Understanding Crime in America

DC Public Safety Radio

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

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

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

John: Thank you very much sir.

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

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

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

Leonard: Explain those geographies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard: You can’t do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard: What can they do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard: It’s the criminology system

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

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

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

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

Leonard: It’s an unbelievable decline.

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

Leonard: Huge drop.

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

Leonard: In both cities you can feel this.

John: You can feel it right.

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

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

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

Leonard: It’s a new conversation.

John: It’s a new conversation.

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

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

This is unlike the sixties or the riots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fundamental Change Within the Criminal Justice System

DC Public Safety Radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard: Go ahead, Adam.

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

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

Adam: That’s exactly right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leonard: We’ve been talking to Adam Gelb, always a fascinating conversation, Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts.org/publicsafety. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


This is Criminal-An Interview with Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer

DC Public Safety Radio

See htttp://media.csosa.gov for the main page.

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2016/02/this-is-criminal-an-interview-with-phoebe-judge-and-lauren-spohrer/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s show interviews the creators of Criminal, a very popular podcast. Listen to Criminal via iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite streaming app. I found that just searching for Criminal podcast got me right to it. Criminal is a podcast from Radiotopia and PRX.

We welcome Phoebe Judge and co-creator Lauren Spohrer, both veterans of public radio who were brainstorming podcast ideas when they hit upon the idea that radio listeners also love a good crime story even if they don’t want to admit it. Ladies, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Phoebe: Thanks for having us.

Lauren: Thank you.

Leonard: You run a huge podcast, very popular. I’ve spoken to a ton of people who really enjoy, in the system, who really enjoy listening to your program. It’s just really amazing. I just want to know before I describe it, and I’m taking an awful lot from a Huffington Post article that you guys previously did, for me describe criminal. Describe what you do.

Phoebe: This is Phoebe. Criminal is a podcast about in the big sense of the word, crime, but I think what we hope to do is use the big sense of the word to kind of surprise our listeners in showing that crime can not just be tragic and sad, but also funny and uplifting and warm. We’re really trying to use the human experience of crime as the basis for all of our shows.

Leonard: The human experience is also neatly described in the Huffington Post article when they talked to the both of you. Call Your Mom covers a mother and daughter in Wyoming who both happen to be coroners. The episode focuses on the way they view death and the unique dinner table conversations that are an inevitable part of their lives. When I’ve listened to Criminal I’ve been sucked in very easily by that human dimension. Your big focus is the humanity surrounding a criminal event?

Phoebe: Yeah, I think for us we won’t really do a story even if we really want to do it, we think it’s interesting, we think it’s an interesting topic, a news worthy topic, we won’t do it unless we have a very strong personal story at the center of it. If we can’t find that person, they’re not willing to speak with us, they just, you know, we’ll pass the story down. I think for us hearing that firsthand account, hearing the emotion and the way someone has seen one of these events through their own eyes, having someone who can give us that type of perspective is critical for us.

At the basis of all of the Criminal episodes is a good personal story. I think that comes from both of our backgrounds as producers and reporters where we spent years looking for interesting people.

Leonard: Well, the interesting people part of it is fascinating because they are so extraordinarily interesting and at the same time they communicate unbelievably well. Where do you find your people? As somebody who has been doing crime and justice related podcasts for a quarter of a century, how do you find the people that you find.

Lauren: This is Lauren. I think we get asked this question all the time and we don’t have sort of a clever answer other than to say that we’ve both worked in public radio for along time, so we’re used to searching out stories. I think one thing that’s been a lot of fun for Criminal that we don’t seek out experts or analysts or academics as much as we look for regular people.

We’re here in Boston and last night we got into an Uber and our Uber driver was also a criminal defense attorney. He just started chatting us up about, he just started saying, “The case that really keeps me up at night …” Just started telling us a story. I think our favorite way to find stories to work on is just by chatting with people in our lives.

Leonard: You become enmeshed in the lives of individuals where I do a half an hour podcast. It’s in, it’s out. I edit it. It’s done. I’m assuming that you spend an enormous amount of time on every episode and I’m assuming that you spend an enormous amount of time getting to know the people that you interview. Do you come away from all of these interviews with a collective sense as to who individuals are within the criminal justice system? How they get caught up in the criminal justice system? Is there a fundamental gut feeling that you have about people that you’ve interviewed?

Phoebe: I think that while we do a lot of background work before the interview starts to figure out the facts of the case, once I start having a conversation with something I really never know exactly what’s going to come out of it. I think Lauren and I both allow Criminal to have that flexibility. There will be times where we think we know where the story is going because we’ve done all this front research and gotten the court documents. Then we actually sit down and have the interview with the person. We say, “Oh, this story is nothing like we thought it was going to be.”

Leonard: Wow.

Phoebe: I think we really let the subject dictate the end result of the episode. I also think one thing that maybe makes Criminal maybe a little different than some others, we don’t really try to force a conclusion if there isn’t one for the story. We’re not there to make moral judgements, say someone is good or bad, right or wrong.

Our job is to put forth the information in its most accurate and interesting way as possible. Because we allow ourselves as that, as our guiding principle, I think you do learn a lot more about the person and the subject because we’re allowing them to tell their story rather than us telling the important parts of the story we think you should know.

Leonard: Before I do podcasts I do reach out to some people within the criminal justice system, ask them what I should be asking my guest. Many of the issues that you discuss go to the heart of fairness and equity within the criminal justice system. Do you have any observations as to how the criminal justice system operates and what it does?

Lauren: I think it makes us a little uncomfortable to try to … You’re the expert. We’re certainly not the expert. I think one thing that we’ve learned over the course of doing this is that things are never as simple as they seem, things are never as simple as we thought they were from reading books or watching television shows or watching movies.

There’s always sort of a lot more layers, a lot more complications, especially with the court system, but also with police investigations than we ever imagined. I think we’re, if anything I think working on the show has made us less certain about what we know about the system.

Leonard: Because there are so many components to the system, so many people, so many actors, so many individuals making decisions that it’s not just the criminal justice system, but a wide variety of actors. Some of whom could be good, bad, indifferent. Is that what you come out of it with, the sense that it’s fluid, that it’s a system in motion and that it’s just an interesting story to tell?

Lauren: Absolutely and that it’s so specific. Different courtrooms are run different ways. There are different statues in different counties. There are things that I think that I know and then when I actually start digging into the facts of a particular case I’m always surprised that my assumptions were not correct. We spend a lot of time calling lawyers, calling county clerks, calling courthouses, procuring documents just to check to make sure that we really do understand what happened.

Leonard: You cover the entire spectrum of what happens in terms of an individual incident. You’re talking to perpetrators, victims, enforcers, witnesses. You’re talking to all of them to try to bring the listener in to all of the circumstances that happen in terms of that particular episode.

Lauren: Yeah, that’s right. Although I’ll say we put out a lot of requests with law enforcement and they rarely respond to us. Often the response that we get is that officers can’t comment on pending litigation, which we of course understand, but we would like to do more.

Leonard: Possibly I could help you in terms of doing more, but I would imagine that somebody coming out of the woodwork saying, “Hi, I represent a podcast and I want to talk about this particular case,” would seem rather intimidating to a lot of folks within the criminal justice system because they oftentimes don’t get those sort of requests. We get requests from the media, give me the person’s name, give me the person’s charge, what is the court date? It’s pretty matter of fact. You’re talking about an in depth conversation about what’s happening in terms of these particular cases. I’m assuming that that will be intimidating.

