Drug Courts in Washington, D.C. “DC Public Safety”

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/2010/11/drug-courts-in-washington-d-c-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From our nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to talk about drug courts. Drug courts seem to have a pretty impressive research history from the U.S. Department of Justice and other sources essentially stating that people involved in the drug court process do well, better than the people who do not go to drug court, people involved in substance abuse, they go to drug court, they interact with the judge, they interact with supervision staff, and generally speaking, the outcomes are positive. To talk about the program that we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we have two principals with us today. Carline Claudomir and Amanda Rocha, they’re both community supervision officers assigned to our drug court, but before we get into the program, our usual commercial, we are up to 220,000 requests for DC Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. If you need to get in touch with us, and we really appreciate all of the emails, we really appreciate all of the comments in the comment line, and whether it’s criticisms, or whether it’s platitudes, we embrace whatever it is that you have to say to us, and we take it very seriously, and we appreciate all the suggestions in terms of future programs, you can get in touch with me directly via email: Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can follow us via twitter at twitter.com/lensipes or you can go to the site itself, www.csosa.gov and look for the radio and television programs, or you can go to media.csosa.gov directly and take a look at these programs and comment through the comment line and back to our guests, Carline Claudomir and Amanda Rocha, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carline Claudomir: Hi, Len.

Amanda Rocha: Hi, Len.

Len Sipes: All right, Carline. How many times did I butcher that first name? And last name? Carline Claudomir!

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. And I know I’m going to get the emails saying, Leonard, you can not pronounce names correctly! Amanda, you’ve been before our microphones before, correct?

Amanda Rocha: I have, Len.

Len Sipes: You’ve done some other stuff for us.

Amanda Rocha: Yes, I have.

Len Sipes: All right, so you’re star of stage and screen.

Amanda Rocha: Oh, no!

Len Sipes: And you’re very used to the microphone process. Drug courts. You know, ladies, the research on drug courts is positive, Carline, and the first question’s going to go to you. The research is positive. Drug courts do seem to work. Individuals going into the drug court process do seem to do fairly well. The whole idea behind, or the history of drug courts, for the audience, was to try to provide an alternative to incarceration, and an alternative to doing nothing. If you take a look at national research, out of all of the offenders caught up in the criminal justice system, 11% get drug treatment.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Now, the overwhelming majority of people caught up in the criminal justice system do not get drug treatment. That’s amazing to me. That’s amazing to me, considering all the social ills that are out there. But here, what we do is provide drug treatment, and in some cases, we simply provide supervision services. We do whatever is necessary to stabilize that person with a substance abuse history, correct?

Carline Claudomir: You’re correct.

Len Sipes: All right, tell me about it.

Carline Claudomir: My name is Carline Claudomir, and I work with the STAR/HIDTA team. STAR/HIDTA stands for Sanction Team for Addiction Recovery. Our program entails the clients being assigned by either their judge and their attorney, or coming through transfer from other teams at CSOSA, or through our pre-trial drug program. Once they come to STAR/HIDTA, they are signing a contract stating that there are a number of things that they will and will not do while on probation, and they understand that there’s immediate consequences for any positive drug test or noncompliant behavior.

Len Sipes: Okay, so if they screw up, there are immediate consequences –

Carline Claudomir: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: – and that’s what seems to work, correctly?

Carline Claudomir: Yes, it’s the blessing and the curse for some of the clients.

Len Sipes: Because we need to understand that people with substance abuse histories, shall I say, always screw up. Recovery, problems are part of the recovery process, so it’s not, go to drug court and never do drugs again. It’s go to drug court and work with that person as that person faces their addiction history and relearns how to live life without drugs.

Carline Claudomir: Yes, and a lot of times, when they come to us, they sit, stand up in court before the judge and say, Your Honor, yes, I want to do probation, Your Honor, yes, I want treatment, then they come to the office, and then they reread the contract and realize it’s not only treatment!

Len Sipes: Oh, my heavens! What have I gotten myself involved in?

Carline Claudomir: Yes, it’s treatment and sanctions, so if you continue to use drugs, unfortunately, there are jail sanctions involved, which are treatment, tough love all the way.

Len Sipes: You’re tough love all the way, but that’s what is necessary. Amanda Rocha, in terms of that sense of tough love, correct?

Amanda Rocha: Yes, absolutely. It really does help to have that median sanctioning, because it puts a little fear in the offenders so that they don’t go back and use, it gives them that second thought before deciding to use, oh, that’s three nights in jail if I go ahead and do that, or oh, you know what? I’m on my fourth sanction or fifth sanction, and now it’s seven nights in jail. So they don’t want to continue going back and forth. It gets old for them to have to do that, and so kind of helps them along the way a little bit.

Len Sipes: Well, I think it’s important for people to understand just that, because, you know, this whole concept of treatment, the research is pretty clear that the reason why most people don’t get drug treatment is not its availability or lack of availability. The principal reason for why people don’t get drug treatment is that they don’t feel they need drug treatment, and in many cases, in terms of the criminal justice system, we basically coerce them into a) getting drug treatment, b) sticking with it because of the sanctions along the way. If you have a positive urine, we don’t care if it’s for marijuana, we don’t care what it’s for. If you have a positive urine, this is what’s going to happen to you, and those punishments, if you will, are going to increase as you continue your substance abuse, correct?

Carline Claudomir: It’s the accountability factor, and a lot of times, they come to us never having to be held accountable for their drug use, never had to be held accountable for their actions, and when they come to us, they realize every time they mess up, there is no passes, there are no passes, so immediately, you go see the judge, and you can explain to the judge why you felt it was okay to make this decision, regardless of the consequences.

Len Sipes: You know, the interesting thing is that there’s an increasing number of research programs out there, studies that, interestingly enough, it’s the judge who seems to be at the centerpoint of a lot of these mental health courts, substance abuse courts, reentry courts, there’s something magical about the judge being involved in this process, I think.

Carline Claudomir: It’s the authority, because if I say he needs treatment and the judge says he needs treatment, that holds a lot of weight. You don’t want to go to a judge and say, no, he doesn’t need treatment. No, it doesn’t work that way. The judge says he needs it, then you’re going to listen, because they’re in the midst of the battle.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now it’s extraordinarily confusing for the people of this audience, because it goes way beyond Washington D.C. 20% of our audience is international, and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area is not our top city in terms of people listening to this program. So we have to explain that under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, administratively, we have an entity called pre-trial services who are their own independent agency with their own board and their own mission, but they fall under the generic auspices of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, both are federalized, and they also have a drug court program focusing on pretrial individuals, correct?

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and I know you can’t speak for them, but in essence, the gig is that the person goes before a judge, and if he completes, or she completes the provisions of the drug court program, the charges are dropped.

Carline Claudomir: It has an affect on the charges or what is actually ending sentencing.

Len Sipes: All right, there you go. It has an effect. You should be a public affairs officer. But ours, what we’re talking about is post-conviction. We’re talking about probationers.

Amanda Rocha: Yes.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and the probationers, we’re talking about, the incentive here is early termination, it’s where the judge or the attorney feels that this person has a substance abuse background, not necessarily currently doing drugs, but having a substance abuse background, and this person may not be new to the criminal justice system. This person may have multiple arrests and multiple contacts with the criminal justice system, correct?

Amanda Rocha: That is correct. We have people who are 18-years-old up until, well into their 60s, so yeah, it could be somebody who is their first charge, or it could be somebody who’s, it’s their 20th.

Len Sipes: Right, and that part, by the way, the process in terms of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and older. I’ve had a chance to encounter them, in terms of the write-alongs that I’ve done with our folks, and that’s sad, don’t you think? I mean, when you walk into this apartment of this guy who’s been through heroin, who’s been through crack, I mean, these older heroin addicts, these older coke guys, you know, they just have the hardest time staying away from drugs. It’s just amazing to me to go into the home of a 50-year-old and 60-year-old because they continue to do drugs.

Carline Claudomir: Can I go back to the incentive process?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Carline Claudomir: I always hear the biggest incentives for our program is the fact that you can come off of drugs, and you can be successful in the community without using illicit substances. We actually have a client right now, he is part of the TAP program, but we also see some of those clients sometimes, and he’s working, he’s successful, he’s drug free. That is the biggest incentive. Most of our clients, however, see early termination, and that’s their goal, and they don’t actually think of, to get there, I have to also be drug free.

Len Sipes: Here’s my guess, and either one of you, feel free to tell me whether I’m right or wrong. My guess is that they think that they’re entering this program, and the early termination is the only thing that’s on their mind, and getting off of drugs is way, way, way, way, way back on the list of –

Carline Claudomir: – priorities.

Len Sipes: Yeah, priorities, because a lot of people, they’ve done drugs the good part of their lives. You know, 12, 13 years old, starting alcohol, 14, 15, starting marijuana, 16, 17, graduating to the harder drugs, a lot of these individuals that we supervise here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and this applies to any parole and probation agency in the country. You know, they work with people who don’t know how to live life without self-medication.

Carline Claudomir: And unfortunately, in their minds, they believe it’s recreational, even though they have a 20-year history of drug abuse and treatment situations, they still believe it’s recreational, I can stop at any point in time.

Len Sipes: I can handle this.

Carline Claudomir: And unfortunately, when they get in front of, into the STAR/HIDTA program, and there’s consequences, and they realize, well I’m just going to jail because I can’t stop using, is that really worth it? And that’s when it may click in their mind, okay, I really do, I have a problem. I can’t do this on my own.

Len Sipes: We, we have this come to reality be, again, I’ve used other terms, but I don’t want to be disrespectful. Where that becomes a defining moment in their lives, does it not, that they have lived their life with the needle, lived their life with a powdery substance, lived their life smoking reefer, they really don’t know what to do without drugs.

