one more time now and at the end of the program, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Donna, I hope I got that correct, okay. I’m getting a thumbs up. All right. Where do you we go to with all of this? I mean are states really buying into this? Are states really – I mean you said the bulk of the states, Stephanie. Is this is something that they’re enthusiastically pursuing or they’re saying, oh, my gosh, here’s another mandate from the governor, another mandate from the federal government although I don’t think it’s a mandate. I think they’re simply guiding. So as you go out and talk to hard bitten state correctional administrators when you talk to them about green corrections, what sort of reception do you get?

Stephanie Davison: It really varies on the state and it depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to someone who needs to save money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …then they buy into it right away.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Stephanie Davison: They understand it. If it’s an officer working the yard, it’s a little different.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: And we found that buy in is really important with those individuals.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So – and I’ll let Dan speak to this a little bit more but we found it’s important to have an understanding of why green is important when you’re trying to do it at a grassroots level. When you’re trying to get the officer to get on board that they have to understand the why.

Len Sipes: Right. But they do see the obvious. I mean look, I’ve been in, as I said before, some prisons where there are a lot of programming and the officers within the prisons with lots of programming are much happier human beings because the level of violence goes down and, Dan, quickly correct me if I’m overselling this concept but in those institutions where there are lots of programs where they are meaningfully engaged in doing pro-social things throughout the course of the day, either GED programs or substance abuse or they’re doing work-related programs, because I think this is part of correctional industries. Dan, is this part of correctional industries in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: No, it’s actually – well, it is but I mean it’s part of the Department of Corrections as a whole and certainly correctional industries is involved in sustainability activities also.

Len Sipes: Right and we should explain what the correctional industry is. It’s job programs within prisons.

Dan Pacholke: Correct. I mean it really does two or three things. It mimics real world business activity inside the prison.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: So they create real world jobs. On top of that they provide, you know, job training and then ultimately they produce products that are useful to state governments and certainly our department as well.

Len Sipes: Right. But to Stephanie’s point of some of the correctional staff – I mean they may not get it, they may not understand it at the very beginning but if it calms the institution and makes their day more productive and makes their day safer, I would imagine there is a certain point where they say, oh, okay, now I get this.

Dan Pacholke: I think in the last five years that a lot of correctional staff that have been sold on the cost containment aspect of it.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Dan Pacholke: It does save money and it takes it out of areas where stuff like garbage or energy and it allows us to buy equipment or training or whatever the case maybe for line level staff. So on the one hand, I think they get the cost containment. On the other hand, as you’ve indicated, correctional officers know that meaningful activity to an offender gets them out of the housing unit, gets them involved in something and in most cases, with few exceptions, they are less prone to act out, less prone to violate rules.

Len Sipes: Now, the other thing that comes to mind is that all – most of the prisons that I’ve been in, either in the State of Maryland or beyond the State of Maryland, are pretty stark places. I mean it’s barbwired, it’s concrete buildings, it’s not designed to look nice. It’s designed to keep inmates in the prison. The first rule of corrections is I shall not escape. So we’re talking about a pretty stark environment here and I would imagine if you start using the common areas of the prison system and start landscaping them and start doing things with them that brings an environment. I mean, look, the average correctional officer has got a tough job. They are in there for 20 or 30 years. The average inmate could be in there for 10 or 20 years or longer. So they’re all in this very confined area. It’s stark. It’s not the prettiest of areas. I’m guessing that if you green up these areas and teach inmates how to sustain them being green, I would imagine that cannot transform but it can certainly add to the pleasantness of the interactions of inmates and staff throughout the course of the day. It makes simply – makes a nicer environment.

Dan Pacholke: Well, it certainly changes the culture or context of incarceration. Even in high security facilities, you can find places to create green space or you can do organic gardening or you can co-locate dog training areas next to housing units and certainly bringing dogs into living unit adds an element to it that is not typically there and will bring a calming aspect. You’ll see them laughing or smiling which is not always the case. So you know part of what you’re doing in bringing nature inside prison is you’re creating more of therapeutic environment and it’s not missed by the offender population and certainly, it creates a better environment for staff as well. So there’s great examples out there how you can do it in very high security prisons and you know all the way down to low security prisons. There are some model 2000 prisons out there today that are doing everything in the areas of gardening and garbage sorting and composting and raising tilapia, dog training, and bicycle restoration that have highly programmatic routines you know, 100 inmates involved in activities that would be greening activities.

Len Sipes: Bicycle restoration, that didn’t even cross my mind and as a fairly avid bike rider, that intrigues me. Tell me more about bicycle restoration?

Dan Pacholke: Well, once again, I mean once you adopt a green principle or sustainable principle in your mind that you want to do things that are sustainable and also that you wanted to contribute to the community, I mean, you start outreaching a little bit. We probably have four prisons that receive bicycles either from police departments or from special interest groups in the community. They bring them in. They often times contribute money. We set up an area where offenders will do bicycle restoration and then typically, they’re turned back over to community and they give them to children in need. So once again, it’s an opportunity to contribute to something larger than themselves. It’s an opportunity to give back to children. It’s an opportunity to work with community partners that are interested in the outcome that you’re going to achieve. So essentially a community begins to see you as a resource rather than a black hole behind a big wall that we just throw money into.

Len Sipes: That’s an interesting concept. I mean that is – I’ve never heard of that. I mean I’ve been in part of this system for – again, for decades and bicycle restoration, what a great idea. How long has that been going on in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: Oh, you know, I think we started the first one probably 6 or 7 years ago.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Dan Pacholke: We probably have half a dozen prisons that are doing it today but along those same lines, it’s the same thing we’re going canine rescue. We have canine rescue in 12 different prisons across the state and, of course, there are many, many dog advocates and training everything up to assistance dogs. Once again, a community has a need, it’s tough environmental times, they need help. They provide training to the inmates. It is a therapeutic activity and then in the end, of course, the community, you know, gets the animal and we have 100% adoption rate. So as you start going down this line about a being a good community partner, I mean there are several states and we’re one of them that are doing environmental restoration projects whether it’s raising the endangered Oregon spotted frog or the Taylor checkerspot butterfly or endangered puri [PH] plants that there are community partners, scientists, biologists, US Department of Fish and Wildlife that need assistance in taking care of or nurturing or growing these creatures or plants. They lack funding and, of course, prisons are full of people that have nothing but time.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: Many times they are pretty talented as well so – once again, it’s another way to bridge and to give inmates an opportunity to contribute and certainly give a community partner a different view inside the prison where they begin to see you as a resource that can help solve local problems.

Len Sipes: You know the more I talk to the two of you about this the more encouraged – the more enthusiastic I become because when you first hear the term green corrections, Dan, you’re not quite sure what it means and where we’re going with this but that’s true. I mean if you’re doing a lot of community restoration for inmates at the pre-release level who can safely go out, if you’re doing things like repairing bikes or taking care of wounded animals or training dogs, I mean, my heavens, how many millions of dogs are there in this country that needs some sort of intervention or they’re simply going to be put down. So it sounds as if the State of Washington is being really innovative in terms of coming up with not just pro-social things for the inmate population to do but a way for the prison to contribute to the betterment of the larger community.

Dan Pacholke: Yeah. I think that is part of what you’ll find across the country. I mean Maryland is doing steps around Chesapeake Bay, you know and Ohio is doing stuff with the Cincinnati Zoo and I think they’re about ready to start a restoration project on an endangered salamander called the hellbender and so there are different examples out there where people are beginning to engage community partners in a way that provides opportunities for inmates that are therapeutic, they teach empathy, compassion, and responsibility. At the same time, you’ll have scientists or biologists or both that are interested in these projects and ultimately, you know, we have a controlled environment where we can develop protocols around some of these science restoration project so you begin to expand the kind of agenda of greening a corrections. I mean you start with something simple like cost containment, certainly moving areas to training and jobs and then, of course, you bridge into more local geographic community needs and we’re certainly in need of many, many more environmental restoration projects across this country.

Len Sipes: It’s an amazing thought. Okay, we’re in the final couple of minutes of the programs Stephanie. Well, tell me more about – I’m hearing all these wonderful things coming out of the State of Washington and so you’re telling me that other – and Dan did mention that Maryland is doing some stuff, Ohio is doing some stuff, does everybody get green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Not everybody…

Len Sipes: Do they understand it?

Stephanie Davison: … gets green corrections but they could.

Len Sipes: They could.

Stephanie Davison: I would encourage people to go the NIC website…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …and look an example of – and look at a guidebook called the Greening of Corrections: Creating a Sustainable System.

Len Sipes: Right. Okay.

Stephanie Davison: We have examples from all over the country from the deep south to the progressive west and you can see how it can be done anywhere.

Len Sipes: Okay and we are talking about, as Dan said, $3.5 million worth of savings. So if you do it for no other reason besides saving taxpayers – you know, 50 times, 50 states, and seven territories x $3.5 million that’s a lot of money and I’m going to give the website out one more time before the close that will give greater time for the close, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Okay. We’re in our final minute of the program, who wants it? Stephanie, any final wrap up?

Stephanie Davison: One final word, I’d like to say in the next few months, we’ll be releasing a challenge on challenge.gov so that…

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: …State Departments of Correction can share their activities with us and then we’ll be able to broadcast them and share them with a larger community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So keep your eyes peeled for that.

Len Sipes: So you’re going to pit one state against the other and see who’s doing the best, right?

Stephanie Davison: A little bit. We want the examples of the best work that’s being done.

Len Sipes: And, obviously, some of the best work that’s being done is being done by the Washington Department of Corrections. So, Dan, how’s it feel to be known for something else besides the day-to-day grind of corrections? I mean the people come to you and say, hey, tell me more about green corrections in the State of Washington.

Dan Pacholke: Well, I think it’s – on one hand, it’s fun. I mean it is in activity that started kind of on the margin and has worked its way more to the center of the plate. It’s really encouraging for us, I supposed all of us, just to see more growth in the area of people like Stephanie, you know NIC, other states like Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon and California. I mean there’s lots of people doing different activities out there so, you know, one of these days, we’re going to see a new prison design that’s based on sustainable principles that articulates or identifies everything that we’re talking about here. So I’m just interested in seeing more best practice come of it and learning from others and hopefully continuing to push this in a way that’s both economically beneficial as well as humanizing corrections and making the operations of prison safer.