Phoebe: Certainly and I think that as you mentioned, there is a perception I think sometimes about crime shows, crime podcasts, is this going to be just a sensationalized, are people making shows going to sensationalize the story and get things wrong just so that they can get a rise out of their audience? I understand apprehension within people in the system who might say, “Wait a second. There’s a podcast called Criminal that’s going to do X, Y, Z.” I hope that people, I hope that what we’ve done is prove that there is a way in which to explore the criminal justice system, the criminal mentality, victims that’s responsible and fair and accurate and not sensationalized.

I think that if we can get past that first hurdle of approaching people within the system and saying, “Hold on. Don’t back away just because it’s a show called Criminal. Wait a second.” Then I think anybody that we have gotten that far within the system who has then listened to episodes that we point out I think has a better understanding of what we try to do with our show.

Leonard: I think that’s the point of getting them to listen to the show so they can understand how complex and how evenhanded it is. Why did you chose the term criminal which is in DC a fairly politically incorrect term?

Phoebe: We thought for a very long time what the name of the show would be. I think that, I like the name. I like the name of the show, but of course, it necessarily makes you think oh, these are all going to be criminals that we’re going to be hearing from which is not true at all. Actually very rarely are we talking to pure criminals on the show.

I think what we wanted to do was to have a title that would allow the listener to know exactly what they were getting in the sense of crime. We could have called it The Crime Show I guess, but something about criminal which I think speaks to the fact that we are dealing with crime, but also that we’re dealing with human stories. We’re dealing with one person. A criminal, it’s kind of in a way to say it’s going to be a personalized version of a crime event.

Leonard: Well, I love the title. I think the title says everything that it needs to say. I think it’s a beautifully crafted title because it gets to the heart and the soul of the matter. One of the podcasts, you were interviewing and individual who had committed a homicide and there was sort of stumble in terms of how to address the person. The person shoots back, “What? Are you referring to me as a murderer? Well, that’s exactly what I am.” Maybe sometimes clarity is what’s necessary in talking about crime and justice.

Phoebe: Yeah. I think for us there’s no topic we won’t take on or I think that our responsibility is to ask fair, accurate questions and portray the events as accurately as possible. If you do that you can call … As long as what you’re calling them is true, you can call someone anything you like. You can do whatever type of show you want.

Leonard: One of the favorite topics I have when I’m talking to people caught up in the criminal justice system by these microphones is I’ll say people refer to you as a criminal. How do you see yourself? Sometimes that creates a beautiful conversation in terms of how they see themselves and how they believe others should see them. I like the title very much. What has been the exposure or the thought within the National Public Radio community or the public radio community or the podcasting community? How do they see your show?

Lauren: I hope people like it. We put our individual episodes up on a website called PRX that allows NPR stations to purchase it and many of them do, so that’s always nice. Our show gets played in our hometown. We live in Durham, North Carolina and our episodes get played every Sunday evening. That’s sort of a really fun thing. You make something on your own and then you can turn on the radio in your car and you can hear it. That means a lot to us. We both were trained in official public radio communities and I think it means a lot to us that our work now is aired there.

Leonard: I’ve been interviewing people from National Public Radio and I’ve had them before these microphones several times, listening to National Public Radio types of shows for decades. Your show is as good or better than anything that I’ve heard on National Public Radio. The quality of the show is superb. The choice of topics is superb. In terms of talking to people within the criminal justice system, they also like the show. I just was wondering how it was being received by the professional NPR community. I think they’re going to love it as much as I do.

Lauren: I think if they have some negative opinions they don’t say it to our face.

Leonard: Maybe that’s good. Do your parents get to listen to the show when the local public radio station broadcasts it there in North Carolina?

Phoebe: We’re both not from North Carolina.

Leonard: I’m sorry.

Phoebe: No, no, no. They live in Florida and in Massachusetts. Our parents I think are probably the most, the first people who listen to every new episode of Criminal. They are our greatest critics and they let us know what they think. They’re very attentive listeners. I think certainly my parents haven’t missed one. My father I think listens to them a number of times, each one of them, and Lauren, you’re the …

Lauren: Yeah. I love to get, sometimes I’ll send my mom a rough draft and get her feedback before we’re done.

Leonard: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. All right, we’re halfway through the program. Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer are our guests today. They are the producers of Criminal, a program, a podcast from Radiotopia and PRX. My favorite way of getting Criminal is just search for Criminal podcast and it pops up as being number one. It was there before Serial, ladies and gentlemen, and certainly one of the most popular podcasts in the country dealing with crime and criminal justice issues.

You said that you don’t pass moral judgement regarding the people that you talk to. Isn’t that difficult? Because you get so enmeshed in the lives of the people that you talk to. There’s an ongoing controversy within criminalogical circles within the media about the role of the criminal justice system, the role of law enforcement. Isn’t it difficult not to pass judgement?

Phoebe: Who are we to pass judgement? I think that there’s an interesting way to think about that question. I think maybe I feel fair and right in saying that I don’t really believe that there are evil people in the world. I think that if you walk around with that mindset you don’t pass much judgement. You rather try to understand. That’s all we want to do, understand.

We’re talking as you say, to murderers sometimes. I’m not trying to pass judgement on them. I’m just trying to understand how an individual could do something like that. I think that’s what we try to take with Criminal is a better understanding of crime of the human experience of crime with no judgement because I don’t think any of us can really know how we would act in certain situations. We can dream about it and we can speculate, but you never actually know. I think that’s the way we kind of take the worldview we have for crime, moral judgment and the show.

Leonard: You remind listeners that with every episode the truth is many shades blurrier than simply good or bad, guilty or innocent. That’s the point, that there are multiple, multiple layers to any crime story. It’s just not a matter of being being good or of people being bad.

Lauren: Yeah, I think that’s important. I think it’s the difference between reading a small news item in the newspaper, which without any context allows you to pass judgement versus actually what you hear on the show is edited down to somewhere around 20, 25 minutes, but there were many, many hours spent speaking with that person. I think anytime you have a long respectful conversation with someone, obviously things are not so simple anymore. I think it would be in bad faith for us to pretend that we had some sort of moral clarity about something that’s very complicated.

Leonard: I agree with you. I’ve sat and interviewed over the course of years, not necessarily in front of microphones, hundreds of people caught up in the criminal justice system. I indeed find their stories fascinating and that’s exactly the experience that I have. I don’t walk away from that saying this person is blank. I walk away from that experience saying that’s a very complex story by a very complex person.

Lauren: Yeah and this person’s life has been very different from mine in a number of ways that I can’t pretend to understand or have some sort of moral mastery over. I think a lot of times when we talk to people it becomes more clear that we all sort of do the best we can within a certain set of circumstances.

Leonard: I remember being a police officer a lifetime ago and it was a terrible automobile accident. There were three or four of us gathering up medical supplies from the back of police car. Somebody saw us laughing and it was a terrible accident with a family, multiple victims, bleeding profusely. We were trying to save their lives and we’re back there snickering and laughing as we’re loading up on medical supplies in the trunk of a car. There was a complaint.

People said, “Well, what were you doing?” We said, “We were trying to deal with the horror in front of us and to deal with it in such a way that we could effectively deal with it. We weren’t being disrespectful. We we re just psychologically trying to cope with what it was that we were seeing in front of us.” There are many different layers of complexity when you’re dealing with the criminal justice system. Where are you taking Criminal? What’s going to happen? Is it going to be more of the same? Are you looking at specific topics? Do you just float through your professional lives until somebody gives you a very interesting story?

Phoebe: No. We come out every two weeks and so we’re constantly searching for stories and looking and in various modes of production. Later this afternoon we’re off to do an interview. We also do live shows which is kind of a fun new thing that we started doing.

Leonard: Yes it is. Watched one.