Amanda Rocha: And I think, for example, we have somebody assigned to us right now. Her grandmother had a history, apparently she’s not using now, but of use. Her mother is actively using, and she’s a young girl, 19 years old, and is using, so that, not only has she been using for a good amount of her short life that she has had so far, but she also has been living with this substance abuse through her generations.

Len Sipes: Right. I guess that’s the point that I’m trying to get across to the audience, because we have this extraordinarily simplistic sense as to the problem that we have with people, the 16,000 people that we supervise on any given day, and most of the people in the audience that I talk to understand that out of the 7 million people under correctional supervision, 5 of those 7 million are on community supervision. So when we talk about corrections in this country, the overwhelming majority of these individuals are in the community being supervised in the community. The overwhelming majority of these individuals have substance abuse histories. The overwhelming majority of these individuals just don’t smoke a joint every couple weeks. That investment in drugs is a long term early age of onset life altering experience, but they don’t know how to have a life without drugs. So every time the boss gets in their face, they smoke a joint. Every time life takes a turn, the needle goes in their arm. That’s who they are, that’s what they are in terms of their own self definition. Now am I exaggerating, or am I in the ballpark?

Carline Claudomir: No, even when they’re successful, the way they celebrate is by using drugs!

Len Sipes: That’s right! They reward themselves. We had a case one time when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety. The guy comes out of prison, reunited with his family, he’s going to drug treatment, he’s working, he’s getting along with the kids, and he’s doing so well, that what he does is fire up a joint to celebrate! And he kept pulling positives for marijuana! First positive, second positive, third, fourth, fifth, sixth. Now there’s a certain point where we’re sitting down and saying, my man, you’re very close to going back to prison, and your wife let you come home, and the kids, you’re getting along with the kids, and you’re working every single day, and you’re going to drug treatment, and the drug treatment folks say that you’re progressing, and you’re within a hair’s breadth of going back to the prison system! What’s up with you?

Carline Claudomir: Well I have clients like that right now in my caseload. I had a client who, by some confusion, believed that her termination date was a month earlier, and so when I called her in, I said, I need you to come in and drug test, because I’m sorry, you actually terminate in May instead of April, and that drug test was positive for marijuana, and her explanation was, I thought I was off of probation! But she had not tested positive in close to 7 months!

Len Sipes: But that’s not the point!

Carline Claudomir: It’s not the point!

Len Sipes: So you, the criminal justice system, in essence, in these drug courts or other modalities that we have here at CSOSA, when we involve people in long term residential group substance abuse, that is, for the first time in their lives many of these individuals come face to face with the prospect of never using drugs again, and facing the prospect as to why they use drugs to begin with. That is a pretty scary place to be, is it not?

Amanda Rocha: I would think so, yeah. Some of the offenders have already had drug treatment, though, and this is their second time coming around, because like you were saying, it is a scary thought, so maybe that first time they weren’t open to it. They didn’t really reap the full benefits of receiving that treatment, so here they are, back in the criminal justice system, and we’re giving them another chance, and we’re hoping that this time, they are receptive, and they do keep that open mind, and they aren’t so put off by the whole idea of addressing that issue.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, ladies and gentlemen. This is DC Public Safety today. We’re talking about drug courts. We have two principals with us. We have Carline, let’s see if I can actually pronounce Carline’s last name correctly, Claudomir, and Amanda Rocha, both community supervision officers with drug court. Again, there are two drug courts in the District of Columbia, ours under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which is post-adjudication, which means the person’s on probation, and we also have one on the pretrial side of it, and the whole idea is, when the judge or the attorney takes a look at this individual’s background, they say that this person’s involvement in criminal activity is principally due to substance abuse, and that person may not be new to the criminal justice system. This may be the person’s fifth, sixth, seventh, twelfth time, but he has a substance abuse history, she has a substance abuse history, and what we try to do is to get them involved in treatment, but the interesting part of it is that treatment may not be the first stop, correct? We have other, we assess the individual –

Carline Claudomir: When they come in to this, the HIDTA drug program, initially, some clients actually are [INDISCERNIBLE] from either the pretrial or from a request from their judge. A lot of our clients come in, and we assess their drug, their current drug test to see, what level they would actually go into. Some clients come in and never drug test positive, and they had dealt with their issues prior to coming to –

Len Sipes: Or they make the voluntary decision to stop as long as they’re under supervision. So the interesting part, this was the point I was trying to get to, and both of you were looking at me, so why did I, the interesting part of it is research years ago that basically said offenders take vacations from their drug use all the time. There’s a certain point where even the person involved in substance abuse will say, I’m doing it too much. I need my wife or my significant other, or for whatever reason, I’m going to be drug tested, I’ve got to stop for the next 3 or 4 months, and then oftentimes, the person goes right back to it. So this sense of an uncontrollable craving for drugs, that craving is always there, but the person can stop for a certain amount of time.

Carline Claudomir: It depends on the person, but yes, sometimes we do have clients who may have tested positive three or four times at the very beginning, and we never, and then complete their whole probation with no, with no positive drug tests, but then we’ll see them later on in court, and they got another charge, and they tested positive at some other point after they leave the STAR/HIDTA program.

Len Sipes: So with the criminal justice system has the wherewithal, and mothers have the wherewithal, and pardon my sexism, wives have the wherewithal, and in the case of women offenders, husbands have the wherewithal, people who have a certain amount of power regarding the offender, have the ability to get that offender to stop doing drugs, at least for a certain amount of time.

Carline Claudomir: Specifically when the consequences is jail time. A lot of our clients, after they sit, do their first sanction which is a jury box sanction for three days, and they see the judge stepping back, client after client after client for a positive drug test for three nights or seven nights or 14 nights or 28 nights, they look at that and say, oh, I’m not going to do 28 nights for a positive marijuana. I can stop for –

Len Sipes: That’s the point, isn’t it?

Carline Claudomir: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Isn’t that the point? I mean, it’s like we have these endless debates about substance abuse and what works and what doesn’t work. Well, holding a 28 day setback, as we refer to it, of spending 28 days in jail for smoking a joint seems to be an awfully heavy price to pay, and a lot of these individuals under our supervision consciously make the choice not to continue to smoke marijuana because they simply don’t want to spend 28 days in jail, correct?

Carline Claudomir: Correct, but the flipside is those who actually are in the grips of their addiction, no matter how many sanctions you provide, they’re not going to stop.

Len Sipes: They’re not going to stop.

Carline Claudomir: And those are the ones we really try to focus on and really try to get them out of the community immediately, because every time they pick up, they’re, one, they’re breaking the law, and they’re violating their probation contract, and they’re violating probation, and they’re hurting themselves, and they may become a threat to the community, so we try to get them out of the community as fast as we can through treatment.

Len Sipes: All right, and then some cases, through residential treatment.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. So let’s walk through those steps, those sanction steps, because we have, sitting in the jury box for three days, which is a real pain.

Carline Claudomir: First violation.

Len Sipes: Okay. Second violation –

Carline Claudomir: – is going to be 30 days on GPS with [INDISCERNIBLE] conference.

Len Sipes: So 30 days being tracked electronically through global positioning system satellite tracking, so wherever you go, you’re tracked.

Carline Claudomir: With a curfew.

Len Sipes: With a curfew.

Carline Claudomir: And sometimes, a stayaway. You can’t go to the neighborhood where you usually get your drugs from.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Carline Claudomir: If you do, we know where you are.

Len Sipes: There you go. So he’s being watched all the time. Okay, so that’s pretty cool. Now the next sanction after that?

Carline Claudomir: Third sanction is three nights in jail.

Len Sipes: Three nights in jail. In the D.C. jail.

Carline Claudomir: D.C. jail.

Len Sipes: Well that’s a lovely place to visit! Is it on the weekend, during the week?

Carline Claudomir: It’s whenever they get their sanction.

Len Sipes: It’s whenever they get their sanction.

Carline Claudomir: It starts immediately.

Len Sipes: Okay. Fourth?

Amanda Rocha: It would be a case staffing. So Ms. Claudomir and I, or our supervisor or other team members get together and discuss this individual’s case to see what we can do at this point, because in the past, what has been going on isn’t working. So a plan, in a sense.

Len Sipes: Is that, is that where you give your riot act pronouncement to the individual, basically saying, hey, you’re this far from going into prison?

Carline Claudomir: They’ve been getting it the whole time! And we tell our clients when they come in, if we get to the case staffing stage, please understand you’re leaving the community and going to treatment. There is no if, but, can I, can I get one more chance? No, your chance was when you stood in front of the judge and said you would be clean and sober.

Len Sipes: And there’s a certain point where we will send them away to residential treatment.

Carline Claudomir: That’s the case staffing stage.

Len Sipes: That’s the case staffing stage. Okay, after that, what happens?

Amanda Rocha: Then we have the seven nights in jail sanction.

Len Sipes: Okay, and then it just basically goes from 7 nights to 14 nights to an entire month sort of thing.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right, and if somebody gets placed in residential treatment and gets discharged unsuccessfully or voluntarily chooses to leave, then that would be 15 nights in jail.

Len Sipes: The average person listening to this program, people within the criminal justice system are going to say, eh, that’s pretty much common business, drug positives and sanctions. The average person outside of the criminal justice system listening to this program would be appalled. They’re going, how many positives, how many bites at the apple are you giving this guy? You’re telling me that he’s got 15 prior contacts with the criminal justice system, and now we’re up to our fifth and sixth drug positive? For the love of good god, put that person in prison! Obviously, that person doesn’t want to comply. Obviously, that person is posing a public safety risk. Just put him back in prison.