Len Sipes: Dan, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a show today- have done a show today on green corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections. Our guests today have been Dan Pacholke, assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections; Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, letters, concepts, criticisms, and please yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Reinventing the Criminal Justice System-Justice Reinvestment-Urban Institute-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/01/reinventing-the-criminal-justice-system-justice-reinvestment-urban-institute-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, is Reinventing the Criminal Justice System, Justice Reinvestment; I think one of the more important topics that we’re going to be discussing and one of the more complicated topics we are going to be discussing this year. Dr. Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center for The Urban Institute is our guest today. – www.urban.org. We’ll be making reference to that website throughout the program because, ladies and gentlemen, this is, again, an extraordinarily difficult concept to understand, complicated but unbelievably important to the future of the criminal justice system. I’ll try to summarize it and then turn the entire program over to Nancy. Number one, states and locales all throughout the country are complaining of budget cuts, and it really has impacted the criminal justice system. And I’ll read a passage, a quick passage from a publication, “What can county and city managers do reduce these costs without compromising public safety, they can engage in Justice Reinvestment. Justice Reinvestment can help prioritize local justice spending for those who pose the greatest risk to public safety while also informing which individuals would be better off in the community, where services and treatment are more readily available.” And then bottom line, I’m thinking, about Justice Reinvestment are the savings. If there are savings, a portion of those savings go back to the states and local jurisdictions to even provide more programs. Nancy, am I somewhere in the ballpark of even beginning to describe what Justice Reinvestment is all about?

Nancy La Vigne: Yes, you are, and you did it quite succinctly, I will say. It’s a multi-step process and so it does take some time to explain but perhaps we should start with a little bit of history. You did refer to the fact that the impetus behind a lot of states and localities getting on the Justice Reinvestment bandwagon is because of the budget shortfalls, and that’s definitely accurate, but there were other issues as well. First of all, as I think we all know, a lot of those budget shortfalls are being fed by rising criminal justice costs. They may not be the entire – as a matter of fact they’re a rather small, 8% to 10% of the total state budget in any given state but still we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars so with states and localities thinking, “What can we do? How can we save money? How can we deal with these budget shortfalls,” it’s a natural inclination to look at the criminal justice system because those costs continue to rise because the populations have been rising historically. Now you may be aware of recent studies that show that state prison populations are on the decline but actually, as my colleague Jesse Jannetta recently blogged about, that’s driven almost entirely by California.

Len Sipes: By the state of California, that’s right, and those overall declines are not all that dramatic.

Nancy La Vigne: They’re marginal, but states realize that this is an issue and they’ve been grappling with it for a while, and many have tried different efforts to control the growth of the prison population that have been maybe mildly successful but not sustained over time, and arguably it’s because they haven’t engaged in this Justice Reinvestment process which requires a couple of things to be place. First, you need to have all the people in the system, all the key stakeholders at the table and on board. If you only work one end of the system, it’s just going to bulge out somewhere else kind of like squeezing a water balloon so you need everyone at the table. At the state level, it’s critical that you have representation from both sides of the aisle, and you’ve got the support of the Governor and the House leadership, the Senate leadership, minority, majority, as well as the Head of the Department of Corrections, and parole and probation and so forth, and judges, prosecutors, everyone who drives the system. If you don’t have them all on board, it’s not going to work because either changes will be made and they’ll be fought and they won’t get through or they won’t be sustained over time because you don’t have this joint buy-in.

Len Sipes: You’re as good as your weakest link.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly. Exactly. Some of those weak links are quiet powerful, as you may know.

Len Sipes: Yes! Yes!

Nancy La Vigne: So there’s that. It’s having the right people at the table. And then it’s guiding the decision-making process with hard empirical data, and that data is often supplied by the state or the locality but typically in the Justice Reinvestment model, it’s analyzed by a technical assistance partner, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs —

Len Sipes: Thank you.

Nancy La Vigne: — in partnership with the Pew Center on the states for the state-level initiative, they together have funded this initiative and supported four technical assistance providers, two that work with states, two that work with localities. I can share who those are if you wish.

Len Sipes: 17 states are doing this?

Nancy La Vigne: 17 states right now are engaged in this process. Some states early on have already engaged in the process and declared victory and moved on. A lot of people point to Texas as an example of that. They were the earliest adopter I can think of, and they were looking towards the future and had planned to spend billions of dollars on new prison construction —

Len Sipes: And did not.

Nancy La Vigne: — and did not. They chose not to.

Len Sipes: And the crime rates have basically gone down in Texas.

Nancy La Vigne: And they took some of the money they would have spent on prisons and funded treatment beds.

Len Sipes: And that is the heart and soul of Justice Reinvestment, is it not? – Using data, doing things differently. If there’s cost-savings, those cost-savings are shared with the states and localities, and they buy more treatment options for people in the criminal option system.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s the way it’s been playing out, not only treatment options or programming. Sometimes it’s to shore up supervision. In some states they’ve identified that the wrong people are being supervised and some people are not being supervised at all so, you know, folks who are maxing out and are exiting after often serving time for pretty serious crimes without any supervision, and of course with supervision comes support. It’s not just about surveillance; it’s about support and providing the necessary programs and services, so shifting who gets supervised, how long they get supervised. You know, some low-level offenders perhaps shouldn’t be supervised at all or certainly shouldn’t be supervised for the length of time that they are. That can save money. But also with those savings, putting it into implementation of graduated sanctions to prevent revocations and other best practices that are supported by evidence.

Len Sipes: One other person – I won’t name this person – this is what he told me, not knowing it, but he said it with all the conviction in the world, that every governor in every state in the United States has had a discussion with his or her Correctional Administrator basically saying that costs have to be reduced. That was his proposition.

Nancy La Vigne: So do you know what I find really frustrating about that?

Len Sipes: Please.

Nancy La Vigne: The assumption that the head of the DOC has control over that population. I mean yes, they are housed within his or her domain or control but that suggests that they’re the ones that drive the growth in the population, and what we’ve learned from the experiences in the states is that’s not really the case.

Len Sipes: True.

Nancy La Vigne: Revocations, often technical revocations, are driving that growth.

Len Sipes: That’s why everybody’s got to be on board.

Nancy La Vigne: Sentencing decisions, sentencing low-level drug offenders, low-level property offenders to increasingly lengthy terms behind bars – that’s not under the control of the head of the DoC. That’s a decision that prosecutors and judges make.

Len Sipes: But after 42 years in the criminal justice system, we are stodgy. We are bureaucrats. We are round-peg in a round-hole kind of people. We’re not used to people coming along and saying, “We’re going to basically readjust/reinvent/change the way that you conduct business.” The criminal justice system, when I joined when I was 18 as a cadet for the Maryland State Police, is basically 90% of the criminal justice system I see as I’m looking at the end of my career.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, and I agree with that. You are stodgy. However – however – when you look at this process, how it plays out in action, it’s a wonder to witness. The Urban Institute is in a role as the oversight coordination and assessment entity for this project so we get to kind of go to all the states and localities and observe how this works, so the Counsel of State Governments, for example, they’ve been leading the charge on the state side. They literally embed people in a state and develop the relationships and share the data and engage in intensive policy conversations and work a tremendous amount of time behind the scenes, getting people on board, educating people, identifying folks that may be reticent to get on board, and finding ways to persuade them that it’s not just in their best interests but in the best interests of the system. They are that neutral outside entity that can speak with authority based on extensive experience working in many states, and presenting the data that can just kind of dispel a lot of the anecdotes that you hear that nay-sayers often argue based on stories rather than fact. They can demonstrate how it is a system-wide problem not just owned by one player, and that can really nudge some stodgy people into action.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Yeah. Let’s give some examples because I’m afraid some of our listeners possibly could be confused with the process. We are talking about in essence focusing our resources on those people who pose the greatest risk to public safety and doing “something else” with those people who do not necessarily pose a great risk to public safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, that is one of the many interventions that states have chosen to implement. Really, the interventions should be guided by the identified drivers of population growth so in some states it may be one driver and in some it might be another, and across the 17 states, the most common drivers are revocations, both probation and parole revocations, and a high, high percentage of them being technical.

Len Sipes: In your report, you cited one state with 50% as having histories of parole and probation revocations coming in through their prison system. I spent 14 years with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. At one point for us it was 70%.

Nancy La Vigne: 70%.

Len Sipes: 70%, yes it was.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, I would call that low-hanging fruit. There’s a lot that could be done there. So certainly with the revocation issue, the response to that is to look at what sanctions are in place, do people need to be returned to prison for technical violations, can you create graduated sanctions, can you create incentives for not engaging in technical violations, can you return people for shorter periods of time or return them to local jails rather than to state facilities. All of that saves a ton of money.

Len Sipes: And Project Hope basically said those short, meaningful interventions of a day or two days or three days were effective enough to dramatically reduce recidivism, dramatically reduce technical violations. It was wonderful across the board. So Project Hope is the epitome of an example as to the effectiveness of that approach.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s exactly right, and several of the states who are grappling with high revocation rates did choose to implementation Hope models or Hope-like models. That’s exactly right. But then there’s other drivers, and I mentioned before, sentencing practices and the incarceration of low-level offenders. In Louisiana, for example, non-violent, non-sex offenses represented over 60% of prison admissions so, you know, what can we do with that population? Some may need to go, some may could be diverted, and also what’s stunning to me is that there’s also been a trend in many states of increased lengths of stay for these low-level, non-violent, property and drug offenders So that’s another place where you could look to see making changes. Sentencing reform is tremendously challenging.

Len Sipes: It’s a huge issue.

Nancy La Vigne: It’s very challenging, so most states don’t choose to go the sentencing reform route. They usually look at some kind of back-end way to – although some do pass statutes to change the thresholds by which people should be —

Len Sipes: The research on specialty courts has been very encouraging, diverting people out of the prosecution prison route and going into the specialty courts, and specialty courts have had good returns basically in terms of recidivism and cost-savings.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum, uum-hum. It’s true, and then another common driver we observed across states is the issue of delays in parole processing or reductions in the parole grant rate, and these too are relatively simple changes, figuring out what’s slowing things down and how can you speed them up, or how can you change or guide parole boards in a way that they’re incentivized to make decisions to grant parole, perhaps supported by evidence, and the most obvious evidence would be a risk assessment that gives them more comfort in knowing who they should release. In other cases, the parole grants get stalled because people don’t have a home plan. Well, that is an issue of resources often behind bars. If you don’t have a case manager that can help line up a home plan then no one gets released, and then you have this backlog which is really unnecessary.