Phoebe: Yeah, yeah. We travel around. It’s different when you’re podcast hosts used to being behind a microphone in a studio with no one watching you to be up on a stage and do it live. It’s a whole other ballgame. That’s kind of fun too. It pretty much, Criminal, it takes a lot of work so we constantly have our heads down and just trying to get the next episode out.

Leonard: You were doing this on a part time basis for most of the history of Criminal, correct? Just recently within the last year that you’ve started doing this on a full time basis. Doing all of that and doing the podcast that you do had to be a tremendous challenge.

Lauren: It was. It was a lot of work. We would do our regular jobs and then come home and work on the show late at night or on weekends or in the morning before work. It was so, it was then and it still is so exciting to build something yourself that I think we had a lot of energy for it that we weren’t expecting. I think this is the most exciting, challenging job I’ve ever had.

Leonard: I get reading from the Huffington Post article using this framework for storytelling Judge had investigated a book thief, an impostor, a serial killer, a notorious who raid petrified forests in search of a million year old, in search of million year old wood just to name a few of the criminal subjects, all are explored in the same compelling way.

Your interest level, it’s not like you’re looking at rapists. It’s not like you’re looking at cops. It’s not like you’re looking at judges or necessarily just people caught up in the system. You’re looking at a very carefully crafted in depth conversation with anybody who happens to come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Lauren: I don’t think we would be able to work as hard as we do if every episode was the same. I think that that’s something that’s interesting about … We just recently did an episode about a man who tried to poison a historic tree. The fact that there is also a trial and someone could be prosecuted for that and the sort of police investigation, that is to me, it’s the sort of lesser known, more unexpected angles here that really make it always feel fresh for us.

Leonard: You make it fresh by the variety of topics that you bring to the show. Is that the point? Because again, every time I listen to a different episode it’s an entirely different subject. It’s the complexity of human fault, the depth that you bring to the individual that you interview, that’s what makes it compelling and that’s the success of the show I’m assuming.

Lauren: I hope so. That’s very kind of you.

Leonard: No, I don’t think it’s kind at all. I think it’s a straight observation by somebody who’s been in the criminal justice system for close to 50 years. It is just a very strong, very compelling storytelling. How you find these people I just find amazing because they’re all extraordinarily articulate. When I bring people into this studio I never know what I’m going to get. The person is interesting, but is the person going to cooperate? Is the person going to tell an extraordinarily interesting story? How many hours do you put into every episode?

Lauren: It really depends. One thing I’ll say is that we do have a pretty lengthy preliminary conversation with them before we record. If someone, if it’s clear that someone maybe isn’t comfortable or just isn’t ready to talk about it or just doesn’t want to, we’re not going to schedule time to record with them. We do try to be somewhat strategic about how we spend our recorded hours.

We do know, when Phoebe sits down with someone for their recorded interview we know and they know exactly what’s going to happen. We do it very informally so it’s usually a long informal conversation. Then we edit that tape down. We transcribe it all. We have some great people who we work with who help us transcribe. Then we sort of read it as a document. We say what are the most important parts of this? What are the most surprising parts of this? What order, in what order should we deliver this information?

It is sort of like a writing process from there, but we do everything we can to choose stories that will sort of just tell themselves, where the events unfold naturally. It’s just a question about being thoughtful about how to present that to a listener. Sometimes it’s 80 hours and episode. Sometimes it’s less. It’s been more. It just depends on how many interviews and really how much work we put into the editing and revising process. That just sort of depends on the story.

Leonard: Do you allow people to pitch you stories?

Lauren: Oh absolutely. We love to get pitches. We absolutely get some great ideas from listeners and we really encourage that.

Leonard: We do that through the PRX website, Radiotopia?

Lauren: Or you can just go to our website, ThisIsCriminal.com and there’s an about page. You’ll find both of our email addresses and also a catchall for the whole show. We read all of our emails and we respond to all of them.

Leonard: Well, I’m going to take the most interesting people I’ve interviewed and the next time I talk to them I’m going to suggest that you talk to them because telling these stories, they’re just fascinating.

Lauren: I’m thinking that you might have some fascinating stories for us. I think we should set up a time where you can tell us some of your stories for the show.

Leonard: Well, after 50 years the stories are endless, but I come to the conclusion that those of us in the criminal justice system have, we’re pretty cynical. We have a very strong sense and very strong opinions about the world around us, whether or not people understand who we are, people understand what it is that we do. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding police officers in terms of are these good and decent human beings. I was watching a piece on CBS where an 11 year old boy was asking his mother, “Should I continue to want to be a cop? Are cops still the good guys?” He created a benefit for police officers and police officers came from all over the country just to attend this 11 year old’s benefit.

There’s a dynamic that’s going along in the criminal justice system that breaks those of us in the system and the issues that we deal with into good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral. That’s not criminal. What you do is to get into the very heart and soul of an issue and explore it to its very limits.

Lauren: I do think that that helps us. We’re not lawyers. We don’t have any background sin criminal justice. We’re just curious. I think we were not cynical. We really were coming at it with a lot of questions. I think that is the right place to start work like this.

Leonard: The curiosity, we all start off with that same sense of curiosity and so there is a sense of me that says you guys probably have developed a sense of the system and developed a sense of the people within the system. It would be almost impossible not to.

Lauren: Saying exactly what you’re saying.

Leonard: What’s that?

Lauren: I think we should check in [inaudible 26:18]. We might be cynical then too, but that hasn’t happened quite yet. We’re only two years in so we’ll see what happens down the road.

Leonard: Okay.

Lauren: No, if anything I feel less sure about what I know. I grew up in a family of lawyers and I used to think I had a really strong grasp of the legal system. I think over the course of working on this show I have come to see how little I understand and that there aren’t any sort of hard and fast rules that you can keep in your back pocket and that will always prove to be true. That just never ceases to fascinate me.

Leonard: You said in the Huffington Post article, true crime allows the listener to be a detective for a minute. They’re allowed to collect information, evaluate it, make decisions. It’s an interactive experience whereas other stories you’re being told this is and it’s entertainment. You’re allowing the person to float through the person you’ve interviewed, to float through their lives, make an informed decision based upon the evidence that you present, allow the person to be a detective and allow the individual to come to their own conclusions. That’s why I think the show works.

Phoebe: We want the listener to remain just like as completely invested as possible because we’re not telling them what to think I hope.

Leonard: That’s obvious. The whole idea is to make sure that they come to their own conclusions and that you’re telling both sides of the story. I plan on using my experience with the Criminal podcast to get everybody to listen, to get them to understand that it’s just not all, all the coverage of crime and criminal justice, it’s not just the 30 second soundbite or the one 20 minute package. That there are people out there doing in depth interviews and just basically presenting the evidence and letting other people decide. I think that’s the heart and could of Criminal and I think that’s why you’re going to be popular with people who work within the criminal justice system.

Phoebe: That’s great. We would really welcome that audience and hope that people within the system do appreciate what we’re trying to do.

Leonard: We’ve had a wonderful time. I’ve had a wonderful time talking to Phoebe Judge, Lauren Spohrer. They are the creators of Criminal. It is just an extraordinarily interesting podcast on crime and the criminal justice system. It’s on iTunes, Stitchers or just go to your favorite search engine and listen from there. It’s a radio program from Radiotopia and PRX> you can contact them on their own website, ThisIsCriminal.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.


Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys – DC Public Safety Television

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

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

Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2016/02/the-justice-experience-of-black-men-and-boys/

[Video Begins]

Nancy Ware: Hello, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Nancy Ware. We have a very special program for you today. We will be discussing the justice experience of black men and boys from a congressional view, which we’ll provide an opportunity for two members of the U.S. House of Representatives to address one of the most important issues facing the country. Also discussed will be efforts to assist people with skills and programs to successfully re-enter society from prison.
I am honored to have with us today the honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and the honorable Danny K. Davis from Chicago, Illinois, who are the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, and true leaders of change within the justice system. As you know, we’ve had a lot of discussions across the nation about what’s been happening  with black men and boys related to Ferguson, New York, and other parts of the country, so I want to ask you to talk a little  bit about the mission and creation of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys. And we can start off with Eleanor  Holmes Norton. Congresswoman Norton.

Congresswoman Norton: Well, this is, this, we think, is an important development in Congress to focus the entire Congress on this very special issues facing black men and boys across the country. We know that black people generally have issues of their own, but black men and boys have not been given, shall we say, equal treatment. I’ve had a commission on black men and boys in the District of Columbia for more than 10 years, and I have seen how important it has been to bring out issues that simply aren’t being discussed in the public. Because Danny has been a leader in re-entry, and in trying to ameliorate incarceration of black men, we were a perfect partnership when it came to deciding to form the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.

Congressman Davis: Well, let me just tell you how great of an opportunity it is for me to work with someone who is as esteemed  and has such a long history of advocating for the rights of all people, but especially for African Americans, and taken a  good look at African American men and boys. This issue is so intricately webbed into the history of our country, and lots of  people don’t like to look at it that way. They don’t wanna think that slavery and everything that has happened up to this point is part of the cause, part of the problem, and part of the need. So, working with Delegate Norton is just great because she has those kind of insights and know what it takes, and we are having some good experiences with the African American men and  boys and with other entities really, that are emerging and developing and are part of this movement.

Nancy Ware: And it is a movement, and I wanna just also second the fact that you’ve brought this conversation to Washington  D.C., Congresswoman Norton, in terms of pulling together a network of men and boys and women to discuss, you know, the ever-increasing domination, unfortunately, or disproportionate confinement of men and boys in our prison system, and under  the criminal justice system at large. Can you talk, both of you, either one of you, talk a little bit about the mission and  the creation of the Caucus on Black Men and Boys?

Congressman Davis: Well, I think the mission is to create an environment and an atmosphere at the highest level of thinking  in our country so that issues surrounding the why, why are there so many African American men and boys who get caught up in the criminal justice system? Why is the treatment so disparate? So different? How do we have justice when in so many  instances, people end up spelling it just us? I mean, when you go to certain kinds of judicial proceedings, even if it’s  traffic court in many places, it is just us. If you go to child support court, it is just us. When I visit penitentiaries  and jails, as I do often, every Christmas for the last 20 years I’ve gone to the Cook County jail to visit with the inmates, and I can tell you, it’s generally just us.

Nancy Ware: That’s a good point. I know that you’ve definitely, Congresswoman Norton, been focused a lot on some of the institutional issues that face black men and boys going into the criminal justice system. Do you wanna speak a little bit  about how that has influenced this movement of sorts?

Congresswoman Norton: Certainly, and first of all, we, our own Commission on Black Men and Boys in the District began with a  commission consisting of black men who have credibility in the African American community, and we decide which kinds of issues  are cresting in the community and need discussion, but before we get to the notion of incarceration, we’ve got to get to why black men, black boys, and notice it’s called Black Men and Boys, both in Congressional Caucus and our own local Caucus, it’s ’cause you gotta begin with boys, and because you see these disproportions from the earliest years. You see them in
drop-outs. You see them before drop-out. You see them in suspensions. You finally have come to a point in our country where there is a huge disproportion in almost every phase of life between black men and black women, for example, in those who finish  high school, in those who finish middle school, in those who go to college. You’re going to have a people where, as we finally  see, marriage becomes less often. Because if you have black women who’ve finished high school, going to college, and you have  black men who got cut off somehow in the early years of life, you are not gonna have marriages of a kind that have been  traditionally in the African American community. So this runs up and down the line, and by the time you get to a young man, then the notion of whether he can remain out of prison. For example, just let me give you the latest situation in the District, I’ve gone around fighting now, because the Council of the District of Columbia passed a bill to legalize marijuana. Now,  nobody wants anybody to smoke dope, even these weeds. Of course, people tend to outgrow marijuana. But why did they pass that? Unlike in the four western states that have passed similar laws, they passed it because of two independent studies that show  that blacks and whites in this town, and by the way, throughout the United States, use marijuana at the same rate, and the
progressive District of Columbia, 90% of those who are arrested are African Americans, and most of them are African American  men or boys. Now, think of it. You are now 18 years old. Your drug conviction is for a small possession of a small amount of  marijuana. On your record, when you go to apply for a job, you have a drug conviction. You have black skin. Forget about that  job. That then sentences you, if you will forgive the use of a word, I think it’s apropos here, to the underground economy, or worse, unemployment. And we wonder why our jails are just us, Danny.

Congressman Davis: Oh, no doubt about it, and there are just so many factors which contribute. I mean, we still have the  problem of parents too soon. That is, of young individuals who aren’t ready for parenting to continue to produce children. We have the enormous problem of poverty. We have a lack of opportunity. For example, I cite the fact that finding an African American male teacher in early childhood education is practically nonexistent, and so many boys grow up, for example, with the idea that education is a girl, female, kind of thing, and so by the time they’re third grade, many of them have sort of  decided that this formal education thing is not for them. That becomes another factor, and so we have to find a way to cure
that element of causation.

Nancy Ware: Those are really cross-cutting issues and cross-cutting concerns that are often overlooked by, you know, the general population. People don’t always appreciate the gateways to the criminal justice system for men and boys, particularly  African American men and boys. So that’s quite a big charge that you have ahead of you for the Caucus to embrace, for public  policy to begin to speak to. Are there any policies, specific issues that you wanna present to our audience that you’ve begun to see coming out of the Caucus?

Congressman Davis: Well, one of the things that we recognize is that, if individuals, say for example those who’ve been incarcerated, once they get ready to return, if they receive assistance, if they receive help, that will have a great impact on whether or not they go back, which means that one of the first things that you can really do is try and reduce recidivism for those who have already done, what society calls, offended in some kind of way. So if you can keep them from going back, that’s going to help reduce the numbers who are incarcerated. It’s also going to help them become productive citizens so that  they can get a job, they can earn money, they can pay taxes, they can become contributing members of society.

Nancy Ware: Well, you have both been powerful role models for the nation in terms of this issue. Are there any things that you think our viewers should consider in terms of supporting the work that you’ve done? You spoke about the hard work that you’ve done in the District of Columbia, and across the country, quite frankly. Are there things that you’d like our viewers to hear that you’d like us to consider?

Congresswoman Norton: Well there is a hunger for people to participate in this work, and one of the things we wanna do with  the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys is to encourage communities to do what we’re doing. First, to air the issues.  Some of these issues are painful to air, but if black people step up and air them, then the community is very much open to hearing them, and then you can work on remedies. But if you won’t even talk about them, such as the kinds of discussions we have in forms of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, then of course, they disappear, they don’t exist.

Congressman Davis: Everybody can help. I think that’s the key. Churches, organizations, groups, fraternities, sororities, every kind of group you can mention actually has the potential of helping with this process.

Nancy Ware: Well, I wanna thank you both. We’re going to take a brief break from our first segment and we’ll be moving into our next segment in just a few moments. So thank you both, and we’ll take a break now.

[Commercial Break]

Nancy Ware: Welcome back to the D.C. Public Safety show. I’m your host, Nancy Ware, from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia. We have today the honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton and the honorable Danny K. Davis, and they’re back with us on the second half of our show as we discuss the justice experience of black men and boys from a congressional view. A separate topic of prison re-entry will be our focus for the second half. I’d like to start with talking about the needs of juveniles within the justice system and why that’s important to the two of you.