Carline Claudomir: But see, you look at the context of the situation, the average individual on probation actually provides a number more of positive drug tests are a lot more noncompliant. We get them immediately, after the first, second, third, fourth, fifth. So in the context of probation, sometimes a client won’t be able to go before the sentencing judge until the 20th plus drug test because we can’t get a show cause until then to tell the judge he is noncompliant with probation.

Len Sipes: Okay, but that’s a technicality, and I’m glad you brought that up, but the principal issue here for the average citizen is, you know, are, the people that we have under supervision are not exactly the most popular people on the face of the earth.

Carline Claudomir: No, but they are your neighbors.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s a good point. That’s a good point. But my, the other point is that, you know, when we go out, the citizens asking them to support, whether it’s mental health programs or substance abuse programs or educational programs or vocational programs, the response oftentimes is, Leonard, we’re going to give to the church, we’re going to give to the schools, let the money go to the kids, let the money go to the elderly, I’m really not all that enthused about giving criminals. Money for programs, so the point is, is that there’s a frustration level and a tolerance level on the part of the average citizen as to how many chances we’re going to give that individual from the standpoint of public safety, and we need to explain why we do that.

Carline Claudomir: Public safety is our number one concern, so we always talk to our clients in regards from the aspect. When you become a threat to public safety –

Len Sipes: Boom, you go.

Carline Claudomir: – you need to leave the community.

Len Sipes: That’s right.

Carline Claudomir: But up until that point, we have to work with you, because once you leave probation, you’re done with this. You go back into that same community, because you don’t walk around with a sign saying, I am a criminal. You walk around into those churches, into those schools, pick up your children, those same places that the public wants to provide their money, those clients are there with them.

Len Sipes: 1 out of 45 individuals, according to national research are on probation right now or community supervision. Now, if you can, these are active. So if you count people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, it’s at least 1 out of 20. So every time, regardless of where you go, where you shop, those, you’re going to encounter hundreds of individuals who have been caught up in the criminal justice system. So I think the rationale is, is that we want them to quit drugs, we want them to become taxpayers, not tax burdens, we want them to stop criminality, and I think that’s what we try to do with these individuals in drug court.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right. We want them to make that lifestyle change, so they’re not back in and out of the system.

Len Sipes: We want them to toss off substance abuse for good.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And stop messing with us.

Carline Claudomir: The problem is, sometimes it doesn’t happen in one try. I have sat in drug court and did my cases in drug court and have turned to the left, and looked into the jury box and saw a client I had a year ago who got off on early termination who is now back on pre-trial.

Len Sipes: That’s exactly right. And it is the process of recovery, and when we do live talk radio, people have a hard time listening to this, because their sense of the criminal justice system is, you’re getting a break, buddy, and maybe one, maybe two, but you hit three, and I want you to go back to prison. I think the average person in the larger community, not in the criminal justice system, feels that way. So we have to be accountable to the average citizen and explain to them that recovery, in terms of substance abuse, is a messy process that takes, in many cases, two, three times at treatment, and in many cases, involves multiple positives for drugs until we can convince that person to stay away from drugs, at least for the period of their supervision, or go to jail.

Carline Claudomir: I have a client who has been on probation since 1995, and he has been through every team at CSOSA, and when he finally made it to STAR/HIDTA, and he started messing up, and we did the warrant initiatives and went into his home and arrested him, and we brought him in front of his judge, the judge said, no, we’re going to give him one more chance, and that is it. One more chance. And it just continues on. But I will say that after this last opportunity, he has been clean and sober for 7-8 months, is working full time, and now, he is back, part of society. But see, it didn’t work the first, second, third, 10th, 15th time.

Len Sipes: You know, the interesting part of this is that the average person hearing it has a low frustration level for people caught up in the criminal justice system, but that is our reality. Our reality is that we have individuals who don’t know how to live life without a needle. They don’t know how to live life without a hallucinogen. They don’t know how to do it, and what we do is we teach them how to live life without using drugs, and that created a much safer society, a much saner society in the long run, and we turn people who are tax burdens into taxpayers, and I think that’s the heart and soul of it. It’s messy, it’s sloppy, sometimes it’s hard to explain to the general public, but we take individuals who are problems and we turn out individuals who are no longer problems, and we do that more often than we don’t, correct?

Carline Claudomir: And sometimes we’re the only ones who hold up that mirror to that individual and make them see how sloppy and messy they are, and they have been living their life, and hold them accountable, and when they think they’re almost done, hold them accountable even more and make them be the successes that they say they want to be when they first came to probation.

Len Sipes: It’s a fascinating process. Most of the people that I’ve encountered after a certain point, especially the older guys, sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are. I mean, it is just a terrible process of being arrested and rearrested and rearrested and reincarcerated and reincarcerated. These aren’t necessarily violent criminals. Most of these people are involved in nonviolent crimes, but there’s a certain point where they just get sick and tired of being constantly put through the criminal justice system, and they finally quit. They finally make that break. So I think what you’re doing is intervening in that process earlier, if at all humanly possible to get them to that point where they understand that they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, correct?

Amanda Rocha: Well, and also, think about the example that I gave before where this young adult has this generational, you know, substance abuse that she’s been around, and those people who have dropped out of school in the sixth grade, or who have all these different issues, and they’re using to kind of, you know, make themselves feel better about the issue, or they’re trying to fit in with their peers, or with their family. So you have all these issues that are going on, and part of probation’s job is to address those issues, get them into an employment training program, get their GED, so now that they have these positive things in their life that they didn’t have before that would help them to stop using or even wanting to go back and use.

Len Sipes: Or put them back in jail or prison, and either one protects public safety.

Carline Claudomir: Yes.

Len Sipes: That’s the bottom line. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we’re out of time. Carline Claudomir, and I said it for the first time correctly, community supervision officer with our drug court unit. Amanda Rocha, also a community supervision officer with our drug court unit. You can find information about CSOSA at www.csosa.gov. You can also access the radio, television shows, the blog, and transcripts through the CSOSA website, or directly through www.media – M-E-D-I-A – dot-csosa – C-S-O-S-A – dot-gov. You can follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes, and you can also email me directly, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov. Ladies and gentlemen, I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Community Based Support for Offenders and Their Families

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.

This television program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2010/07/community-based-support-for-offenders-and-their-families/

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

[Video Begins]

NARRATOR:  In January 1997, former President Bill Clinton outlined their vision to revitalize Washington D.C.  From this vision, CSOSA was created by the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Improvement Act of 1997.  The central mission of CSOSA is to increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and develop collaboration with the community to expand the capacity to assist offenders and their families.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON:  Hello, this is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.  We are very fortunate in this city to have a fully funded federal agency, CSOSA, which supervises our residents on probation or returning to us from prison, and they do a lot more.  That residential treatment center, built from federal appropriation from the Congress, is very important, because it not only takes people off of drugs, it keeps them from going back to prison.  That leaves a lot more, a lot more than only community and faith based groups can do.  There‚Äôs a lot you can do.  There‚Äôs a lot that‚Äôs already being done by faith based groups, by community groups, and helping with job training, even with jobs, with housing, with mentoring, with reaching out to these D.C. residents.  Won‚Äôt you help us?

NARRATOR:  CSOSA provides probation and post-incarceration supervision for approximately 16,000 adult offenders in Washington, D.C, and provides comprehensive public safety oriented programming and treatment services combining strict accountability with meaningful opportunity.  Each year, approximately 650,000 offenders return from federal and state correctional institutions throughout the country.  Approximately 2,000 offenders return to the District of Columbia each year.  Most need supervision, services, and support to remain drug and crime free.  An individual‚Äôs passage through the criminal justice system from arrest to prosecution to sentencing through incarceration and release involves several agencies.  Judge Satterfield recognizes the need for innovative collaboration of the entire community.

LEE SATTERFIELD:  When it comes to the individuals that we see more often in our family court and in our criminal division, they typically are young people, they typically are male, and they typically have a host of number of issues that, if they could get resolved, could help them stay out of the system, and I‚Äôm talking about things such as education, many have dropped out of high school, have been truant since they were in middle school, so they lack the type of education that would help them maintain employment.  I‚Äôm talking about employment.  Employment is a necessary thing for anybody, and for anybody to become a productive citizen, employment is always something that is necessary.  And then many of our people that come before us, whether in our adult court or in our family court may have issues involving substance abuse, that they need drug treatment for the drug addiction that they have.  In addition to education, mental health, drug treatment, and those factors, we have things such as housing that‚Äôs also important as well, and so these are the kinds of things that I would ask the community to focus on in helping us help others who are coming back to our community having gone through the criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system.  Your help is needed to help all of our citizens here in the District of Columbia.

NARRATOR:  The results CSOSA seeks depend in part on cooperation from and effective collaboration with community based organizations.  Partnerships with community based organizations result in increased employment, training, and support programming for such services as housing, food distribution, healthcare, and clothing distribution, to name a few.

ASHLEY MCSWAIN:  Basically, Our Place was brought into existence to provide supports for women who were being released after a period of incarceration, and so Our Place provides baseline support, so when you are released from custody, you need clothing, identification, you need resources, access, and relationships.  We have a clothing boutique where the women come in who don‚Äôt have a lot of options for clothing.  We have a boutique that provides those things.  If a woman is interviewing for a job, she can come in and get clothing for that interview.  We also provide legal support.  We have a full time lawyer on staff.  We provide supports around employment, and we also provide HIV and AIDS awareness programs.

DAWN:  Our Place offers women that are coming back into the community many different things.  It gives you a lot of opportunities to get your life back together, but other things, there are other needs that women like me have.

PATRICIA:  When I came here for the first time, they, I did my intake, they‚Äôre very warm and welcome, which is very helpful, because getting back to society, it‚Äôs kind of hard, so they make you feel like that you are welcome back.