Len Sipes: And the interesting data in terms of parole is that those paroled have consistently much less of a rate of recidivism than those not paroled, so fewer people coming back to prison, once again, as long as they are released with conditions and those conditions are enforceable.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: So what else?

Nancy La Vigne: What else?

Len Sipes: It’s very complicated.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. Well, so what’s complicated about it is how long it takes to explain why it’s called Justice Reinvestment because up till now what we’ve discussed is data-driven, collaborative approaches to reducing the prison population and saving money through identifying the drivers and developing responses to the drivers. Where does this word “reinvestment” come in?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: That comes in at the very, very end with the anticipated savings associated with making all these changes. Now this is very complicated because the savings might not be hard cold cash that you have in your hands and you can put elsewhere, as a matter of fact it’s rarely that. A lot of the savings are projected savings that aren’t realized until several years into the future however the process still encourages states to think about upfront reinvestment. So in looking at prison projections had they done nothing and then the projections associated with the changes that they plan to make, they can anticipate that, you know, five years down the road they’re going to save however many millions of dollars – why not reinvest some of that upfront into programs, supervision, services that help support the entire system and reduce recidivism?

Len Sipes: So the reductions in terms of the cost outlays to the criminal justice system are actually reinvested to make the system even better, so it’s a win-win situation across the board.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum.

Len Sipes: All right. Let me reintroduce you, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re a little bit more than halfway through the program. We’re talking about reinventing the criminal justice system – that’s my title – Justice Reinvestment, Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute, www.urban.org – www.urban.org. Again, we reemphasize that this is a joint project of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, the Pew Center on the states and the – I’m sorry, the Centers for State Government, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: The Counsel of State Governments.

Len Sipes: The Counsel of State Governments, I’m sorry, my apologies, but this is a massive undertaking on the part of 17 states, a lot of different jurisdictions, with the understanding that people have been talking about reinventing the criminal justice system, doing “something different” with the criminal justice system for a multiple of reasons but budget, in my opinion, seems to be the principle driver behind all of this. People are more than welcome to disagree with my assessment but I do think it’s budget that’s pushing an awful lot of this, and this is exciting stuff because what it does is bring an awful lot of people in one room, data-driven, taking a look at an awful lot of data and saying, “What can we do to reduce the amount of people flowing through the criminal justice system without having an adverse impact on public safety and saving money and taking those savings and reinvesting those savings in terms of either more prosecutors, more parole and probation agents, more programs, more resources for the criminal justice system so they can do a better job to begin with so it can be data-driven in the future so we can continue this philosophy down the road, right?

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right – data-driven and evidence-based.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Before we continue, I do want to acknowledge all of our partners in this initiative.

Len Sipes: Please. Please. Please.

Nancy La Vigne: We mentioned, of course, the Bureau of Office Assistance and the Pew Center on the States are the funding partners. The Counsel of State Governments and the Vera Institute of Justice have both been working with states, and the way that works is that the Counsel of State of Governments helps identify the drivers and the policy options, and gets states to the point where they pass legislation, and then Vera comes in and helps implement. And then at the local level, it’s the Center for Effective Public Policy and the Crime and Justice Institute that are working with counties across the country.

Len Sipes: Oh, lots of different people, lots of jurisdictions involved in this.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, a lot of players, a lot of very, very seasoned criminal justice professionals, often former practitioners and/or data analysts that come into states and localities and, as I said before, really embed themselves in the system, develop the relationships and the trust, and really make things happen.

Len Sipes: This is, in my mind, the most significant story of the criminal justice system as we move into the 21st century and yet it gets zero coverage. There’s nobody from the Boston Globe, there’s nobody from the New York Times, there’s nobody from the Washington Post, there’s nobody looking at this systematically, and yet this, in my mind, is a fundamental change in terms of how we within the criminal justice system operate. Why is that? Is it just a bunch of policy wonks sitting with a bunch of budget-cutters and saying, “Hey, what’s the best way we that can rearrange the deck chairs?” or is this really a substantive, hard-nosed examination of the fact that we can do this better without imposing so much of a fiscal burden on the states and counties and cities?

Nancy La Vigne: It’s definitely the latter because it’s not just budget-cutters and policy wonks. It’s all the key players in the system that have a shared interest in doing things differently and getting more bang for their buck. I mean, the return on investment has been really poor. If you look at the increased expenditures on corrections across the country —

Len Sipes: Massive.

Nancy La Vigne: — massive, with no real discernible change in the recidivism rate.

Len Sipes: But isn’t it interesting of how you take a look at conservative politicians – not to touch upon politics in any way, shape, or form – but conservative politicians are demanding that the criminal justice system prove its cost effectiveness, demanding that we get a bigger bang for our criminal justice dollar. I mean, I find that to be interesting.

Nancy La Vigne: This is why it’s been so popular an initiative, it’s because it garners support on both sides of the aisle. The left has always been more sympathetic to rehabilitation spending and perhaps diverting people from prison. The right has observed that this is not just a wise use of taxpayer dollars, and they do, they want to see a better return on the investment and that’s what we’re seeing. You know, we talked at the end of the first segment about the projected savings and how they get reinvested. Across the 17 states that are currently engaged in justice reinvestment, they’re projecting between 9 and 438 million dollars in savings.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing. Now is that per state or is that total?

Nancy La Vigne: An average of $163 million per state.

Len Sipes: An average of $163 million cost savings per state.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. Um-hum. Yeah. It’s huge!

Len Sipes: Who’s getting the Nobel Prize for this?

Nancy La Vigne: I’d love to see it. Well, we have to see those savings, realized, right?

Len Sipes: Of course. Of course.

Nancy La Vigne: A lot of these are projections and we hope they’re accurate but even if they’re off by 50%, that’s still a tremendous savings. Across all the states, in five years the projected savings is $2.12 billion.

Len Sipes: $2.12 billion.

Nancy La Vigne: And that speaks volumes, I think.

Len Sipes: Well, it does speak volumes if we can hold down the rate of recidivism, if we can ensure public safety, if we focus on those people who pose a clear and present danger to our well-being.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, the beauty of this model is that a lot of the policy responses to the drivers of growth embody those principles. Every single state that engages in Justice Reinvestment is refining their risk assessment tools and validating them, and using them to guide decisions on diversion, on supervision, on everything including on needs and who should great treatment, and everything in between; and that is evidence-based, and we know that that’s tied to better outcomes in terms of recidivism rates.

Len Sipes: In essence what we’re saying is that there’s a certain portion of the population that comes into the criminal justice system, again, recognizing there’s been an almost continuous 20-year decline in crime per the National Crime Survey in crimes reported to law enforcement agencies and through the FBI, there is still a certain portion of the population coming to the criminal justice system that is better served from a public safety point of view and from a recidivism point of view not to process them in the way that we did ten years ago.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum. I think that’s right.

Len Sipes: And that’s taking risks, and that’s why a lot of the people at the local level, at the country level, are saying, “Well, why should we take those risks? Those risks have a way of blowing up in our face.” I think that would be the greatest point of reluctance. Why change it? Why take that risk? Why not simply incarcerate that person for a year or six months instead of putting that person into drug court?

Nancy La Vigne: Well, because it’s just not sustainable, that’s why. There’s just not enough room. There’s not enough money to build more prisons and so if you don’t make these hard decisions now, essentially you’re not making strategic decisions about how to use that space most wisely. You want to free up that space for folks who are really a danger to society but if you don’t make hard decisions about who needs to be in and who shouldn’t be in, those decisions should be backed up by risk assessment tools, then you’re actually engaging in really bad practice.

Len Sipes: And isn’t California the poster child for this whole movement where the courts have ordered the release of tens of thousands of offenders from their prison system in California because of the fact that they could not fund properly their health care system? – And they’ve released massive numbers of offenders, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Exactly. When you said “poster child” I paused for a section. “No, no, don’t hold up California as the example of Justice Reinvestment!”

Len Sipes: No, no, no, I’m not. I’m not.

Nancy La Vigne: No, this is what could happen to you if you don’t engage, yes. Right. Absolutely.

Len Sipes: If you don’t. Right. Right. Right. There are consequences for not managing your population better. There are consequences for not managing your dollars better.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And states, I mean, and one state that you looked at in terms of one of our reports, 12% of their overall budget was the state correctional system. That’s astounding!

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, I think that was Oregon.

Len Sipes: That’s astounding, that 12% of the budget is Corrections. It raised from I think 4% to 12% in terms of the various states but you’re talking about billions of billions of dollars, and if you can divert individuals from coming back into the criminal justice system, you are saving literally billions dollars in terms of future prison costs, building and operating those prisons. That doesn’t have to happen if you manage your population carefully.

Nancy La Vigne: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Len Sipes: Okay, but we can, through a data-driven process, assure people that this is not going to have an adverse impact on their public safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Again, states, localities, are using risk-assessment tools – some, not all. The ones they are using are not always validated which means they’re not always accurate. By using these tools, and using them in a way that can guide decision-making, I think that they should have confidence. I have confidence that this is no threat to public safety, in fact it’ a wiser and more efficient use of scarce criminal justice resources.

Len Sipes: Right, and the alternative is billions, billions, billions more or the alternative is what’s happening in California with tens of thousands of offenders court-ordered release so if we don’t manage our resources carefully, if we don’t make data-driven decisions, evidence-based decision, we’re not serving the public.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, and getting back to the concept of reinvestment, the ways in which states and localities are looking to reinvest a fraction of the savings is in evidence-based programs that are designed to reduce recidivism so you really are getting at recidivism reduction in two ways. You’re getting at it through better use of risk and needs assessments and you’re getting at it through enhanced programs to help people succeed on the outside.

Len Sipes: Um-hum, and that goes all the way from who do you prosecute to what programs do you provide at the end of it because the criminal justice system has done basically a terrible job in the opinion of many in terms of I think, what, 10%, 12% of people get substance abuse treatment while in prison. The numbers for mental health treatment are even smaller. The percentage getting mental health and substance abuse treatment on community supervision is also small, and that’s come back to bite us.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: To a certain degree, that’s not cost-effective.

Nancy La Vigne: Agreed.

Len Sipes: And the numbers need to drive that in terms of that larger policy discussion with hard-bitten criminal justice people like myself.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right. We’ve got to get you out of your stodgy ways, Len.