Congresswoman Norton: There’s beginning to be some horrific exposure of what happens to juveniles in the justice system. For example, we know that solitary confinement is, should be forbidden for adults. Now we’re finding that it happens, some of the time, for children. If a child gets into the criminal justice system, you have a magic moment to make sure that child does not progress in that system the way he progresses in school. But I’m afraid juvenile justice systems too often become escalators to the next segment of criminal life for a child, ’cause it usually means there’s been some family disruption, some failures in the community that led this child into the juvenile justice system.

Nancy Ware: And it’s a pretty challenging issue. Congressman Davis?

Congressman Davis: Of course, in some jurisdictions court systems have come up with programs to avert or to keep individuals out of incarcerated situations to the highest level that they can. That is, finding alternatives to incarceration, and those work quite well where judicial systems have made a determination to really do it, and so we have to prevent to the extent possible our young people from getting into the culture of incarceration. I mean, things that you learn there, in many  instances, just causes them, when they get out, if they get out, to be in worse shape than they were when they went in. So I think there has to be a comprehensive approach to the extent that they can be developed, and I think all units of government,
that is, from the municipal level, to the county, to the state, to the federal level, have to put resources into activities. If there is no money, there is no fund, and if you don’t put in resources for programatic efforts, then they’re not going to take place and you’re just going to see the continuation of what we see now, and that has to stop because it’s non-productive, it costs money, and it creates more reliance on a prison or incarcerated system rather than having people be out learning to be productive citizens.

Nancy Ware: And both of you have touched on some of the indicators that often lead young men, and particularly juveniles, into the justice system, such as educational deficits, mental health issues and challenges, economics. Can you speak a little bit about what you see as some of the remedies for addressing some of those issues?

Congresswoman Norton: Well it’s no accident that those who most often find themselves in the criminal justice system are among the poorest in the country. And by the way, it’s been that way when there were immigrants in this country, it’s that way now, when you have black and brown people in the system. So you’ve got to look at who your population is and while they’re in this system where they, I must say, tragically may have resources that they will not even have in the community. It seems
to me those, you’ve got to take advantage of that period, but the notion of diversion that Danny was talking about is so very important, but you don’t want to divert ’em back into what may be the kinda culture that brought them to the attention of the authorities in the first place. So, how do you divert children so that when they just begin to surface in the criminal justice system you’re able to guide them away? I mean, this a very complicated issue because they’re not moving out of that community. They’re not moving out of poverty. Takes a lot of social work, and yes, a lot of surrounding of resources from various segments of government itself.

Congressman Davis: We know that political advocacy is always appropriate and greatly in need, and political types do that, but then there are things that others can do. I mean, one church, one family. One church, one child. One Boy Scout. I mean,  Boy Scouts is a way if we can get young, I advocate that there ought to be a Boy Scout troop on every block. On every block. That boys should be able to get that experience. But you’ve gotta have mentors. You must have volunteers. And so people who  don’t wanna get their hands and feet and their minds dirty doing politics, they can do other things. They don’t necessarily just have to do the hard-nosed political work. They can be engaged at their own level of comfort, and that helps. You can’t measure how much mentoring actually will help young people.

Nancy Ware: And I’ve seen that work, but I have to say that it is really a tribute to both of you to have you as advocates on the political level because leadership is so critical and bringing this issue to the forefront is so critical because  otherwise there wouldn’t be the kinds of discussions that we’re having today, which you mentioned earlier. And so, I don’t  wanna underplay the importance of that political advocacy in kinda guiding people towards some of those remedies that you discussed. Are there programs in particular in prison that you’d like to see increased? Things that you think while people are imprisoned, either in the juvenile system or the adult system, that you think would help to increase opportunities once people are released?

Congressman Davis: There are indeed. Of course, once again, it becomes this question of putting resources in place and not cutting everything to the bone. I mean, we’ve seen over the last several years, I can think of programs that used to exist where individuals, for example, who were incarcerated, all they could actually earn college degrees, they could come out with, you know, skills that had been developed, and then we go into this business of cut, cut, cut, cut, and you don’t have those resources in play and in place, so we have to be smart in terms of what it is that we fund and where we place money, and we can’t take the idea that these individuals are going to somehow or another emerge as good, solid citizens without the  help that need to be provided.

Nancy Ware: Are you beginning to see these kinds of reforms taking place?

Congresswoman Norton: There’s a very important period of reform emerging now. It’s led by the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, who was of course U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. You see him beginning what is real reform  it seems to me. For example, in this leadership that is producing a cut-reduction in the sentences of low, of those who are incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes, so we’ve had the over-incarceration of African American men that they’re bringing down. We even see some on the Republican side calling for less incarceration and beginning to understand, as Danny says, that
without resources, very little will happen. Now, one of the things that’s driving less incarceration, saves the government money. Fewer people, you know, being held in high-cost prisons, ’cause it’s very costly to keep someone on a daily basis in prison. Now, what Danny and I share, despite the fact that prison systems are state systems, is that all of our constituents in the 50 states and the District of Columbia will be in federal prisons. Now, of all the prisons, of federal prisons, the Bureau of Prison has the best reputation. I would like to see some of the programs of the federal prisons more often in state prisons. For example, one of the things that the United States Congress keeps the Bureau of Prison from doing, state prisons allow, and that is that you cannot get a college degree in a federal prison, though you can in some state prisons. We got
somebody who wants to get a college degree while he’s incarcerated and we’re denying him the opportunity to do that? Now, I’m not sure, Danny, whether you can even get a Pell Grant now when you get out of prison if you’ve been in prison. I know at one point you could not.

Congressman Davis: Depends on the kind of crime that you have been convicted of and all of that. One of the other things I think that I certainly want to commend the Attorney General for has been convening all of the agencies, the departments, of the federal government as part of the implementation of the Second Chance Act for all departments to take a look at what it is they can do. How can they be effectively involved in reducing the prison population? In reducing recidivism? And that’s something that I certainly hope that whoever becomes next will continue that effort because every agency can do a little bit.

Nancy Ware: To help towards…

Congressman Davis: And if you get a lot of people doing a little bit, that becomes a whole lot.

Nancy Ware: That’s true, that’s true. And our agency has been involved in that, so I’ve seen first-hand some of the  opportunities for federal agencies to participate in resolving some of these issues. I do want to ask a little bit about what you think we need to think about as we move forward in the correctional arena in terms of addressing some of these areas that you’ve mentioned, substance abuse, I mentioned mental health, economics you talked a little bit about, education, beyond opportunities for folks to get their college education there, are there other things that you can think of that we might wanna push for in our prison systems, and even in our community corrections and under probation?

Congresswoman Norton: Well I think one of the most important things the Bureau of Prisons does, and it doesn’t have enough resources to do it for every incarcerated person, is to help people get rid of and no longer want narcotics. Because one of the first things that will happen, if you go back in the community that you’ve just come from, is you’re exposed to the drug culture. So to the extent that we can wean people off of drugs while they are in prison, we have done a great service to them and to the society to which they are returning.

Congressman Davis: And we know that an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, which means that those things that we can do of a preventative nature obviously will reduce the likelihood and the possibility that people will get caught up. One of the things that we’ve been doing lately has been, and it was very pleasant, taking children to actually visit their fathers who were in prison. We did that just before Father’s Day, and it was just a great experience in terms of what individuals themselves feel and can do, and if they’re motivated, stimulated, and activated, yes, there are things that each person can take the responsibility of doing for him or herself, and that does not let society off the hook, but there has to be, and there need to be a partnership existing between the individuals and the systems.

Nancy Ware: And the communities that they come from.