NARRATOR:  These resources create a bond between the offender and his or her community and a chance to interact with the community in a positive way.

BRENDA JONES:  Our current program is called Moving On: A Life Changing Program.  This program targets adults and parents living east of the river, and also ex-offenders and their families.  We provide workshops, year round workshops, weekly workshops, parenting, and also on empowering oneself.  We do that for the sole purpose, again, of helping persons who have made decisions in the past that might have gotten them in difficult situations now, helping them to make better decisions in the future.

DARYL SANDERS:  So, a few of our services that we provide, particularly around this area, is our fatherhood initiative, where we are training and working with fathers to become better fathers.  At first, you want to do that by working with them to become better men.  So the collaborative has trained all of the men within our organization to work with this population, to strengthen them, become better fathers, of course will make them stronger and better men, so that‚Äôs one particular area.  We also have housing programs for this population as well.  We have an intake program, so all of our services are provided through our intake department, but again, more services are needed.  The collaboratives cannot do this alone.  The issues are so, so intricate, and again, people think that, oh yes, yeah, they‚Äôre home, and things are fine.  No, there are many, many supports that are needed, there are many, many connections that need to happen that have been severed, and more support and more services are needed in this area for sure.

DERON TAYLOR:  Our program is geared toward assisting men and women who have had challenges, either obtaining or maintaining employment due to a criminal history or substance abuse history.  Our goal is to place these men and women with community agencies that are willing to help them in providing job service training or workshops for one year.

SHAKIRA GANTT:  And our mission is to reduce the incidence of childhood abuse and neglect.  One of the ways that we do that is through supporting parents.  The Georgia Avenue Collaborative offers many community based activities and fun events that will allow you to find out about resources, to get referrals, for job information, or even to develop your resume or to continue your education.  Although the collaborative has been around for 10 years providing these services to our reentering citizens, we have found increasingly that what we provide is really not enough for the need that is coming in.  We‚Äôve got an increase of residents coming in asking for these services, and the challenge has been figuring out how to really service them all, because things are so spread thinly that there just isn‚Äôt enough to go around, and so we‚Äôre really reaching out and asking for other organizations and agencies and entities to step forward.

Thomas Waters:  Marshall Heights Community Development has been in existence in excess of 30 years.  It provides wraparound services.  It‚Äôs like a one-stop center.

RICHARD MAHAFFEY:  I‚Äôm a Ward 7 resident and also an ex-offender.  I‚Äôve lived in Ward 7 most of my life.  My aunt lives in Ward 7 also, and she had told me about a program going on.  I was told about a program and a wiring class, and I was called and told that I would be able to get into it, and I was pretty happy about that, me and my family, because with just my wife working, things have been a little rough, and this program has helped us out gratefully.

NARRATOR:  When members of our community make unfavorable decisions and are held accountable by the criminal justice system, it is CSOSA‚Äôs commitment with assistance from the community to help rebuild lives, heal individuals, and bring restoration to families and the community.  The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions play a vital role in the strategy as well by communicating the need to extend resources.  Gaining their support is integral to CSOSA‚Äôs long term success in achieving their goal of reducing recidivism and reintegrating the offender into the community.

BETTY PAIR:  The success of that program and the success of the people involved depends on education, training, and housing, and if those things are provided, the program will be successful.

MARK DIXON:  We welcome them back in the community.  We need to do more things for them.  If we could have more people to come together, more churches come together, more community organizations, it would help, it would help this tremendously.  Then they won‚Äôt try to go back.  So we can do more things, the community could come together more and help support these people, work with CSOSA, work with other organizations that are out here, then we could help these brothers or sisters.

MARY JACKSON:  I‚Äôve worked with CSOSA for quite a while.  Matter of fact, since its conception.  Ward 7 open its arms to CSOSA and its returning citizens years ago.

SANDRA ‚ÄúSS‚Äù SEEGARS:  Some of the impediments that face the ex-offenders when they come back into the community is housing, not necessarily a criminal record, but credit worthiness, whereas they mess up their credit when they go in normally, and even ex-offenders who are not, who are not sex offenders, they‚Äôre welcome back into the community, but it‚Äôs the credit.

WILLIAM SHELTON:  Most of the challenges that I really see are individuals staying home.  I think that we really have to face a reality of whether or not, not only in this city, but if this country has really embraced the fact that our young people are going, they are incarcerated, and they are returning home, and whether or not we‚Äôre going to put together resources to really address and deal with that.

NARRATOR:  Working collaboratively with CSOSA, the community has an opportunity to establish itself as a mighty cornerstone in a foundation of supportive reentry services.  We have certainly been encouraged by the results of the participating organizations and institutions, and we look forward to expanding their capacity to provide value added services and include additional quality organizations.  Please consider joining CSOSA as we work to rebuild lives, reestablish values, restore social order, strengthen families, and change the communities in which we live and cherish.

CEDRIC HENDRICKS:  One of the very important jobs that I have is to work with our colleagues to build and strengthen partnerships with community based and faith based organizations, organizations that can help our clients meet their important social needs.  Among those needs are obtaining employment, expanding the level of education, strengthening ties with family members, and putting behind them crime and incarceration going forward as productive, contributing members of this community.  So I‚Äôm here to invite all community based and faith based organizations to join us in a partnership, expand the range of resources and services that we have to offer, and help make this city a safer place in which to live.

[Video Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.

Share

Iowa Jail-Based Substance Abuse Treatment Project-NCJA-DC Public Safety

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.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/03/iowa-jail-based-substance-abuse-treatment-project-ncja-dc-public-safety/

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, welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. This program is going to focus on the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Abuse Treatment project, and let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there are some extraordinary results from this. One year after program completion 78.5% say that they are clean, 91.9% have not been arrested, and 68.2% are employed full time, and I find those to be absolutely amazing statistics. Our guest today, Lonnie Cleland, a program planner with the Iowa Department of Public Health; Leesa McNeil – she is the District Court Administrator for Woodland County, Iowa; and Kim Brangoccio – she is clinical director of United Community Services. This program is brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association. As the regular listeners are aware, we do a regular series with the National Criminal Justice Association. Their website: www.ncja.org. Before we begin the program, once again, we thank everybody for the 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. You can reach us at www.media M-E-D-I-A.csosa C-S-O-S-A .gov. You can reach me for all the comments – and I get a lot of comments, and I’m appreciative of all the comments – you can reach me directly via email: Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P-E-S@csosa.gov or follow us via Twitter, which is Twitter/lensipes, L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S. Back to our guests: Lonnie Cleland, Leesa McNeil, and Kim Brangoccio. Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Kim Brangoccio: Hi.

Lonnie Cleland: Hello.

Leesa McNeil: Hi.

Len Sipes: Lonnie, Lonnie Cleland, the program planner for the Iowa Department of Public Health, give me an overview of the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment project.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, the Jail-Based Treatment project is a four-county initiative centered in the county jails, but also including outpatient substance abuse treatment for nonviolent offenders. We started the project in 2002 with one county, and it was directly a result of research that came out saying that the longer you kept offenders in treatment, and the more structure they had, the more successful you could be in helping them being integrated back into society. Our substance abuse treatment programs can bring in nonviolent offenders, and the focus of the project is to reduce substance abuse and criminal behavior simultaneously. It’s a curriculum-based treatment program, at least at the jail level, using a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. When offenders get out of jail, then they’re involved in outpatient treatment, which focuses on a more individual kind of approach. Typically, offenders are in the treatment program anywhere from 120 to 180 days. Now that varies from individual to individual.

Len Sipes: Well, I think the impressive part of that is the outpatient component, where you have – a lot of programs throughout the country have in-jail or in-prison based programs, and their concept of follow-up treatment is referral to AA or referral to the local health department who does drug treatment, and you sit for three or four months before you finally get into drug treatment. This concept of the outpatient part of it I think is extraordinarily valuable. It may be one of the key components of your success. Leesa McNeil, did you want to give a shot at that?

Leesa McNeil: Well, I think part of the success, too, is keeping the entire network of the community around the program. One of the things we’ve done in the Woodbury site is to create a program committee, and we have players around the table who meet periodically, at least bimonthly, and we visit about what programs are operating that impact the jail and troubleshoot them. And this is also our way of trying to keep people educated on what’s going on, make sure that we’re providing a safety net to solve any problems that may develop with the program, and we see players cycle through sheriff’s departments, public defenders offices, county attorney offices, judges, even treatment providers. And this is a way we use to make sure we keep educating people and keep the system engaged with promoting the program.

Len Sipes: So, the lesson here, Leesa, is that there’s no such thing as going it alone; you’ve got to build a network in the larger community who are going to supply the services necessary for those offenders, and they’ve got to be supportive and pretty much everybody’s got to be on board.

Leesa McNeil: Right, and we’ve even been successful in getting our county to put money on the table to assist with treatment, so the collaboration amongst the group is key and keeping players educated as they come in and out of the system and having a place where treatment folks can come and say, “Hey, we’re having a problem here,” and bringing the collaborative group together to say, “What can we do to that?” Sometimes we have problems with, you know, we need to find more clients to participate in the program, so we beat the bush, if you would, for attorneys to be reminding their clients that this is available. Sometimes judges forget it’s available, if they haven’t been on the criminal docket for a period, so it’s a continuous process that seems to work well for us.

Len Sipes: Kim Brangoccio, it’s a nice segue into what Leesa said about the clinical folks. You’re the clinical director of United Community Services, so you’re the person basically in charge – tell me if I’m wrong – of making sure that they get the various treatment modalities that are offered and that they are customized for that particular individual offender, correct?