Len Sipes: I would love to do a bit of the fly-on-the-wall for so many of those meetings where people are saying, “Hey, if we don’t do this, we just have the courts release lots of people, and we don’t have the money to continue doing what we’re doing.”

Nancy La Vigne: Right.

Len Sipes: Yeah, it’s a fascinating thing. I really applaud Urban, I really applaud all the partners, and I applaud the Department of Justice of really trying to take a really unique and different approach, and this is why I called the program Reinventing the Criminal Justice System through Justice-Free Investment. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Your guest today has been Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute, www.urban.org – www.urban.org. And we thank everybody for their time and efforts in terms of all the input that you provide for the radio shows here at DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your emails, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

The Correctional Education Association Conference, 2011-The State of Correctional Education in America-DC Public Safety Radio

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/07/the-correctional-education-association-conference-2011-the-state-of-correctional-education-in-america-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live from The Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. We have five hundred people from not only all over the country, but all over the world – over five hundred people who are here to discuss correctional education. As you’re well aware – those of us within the criminal justice system – there are entire states that are cutting out their correctional education programs, vocational programs, educational programs and there are other states cutting back because they feel they have no choice because of budgets. We’re here to discuss what’s going on throughout the country – new and innovative ways to deliver correctional education programs.

The research does seem to be pretty clear that the better prepared they are upon release from the prison systems, the better they do in society, which means that fewer people are victimized by crime and the less money the taxpayers have to put out to put them back into the prison systems. So it’s a win-win situation for everybody. We’re going to be a doing a series of five-minute interviews, short interviews. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education in a Midwest state and she is also the President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Educational Association talking about computer-based learning, computer-learning skills.

We’re talking to William Byers. He is from the state of Arkansas. He is a School Superintendent for the correctional system there in the state of Arkansas, where they found the 25% difference in recidivism, which is pretty significant. We have Denise Justice. Denise is the CEA Past President and she is a School Superintendent for an entire correctional system in the state. She received their President’s Award for her relentless pursuit of correctional educational and she’s talking about how to promote correctional education throughout the United States to get everybody to understand that the payoffs can be significant. Steve Steurer is up for the next five-minute interview. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association. His job is to provide an overview, provide a national perspective as to where we currently are with correctional education.

And finally, the last person up is Cindy Borden. She with a company called Northstar Correctional Systems and she under contract for the Correctional Education Association. They did a four-year piece of research in terms of school programming, post-secondary education, collegiate education and in essence the people who they followed up in a two-year time period, one-third of these individuals were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed, which is a pretty doggone good piece of research or statistics in terms of correctional educational programs and their results. So, again, short five-minute interviews starting with Susan Lockwood and we hope you enjoy the program.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live today from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Quite frankly, ladies and gentleman I’ve been to correctional conferences throughout the country and Tim Barnes and I have done our fair share of conference support and this is one of the largest correctional conferences I’ve seen. It’s principally people who are involved in correctional education, correctional programs, who have an interest in the whole concept of a fund of reentry and we’re here today talking to a variety of people. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education at a Midwest Department of Corrections. But here in her capacity she is President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Education Association and, Susan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Susan Lockwood:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  One of the interesting things here, Susan, is this whole concept of long-distance education, the correctional education. There’s a lot of states out there they’re budgets have been decreasing. In fact, one state in particular – California – pretty much wiped out correctional education. So different people are saying are there ways of doing this differently. Are there new and unique ways using unique technologies to do a better job, to stretch the tax-paid dollar as much as possible? And one of the things that I find interesting in what you’re doing is it’s GED in computer-based curriculum and testing, where your individuals that are involved in this program, what they’re doing is they’re learning computer skills. They’re learning how to type. They’re learning how to word-process for them to be comfortable with computer learning. So this is the process of teaching them how to take the GED test but to do it by computer, correct, do it by long-distance learning?

Susan Lockwood:  Correct. That’s why we’re going to have to drive our curriculum since we’re anticipating the fact that the GED testing service is going to move to that computer application of… the application of taking the test by computer and a lot of our funders are not ready to do that because they lack those skills. So, yes, we would have to adjust our curriculum and prepare them in order to do that.

Len Sipes:  There are a lot of people out there who are still computer-illiterate. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Whether you’re in prison or out of prison. I mean, there’s…I spoke to a gentleman the other day who just absolutely refuses to open a computer keyboard.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  He’s well-educated. He’s smart, but he is at that age where he’s just not familiar with it. So this is a scary thing for some people.

Susan Lockwood:  Sure and a lot of our offenders, especially some of our older offenders who have been incarcerated for long periods of time, obviously, are not technology-literate and so it can be barrier for them if they wanted to take a computer-based test.

Len Sipes:  Right. So the whole idea here is to get them comfortable with a computer to the point where they can take their GED test. Now, GED curriculums are an integral part of prison education. We want them to be literate. We want them to know how to read. We want them to get their eighth grade certificate, their reading certificates, their GED certificates. The GED certificate’s sort of at the top of that ladder, correct?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. In our state it serves as a market signal…

Len Sipes:  Right.

Susan Lockwood:  For whether or not a student is ready or a person is ready to enter post-secondary job training or even an employment situation.

Len Sipes:  It’ll make all the difference in the world in terms of that offender. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  If he or she has a GED, he or she suddenly becomes a marketable, far more marketable than without it.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So the concept of doing the computer testing is you have to get them comfortable with the keyboard. You have to get them comfortable with the keystrokes.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a lot of work that goes into that.

Susan Lockwood:  Right and then there’s also portions of the test that involve writing an essay and so the student would need to be able to word-process to be able to actually type that in and within the time limit of taking the test.

Len Sipes:  Now, is there ever the possibility of being instructed… taking your instructions for the GED through a computer or at a long-distance learning or is that in the future?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. There are lots of companies already that offer different curricular that can be delivered via computer. So that obviously would be something that lots of states are looking at, to be able to load that software into a lab and let students have that opportunity to improve themselves and grow academically through a lot of the coursework that would be on the computer.

Len Sipes:  Right. One of the questions that was asked of me is why can’t there be somebody sitting in the state of Kansas or, you know, and teaching people in Alaska? Why isn’t that possible?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, that would be possible, although, having experienced that kind of a situation myself via distance learning, I think that being on the receiving end of that instruction it’s really more beneficial to not only have that piece, but also to have a person in the room with the students right there on site where they can actually ask the questions, discuss and it’s often a lot more…

Len Sipes:  Powerful.

Susan Lockwood:  Yeah, definitely.

Len Sipes:  Sure. Okay and before we go, before we end this particular part of the program, I do want to touch upon the benefits to society. A person gets a GED and what happens?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, the whole thought would be that as part of a process of gaining employment that, again, the GED would be a market signal and so it just allows this person to have an opportunity to be successful and outside the fence, to be able to go out, perhaps get a job, perhaps get further job training and once that a person becomes employed, our research has shown that it impacts recidivism; that employment is…

Len Sipes:  Right. There are fewer crimes.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There are fewer crimes as a result of it.

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And it eases the tax-paid burden because….

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  They’re out there paying taxes instead of taking taxes.

Susan Lockwood:  Instead of being a tax liability, they’re paying taxes.

Len Sipes:  Our guest today has been Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education for a state in the Midwest, but in her capacity today she is the President of the Council of State Directors, again, at the Correctional Education Association Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

Len Sipes:  From the Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia, I’m really pleased to have William Byers by our microphones. He’s the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. He’s in charge of the whole shebang. He’s on the Board of the Correctional Education Association and is also Regional Director with the Correctional Education Association And one of the things that Mr. Byers was talking about – Superintendent Byers was talking about – was the fact that he has a 25% reduction in the rate of recidivism for those people who obtain GEDs. Am I right?

William Byers:  That is correct, yes.

Len Sipes:  Well that’s incredible, a 25% reduction. Most of the research on reentry programs will basically give 10-20%. Twenty percent seems to be on the outer reaches of the reduction of recidivism. You’re doing 25%. Why is that?

William Byers:  Well, we have a very successful program. Number One: We require everyone who comes into the Department of Correction who does not have a high school diploma or GED to attend school while they’re incarcerated. Also, I might add that the Board of Correction is also our school board and they are very supportive of our program. Education, they place a high priority on education. The teachers know that. The students know that. The inmates know that. So I think that’s one thing that contributes to the success. Not only that, but we find that those who get out not only recidivated at a lower level than those who don’t earn a high school diploma or GED, but they also get a better paying job and they’re more likely to have a job.

Len Sipes:  Right and they’re more likely to keep a job probably.

William Byers:  Exactly, exactly.

Len Sipes:  But the interesting thing is that, we in the United States, we’re having a struggle now with correctional education and with reentry programs and vocational educational programs. There are some states that are giving more money towards it and some states that are cutting it out because of their budget situation. The states are in a dire budget situation. What do you say to citizens – somebody sitting out there, somebody from the Governor’s Office, somebody from the PTA – to convince them that correctional education is worthwhile, that it’s in the average citizen’s best interests to do this?

William Byers:  I don’t care what studies you look at. You can look at them from the free world, from the prison situation. The bottom line is education helps. It helps society. If you look at populations, the more educated the populous is the higher the level of income and that’s true of the general population; it’s also true of the inmate population. The more educated they are, the better they’ll behave in prison, the more likely they’ll get out and stay out. So it’s beneficial to society if individuals can get an education while they’re incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Being a correctional officer is one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs of the face of the earth.

William Byers:  It is.

Len Sipes:  These programs…this is very rarely ever discussed, the fact that these programs keep prisoners peaceful.

William Byers:  Yes. We deal with 21 wardens around the state in Arkansas and they will tell you that they want education in their unit because not only does it provide something for the inmates to do, but it provides something positive for them to do.

Len Sipes:  Sure. You want to have problems, then give them nothing to do. Let them play basketball. Let them sit in their bunks. That’s a dangerous prison. If you have programs in the prison, that’s a safe, sane prison.

William Byers:  Plus, they’re around educators. They’re around educated people who mentor them and affect them in a positive way just by being around them.

Len Sipes:  How many people do you graduate a year from the GED program? I was very impressed by that.

William Byers:  In the state of Arkansas we have over a thousand inmates a year to earn their GED and that compares to…the inmate population in Arkansas is about fifteen thousand, so we have a high participation and we have a lot of people who walk out with a GED.