Congresswoman Norton: You have all the things, studies show, of all the things that work in keeping people out of prison, it is providing that kind of relationship with a support system or their own families while they are in prison.

Nancy Ware: Well, I wanna thank both of you, and ladies and gentlemen, I wanna thank you, our viewers, for watching today’s show. Please watch for us. Next time we explore another important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Again, I wanna thank Congresswoman Norton and Congressman Davis for your leadership and guidance in this area. It has been so critical to the African American community and to helping to resolve these issues that are very complex facing men and boys entering the criminal justice system. Again, thank you and have a great day.

Congressman Davis: Thank you.

Congresswoman Norton: Thank you.

Nancy Ware: Thank you very much.

[Video Ends]


Coordinating Justice-CJCC-DC Public Safety Television

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

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

Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2013/08/coordinating-justice-cjcc-dc-public-safety-television/

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. It’s the tenth anniversary of the District of Columbia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. There are Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils throughout the United States so this story affects everybody watching. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in the nation’s capitol is seen as one of the most effective in the country as to reducing crime and implementing new programs.  Our participants in the first half are Nancy Ware, my boss, the Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Mannone Butler, the Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council here in the District of Columbia. – And to Mannone and Nancy, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Nancy Ware and Mannone Butler: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, now this is going to be an interesting conversation. Mannone, you’re the current director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Nancy, you were the first director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, so we’re going to give Mannone the first shot being she occupies the chair at the moment. Give me a little bit as to what the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is and what it does.

Mannone Butler: Certainly. Thanks again for this opportunity as this marks our tenth anniversary. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council serves as a forum for our local and federal criminal justice agencies to address emerging and long-standing criminal justice issues in the District, criminal and juvenile justice issues in the District of Columbia. We have a unique blend of criminal justice agencies so it was important for us to have a forum. Nancy is going to get into some of those issues, I believe, but I think that this is really an important opportunity for us as a forum to address those issues.

Len Sipes: The key issue is that everybody who affects justice in the District of Columbia is represented – and again, these councils exist all through the United States.

Mannone Butler: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: The whole idea is to bring key people together to sit down and talk about issues and see how we can cooperate for the greater good of the public, correct?

Mannone Butler: To coordinate and to collaboratively address these issues, absolutely. Yes.

Len Sipes: Right, and that’s not easy to do. I mean, in a lot of cities throughout the country and a lot of state throughout the country, people have said there’s not enough cooperation amongst criminal justice agencies. In the District of Columbia, we’re sort of well-known as having a very effective, very collaborative group of people from federal and D.C. agencies that sit down at the table on a constant basis and talk out, hash out, work their way through problems.

Mannone Butler: We absolutely have. I mean, we have our federal partners at the table, we have our local leaders at the table, our judicial partners at the table, and our legislative partners at the table, and they meet frequently. The leaders meet frequently but we also have a structure that allows for committee work to get done. So we have a really robust structure that allows for members to get together and then work to get done.

Len Sipes: Now Nancy, you were a pioneer in all of this. You were the first director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. How difficult was it to begin that process of on a regular basis bringing all the principals together at one table to hash out issues?

Nancy Ware: Well, it was a challenging process, Len, but it was very rewarding because the District of Columbia was unique in that we had an ad hoc group already working as a coordinated council. We just didn’t have the formal structure legislated at that time. So I was the first director for them to bring in to actually formalize the structure, and the City Council of course put the statute in place, and we had the Congress also mandate the participation of federal agencies, so that really helped to mold the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council – which we affectionately call the CJCC for D.C. – to become a real entity in the city.

Len Sipes: I attended some of those meeting years ago and it was your continence, I think, in terms of bringing together – I mean, not everybody gets along. I mean criminal justice agencies throughout the United States in various cities and states, there is a long history of not getting along. They’ve gotten along under your leadership. You seem to instill some sense of hey, we’re all working on the same problems. Whether it’s Law Enforcement or whether it’s Corrections, whether it’s Parole and Probation, whether it’s Juvenile Justice, whether it’s private agencies, unless we all get together and work as a cooperative entity, we’re not going to solve these problems. So how come it worked in the District?

Nancy Ware: I think that what really worked for us was the fact that part of our focus within CJCC is to make sure that we engage all the spectrums of the criminal justice system and the justice system, I should say, in reaching our goal and figuring out answers to some of the questions.  So we have representation from the Public Defenders Service which is on one of the end of the spectrum on defenders, and then on the other end of the spectrum we have the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Law Enforcement, so we had to be sure that we were addressing everybody’s interests in a way that was equitable, and Mannone’s done a fabulous job of moving that forward even today.  But we started off very small, it was a very small office, and we grew over the eight years that I was there to a much larger office. We moved into a much larger space and we had a good, strong staff, and so it really helped to forge the partnership much better because we had enough people to help work on some of those committees that Mannone will talk a little bit more about.

Len Sipes: All right. So Mannone, first of all, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council receives federal funds.

Mannone Butler: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Right, but the entity itself is a District of Columbia entity?

Mannone Butler: Is an independent District agency.

Len Sipes: Okay. So one of the things that you’re most proud of is bringing everybody together to work on common information systems so everybody’s speaking the same language, and we’ve seen this and heard this in terms of terrorism, in terms of 9/11 response. Those are key issues of utmost importance anywhere in the United States, and that’s really interesting how you all have developed those information systems, bringing everybody together in terms of operating off of a key set of systems, correct?

Mannone Butler: Right. Early on, information-sharing was identified as a key priority for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, CJCC, and over time JUSTISS, as we call it, our Justice Information Sharing System which was developed by CJCC and now is overseen by CJCC, has really grown and blossomed. Each agency has their own Information Sharing System or database, if you will, but over time our agencies have agreed that we do want to have a common way to share information. CJCC doesn’t own any of the data but we really do work as a way to facilitate information-sharing, so JUSTISS is that vehicle.  So we’ve worked to develop a portal, a system to really make sure that our law enforcement and our criminal justice agencies have a way to easily access information, and so we’re really proud over the years to have developed a real robust mechanism to share information, again for those authorized users. The agencies have voluntarily contributed this data, and they’re using it, and it has grown. Over the past few years, we’ve really seen really a lot of growth and advancement in the way we’re sharing information across our system.

Len Sipes: And continuing with that 9/11 or terrorism theme or emergency theme, part of the job of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is to make sure that the agencies are prepared for any emergencies that crop up, correct?

Mannone Butler: That’s correct. Well, you know, the District has a real focus on emergency preparedness, and we’re certainly going to be talking about that a bit later.

Len Sipes: Sure. I wonder why?

Mannone Butler: Well, the nation’s capitol, absolutely, it’s important for us to be prepared and focused. One of our strategic priorities is looking at continuity of operations planning, and we’re really just proud of our partnerships with the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and all of our partners, local and federal, who’ve really stepped up and understand the importance. On the criminal justice side, it’s clear that we need to be able to communicate effectively with one another in the event of an emergency, and so we have to be able to plan effectively and make sure that we have information at the ready.

Len Sipes: The question goes to either one of you – is it because it’s the nation’s capitol that everybody gets along so well, that it’s easier to have all these disputes and –?

Nancy Ware: No, you know, I think part of the beauty of the CJCC has been that it is, as Mannone mentioned earlier, an independent agency, and that means that it’s not beholden to the local jurisdiction, the federal jurisdiction, or the judicial jurisdiction; whereas in other parts of the nation, the CJCC is often centered in either the state or the governor’s office or the judiciary, and so that puts the balance, the hierarchy balance, for us it means that everybody feels equitably represented. I think that our leadership in the CJCC – and we do elect the co-chairs. One co-chair is of course the mayor or his designee, which in this case would be the deputy mayor, who we’ll hear from later.