Kim Brangoccio: Yes, that’s correct. I did want to comment, Len, on your talk about how the curriculum, both in the jail and out of the jail, affects the person. We really have found that to be successful, that once they have completed the in-jail portion, they are able to get out into the community. They’re already met their counselors out of the jail; they continue with them once they’re in the community, and they continue to use what they learned in jail, but they still have 6-8 months with us out of the jail where they can utilize what they’ve learned and make sure that they are following through. And that has been very successful for us.

Len Sipes: You know, if anybody doubts that, could you imagine, if a person goes inside the jail, and most jails are nonsmoking, so for the first time in their lives, they’re not smoking, for the three months they’re inside the jail. But as soon as you get outside that jail, you want that cigarette. I don’t care what the circumstances – I mean, before, it’s easy to go through a behavioral therapy-based program, a cognitive-behavioral-based therapy program within a correctional facility. It’s hard as the dickens applying all those skills when you get on the outside.

Kim Brangoccio: Right, exactly. And we talk a lot about that. I mean, we do talk about smoking and a lot of the clients do get out of the jail and start smoking again, but they really utilize the tools that they learn when they’re in jail when they get out, so they don’t go back to using drugs and alcohol. And one of the big things that the clients say to me that they think is a difference is that the program really focuses on both criminal and addictive thinking, so it’s not just the addictive thinking that they might have in another treatment program; they’re focusing on how those two interplay and how that got them into trouble. So we really try to help them always be looking at “What are they thinking?” as well as whether there are addictive patterns.

Len Sipes: You know, when I explain this to people, because I’ve done three stints in terms of dealing with offenders directly – jail, or job corps, doing gang counseling when I was putting myself through college after leaving the law enforcement community, and running group in a prison system – and to explain to people that you have to reorient the individual’s thinking patterns through cognitive-behavioral therapy or what we used to call ‘thinking for a change’ to get people to rethink how they look at life, rethink how they deal with problems, rethink how they process the information that’s in front of them. People who are not part of this process look at me as if I have five heads. “What do you mean? I learned at age five not to beat somebody with a stick if they made me angry, and you mean to tell me that you’ve got to take adult men, or adult women, and teach them that that’s probably not the best way to resolve a problem?” And my response to that is, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” that you have to sometimes train a lot of individuals to think through what it is that they do, and once they develop a different way of thinking through a problem, they don’t revert back to their violent or nasty ways of doing things, and they don’t necessarily go back to doing drugs, because there is an alternative. Now, am I in the ballpark of being right?

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, could I jump in there for a second, Kim.

Len Sipes: Yeah, please.

Lonnie Cleland: Len, I think Polk County historically has a perfect example of that. As part of our project, we have the University of Iowa’s Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation doing criminal thinking assessment so that each of the offenders in the project, the providers of the service give them the criminal thinking test during treatment or admission, and then it’s also followed up later on. What we found – I think it was 2003 or 2004 – was that the criminal thinking scales changed drastically a month after they got out of jail. And so, as a result, the projects were able to adjust their treatment – the frequency, the intensity, the kinds of things that they discussed with the offenders in outpatient treatment – as a way of once again readdressing those criminal thinking kinds of things. You’re absolutely correct. You have to reinforce this at all points, in my opinion.

Len Sipes: And this program is basically based on the individual offender facing a criminal charge, going before the judge, and making a plea either on a pre-trial basis or on a post-trial basis, agreeing to stay within these four jails for a certain amount of time, and then to continue that treatment in the community. That’s pretty much the agreement. They go and they’re sanctioned by a judge and the judge remands them to this treatment program and it’s something that they must complete, and in some cases, the charges are waived or done away with, and in some cases, they continue during a probationary period. Am I correct?

Kim Brangoccio: That’s correct. That’s how it works.

Len Sipes: Okay, cool. All right. And basically, you’ve done about 2000 offenders, 2000 clients throughout that time, correct?

Lonnie Cleland: It’s probably up around 2600 now. Because of some funding problems we had about a year and a half ago, we had to reinitiate the evaluation project, and so we had to start it over, and I think we have – I was talking to the evaluators just a few days ago – I think we’ve got 800 more in the project at this point.

Len Sipes: Wow, that’s amazing.

Lonnie Cleland: But those results, because we had to start it over, those results are still sort of in process.

Len Sipes: Okay. And to go with the results, this is one-year follow-up, but this is a self-assessment on the part of an offender, basically through an interview process done by an outside agency. 78.5% were clean, 91.9% had not been arrested, and 68.2% were employed on a full-time basis, correct?

Lonnie Cleland: Full or part time, yes.

Len Sipes: Full or part time. Now, those are amazing results.

Kim Brangoccio: Yes they are.

Lonnie Cleland: Yes they are.

Leesa McNeil: We think so.

Len Sipes: Congratulations. Congratulations to the three of you and congratulations to everybody involved. Those are amazing results. Before getting involved in the larger question of the take-aways – what are the things that the rest of us in the criminal justice system can learn from all of this – in essence, you have these participants, they’re basically successful. And this evaluation is focusing on the people who’ve completed the program – it is cognitive-behavioral therapy based, but you provide lots of other services, both inside the institution and out in the community. But the interesting thing about all this is that it’s done within a jail environment, and being exposed to a jail when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety at the Baltimore city jail, which is one of the biggest in the country, I was like blown away by the complexity of running a jail. I mean, a prison is relatively simple and straightforward and easy compared to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of individuals coming into and out of the jail in a rapid-fire fashion. They’re coming into the booking center, if the booking center is within the jail. Any jail is chaotic. Any jail is just an immensely complicated place to run, and the fact that you were able to produce this sort of a program and have these sort of results within the jail setting, I think are enormous. But am I right? The jail is just a difficult place to do this sort of thing.

Leesa McNeil: Oh, it’s very difficult, Len. This is Leesa. Space is an issue, because you need to find space where you can kind of isolate the defendants that you want to participate in the program. As you know, jail space is at a premium. The lack of jail space is what actually prompted our county to be very anxious to get to the table to get some better outcomes, because overcrowding was an issue. And through a series of programs, you know, here we are six years later. We’re aren’t facing building a new jail, so –

Len Sipes: And every government administrator who is listening to this program, their ears just perked up. So you were able to avoid building a facility because of this program.

Leesa McNeil: Well, not just this program. We have a group of programs, and that’s one of the keys to success in terms of a walk-away, I think, is you need to have a collaborative group that supports the bigger offender population in terms of working to get better outcomes for them. We have a drug court, we have a mental health court, and now we have this Jail-Based Treatment program. And we attribute our success to not building a new jail to the combination of those programs and the collaboration, that all of the players came to the table and worked to make them all a success.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I do want to give the website for this particular program: www.idph.state.ia.us and search for jail-based programs. I’m going to repeat that one more time, but in the show notes, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll have the web address that goes directly to the publications that address the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment program project. Stumbling over that. Again, it is www.idph.state.ia.us. Search for jail-based programs. Our guests today are Lonnie Cleland. He is the program planner, Iowa Department of Public Health. Leesa McNeil, District Court Administrator for Woodbury County, Iowa. And Kim Brangoccio – she is the clinical director for United Community Services. The program is brought to you, once again, by the National Criminal Justice Association – www.ncja.org. Okay, Leesa, you were talking about taking about take-aways, and that’s exactly where I want to go with this, is that there are people throughout the country who are saying, “Eh, the jail is just not the setting to do clinical-based programs.” Or they’re saying, “No, it’s just too expensive,” or they’re going to throw a lot of reasons up as to why they can’t do what they want to do, so what would you say to them?

Leesa McNeil: I would say the take-away is that it is key to have program evaluation, because that shows it’s a success. And when people say we can’t afford to do this, we can’t afford not to. Everybody knows that to house a prisoner for a year costs $25,000 plus, depending on the jurisdiction. We can show that treatment of an individual for a fourth of that amount can keep a person out of prison, and so when the community says, “Why are we paying for treatment for these people?” it’s like, “Well, would you rather pay for them to be in an institution in the future for how many years?” And now we’re turning them out and they’re paying their child support, they’re keeping jobs, they’re staying clean. We’re not building jails. Those things are expensive. I think when we look at the human cost, the taxpayer cost, and unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies that pull all that together for the taxpayer to see, but that is the true savings. And so, not only saving the person from a horrible life in terms of abuse, but saving the taxpayers and saving our future workforce, saving future families, all that. You can’t compare the cost.

Kim Brangoccio: Len, this is Kim, and I would also add to that the fact that it really does affect future generations. Many of the clients that we see in the jail, they have young children. And if they turn things around because of their treatment, their kids are way less likely to end up in jail. And right now, as it stands in our jail, there are many, many people that their grandpa was there, or their father was there, their mother was there, and if we can stop that cycle, it helps into the future.

Leesa McNeil: Again, add the cost of foster care. Oh, my god.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, and we haven’t – we’ve actually, Len, done a cost analysis of this project and compared the cost of this project versus the cost of prison, which is where many of these offenders would end up without the project.

Len Sipes: Right, correct.

Lonnie Cleland: The average daily cost for these four counties is $30.19 per offender. The average prison daily cost is $64.00. So we’re saving the state taxpayers $34.00 per offender, per day.

Len Sipes: Basically, we want tax burdens to become taxpayers. We want non-parents to become parents. We want to reduce the odds, which according to research, are very high, of the children of offenders – instead of them continuing the ways of their parents and continuing within the criminal justice system – we’re trying to reach them as well, through their parents. So this is from an economic point of view, from a crime control point of view, from a fiscal responsibility point of view, this seems to be a win-win situation.

Kim Brangoccio: Yep.

Leesa McNeil: Mm-hmm.

Lonnie Cleland: I agree.