Len Sipes:  Now, we use the word ‘recidivism’ rather loosely. What we’re talking about is fewer people being mugged, fewer people being victims of crime because inmates get GED programs. They go on to live… they have the chance to live a more successful life, make more money, to be in that job longer, which translates into fewer crimes, which translates into individuals paying taxes and not being a tax burden.

William Byers:  And that’s something you can’t measure. We say that they’re taxpayers instead of being a tax burden, but also you can’t measure somebody not being mugged or somebody not being raped. That’s one of the benefits that you can’t put a figure on.

Len Sipes:  Well, that will be the final word from you. William Byers, B-Y-E-R-S, William Byers – he is the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. Thank you very much for being with us.

William Byers:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. We’re at The Correctional Education Conference in Charleston, West Virginia and at our microphones today is a person with a really unique last name: Denise Justice. She is CEA Past President. She is a School Superintendent – and I love all the Superintendents that we’re interviewing today – for a correctional system somewhere in the United States. She received the President’s Award today from the Correctional Education Association and I asked somebody as you why she got the award. It was for relentless pursuit or advocacy for correctional education. So I figured she’d be the right person to ask. Denise, why in the name of God do we do correctional education? A lot of people are out there. There are a lot of other priorities. There’s the elderly. There are people out of work. I mean, there are a lot of issues in the United States today. Why should anybody care about correctional education?

Denise Justice:  There are a lot of issues in the United States and we are clear about that, but when we have an incarcerated person in the United States, they are about 99.9% sure that they are going to get released at some point in time.

Len Sipes:  At some point in time.

Denise Justice:  At some point in time. Very few people go to prison and never ever come out again and when they do come out, they don’t move far away from each one of us. They’re in our neighbourhood. They’re five minutes away from us. They’re next door, wherever the case may be. They’re going to come home. Many of them were incarcerated because they did not have the skills – educational skills, employment skills – in order to be able to be a taxpaying citizen.

Len Sipes:  The research says that we interact with people caught up in the criminal justice system every single day whether we go to a restaurant, whether we go to the auto store, whether we go to the tire stores, whether we go…it doesn’t matter. We are encountering individuals who have been caught up in a criminal justice system every single day. So if they’re constantly around us, doesn’t it make sense to be sure that when they come out of the prison system they’re as best prepared as they possibly can be to live a productive life?

Denise Justice:  Absolutely because it does save us money. If they can come out and get a job and pay taxes and stay out of the criminal justice system because that costs taxpayers a lot of money, too.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Denise Justice:  Then we are actually saving ourselves money. We also…you need to think about do you want your neighbor to have some skills to be able to get a job and pay those taxes or do you want to force them into a situation where all they can do is go out and cause another crime? And maybe the crime is robbing your house, taking your VCR, your TV.

Len Sipes:  So what we’re talking about is lessening the crime rate for individuals listening to this program. They become safer because of correctional education programs.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. You can look at any recidivism study that you want to and if you don’t know, recidivism is basically the rate at which people come back to prison or come back into the justice field and you can look and see no matter what study is done, it tells you that people who are involved in education or getting employable skills are going to be less likely at whatever rate – there are different rates, you know – 10%, 20%, 30% differentials, but whatever it is, education makes them less likely to come back to prison.

Len Sipes:  Well, the guest before you, William Byers, Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System, I mean he claimed a 25% reduction. That’s large. I mean in a world where you’re happy if you get 7% and you’re satisfied if you get 10% and you’re ecstatic is you get 20%. By heavens, 25% is a huge difference. I mean, if you have seven hundred thousand people come home every year in this country from prison, 25% of that lopped off, 25% of these people going on to be taxpayers instead of tax burdens. That saves states millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, in the long run in terms of construction costs, in terms of operating costs. It saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. We found in the 80s, a lot of states got into prison-building booms. They tried to build themselves out of prison overcrowding and what we discovered was it was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you build it, they will come. So we were building double and triple the number of prisons maybe we had in our state and instead of getting down to a 100% capacity in our facilities we still found ourselves 125%, 150%, 200% over capacity.

Len Sipes:  Regardless as to how many prisons we built, they were still overcrowded.

Denise Justice:  Regardless of how many prisons, absolutely, and so now we are looking more at the fact that what we need to do is to start the day that people come into our system and to start planning for their reentry, looking at getting them their GED if they have not completed a GED or a diploma. Looking at getting them career tech skills and employability skills so that they can go out dealing with their addictions, dealing with their anger, issues of child abuse and all of those areas and getting them ready to go back out on the street. Getting them to know what linkages is out there that can help them. Whatever areas they needed to stay out.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So quick answer on this one because we need a quick answer. We’re just about out of time. So the Correctional Education Association is designed to advocate that throughout the country, is to bring likeminded people…there are over five hundred people at this conference today and over the course of the next couple of days. That’s a large gathering, especially in these economic times. So everybody’s coming together to do what?

Denise Justice:  Everyone’s coming together – particularly at our international conferences – is to come together to share problems that you’re having, to come up with solutions, share solutions you maybe came up with at home, to find materials and resources that we can use because of budgetary cuts.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, my guest today has been Denise Justice. She is the Correctional Education Association Past President. She’s the Superintendent of a Correctional School System for a state and the award recipient today for the President’s Award at the Correctional Education Association Conference. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

This is DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host Leonard Sipes as we broadcast from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. I really have a lot of pleasure in reintroducing because he’s been to our microphones before, Steve Stuerer. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association – Steve, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Steve Stuerer:  Thank you for having me again.

Len Sipes:  It’s a really interesting conference. Again, Tim and I have been to conferences…Tim Barnes and I have been to correctional conferences throughout the country and we’ve been to government conferences throughout the country dealing with social media and this is by far one of the largest conferences I’ve seen. You have well over five hundred people in attendance.

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’ve been very lucky. West Virginia is terrifically supportive of correctional education and people, I think, the people are bringing themselves together and it’s a tough time. I think it’s actually drawing us together rather than pulling us apart and pulling us down.

Len Sipes:  Well, it is a tough time and I do want to emphasize that this is a national conference not necessarily a West Virginia conference. You have people from all over the country. We have a couple of people from around the world and education programs in correctional facilities, correctional systems, throughout the country they’re hurting. California sliced out the entire education program. You have different states that are cutting back significantly.

So what you’re going to do for me today is to put it in perspective. Where are we in terms of correctional education in the United States – whether it’s GED programs, whether it’s vocational programs? Where are we? Are we gaining? A lot of states are saying, “Hey, the way to reduce recidivism and control our costs is to put more programs on the table.” Some states are saying, “I’m sorry. We can’t afford it. We’re in a budget jam.” Where are we? Put it in perspective for me.

Steve Stuerer:  On a national level, we’re losing. We just lost all our post-secondary money that we had from the federal government – $17.2m was going out to the states on a formula basis. That’s gone. Not likely to be getting that back any time soon. Some of the states still support post-secondary education – vocational primarily, but with credits – through state funding of various sorts or some inmates actually pay their own way if their families can afford it. So we lost that. GED, we’re hanging in there, but we have a whole new challenge because GED is going on computer and within two years it will be computer-based.

So that’s going to present a real problem financially for a lot of systems trying to retool. So the whole basic education, GED, it’s holding in there, but we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to meet this GED challenge; vocational education, probably losing there, too. The Perkins Act, which has been around for decades, is being severely cut. So a lot of that money would go into corrections as well as into the community. Vocational programs, we’re cut with that. So I think generally speaking in just about every state we’re having some real stress.

Len Sipes:  Is that why you have such a good turnout at the conference, though? I mean, I see a lot of enthusiasm and the people that I’m talking to today certainly aren’t down in the mouth. They are enthusiastic about what it is that they do. They’re hopeful about what it is they do. They see the value in terms of what it is they do. So there’s a dichotomy here. On one side, I agree with you that we are struggling in terms of maintaining the number of programs and the quality of programs, but on the flipside is the enthusiasm I see from the membership of the Correctional Education Association. They know the value and they want to move forward.

Steve Stuerer:  Yeah, I think it’s kind of descriptive of our membership to see that kind of enthusiasm. They’re used to working in tough circumstances. They’re used to working with people who no one else wants to work with; who have given up on them. So when problems come along, they can gripe and groan just like everybody else and some of them just give up and shake their heads and wring their hands, but I think most of the people respond accordingly: Well, we don’t have much to begin with. Let’s figure out how we can do it a different way. Let’s see if we can find some more resources. Let’s see if…

Len Sipes:  Is there a different way of doing it?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’re trying to see what different ways can be done. I mean, with the GED, for example, we’re going to work very closely with the GED Testing Service, which is owned jointly by GED Testing and American Council of Education and Pearson VUE, which is a company that does a lot of vocational assessment. So we’re going to see. There might be ways to deliver things a little bit differently. At CEA one of the things we do is we train teachers to train inmates to be tutors and what started out was a kind of collaboration between Maryland and Ohio ideas, the concept of tutor training, we put it into a national program.

There’s like six states now that we’ve gone in, we’ve trained thirty… anywhere from thirty to eighty teachers at a time in three-day seminars, how to train inmates to be their aids and most states will allow inmates to act as aids. In Ohio we’re…in the last five years or so, I think it is, they’ve trained over thirty-five hundred inmates who in turn work with the teacher and tutor others in the classroom, so they’re not running around in some disorganized fashion. It’s a little army, so to speak. In Louisiana, they’re about three years into this. They’ve trained over five hundred inmates. In fact, the job is one of the best in the system. Inmates have to be highly qualified to do it and then they get some special privileges. They might get sent to another institution.

Len Sipes:  So we really are squeezing that rock for…

Steve Stuerer:  We’re squeezing it…

Len Sipes:  We’re being as innovative as possible, but one of the other…a question I asked to another person at our microphones this afternoon was why can’t you have a person centrally located somewhere in the United States teaching inmates any place else in the United States through a long-distance learning?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, you could possibly do that with some of the folks. I mean, a lot of folks do things online, for example, but I daresay, because I teach online for the University of Maryland University College; it’s an open university and some students have a great deal of difficulty because a lack of sufficient writing skills, reading skills, etc. They are much better served with some face-to-face assistance, whether it’s a mentor or hopefully a teacher, but people need assistance who have a lot of severe deficits and the correctional population, typically, come in…

Len Sipes:  Is filled with people who have severe deficits when they come to the education…

Steve Stuerer:  All kinds of deficits and complications.