Len Sipes: On the second segment, right.

Nancy Ware: Right. But the elected side really makes every effort to make sure that we have representation from the federal agencies and the judiciary so that there is that balance.

Mannone Butler: And I think it is important to say that the major is the chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and we do have, as Nancy mentioned, the co-chair, so we do have a designee from the local side, and we do have our federal and our judicial representatives. So there is the voice that’s heart across our system, the leaders from our system, so it’s important, to Nancy’s point, that we do have representation across the system.

Len Sipes: But D.C. is unique to the point where there’s a lot of federal agencies around. We’re a federal agency. The courts are federally funded. The United States Attorney’s Office is federally funded so that makes a federal presence.

Nancy Ware: And most of our law enforcement is really federal.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy Ware: So it’s really important, as Mannone said, to have that kind of balance. – And the other thing that’s really helpful in D.C. is that the leadership of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council very early on was out of the Chief Justice, the Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court which really helped to move, no matter what anybody says, it always helps to have the court right there are the forefront.

Len Sipes: Never disagree with the Chief Judge, right?

Nancy Ware: That’s right.

Len Sipes: I want to get to topics because people are saying, “Okay, fine, you all get along and do a good job. Give me a sense as to the impact.” So in the second segment when we talk to Deputy Mayor Quander, we’re going to be talking about the crime reductions, which are considerable in the District of Columbia and we’re very proud of that, homicide reductions.  Nancy, you’re chair of a variety of committees, one is on offender re-entry. Re-entry – people on supervision, when they come out of the prison system, has to be a coordinated process. If we don’t have everybody working together, pulling in the same direction, and including private entities, not just government entities but the associations, private entities, Good Will, all the rest, we’re not going to succeed. So tell me about that.

Nancy Ware: Well, I’m involved with two committees. I’m the chair of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Task Force and then the Re-Entry Committee, which is chaired by Cedric Hendricks and Charles Thornton, who runs our Office of Returning Citizens in the District, and Cedric is on my staff. Re-entry for us of course is my agency’s major mission, CSOSA’s major mission. It does require a lot of collaboration particularly since the District’s prison system is run through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is a federal agency, and as you mentioned earlier, many of the functions in D.C. have now converted to federal agencies so it means that our agencies have to work very closely together to make sure that we do pre-release planning and that we prepare for folks who come out of prison and come back into the District under CSOSA’s supervision, under my agency’s supervision.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy Ware: And that requires us to work out agreements. We’ve actually been successful in strategizing around new programs for folks who come out, keeping people from going back in because they’ve been revoked for lesser issues like substance abuse. We’ve put in place a secure residential treatment program in the Department of Corrections, which is our D.C. jail, to help them with getting on top of their substance abuse issues. So we have a lot of collaborative efforts that involve the U.S. Parole Commission, the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Corrections, District government agencies, and the like.

Len Sipes: We only have about a minute left in this half but the bottom line is we’re successful. The bottom line is we’re successful in terms of reducing recidivism. Fewer people are going back to the prison systems because of what we’re doing here in the District of Columbia.

Nancy Ware: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And Mannone, I think that, again, you all and the larger Criminal Justice Coordinating Council can take credit for that as well.

Mannone Butler: And there are a lot of efforts that are under way, and to the point, really quickly, with Nancy’s leadership under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health side, there are a number of efforts we could tout. One is that we have a resource locator. It’s one example that’s tangible for our public to take note of, and it’s www.cjccresourcelocator.net, and it’s an example of the work that we’ve done under Nancy’s leadership in partnership with Pre-Trial Services Agency, leveraging resources that exist, and it’s an online database. It’s a searchable database that now our partners can utilize but also John Q. Public could utilize as well to see the services that are available in the District and our metropolitan area, and so that’s just one example of the work that we’ve been doing as a collaborative body.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the frustrating things about this program is because there are so many things going on under the auspices of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and we’re just barely scratching the surface in terms of all these different programs. Thirty seconds left, quickly.

Nancy Ware: Well Mannone, I think, probably should also mention the website that you can get more information on CJCC.

Mannone Butler: Absolutely, yes.

Len Sipes: All right, and we’ll putting that up throughout the course of the program. Absolutely. Final things, ten seconds?

Mannone Butler: The final thought that I have is that we would not be able to do this without the partnership of our leaders. You know, we talk about it’s just Kumbaya all the time – we work really hard. The folks are at the table, and they’re at the table constantly to make sure that our public is safe.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on the first half as we talked about Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils both in the District of Columbia and throughout the country. Look for us in the second half as we continue this very interesting discussion. We’ll be right back.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes. With us on the second half is Paul Quander, Jr., Deputy Mayor of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice for the District of Columbia, and Mannone Butler, again, Executive Director for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, discussing cooperative efforts for crime and criminal justice. Paul and Mannone, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Mannone Butler: Thanks again.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. We discussed philosophy on the first half of the show, and I really want to get into more examples of the real work that the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council does, and Mannone, you remember Fugitive Safe Surrender, when we brought in all these different agencies from all over the city, and all the federal agencies, and they all focused on getting people to voluntarily surrender, people with warrants, and doing a media campaign, and getting them to voluntarily come in and surrender, correct?

Mannone Butler: Absolutely, and actually the first day Surrender was done under the director then of CSOSA’s leadership, now Deputy Mayor Quander’s leadership, but the second was held in 2011 at the D.C. Superior Court, and partners included the D.C. Superior Court, included our U.S. Marshall Service, included the Office of Attorney General. So I could go on and on about our law enforcement partners, our criminal justice partners, all with the express intent of ensuring that folks come in and voluntarily surrender, and we had over 600, close to 700 individual voluntarily surrender over a three-day period, and actually three successive Saturdays in August no less, and I think one of the Saturdays we had, what was it, one catastrophic weather-related, right?

Len Sipes: Right.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Hurricane Irene.

Mannone Butler: Hurricane Irene, correct, right? So that was just one example of the type of coordinated effort.

Len Sipes: But that’s over 1,000 people with warrants voluntarily surrendering over the course of the two campaigns.

Mannone Butler: 1,200 in fact, right.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Paul, now again, as Mannone said, you were instrumental in terms of setting this up, and when you walked in and you saw, you know, 10, 15 criminal justice agencies sitting there behind their desk, behind their computers, all in one spot, to process all of these people voluntarily surrendering who had warrants, I stood there on the first day and said, “Wow, this is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.”

Paul A. Quander, Jr: It’s a beautiful thing because oftentimes you don’t see the different layers that are involved in the criminal justice system. You may see one event, you may see a result or an outcome, but very rarely do you get to take a look through a lens that you can see every component of the criminal justice system coming together for one purpose and achieving a goal, and that’s sort of been the foundation upon what we have developed here.  We have a common purpose, we leave our egos at the door, and we work to make sure that the public served and that we promote public safety in the District of Columbia, and we’ve done a good job of identifying projects that are meaningful, that we can produce, that are sustainable, and that are driving results in the direction that we want them to go. So we are tackling big issues, and as a result, crime is down, our communities are safer. There’s a sense of calmness in the District of Columbia, and it’s something that we’re very proud of.

Len Sipes: All right. Years ago I worked for the National Crime Prevention Council and I ran their clearing house, before coming back to the District of Columbia for this job, and I remember walking through the streets of downtown D.C., I can remember walking through the streets of the communities, and I did not have a safe feeling. We’re talking about back in the ’80s. There’s been a huge transformation in terms of the crime problem in the District of Columbia. There have been huge decreases in crime across the board, huge decreases in violent crime, huge decreases in homicide. Why?