Len Sipes: Then the other issue is that administrators who are listening to this are basically saying, “Leonard, you could tell me that an investment of $5,000,000 will give me the goose that lays the golden egg, and eventually, those golden eggs will more than make up for that $5,000,000. I don’t have the money.” And how many times have I heard from administrators throughout the country, “Leonard, what is it that you don’t understand about the fact that I don’t have the money?”

Leesa McNeil: Well, you’ve got to ask them, “Do you have the money to build a new jail?” And our community said no. And that is why we, I think, as administrators and people who are working in the system need to help people understand there is a cost to doing nothing. And people have to be educated about that cost and we have to get decision makers to say, “This isn’t just a program we should wait for the feds to come and solve; this is a program that affects every county in the nation.”

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, and Leesa and Kim, I’m wondering if you might not agree that the first step is just getting everybody to the table and getting information out, but also having a conversation about, okay, let’s talk about what some of the options are that are out there.

Kim Brangoccio: Yeah, I think if you do that, if you have a conversation with everyone involved, there may be some other ways to get it started without the jail just having to fund it, or the community, or maybe a treatment program would be able to utilize some of their dollars in the jail, doing treatment with those folks, and it’s just a change of site. Or maybe there’s some arrangements that can be made where the services that are already being provided in another way, just the dollars could be shifted a little so that they could start a jail program, and then once you see the success, it really does prove itself and the money can be easier to find.

Leesa McNeil: Len, this is Leesa. That’s just one of the walk-aways. You have to have a good evaluation, or you won’t be able to prove that you’re doing the kinds of things we’re doing.

Len Sipes: Bingo. That’s exactly where I was going, Leesa. The point is that you can prove your impact. The great majority of the programs out there that are similar to yours don’t have an evaluation, so they really can’t prove their impact. I mean, one of the ways they’re proving their impact, by the way, is in lieu of a formal evaluation, is that the jail population seems to go down, or seems to be steady, so they don’t have to build another jail, and without the evaluation, you never know if it was attributable to your program or not, but they’re happy with that. They’re just tickled pink that they do not have to invest several hundred million dollars to construct a new jail and a million – oh, I’m sorry, probably I’m going to guess $50,000,000 a year to maintain it. They’re just tickled pink that that is the result, but it’s more than that, is what you just said before. It’s less crime, it’s more kids being taken care of. It’s just a win-win situation across the board, but yet the average county administrator in the United States is not jumping up and down to do these programs.

Kim Brangoccio: Yeah, and I think that’s why we’ve got to make the case.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, one of the benefits of evaluation is not just the long-term benefit of being able to show that these projects save money or that they have a social benefit, but it’s also being able to move more efficiently, more effectively, when you get a snapshot of how a project is working. As I pointed out earlier, finding out that criminal thinking increases a month after people are released from jail has a powerful affect on being able to adjust the treatment program quickly and to be able to keep the social impact of those folks at a minimum. And so the evaluation component can also help you be more flexible and faster and meaner when it comes to successfully treating these folks.

Len Sipes: Right, because the process of evaluation, a third of the way through, will show some success and some problems, so thereby you address the problems, because you were evaluating the program from the very beginning. Is there something in the water in Iowa that causes everybody to sit at the same table? We did another show with the National Criminal Justice Association about a jurisdiction in New York City, Red Hook, where the judge got everybody together and had fabulous results. It’s that sense of – and it’s funny, the President’s Commission on Crime and Justice back in the ’60s made this point – and in my forty years in the criminal justice system, I haven’t seen many examples of everybody coming together and sitting at the same table and cooperating for the common good, so what’s in the water out there in Iowa that calls in four counties and calls to everybody to sit at the same table and to share resources and to try to do something for the common good?

Leesa McNeil: Len, this is Leesa, and I’ll pipe in to start the conversation on that topic. And that is, in our community, it took two things. We had a jail overcrowding crisis where we were under federal court supervision to do something or build a new jail. And we had a judge who worked with me and stepped up to the table and said, “I’ll help lend credence to getting everybody to the table.” And as you know, Leonard, when a judge says, “Come to a meeting,” everybody comes. Well, once we got people there, we kind of semi-formally organized ourselves and made some agreements about future meetings, and the groups hung with it over ten years now. And they see the benefit, after we start the process going to making these productive meetings and that we’re talking about things that affect them. And one of our collaborative groups – we have twenty-two different criminal justice entities, or entities that affect the criminal justice system – that come to the table on a regular basis. And it’s just to hear about, well, “What’s going on? What are the problems? Who’s doing what? How is that going to impact me? What am I doing that’s going to impact everybody else?” And it gives a forum for sharing, and then it creates a synergy unto itself.

Len Sipes: And more and more judges, Leesa, are taking center stage, and I’m very happy to see that, because judges traditionally have found that their role, in terms of separation of powers, the tri-partied sense of you have the executive branch, you have the legislative branch, and you have the judicial branch, and the judicial branch should not intermingle with the other two. And that seems to be falling by the wayside, and when judges take the lead, they seem to have a powerful impact on the rest of us.

Leesa McNeil: Yep, it’s working in Iowa.

Len Sipes: Lonnie, you were trying to get in here.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, I think also sheriffs are more interested than they used to be. I think they’re seeing more of the impact of high levels of drug and alcohol use in their jails – the offenders getting into jail and having that history. And the word is starting to get around that when we can intervene with those folks successfully, then they’ve got some ideas about, “Well, okay, maybe we can do this too.” But I think the important part is understanding that we have to go to folks right from the start with information, as Leesa said, with data, with “Here’s how much it’s costing you folks to not do anything.”

Len Sipes: Well, it’s my hope that jail administrators throughout the country, or county administrators, will hear this program and say, “Well, son of a gun, if they can do it, I guess we can do it. It’s worth the conversation.

Lonnie Cleland: Yeah, but you know, it’s not easy. Kim, do you remember back in the early stages of the Polk County project, folks, you know, that was a struggle.

Kim Brangoccio: It was.

Lonnie Cleland: Getting folks together.

Kim Brangoccio: It was lots and lots of meetings, initially, trying to get people at the table, just us going to lots of different places and talking with public defenders and the county attorney’s office and going to roll call and really trying to talk with everybody about the results of this outcomes-based, evidence-based practices and that it would really be helpful. But it was very tricky at first.

Len Sipes: Well, we are out of time, and I do want to thank the three of you and the National Criminal Justice Association for bringing this program to our attention, and to congratulate the three of you and everybody involved with the Iowa Jail-Based Substance Treatment project. I mean, what you guys have accomplished, especially within a jail setting, is nothing short of miraculous. And you’ve got the data to prove it, and you have the organization in four counties to support it. And the fact that it’s both jail-based and community-based is, I think, extraordinarily impressive. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today, Lonnie Cleland, program planner with the Iowa Department of Public Health; Leesa McNeil, District Court Administrator for Woodbury County, Iowa; and Kim Brangoccio, clinical director of United Community Services. Again, the program brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association, www.ncja.org. I will have the exact address for the report on the Iowa program in the show notes, but for the moment, if you would go to www.idph.state.ia.us and simply do a search for jail-based programs, you’re going to be able to find exactly what it is that we’ve been talking about for the last half hour. Ladies and gentlemen, again, we really appreciate the fact that you are so influential and coming to us with lots of comments about what it is we can do, shouldn’t do, suggestions and criticisms about the program. Leonard.sipes@csosa.gov is my direct email address. Or you can go to media.csosa.gov and comment on there, or you can follow us via Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Share

Crime Victim Rights and the Courts-DC Public Safety-NOVA

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.

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/12/crime-victim-rights-and-the-courts-dc-public-safety-nova/

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

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, DC, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back on our microphones, Will Marling from the National Organization for Victim Assistance. NOVA has been around for eons in terms of being what I consider to be the premiere organization representing victim’s rights all through the United States. I can remember a long time ago when I worked for the Department of Justice’s clearing house, they gave me the assignment of being the Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention and Victim Assistance, and that’s when I found out about NOVA, interacted with NOVA, and I’ve had a deep and just a complete respect for NOVA ever since that happened, and that’s close to 30 years ago. With Will Marling today at NOVA, we have what I consider to be a supreme honor, Richard Barajas. He is the Chief Justice, Senior Status, Texas Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas, talking about a judicial approach to victim assistance. Before we get into our program, the usual commercial – ladies and gentlemen, we are up to 230,000 requests a month for DC Public Safety, that’s media.csosa.gov. If you want to get in touch with me to give suggestions, criticisms, suggestions for new programs, please feel free to do so. My e-mail address is leonard.sipes@csosa.gov. You can follow me via Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes, and to Will Marling and to Richard Barajas, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Thanks, Leonard.

Richard Barajas: My pleasure.

Len Sipes: You know, it is really interesting, this whole concept of a judicial approach to victim’s assistance, because for years, we’ve sort of seen the judiciary as being, well, not exactly the best of friends of victim assistance, but then again, the entire criminal justice system could be seen as not being the best friend of victim assistance and victim’s issues. I think we’ve all, whether it’s law enforcement, whether it’s corrections, whether it’s parole and probation, or whether it’s the judiciary, have improved our act in recent years, and now we have Richard Barajas, again, Chief Justice, Senior Status, Texas Court of Appeals. He’s also at the moment running a college program at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. Will or Richard, tell me a little bit about this concept of a judicial approach to victim assistance.

Will Marling: Judge, you fill us in.

Richard Barajas: I think the approach, Len, is not so much a new approach; it’s perhaps a resurrection of sorts. It might be a misstatement to talk in terms of the judiciary as not being friends. I think the problem historically has been that the judiciary has seen itself as being detached from many of these issues in an overbearing effort to appear to be fair and impartial, but the truth is, the way our Constitution is drafted, the way the state laws are drafted, we do pay tremendous deference to the criminal defendant in our courts system, but at the expense of the crime victim, whereas we do have Constitutional protections in many of the states, of course federal laws, that would render rights for crime victims, but then they’re often overlooked out of fear for appearing to have an imbalanced criminal justice system in favor of a crime victim. So it’s really all about balancing the rights of the criminal defendant and the intended victim.