Len Sipes:  But before we end the program and we’re in our final minute of the program, I do want to get around to the results because people listen to this program and they’re going to say to themselves, “Okay, you’re the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association. Sorry, Mr. Executive Director, we’ve got elderly people. We’ve got school kids to take care of. We have so many people unemployed and now you want me to give money and support to this whole concept of correctional education,” and to these people you’re going to respond how?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, if I were to talk to a group of elderly people, I think I could get some of them to understand the situation. Things are tough and what are you going to do? Why can’t you reach out to other folks who are in bad situations? What is it about us that we in the United States that we tend to just incarcerate somebody and want to throw away the key? Why isn’t the concept of community, of helping each other, people who are down, who are quite capable if they get the right kind of assistance…why do we want to do that?

Len Sipes:  But there are tangible benefits to taxpayers as well.

Steve Stuerer:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Look, they’re not going to…their chances of being mugged, their chances of their house being burglarized are significantly reduced if these individuals are trained in prison.

Steve Stuerer:  Right, but the reason I bring out this other issue is that we’ve made that argument for years – the reduction of recidivism. We did one of the significant studies in the field and so that really brought the attention of politicians, but right now, all bets are off. You see, what’s happening in states and at the national level. They’re not looking at research in any area. They’re cutting programs. They’re cutting this, cutting that. So I’m trying to see if we can appeal a little more to people’s consciences because there is a big conscience in the United States. Some of the biggest givers in the world in terms of charity and in terms of helping folks and so we’ve gotta take a little bit different tack because right now nobody cares about the recidivism study, you know? So we need to create some sympathy on a humanistic level. So that’s one of the reason why I think the social media, we need to take a good look at it and see how we can reach people. Not just in the dollar in their pocket, but their own feelings about helping others.

Len Sipes:  Steve, you get the final word. You had the final word. Steve Stuerer, the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association, at their Annual Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We continue to broadcast from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Again, well over five hundred individuals from all over the country – some people from all over the world – looking at this whole concept of correctional education, looking at correctional programs, looking at reentry programs, looking at what makes a difference in terms of the impact of how people come out of prison. Are they successful? What programs are they engaged in? What programs did they participate in? What programs are successful? What programs aren’t successful? That’s the point of the Correctional Education Conference and before our microphones, we’re going to continue this discussion on research. Cindy Borden, she is with a private company and the private company was under contract to the Correctional Education Association to do some research. Now, needless to say, we can’t endorse a private company, but these are the people who were in charge of the research. Cindy Borden. She is with the Northstar Correctional Educational Services. They are Correctional Education Consultants and the interesting thing here is that what we’re talking about is post-secondary education, i.e. college. A four-year piece of research that shows that one-third, after they’re done a two-year period, one-third are enrolled in college and three-quarter are employed. So those are pretty, pretty, pretty significant findings. Cindy, let’s talk about this. Now, how did you end up with the contract with the Correctional Education Association?

Cindy Borden:  CEA asked us to find a funding source and then to recruit states. Started out with six states to participate in this research who were willing to randomly assign students into either the intervention, which was a distance learning program or a control situation, which was basically business as usual. There are local community colleges or correspondence work. So we found the funding source in the Institute of Education Sciences with the US Department of Ed and then they asked us to conduct the field research.

Len Sipes:  Now, both of you…and you’re the other person from your company. You’re former principals or superintendents? What were you?

Cindy Borden:  We were former teachers and then principals in the prison system.

Len Sipes:  So you have a lot of experience in terms of this.

Cindy Borden:  I do.

Len Sipes:  You have hands-on experience. Now, I do want to explain for our audience that random assignment is the gold standard for research. It’s when a prison…we’re talking about forty-four prisons, right, in seven states?

Cindy Borden:  Forty-four prisons in seven states, that’s right.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so half were given this program and half were not and it happened by chance. So in other words there’s no research bias.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right. They were randomly assigned by computer, generated and half were given the distance learning intervention. The other half continued business as usual.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So that is the gold standard. So tell me about this. So you had…this existed for how long in the post-secondary education is a collegiate program and the college program?

Cindy Borden:  Yes, it was the first two years of academic college, so basically freshman and sophomore year core course – Gen Ed courses. We went out to the prisons for three years, twice a year. We did pre-testing of the students in the fall and post-testing in the spring. For three years running, we conducted focus groups and we interviewed site coordinators and students. We gave the CAP Critical Thinking exams to all the students in the fall and then post-tested them in the spring.

Len Sipes:  Now, believe me. I understand how controversial this is from a public relations point of view. When I was with the state of Maryland I used to do press releases about collegiate stuff, people graduating from collegiate programs and I got quite a bit of pushback from citizens. So there is a concern. People asked me quite blankly…bluntly rather, “I can’t afford to send my child to college, so this guy goes out and commits a violent crime and he gets a free college education. Where’s the fairness in that?” One of the things that I would say in return was that the individuals involved in collegiate programs had the lowest rates of recidivism. That means out of all the things that you could do within a correctional setting these individuals committed fewer crimes, fewer crimes than any other group of individuals and cost taxpayers less money than any other group of individuals. Is that right?

Cindy Borden:  That’s absolutely right. An investment in college education for these students brings a cost benefit to the taxpayer that is tremendous. We invest in their college education while they’re incarcerated and the recidivism rate drops significantly for these people. We have discovered in the course of this study that even exposure to a single college course or a single semester of college courses makes a tremendous difference in their decisions once they get out.

Len Sipes:  Right, but I mean in this case, what I’m asking is is that this program, these post-secondary collegiate programs in the prison settings are more effective than any other program I’m aware of. That’s the question.

Cindy Borden:  They are very effective. Vocational training is also very effective for a separate type of person, but for those who are interested in academic education, yes, college – straight up college – is tremendously effective.

Len Sipes:  And I do want to point out the effects. Now, we’re talking about two years out, but that two-year cohort could be people out for two years or people just entering the cohort and being out for a couple of months.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So when you measured this at a two-year period for people out for an entire period of two years and just entering the cohort for a couple of months you found that one-third were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  Now that’s amazing. I mean…

Cindy Borden:  It’s a pretty good result.

Len Sipes:  Those sorts of statistics are beyond comprehension. I mean, that’s pretty much the best piece of research or the best research findings I’ve ever heard of.

Cindy Borden:  It’s much higher than we anticipated. We didn’t expect it to be that high. We were surprised at what that exposure to college produced in their post-release statistics.

Len Sipes:  And you would say to the average individual out there who has mixed feelings about this that, what? That these finding trumps just about every other finding that we’ve encountered or what do you say to that person?

Cindy Borden:  To the one who says, “I’m paying for my kid’s college. Why should the convicts get it for free?”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cindy Borden:  The investment in these people pays off to our communities. What I say to people who say that directly to me is that these people are getting out of prison and they’re going to move next to you and they’re going to move next to your children…

Len Sipes:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive.

Cindy Borden:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive and who do you want there? Do you want someone who has had some exposure to college, who’s actually earned a college degree or someone who did nothing with his time while he was incarcerated and then was released and moved in next to your children?

Len Sipes:  Cindy Borden, you had the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re broadcasting from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Cindy is with a private company. Again, we can’t endorse private companies, but she was a contractor to the Correctional Education Association to conduct this research. Northstar Correctional Educational Services at northstarcorrectional.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your time and effort and listening and look forward next time to another program on the state of the criminal justice system in America. Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends}

Share

An Interview with Bernard Melekian, Director, US Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

Welcome to DC Public Safety – radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts. We now average 200,000 requests a month.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/06/an-interview-with-bernard-melekian-director-us-department-of-justice-office-of-community-oriented-policing-services/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We have a real treat for us to today, ladies and gentlemen. Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as the COPS office, www.cops.usdoj.gov to talk about what’s happening with the COPS office and where the COPS office is going.  Before we get into the interview with Director Melekian, I want to thank everybody once again for your calls, for your letters, for your emails.  If you want to comment in any way, shape, or form in terms of what it is that we do here in D.C. Public Safety, please feel free as you already are doing.  You can follow us via Twitter that is twitter.com/lensipes, L-e-n S-i-p-e-s.  If you want to get in touch with me directly via email, it’s Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosaid.gov.  Or you can simply go in and comment in the comment area, which most of you do, which is media.csosa.gov.  And simply comment in the comment boxes.  CSOSA stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a parole — a federal parole and probation agency here in downtown Washington, D.C.  And again, it’s my pleasure to re-introduce Bernard Melekian.  He is the executive Director, Director of U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS, a gentleman with 37 years of law enforcement experience and 25 years within the Coast Guard Reserve.  Again, Bernard, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Bernard Melekian:  Thank you, Leonard, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  You know, 37 years in law enforcement, that’s enough to tell 10 billion stories.

Bernard Melekian:  At least, at least.  It’s been a fascinating career.  I feel–I do feel very blessed to have gotten to spend my adult life doing something I love doing.  And I’ve gotten to continue that here in Washington. 

Len Sipes:  You know, it is a profession.  It is a calling.  For those of us who have been in law enforcement, those of who have been in the criminal justice system, we’re passionate about what it is we do, because we see the direct benefits to so many citizens.   

Bernard Melekian:  You know, that’s absolutely true.  I think and I think it was doubly interesting is that very often the people that you help when you’re a law enforcement officer don’t see it or aren’t aware of it.  The–I’ve always teased my fire department colleagues about the fact that everyone loves them even–because they’re contribution is so tangible. 

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh. 

Bernard Melekian:  But what happens with law enforcement is very often the positive benefit is long-term or it’s unseen.  And I’ve often thought that police officers labor in an unfortunate obscurity. 

Len Sipes:  The first time I was involved with a terrible automobile accident.  And I was there by myself.  And I literally saved the individual’s life.  About a week later, his parents came in, it was a young man involved in an automobile accident.  And they were hugging me.  And they were crying.  And you know, I–from that, I’m saying, my heavens, what other profession do you have where you can make such a direct contribution to the welfare of others?  I mean, I understand that law enforcement has its own stereotypes.  Law enforcement carries its own baggage.  But for those of us who are privileged to have served in law enforcement capacities, you know, how many people come up to you in your lifetime hugging you and crying because you’ve saved the life of their child? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, not too often. And I think your experience was probably unique or–although I suspect if I was on the questioning end of this interview, I would imagine that more people had complained to you than that family that hugged you and thanked you for your service. I think all–very often that part of what happens is that police officers intervene in people’s lives usually under negative circumstances.  Usually they’re either, you know, stopping you for apparently no reason, or a reason that may not be clear, or you’re being issued a citation that you clearly don’t deserve, or you’re–you’ve been the victim of a crime.  And the officer’s there to take a report.  But there’s not a sense that the officer can do anything tangible.  I think that–I think that one of the things that police work has done, and needs to do a better job of, is marketing itself and marketing what it is that men and women do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across this country in events large and small to make their community safer. 