Paul A. Quander, Jr: I think there are a number of factors, and I don’t think you can put your finger on one. There’s been a reduction in the demand of drugs. So we went through the years of the crack epidemic. We’ve gone past that. We are dealing with different issues now. There have been some societal changes, but we’ve done a good job of communicating and sharing information in the criminal justice sector. That wasn’t always the case.  So now what we have is we have a unified system that the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has helped to actually develop and to spearhead where everyone can share information. So the police officer on the street can get information from the probation and paroling authority, and how does that work?  If there is an individual who is on pre-trial release, that’s a good thing because that person would be at the jail taking up a bed but maybe he doesn’t need to be, and the judge says there is a condition of release, “I want you to stay out of this area.”  If a police officer goes into that area and see that individual, oftentimes that police officer doesn’t know that there is a stay-away order; but now through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and their JUSTISS system, the police officer just puts a name in, it pops up, it’ll have the conditions, and if there’s a stay-away or some other condition, the police officer right then and there can go and arrest that individual, take him off of the street, and you have immediate compliance and enforcement of a court order, something we haven’t had in the past.

Len Sipes: And that’s something I think is the most important part of this because we’re talking at a fairly high level. We’re talking about agency heads and sub-agency heads all sitting at the same table hashing things out. Not everybody leaves their ego by the door. We all know that. We all know there’s a lot of hard-fought battles within any Criminal Justice Coordinating Council all throughout the United States but what impresses me, Mannone, is the fact that individual police officers have access to computers.  Individual police officers have access to people under supervision, have access to GPS, have access to stay-away orders. To me, that’s the power. It’s the individual police officers talking to the people with my agency, the Community Supervision officers known elsewhere as Parole and Probation agents talking to Pre-Trial. It’s that street-level coordination that impresses me more than anything else, and that is a direct result of the work of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Mannone Butler: It is a direct reflection of our coordinating efforts but I also always want to kind of turn it back on the work of our partners, right, because we serve as kind of the behind-the-scenes, kind of the conductor, if you will, but for the fact that each of the agencies and the staffs, their willingness to come to the table and roll up their sleeves and work really hard to make those connections. So to the Deputy Mayor’s example, that officer then has with the stay-away order, they then have a point of contact at Pre-Trial Services Agency so they can then find out what’s happening with that individual.  So there are direct connections that are made, and so we certainly – I’m happy to take the credit for the coordination and the behind-the-scenes but I really want to then just kind of spread the love, if you will, and say that each of these agencies are really working very hard, need the staffs are working really hard to make sure that officers are able to speak with the partners or the staffs from each of these agencies. So it’s a lot of work that’s happening across our system.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ve talked to a lot of reporters. You know, what’s happening in the District of Columbia is not happening necessarily in Baltimore, it’s not happening in Chicago, it’s not happening in lots of cities throughout the United States. The District of Columbia is steadily getting safer. The criminal justice system is steadily cooperating. We take that for granted in the District of Columbia. We shouldn’t because all throughout this country, there are dozens of cities where that’s not happening.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Well, we don’t take it for granted and we work hard to make sure that we don’t take it for granted.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry. When I say “we”, the reporters and other people I’ve talked to, not the participants.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Right. We know how important it is but let me give you another example because I like to deal in the real world and the specifics. We have a program that is referred to as Gun-Stat, and essentially we’ve identified through the Metropolitan Police Department, we took a look at the statistics, those individuals who have a certain profile, who were either the victims of homicide or the perpetrators of homicide, and there were common factors that were there.  So we identified what those factors were and we looked at the population, and we identified 50 individuals who fit that profile. So what we’ve developed is a system whereby we bring in all the agencies, and there are a lot of levers that can be pulled to make sure that an individual who has a certain sort of background, who has a certain criminal history, gets additional services, gets additional resources.  But in addition to that, there are different eyes that are on that individual so that if an individual is on probation or parole, that’s a lever that can be pulled. If an individual is on Pre-Trial Services, that’s a lever that can be pulled. – Which means that if there is intelligence that says that that individual may be doing something untoward and he or she is on probation or supervision, why not put a GPS monitor on that individual and give that person a curfew? That sends a very powerful signal.  Or if there is a shooting in a certain area and we know that there is going to be retaliation, we look at that area and who’s on supervision, who is responsible for that individual, and if there’s some levers, then we will go out and we’ll bring people in and say, “Look, we know that that was your friend. We know that you want to retaliate. Don’t do it because we’re going to be there to stop you.” So we’re trying to be proactive but a lot of it is sharing information.  Before with Stovepipe, police had their information. Parole had their information, U.S. Attorneys had their information, Corrections and the Bureau of Prisons had their information; and now we have shared that information and there’s a forum for us to do that, and that forum is CJCC. We respect everyone’s right, we respect their independence, but we realize that the most important thing is to share information.

Len Sipes: What I love is when we sent out police officers and Community Supervision officers a la Parole and Probation agents together for key people under supervision that may be having problems, or it maybe the possibility that we get intelligence where they’re – we sent them out together, and that’s powerful.

Mannone Butler: Well, what we’re also just speaking to is just sharing of data. I mean data is important, and part of what we’re really wanting to move to is data-driven decisions, and that’s not necessarily always kind of the most interesting or the topic that folks are really —

Paul A. Quander, Jr: It’s crucial, though.

Mannone Butler: It’s crucial. CJCC also houses the District’s Statistical Analysis Center, and as an independent entity, it’s really important for us to do that and so we work really hard with our partners to not only identify those critical-issue areas but also to identify the types of research that’s important. So we have the discrete projects and the issues that we’ve been discussing here today but also there’s some research that’s important for the District so that’s important.

Len Sipes: All right, only a couple of minutes left, I do want to touch upon juvenile justice, a very important topic within the District of Columbia, a very important topic throughout the country. Paul?

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Well, it’s juvenile justice and let me go one step further, truancy.

Len Sipes: True.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Because one of the gateways to juvenile justice and to the adult corrections system is truancy, so CJCC has done a lot of work. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council here in the District has done a lot of work trying to bring together all of the parties so that we can address the issue of truancy. If keep kids, more kids in school, we’re going to have less kids that actually will graduate to the juvenile system and then to the adult system.  But in the juvenile system, what we’ve done is we’ve established a means of accountability, and again, we’re sharing information. Now there are some confidentiality matters that we are very respectful of but at the same token, they have followed some of the same procedures. They’re really using GPS. They’re sharing the information that they can. We’re coordinating to make sure that we’re using all the resources and the levers that we have, and we’re trying to provide additional services and targeting it, and we’re having the results that we want.  Several years ago, we had a number of young people that were the victims of homicide, and a number of people that were the perpetrators of homicide. Well, last year we had one, which is a tremendous improvement. One is too many but we are going in the right direction, and we’re doing some things extremely well, and we’re beginning to see the results of that collaborative information. No one has the individual answer. It is a collaborative process.  Let me give you another example. One of the issues that we really worked hard on is with our mental health population, so CJCC worked with the Metropolitan Police Department to provide specific training for police officers so that they would know how to address an individual who is a mental health consumer.

Len Sipes: Which is crucial.

Paul A. Quander, Jr: Which is crucial because you can de-escalate a matter, and that’s what we want to do. In the District, we want to reduce crime but we don’t want to increase the number of arrests. We want to reduce crime and we want to reduce the number of arrests. We want to prevent crime and we’re doing that.

Len Sipes: Okay. We have 30 seconds. We’re going to have to close. Again, I think one of the most effective Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils in the country, and it’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of a lot of people throughout the United States so congratulations to you both.  And ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on D.C. Public Safety as we discuss another important issue in the city’s criminal justice system and criminal justice topics happening throughout the country. Watch us next time. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]