Len Sipes: And I think you’re 100 percent correct, and you would be considering your status, but it’s just that – we have a criminal justice system that has,you know, when I came up through the criminal justice system, I was schooled in balance. I was schooled in rights. I was schooled in Miranda. I was schooled in all the processes that you have to go through to be sure that the person who you arrest is fairly treated and the case being presented properly in court, and the victim was seen as sort of a sidebar issue. The victim was seen as basically a tool to help you prosecute this individual, bring this individual into court, so the rights were constantly emphasized for the offender. We didn’t receive a lot of emphasis on the rights of the victim, and I think that that’s changed dramatically over the last 30 years, but I think there is still room for a lot of improvement. Will?

Will Marling: Well, definitely. We get completes on our toll-free number from victims, and we have an 800 nationwide number, 800-TRY-NOVA, and one of the complaints is, is that very issue that victims feel like they are really neglected in the process. Part of that is within our justice system because the emphasis is on the accused versus the state and so on, but it’s amazing that even in law enforcement, it’s some of the simple things that can tell people, that can communicate to victims, that they matter, that we’ve sensitive to their issues, listening to them, and these kinds of things. Of course, I think Judge Barajas, his heart, his understanding of recognizing the needs of victims is significant, and in some ways educating that particular and significant important component of our justice system, to be significant to meaningful contributions to these people at many times the worst point in their lives.

Len Sipes: So what does the judiciary bring to the table, your honor or Richard? Again, we in the larger criminal justice system have lots of room for improvement, and I must say, it’s interesting this whole sense of the detachment of the judiciary. I’m doing more and more programs involving the judiciary throughout the country, more and more programs involving court systems, where the courts are taking a very, very, very active role in terms of bringing the entire criminal justice system together to do a better product, whether it’s reduce crime, whether it’s victim assistance, whether it’s a wide array of different things, I see an evolving judiciary. I see a judiciary that’s not so much detached as it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. I see the judiciary more and more as almost being a full partner with the other criminal justice agencies as long as we understand that you have a specific job to do, and ultimately you must be fair to all parties. That’s exactly what the law requires.

Richard Barajas: I think the interesting thing, Len, I go back to being on the bench, to 1991, and recently retired to take the position I have now, but before that, I was an elected district attorney in the state of Texas, so I will tell you my perspective is one from an elected prosecutor who through no coincidence ran on purely a crime victim’s platform when I was first elected back in 1987. But I think what it is, is the evolution of the judiciary, and a lot has to do with what the Supreme Court has done, for example, with how judges can voice opinions and things of that nature, so that they’re not detached anymore, but rather can be more than simple robot [PH] drones that call balls and strikes. Let me give you a simple example because Will has heard me say this many, many times when I’ve spoken – imagine for a second a world where you bring a criminal defendant in who is accused of a crime, and the judge on the bench admonishes that defendant of every right he has under the laws of this country and in the state, as he should, and then he turns to the victim of crime and admonishes the victim of crime of every single right that victim has under federal law and the laws of every state. The balance that that would have, and the impact that would have on society will be monumental. We are simply afraid to take that step, so that’s why I’ve often lectured on the proper balance of these issues, is that years ago I wrote a law review article, and the research we did was really telling that originally the founding of our country, crime victims had rights. They had a place at the table, but it eroded over a period of time, and one would argue, the purists would argue that crime victims still have that right under the 9th Amendment, but it’s kind of taken a backseat to more expressed and delegated rights that criminal defendants have. If you could just openly express, in court, in front of the defendant, in front of the public, that this is a balance system that alone will dramatically change the perception of the judicial system in this country forever.

Len Sipes: Why doesn’t that happen, your honor?

Richard Barajas: They’re afraid. I think they’re often afraid of making people believe that they’re overly balanced in favor of the victim, whereas I think with more education, and I think education, Will and I have had this discussion, I think judges as a rule are afraid of crime victims in the courtroom, almost without exception. I was. The big reason is that you can have a perfect case all the way up the criminal justice,perfect not in the sense of guilt or innocence, but in the sense of the process that the system was meant to pursue, and then one judge can screw it all up by saying the wrong thing because he was sensitive or not knowledgeable, but by the same token, they’re afraid to really turn to a crime victim and tell them they have rights. Police officers do it all the time, well, crime victim advocates across this country do it all the time, but how often have you ever heard a judge actually say that in open court? I can see a day when the judge will tell us, and I mention the crime victim, you’re there to be notified and tell this crime victim, and if you are not notified, I want to know about it. What a change.

Len Sipes: Oh, it would be a tremendous change, and I can understand the fear, I can understand the apprehension on the part of the judiciary. All of us who have been schooled in offender rights, and we’ve been schooled extensively in offender rights, regardless of whether it’s my time as a police officer going through six months of the police academy, regardless as to my criminological training, regardless as to my law training, this whole I guess atmosphere, this whole training, volumes and volumes have been written on the evolution of the rights of the offender, the taking of the Bill of Rights and applying it to the states. That’s a fascinating history, but when you’re schooled in that for decades, suddenly the victim comes along and you go, what do I do with this person? That person doesn’t fit nicely in terms of all of my training. The nationalization of the Bill of Rights, the application of the Bill of Rights from the federal government to the states, and that slow, gradual evolution and how it was applauded along the way as being what a fair and just government does, nowhere along the line did it say the word ‘victim.’

Richard Barajas: I think, Will, you would agree, without any question, nobody can deny we’ve made great strides in the area, but I’ll tell you, Len, as a former district attorney in speaking to so many of my then peers and colleagues, a crime victim was seen as a necessary evil within the criminal justice system because you had to deal with them and you had no control over emotions, so you may have had a good case and then it all just kind of unravels in court with a victim that you can’t control the emotions. So for generations, prosecutors simply did not know how to deal with crime victims, and if the prosecutor can’t deal with them, that scares the heck out of the judge. We’re talking maybe a retrial and then mistrial.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s just it – isn’t that the issue? In this day in age, everybody in the criminal justice system has a tremendous amount on their plate, whether it’s law enforcement, whether it’s corrections, it really doesn’t matter. Everybody has just a tremendous amount of work on their plate, and for a judge to have a decision overturned because he or she inappropriately, as far as the appeals court is concerned, did not give enough consideration to the defendant’s rights and gave a bit more to the victim’s rights, and that possibly could be seen as prejudicial, isn’t that the fear that judges are going to find decisions overturned and a tremendous amount of time and effort is going to be wasted in the process, or am I over blowing the situation?

Richard Barajas: I don’t think you’re over blowing it. I think it’s multi-faceted. Of course in jurisdictions where you elect judges, nobody wants to be reversed anywhere, but within jurisdictions where you elect them, this kind of insensitivity is a disaster for defeat in an election. In areas where they are not elected, whether it’s a recall election or whatever the case may be, once again the emotion behind this thing is tremendous. I’ve reversed cases based on,well, you have a judge where you don’t really know,[INDISCERNIBLE] on the rulings, unfortunate until they say something they shouldn’t say. We’ve had cases where the judge will all of a sudden blame the crime victim. That’s a question of sensitivity. We have a sexual assault, and you still see that today, and that’s a question of judicial education. I think, quite frankly, that this country has yet to really understand how to educate judges, perhaps by judges, so you have that sense of comfort with who’s actually doing the lecture without the emotion that sometimes they fear, to let them know it is all right to say things and it is not all right to say other things. I’ve never been to a judicial conference that addresses that issue, Will, in all the years I’ve been on the bench.

Will Marling: Right.

Len Sipes: I think the entire system has that fear. The bottom line is this – I think all three of us would agree, that what we have in most of the states and at the federal level, is we have constitutional protections now for victim rights, and that is probably just the beginning step, but it is,having those rights and implementing those rights are two different things. I’ve had other shows on victim assistance and victim’s issues where I’ve interviewed people who are on the street level, the law enforcement level, the parole and probation level, the corrections level, who I’ve looked at them, they’ve been in my studio and I’ve looked at them in the eye, and I’ve said, okay, now that we’ve established the fact that these Constitutional rights are in place, how many times have you had to go back to your administration to remind them that those Constitutional rights are in place? So having rights in place and enforcing it, and having the system really deal with it, I think are two different things, and I think that’s the lack of comfort. We all want to move in the best interest of the victims. We all want to move in the best interest of public safety. We all want to move in the best interest of the offenders that we’re dealing with, and sometimes we’re just scared that the victim is going to somehow, someway, mess things up. I think that’s the heart and soul of it; that’s what we’ve got to get over.

Will Marling: Sure. And if I could speak to something there on behalf of the victims, the issue of educating the victims in the process gives them an opportunity to understand how they can contribute to that potential conviction. They don’t want it overturned anymore than the judge does. That’s what people don’t understand. The problem is, in terms of educating them, if we can work with the victim to educate them as to how this process works, then they will serve us by in large. Will they be impacted by emotion? Yes, but many victims have to learn under incredible pressure how to demonstrate a real resolve against demonstrating any emotion. Imagine if we could work with them to communicate, here’s the process, which is what this is supposed to be doing. That’s what advocacy does. It informs them about these things, so that in that process, they actually will contribute in meaningful ways to the appropriate just outcome. The fact is, that whoever is accused, the victim is still there. It’s the same victim. If you acquit this guy and then arrest somebody else and bring them into the same courtroom, it’s still the same victims, and sometimes that’s what’s completely missing here. The accused should have rights, of course, for a balanced process, but there is always a victim and they still have to deal with the realities of their losses.