Len Sipes:  And that’s the heart and soul of COPS, is it not?  The concept of connecting with the community, the idea of making sure that partners are involved, making sure that the community is involved and making sure that everybody is connected, everybody is interdependent, and the community is not out there on their own.  The law enforcement agency’s not out there on their own.  They’re interconnected.  They’re talking.  They’re solving problems together.  That’s the heart and soul of the COPS concept, is it not? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I’ve been in this business long enough, 37 years as you mentioned, to have come up under what was called the professional model of policing, which was that–which was an arm’s length sort of just the facts Jack Webb “Dragnet” model, which actually was very deliberately focused on not connecting with the community, because the focus really was to deal with how to make sure that professionalism implied absolute objectivity.  It became apparent as the years went forward, and I came in this business in 1973, became apparent as the years went forward that that system wasn’t working.  And there’s a whole long laundry list, really, of reasons why it didn’t work.  But it became clear that it–we needed to connect with the community in a way that we did not, to use or word, partnerships, I’ve always believed that community policing at the end of the day was really nothing more than building relationships and solving problems.  And it’s something the police officers do quite well.  I would argue and have argued that for most of the agencies in this country, particularly rural agencies, and small towns, that they do community policing by default and always have, and probably just didn’t call it that. 

Len Sipes:  Well that’s been my point for years, Bernard.  It is, you know, the interesting part about it is that we have been doing community policing for years.  So there’s an awful lot of police officers out there, who have spent time with community organizations, spent time with gangs in the street, spent time walking, talking.  And from that, developing good leads as to who was doing the bad stuff.  But there has to be a trust relationship between–it all comes down–it doesn’t come down to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Bernard Melekian:  No. 

Len Sipes:  It doesn’t come down to the chief of police.  It comes down to that individual police officer, whoever he or she may be, willing to interact with the community on a very personal level, not out of an officer friendly public relations approach.  We’re doing this because it works, correct?  We’re doing this because it solves crimes.  We’re doing this because it solves problems.  So that’s the heart and soul of the COPS office, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.  And I think there’s this picture, this stereotype of what community policing is, that it’s–we all go to the–the officers go to the neighborhood barbeque, and everyone holds hands and sings kum ba ya. 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  But the reality is, and that may be a piece of it, but the reality is, for example that I guarantee you that if I look at a department that has a high crime solvability rate, particularly crimes of violence, I guarantee you that they have a solid community policing program going on because those detectives and those line officers have relationships in the community, have relationships with people who have information.  And not only have the information, but trust the officers and trust the department enough to give that information up. 

Len Sipes:  We live in a CSI world.  Too many people watch all these programs at night.  My wife–I drive her crazy because I cannot watch them in any way, shape or form because their reality, the television realty is so distant from the reality on the street.  And I think what you just said, it’s correct.  The vast majority of what is accomplished is accomplished not through neutron activation analysis, not through fingerprints, not through DNA, not through CSI investigators.  The vast majority of crimes are solved because that police officer has good, solid connections with that community.  That detective has good solid connections with the community.  Would you agree with that or disagree? 

Bernard Melekian:  I would agree with a caveat.  I absolutely agree that the relationships are critical.  And I have believed that and attempted to practice that throughout my career.  I don’t know whether it’s unfortunate or not, but the–certainly the state of the evidence required today to bring a case to trial, and to obtain a conviction has been–that bar has been raised significantly.  And in some ways, programs like CSI have contributed to that because the people who serve on juries have watched those programs as well.  

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  And they have an expectation of what it is that they’re going to see-

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –when they get to the courtroom.  And if they don’t see it, or they don’t see some version of it, most prosecutors will tell you that the risk of an acquittal starts to climb. 

Len Sipes:  Are the juries stuck with us.  We’re just regular John Doe and Jane Doe shmucks.  We’re not the very pretty, very good looking, very well educated, very well funded–

Bernard Melekian:  Very articulate and–

Len Sipes:  Very articulate, very glib–did I say young and extremely well dressed detective, who solves–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –crimes within a half an hour.  That’s television. 

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes:  The juries are stuck with you and I.  And we’re just regular–

Bernard Melekian:  And their computers, I’ve noticed, are never down. 

Len Sipes:  Yes, and they always have everything.  I mean they roll up with more equipment than I’ve seen in a lifetime.  Now the COPS office does what?  I mean, let’s set that up.  I mean you guys basically set the standard for the country in terms of what community policing is.  And we go from there please? 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think it’s important to–as we have this discussion, to look quickly at the history of the COPS office.  And the COPS office came into existence in 1994.  It was–its purpose was to advance community policing, a concept that had been born out of the broken windows theory and about a recognition, particularly in the nation’s urban centers that relationships with the police and the community, particularly the minority community was not what it should be, and to try to make some strides in that.
The–under President Clinton and under then Senator Biden, the office was brought into existence.  And its purpose was to advance community policing.
At the same time, because if you recall in the ’90’s, the crime rate was so significant, there was also a pledge that that office would put 100,000 additional officers on the streets of America– 

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian:  –for the purpose of making America’s community safer. 

Len Sipes:  Which you essentially did, the office did. 

Bernard Melekian:  And the office did do that.  Unfortunately, or the fortunate part was that it worked.  Crime did go down.  And I happen to–and while there’s a great deal of sort of back and forth about why crime went down in the 90’s, I am a very big adherent of the concept that cops count.  Cops do make a difference.  And that those 100,000 cops were in large measure responsible for that crime reduction, not the only reason, but certainly one of. 

Len Sipes:  Okay. 

Bernard Melekian:  However, the–I think then the view of the COPS office shifted from a focus on community policing, to a focus on hiring.  And–

Len Sipes:  Right. 

Bernard Melekian: –I think most of America’s law enforcement, sheriffs and detectives and political leaders have come to see it as sort of what I only half jokingly call the federal ATM machine.  And if you can figure out what the–

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry.  That’s a great line. 

Bernard Melekian:  If you can figure out the PIN number, you can get some police officers out of it.  And that was only part of the case.  And I think sort of fast forwarding to 2009, where–and I have to tell you in 37 years, I have never seen, I’ve seen the economy rise and fall.  I’ve seen problems as we all have.  I have never seen the devastation to local law enforcement that this economic collapse brought about. 

Len Sipes:  Totally agreed.  It is happening throughout the country. 

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely. 

Len Sipes:  I just read in the Chicago papers about 450 state troopers in Illinois being laid off.  Every day, because I–

Bernard Melekian:  Right. 

Len Sipes: –subscribe to three newspaper services, every–and Google alerts.  And every day, all that–all those articles from throughout the country are pushed towards me.  And I would say at least 20 percent to 30 percent of them deal with budget cuts.  And what’s happening in the criminal justice system throughout the country is literally devastating. 

Bernard Melekian:  Yeah.  The irony is that we as a profession, we as a society, I think, had started to make some great strides, and were really positioning ourselves over the next 10 to 20 years to do something very strategic.  And instead, most chiefs and sheriffs and I’m sure court administrators and district attorneys and public defenders, no one came in this business to do less.  Everybody came into the criminal justice system to do more, to make it better, to make society better, whatever your–whatever approach–wherever you come from on that.
And instead, they’re faced with this need to cut back.  Well, in 2009, in addition to the normal COPS hiring money, the Recovery Act funds were added to that.  And so, the COPS office gave out just over a billion dollars in hiring grants. 

Len Sipes:  That’s a lot of money. 

Bernard Melekian:  In fiscal year 2009.  It is a lot of money, but the downside was, or the other side of that coin was that there were over $8 billion in requests.  We funded 1043 law enforcement agencies.  We–out of–over 7,000 agencies that filed requests.  So clearly, the gap between the need and the resources to meet that need is huge. 

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program.  Bernard Melekian, he is the director of the United States Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing services COPS program.  Now both of you are smiling.  Did I blow the last name?  Am a constantly blowing the last name? 

Bernard Melekian:  Melekian.

Len Sipes:  Melekian.  I’m sorry.  And then I’ll get–

Bernard Melekian:  All right, I will say that your pronunciation is the most common. 

Len Sipes:  Well, now I’m going to get my dozen emails from, particularly from the New York City area, going Leonard, once again, you proved that you cannot get a name correctly.  Okay, so www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And the idea here is that not only do you, the COPS office, continue to fund positions in law enforcement, but you continue to provide some sense of moral guidance as to where the law enforcement community should be going.  And consequently, the rest of us in the criminal justice system, where the community should be going in terms of its relationships to the community. 

Bernard Melekian:  Well, my hope is that, and my belief is that American law enforcement does not need Washington to provide a moral compass for how they serve the community.  What I think we do is to help articulate what community policing is, and how those federal resources should best be used.
As I said, I think there’s this view of the COPS office as a hiring arm of the federal government.  I–what I want people to–sheriffs and police chiefs and elected officials across this country to realize is that we are not going to solve the economic challenges that the cities and counties of this country face.  And we ought not to be viewed that way.  What we can do, and what we will do is to provide three or four year problem solving grants.  In other words, what is it in your community, what challenges are you facing?  Is it gangs?  Is it– I just came from a meeting in El Paso of the southwest border sheriffs who face, you know, a unique–

Len Sipes:  A lot of problems. 

Bernard Melekian:  –set of challenges–

Len Sipes:  Yeah. 

Bernard Melekian:  –that really are unique to American law enforcement.  Those are specific community problems that the hiring of additional personnel to address those problems is exactly what the COPS office was designed to do.
Adding to that, I think as we go forward, is to encourage agencies, and I think the economy is going to do this, to encourage agencies to enter into regional projects and to enter into regional collaborations and partnerships. 