Len Sipes: Again, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), who’s been around for decades, has a superb reputation in the world of victim assistance and throughout the criminal justice system. Richard Barajas, the Chief Justice, Senior Status for the Texas Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas, has had to leave and go to another appointment, so we’re going to continue the conversation with Will. Will, to summarize the first half, basically what we were talking about is the idea of the judiciary getting more actively involved with this issue of victim’s rights, even to the point of the judge from the bench, and we all know how the judge from the bench reads the rights of the defendant and makes sure that the defendant understands his or her rights upon prosecution. He was even suggesting that the judge reads the rights to the victim, so the victim or the victims understand exactly where they stand within the criminal justice process. I think that that’s an extraordinarily powerful incentive, so I really do thank Richard Barajas for stopping by today and talking about that. But let’s continue with the conversation, because if you work with victims beforehand, I guess principally on the law enforcement end of things, and if you build your case well, and if you really respect victim’s rights because in most states there is a constitutional amendment respecting or delineating or spelling out victim’s rights, if you do everything before you get the person to court, the less the court has to worry about victim’s rights, correct?

Will Marling: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Thirty-three out of fifty states have victim’s rights in their constitution, and of course the idea of victim’s rights, Constitutional rights is an important one because it doesn’t really affirm what we already hold to be true, and of course, we articulate those rights because then we want to make sure that people know that, they’re articulated that way, and then enforcement of those rights, protecting those rights. Well, if we were to articulate and protect the rights of the victims, then a lot of things happen then. The respect for that person who’s been through a horribly traumatic situation and suffered probably great losses if it’s a survivor of homicide for instance, and then helping that person address the issues that they’re facing. The unique thing about a crime victim, of course, is the added dimension of trauma, and that’s sometimes what is so assumed, that the person’s been traumatized, but it’s how you work with that person. I will admit that say, for instance in law enforcement, when you’re dealing with somebody who’s been traumatized and maybe you’re not trained in that, you learn to deal with it, but you might not really understand what’s going on there inside that person. So the trauma,if you know how to address that person, if you know how to speak to them, if you know how to support them meaningfully, they are going to be most likely an asset to the case that you’re trying to build in the violation of law and the prosecution of this case. That’s what we would promote.

Len Sipes: One of things that we discussed in the first half of the program was the fact that in my training, at least in my 40 years in the criminal justice system, it was 99.9 percent the training was focused on the rights of the victim, and the message was consistently there – if you focus on the rights – I’m sorry, focus on the rights of the defendant, and if you screw up those rights, if you violate those rights, if you do not appropriately read him his Miranda rights in terms of a custodial interrogation, now, it’s funny because you didn’t have to read the individual’s rights unless you were going to interrogate him, but everybody sees on television that as soon as the arrest is made he’s Mirandized, but our folks were saying, oh, no, go one step further. Advise him of his rights right up front, even though you don’t have to and even though it’s not required by the court because we don’t intend on asking him anything because we have a witness who basically saw him do what he did and that’s all we need. It goes that far. It’s like protect the rights of the defendant and the victim? Well, the victim is there to help me prosecute – what more do I need to know about the victim? If we did a better job, if we made sure that the victim was properly prepared, if we respected the various rights mandated in most states of the victim, the right to,just basically the right to be informed and the right to proper treatment on the part of the criminal justice system, that would make for a better case. It would be easier for the state to prosecute that case, but we’ve got to do that upfront.

Will Marling: Yes, absolutely, and the education of victims in terms of this process, the judicial process, the criminal process, that comes into victim’s rights. A lot of the victim’s rights statements, whether they’re legislative or some kind of statutory decree or in a Constitutional setting, those rights are an articulation of information for those victims. They have the right to know about certain things, to be fully informed of the process. Well, when people are made aware, typically that helps them understand how to contribute. You’re not going to find a victim who wants to cause a problem in a court setting. They don’t want to jeopardize those proceedings, but they don’t actually know that what they might do could jeopardize that, for instance, an emotional outburst in front of a jury. So what happens is, if they’re historically even allowed in the courtroom, and may times a defense attorney would simply put them on the witness list even though they were never intended to be called, they couldn’t participate in that. We have lots of stories of people listening to their trial of their deceased loved one, murdered, as they stand outside the courtroom with their ear pressed against the door. They’re not even allowed in. Of course, they’re the one most impacted by it. If they are allowed in, but they don’t realize that that outburst could cause a problem in terms of the proceedings, they don’t know. Well, if they’re informed of these kinds of things, how this process works, why it’s important for you to maintain your decorum, why it’s important for you to recognize if this is too traumatic for you, then that helps everybody because we want to have fair and just proceedings, but in every case, there is going to be a victim. Even if you change the setting for the accused, the accused is acquitted and somebody else is arrested, it’s still the same victim. They still have to go through that same process, so that’s why if this concept of victim’s rights were to be more firmly implanted into our processes, as we are trying to do with the Constitutional Amendments and so on, that in and of itself would put it on our radar. We would recognize the victims in their role, and of course respect that. Historically, it’s the state versus the perpetrator, and that, of course, is one of the reasons why we have such a challenge when dealing with the perpetrator’s rights.

Len Sipes: And I always go back to the same concept – an individual who is about to be thrust into the criminal justice process, that is just beyond my comprehension. Thank God I have never been the victim of a crime. I have certainly known lots of people who have, and I’ve certainly tried to help walk them through the process, but to them it is just,the criminal justice system is this wall, and this wall is 150 feet high, nobody’s smiling, nobody’s holding their hand, nobody is giving them all the information they need. It’s just a wall, and they see that wall, and that’s got to effect that person’s decision as to whether or not to help law enforcement or to help prosecute the case because all they see is this gigantic wall, and that’s why we have victim service representatives or victim assistance representatives, where we can sit down with that individual, explain the entire process, and make sure that they’re very comfortable with what’s about to happen. But it can’t be just the victim representative on the part of law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office or parole and probation or corrections. It has to be everybody that’s going to come in contact with that victim. Everybody has got to understand that they could blow the whole thing simply by being insensitive, and 99 percent I think, and you correct me if I’m wrong, of what victims want is simply information about how the process unfolds and what’s going to happen now.

Will Marling: And you’re basically right. At maybe a higher level, they want to pursue a notion of justice, but at a personal level, there is this emotional impact of dealing with a system that is really not compassionate. It is simply a system. So does it have compassion of people in the system? Well, we hope so, and that’s what,some people seem to think that if you demonstrate compassion to a victim, you’re in some way imbalanced or inequitable in terms of your ability to render justice, but again, every victim in this situation is a victim, so you can just recognize that as a fact. Now we all struggle again with the emotional impact some people demonstrate, but if at every point the folks in the justice system would make a meaningful contribution to the forward movement of that victim, I personally believe, and I think we can be demonstrated by testimony of the victims, that it would move everything forward. It would mean a fair and just system, or a fairer and more just system, and a process that victims themselves could come away saying, you know, I understand the system itself is not compassionate, but I appreciated the sensitivity and the pursuit of justice in the course of my victimization, and that to me is a meaningful thing.

Len Sipes: But Chief Justice Barajas did bring up, I think, a very important point that the judiciary still needs to guarantee the rights of the crime victim. The judiciary used to sit back and be separate from the rest of the criminal justice system, and I understand that sense of impartiality. I understand that need, that legal need to separate themselves. They’re not part of the prosecution, they’re not part of the arrest process – they’re simply there as to be fair arbitrators of the facts and the law, and that’s their job. I understand the detachment, but nevertheless, you can have that legal detachment and at the same time be extraordinarily sensitive to the rights of the victim. I think that’s what the judge was saying, and so I don’t want to let the judiciary completely off the hook, regardless of the job the rest of us do in terms of victim services. When that victim gets to court, that judge should still ensure that that victim, that his or her rights are taken care of and the judge should ask. He said, why can’t the judge ask from the bench? What’s there legally to stop the judge from asking from the bench about the rights of the victim? So I still think that’s a great idea, and this is one of the reasons why I think that it was pretty neat for a former Chief Justice, Richard Barajas, from Texas Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas, to come onto the radio program for the first 15 minutes and explain that concept.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now, I think what happens is, some people would argue that you have to pit rights against rights, so if you give more rights to victims, actually you’re taking away from the rights of the accused, but that’s really not the case because they can run parallel. If it’s an understanding, just like the judge was saying, if you get up and say, we want to affirm the rights of the accused, we want to affirm the rights of the victims and move forward to protect the rights of both parties in this endeavor, wow, that’s a powerful way to handle this. But if you do think that it’s a take-away, if I give you more rights I’m taking more rights away from this other party, then that’s a problem. But no victim really, I don’t think, wants the wrong person accused of a crime. They really don’t because that means that the person who truly did it is still out there and has not been held accountable.

Len Sipes: They simply want justice for themselves and they want justice for their families and justice for their communities and justice for the rest of the criminal justice system. Well, you’ve got the final word. We need to wrap up. Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, one of the most respected, I guess, advocacy groups within criminal justice circles, been around for decades and decades. I really appreciate you being on, and Richard Barajas the Chief Justice, Senior Status, Texas Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas. Chief Barajas is now doing a college program at Cathedral High School at El Paso, Texas, and so we really appreciate him coming on today. The website for the National Organization for Victim Assistance is www.trynova.org. www.trynova.org. Feel free to get in touch with them via the website. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We are up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio and television shows, for the podcasts, for the transcripts, and for the blog, and we really appreciate all of your comments. We appreciate even some of your criticisms and suggestions in terms of new shows. Feel free to get back in touch with me via Leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or follow me via Twitter, that’s twitter.com/lensipes, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Terms: court, judicial, victim, victim rights, crime victim, judge, NOVA

Share