Len Sipes:  Bernard, we’ve been talking a lot about the money that the COPS office provides.  And–but isn’t this more an issue about telling the rest of us, instructing the rest of us, helping the rest of us in the field understand what is important, what works, what doesn’t work in terms of community oriented policing? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, I think it is.  I mean, I think one of the things, community policing by definition is unique, is unique to the community that it serves.  What works in Brooklyn, Iowa is probably completely different than Brooklyn, New York.  And I think it has to be shaped that way.  I think so one of the things that we’ve tried to be clear on, the COPS office historically has never attempted to tell agencies what they should do, what community policing was for them.  But I think we do have an obligation to search out evidence based practices, look for best practices, share that information, and structure our funding mechanism, so that they become goals to strive for. 

Len Sipes:  Right.  But the best practices, I mean, there are–there’s got to be some sense of a collective whole of knowledge in terms of look, we both know, and we talked about it at the beginning of the program, stoic cops who don’t communicate with the community are people who don’t solve a lot of crimes.  There’s got to be some level of communication with the community.  And unless that level of communication is there, community oriented policing doesn’t work, correct? 

Bernard Melekian:  Yes.  And I think–I think the–it needs to go beyond that.  I think it needs to be a–that communications piece has to be combined with a level of technical competence.  And by technical competence, I refer to culturally technical, as well as sort of instrumentally technical.
Policing in America’s communities large and small today is far more complex than when I came in to this business.  We can talk about and should talk about issues of race and ethnicity, for example.  But when I–in the 1970’s, that was really America–when America talked about race, they talked about black and white.  In the department that I came from in California, there were 23 languages spoken in the school district.  How do you communicate when you can’t speak the language?  And you clearly are not going to be able to simply do that by hiring a certain number of people who can speak a particular dialect.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  There is technology out there that has to be grasped.  There are cultural sensitivity issues that have to be grasped.  And so the definition of community policing almost by default has become far broader than it was 20 years ago.  The COPS office wants to help and can help agencies identify resources, what are other departments doing, what have other departments done.  We do provide training and technical materials, but we’ve also said if you’re going to hire police officers to interact with your community to advance community policing, then we’re–we want to know exactly how you’re going to do that.  We want to measure it.  Hiring officers is an output.  Achieving community policing is an outcome.  We’re striving for outcomes.

Len Sipes:  But in essence, once again, it is the community policing, the heart and soul of it.  I mean, you have a debate in this country right now in terms of, you know, a problem oriented policing, problem solving policing.  You’re talking about targeting high risk offenders, which is something that we do with the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington D.C., where we target high risk offenders, who are on our case loads.  There’s all sorts of forms of policing, but my guess is community oriented policing is getting away from stove pipes and recognizing once again that without the community support, it doesn’t matter what we do.  I mean, is that a reality or not?  I mean, we have to have the community support to be effective.  And through community policing, we use whatever mechanisms are available to get that community support.

Bernard Melekian:  I think you’ve touched on a very important point.  First of all, the community support is critical.  If we don’t have community support, then you simply have an army of occupation.  And that, you know, we don’t have enough police officers or the–nor is that a particularly effective way to, you know, to do business.
Having said that, all the things that you mentioned are simply styles, in my opinion, styles of providing community policing.  Problem oriented policing is very effective.  There’s a concept that’s come out of Los Angeles called predictive policing.  That’s got some interesting possibilities to go with it.
There’s a model out of Providence, Rhode Island, which I think is really where the future of policing is likely to go, called the Teaching Police Department, which pairs a department with an academic institution for the purposes of studying what that organization is doing, identifying what works, and what doesn’t work.  And if it does work, why is it working?  And then, share that with the field as a whole.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  The COPS office can facilitate that.  As departments want to undertake experimental efforts, for example, to try to address specific community problems, not again, Washington’s not going to make any effort to say this is what you should do.  But if you’re going to try this, we want to be able to measure it.  And if it works, we want to share it with the rest of the country.

Len Sipes:  Right, but do we not have that collective source of knowledge, though?  I mean, when I worked for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse as the senior specialist for crime prevention, it was my job to figure out what was happening in Albuquerque, and what was happening in Albany, and what was happening in San Francisco and whatever was working, and to build either documents or a collection of resources or referral sources.  So when another police department came in and said I’m interested in, oh, I don’t know, anti-burglary programs.  I can say, hey, he–these four cities have really interesting programs.  Go and talk to them.  I mean, there’s–somebody’s got to be at the center of all of this, dispensing the collective wisdom of what’s happening in the country.

Bernard Melekian:  You’re absolutely right about that.  And that really is what NIJ, National Institute of Justice has done a pretty good job of doing that.  But the fact of the matter is that most local practitioners very often because they’re–what they’re dealing with is so immediate, and so seemingly unique to their community, that they may not even be aware of the resources that are out there.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And one of the things that Attorney General Holder has been very clear about is wanting to break down those stovepipes, and wanting to build mechanisms, so that information is available across the board.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  And part of the COPS office mandate in my opinion is to share with the field where those, not only what’s out there, but where they can go do their own research.

Len Sipes:  And it’s interesting because I totally agree with you, by the way, is that I’m not quite sure sitting in Washington, D.C. for probably a good part of my career is not, you know, is nothing comes out of me or anybody else, that’s particularly wonderful in terms of knowledge.  All we do is suck up the knowledge of the experiences of what’s happening at the local level, and share it with others.  I mean, it’s really what’s happening in the cities and the counties and the states throughout this country.  And they push it to us.  And we somehow, some way get the word out about what they’re doing.
The ideas, the true innovation in law enforcement is not coming from D.C.  It’s coming from the individual police departments.

Bernard Melekian:  That’s correct.  And one of the goals that I have for the COPS office is that all too often, those agencies that do unique groundbreaking effective kind of things all too often you find that when the chief leaves, so does that particular program.

Len Sipes:  And why is that?  Why is it that leaders, when they transition, a new person comes in and he wants to put his or her own stamp on the program.  There is no state of the art in terms of community based policing, where the person comes in and says oh, obviously, I need to continue doing what my predecessor did.  Why is that?

Bernard Melekian:  Well, I think one of the things that we–and one of the goals the COPS office is to really institutionalize community policing and community policing practices.  You know, one of the–in what I thought was the–a groundbreaking book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins talked about what makes a truly great organization.  And one of the things that he talked about was the fact that you have to–in order for an organization to consider itself great.  It has to be able to sustain its growth or sustain its success, whatever you’re measuring through at least one change of CEO, one change of leadership.
Because if you don’t do that, then the leader may have been very effective, but the program was a function of his or her leadership, and not a function of the idea.  One of the reasons that I’m so intrigued by the Teaching Policing Department model is if we can measure a program, if we can find ways to evaluate groundbreaking programs that work, and share them with the field in kind of a personality neutral way, I think we may be able to get buy-in, not just from the executive level, which is traditionally where sort of creative, progressive thinking at least on the surface seems to start, but really get it down to the middle management and first line supervision level, which will accomplish two things.  One, it means it actually get done because people are invested in it.  And two, it will mean that the police chiefs of 10 years from now are invested in this kind of vetting.

Len Sipes:  So in the final minutes of the program, this is what I’m hearing.  COPS is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that seems to do two things.  That seems to A, provide money to hire police officers or to fund specific programs that are truly innovative, and B, provide the leadership in terms and then to share the experience of what’s happening with law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  So whatever good things Rochester, New York is doing can be replicated in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Is that the heart and soul of COPS?

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So it is the–that sharing part of it, and that funding part of it that most people who are listening to this radio program can go to your website, www.cops.usdoj.gov.  And on the website, what I read and in terms of your magazine, the COPS magazine, through your website and through your magazine, which is free, by the way, for anybody who wants to obtain it through the website, they can get a sense of what the state of the art is in terms of community based policing?

Bernard Melekian:  Yes, that’s correct.  If you go to that website, and we’re really working very hard on updating that website and bringing the best–links to the best practices, both in terms of police departments and academic institutions in our regional community policing institutes across the country, and having the resource available for the field.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so the website, the magazine is a point of dissemination.  And the philosophically community based policing is not–doesn’t have a national definition.  Every police department for themselves have gone to figure out what community based policing means for them.  If there is an issue in terms of the Spanish speaking community, and that happens to be the priority and lots of crimes are being committed there, and you’re not getting the cooperation, that police department’s not getting the cooperation, then for that particular police department, outreach efforts to the Spanish speaking community, and sitting down and talking with them and figuring out common strategies to approach a crime problem, that would be their strategy.
In another city, it could be burglaries and figuring out the best way of communicating with citizens in that area about burglary, so they can get the information they can need to catch perpetrators.  I think–

Bernard Melekian:  I think if I could just interrupt for a second.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Bernard Melekian:  I think there is a–I think in a way, there–hopefully going forward from this point, is that there is a national definition of community policing and that’s building relationships and solving problems.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bernard Melekian:  What–and the examples that you cited are exactly on point.  In each of those cases, in spite of probably different geographical locations and certainly different sort of tactical concerns, at the end of the day, that police department needs to build relationships, whether it’s with the Spanish speaking community in one city with it’s–whether it’s a group of effective neighbors–affected neighbors in another city, there has to be a relationship there.  There has to be a line of communication there.
Now then we get into the issue of how do we do that?  That’s really tactics.  But the strategy is to build relationships and solve that community’s problem.

Len Sipes:  And it is also, in the final analysis, as we close out the program, there’s a larger sense that we within the criminal justice system, we can have an impact.  And we do have an impact.  There’s no doubt that law enforcement has an impact on the–

Bernard Melekian:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  –quality of life and criminal activity within an area. But in the final analysis, we’re going to be–law enforcement is going to be much more effective if we have the full cooperation and blessing of the community.  And the only way we have the full blessing and cooperation of the community is to work with them as cooperatively as we can.

Bernard Melekian:  And really to help neighbors and residents realize that they are the solution, that ultimately, it is their commitment to their quality of life and their willingness to work with the department to achieve that, that becomes the essence of community policing.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Our guest today has been Bernard Melekian.  He is the Executive Director–the Director, rather, of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly known as COPS.  The website www.cops.usdoj.gov.  Once again, we really appreciate all of the letters, all of the phone calls, all of the emails, all of the comments in the comment box, all the interaction that you provide us in terms of what you would like to see in the show.  You can feel free, once again, to reach me directly via email.  Leonard, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov.  We’re up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio show, television show. The blog and transcripts, and we are really in your debt for all of the interaction that you have with us.  And we want you to have a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share