Warrantless Searches-APPA-Washington State University

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/06/warrantless-searches-appa-washington-state-university/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, warrantless searches of probationers and parolees. We have three people from throughout the United States via Skype at our microphones today. Craig Hemmens, he is the Chair and Professor to the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the Washington State University. We have John Turner, he is a doctorial student, again Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University. And we have back at our microphones Adam Matz. Adam is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association and Council of the State Governments. And to Craig, and John, and Adam, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Craig Hemmens:  Thank you!

Adam Matz:  Thank you! Glad to be here.

Len Sipes:  Adam, start off the conversation please, warrantless searches of probationers and parolees in terms of the document that’s yet published. I found it to be fascinating. There seems to be a lot of controversy in terms of not when Parole and Probation Officers can go in and do warrantless searches of probationers and parolees, but when police officers can; and there seems to be a mixed bag. Every state in the United States gives parole and probation agents the right to do warrantless searches. It’s different when it comes to law enforcement doing those searches. So law enforcement and parole and probation seems to be coupling up to do searches of people on parole and probation without a warrant. Have I summarized the beginning of the program correctly?

Adam Matz:  Yeah. I think that’s a pretty good summary. And I think it might be useful too, I can kind of provide a sort of short background as to why this topic’s sort of been an interest for us and has been increasing in interest as well. And we’ve obviously done, talked about police and probation and parole partnerships before, and we know that they started to become more formalized. There’s always been a lot of partnerships and, you know, law enforcement and probation and parole officers working together sort of informally, but really in the kind of early mid ‘90’s and then up to today there’s been even more of an interest in formalizing those partnerships. And part of that, when they’re working together they’re sharing a lot of information about the probations of parolees, you know, where they live and their conditions of supervision. And depending on the state that they’re situated in, law enforcement can do different things with that information.

In the case of some states they can actually conduct warrantless searches of probation or parolees, completely independent of being around the probation or parole officer that’s responsible for that individual, so it presents an opportunity. And in the other case it could also present some possible abuses perhaps, but you know, it really depends on the state. And so one of the things, and really want kind of generated our focus here, was to get some help, some guidance on really what is the legal case law out there. Because there’s several different articles that talk about the Federal level, sort of Federal case law, but we really wanted to get down more into the weeds and look at the state law, which is where Craig and John have really been helping us out.

Len Sipes:  Well Craig, this has a bit of a dilemma, does it not? I mean we have parole and probation and you mentioned this in the paper, always has had this mixed message – this mixed mission; from the standpoint on one side of the ledger we are law enforcement officers who are as the paper points out, we’re duty bound by law, by state law, to provide surveillance activities, and on the flip side of that ledger is the fact that we are there to help them to reintegrate into society, to do better. So on one side the literature is telling us to form a bond with these individuals and to do cognitive behavioral therapy and to try to help them through the process so they can successfully reintegrate, and on the other hand we’re being told that, “Well go in, and even without reasonable suspicion, you can search that person’s house at any time that you want, with or without a police officer.” So does that bring an inherent conflict in terms of the schizophrenia that comes with so many parole and probation agencies?

Craig Hemmens:  I think you’ve summarized it well. I’m not sure I’d use the term schizophrenia, but you’re exactly right. There’s a real problem with what you might call role distortion. As they said probation and parole officers are really expected to be almost all things to all people – to be out there providing public safety but also to be assisting the offender with reintegration and rehabilitation; and when you ask them to both help them and essentially have the potential to hurt them by investigating their criminal activity, which of course could mean potentially be having their parole revoked, being sent back to prison, I think that does create a great deal of mission distortion, role distortion for the officers. I think it’s something that is very difficult for them to deal with.

Len Sipes:  And John, what is the basis behind the research? So we are looking at this issue of warrantless searches, of probationers and parolees, why? Why is this important?

John Turner:  I think it’s important because initially the roll of probation and parole officers was to sort of help offenders reintegrate back into society and now the role has evolved into more of a law enforcement role. And each state has different guidelines and different policies. Some states allow law enforcement officers to conduct searches on parolees and probationers without probable cause, as to where others allow only probation or parole officers to do these searches. So I think it’s kind of important that we look at the differences between each state and try to analyze why that is.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Adam, now tell me a little bit about this. It’s mission creep to some degree, the idea that you know, the parole and probation agents throughout this country, again there is this, I won’t use the word schizophrenic, I won’t even use the word bi-polar, just this schism. On one side of it he is there to help this individual, on the other side he is there to provide surveillance, to provide what some would refer to as a public safety surveillance role. We have many parole and probation agents throughout the country who carry badges and wear guns; so in one sense the warrantless search is part and parcel to a law enforcement function and one sense it doesn’t lend well to creating a positive interaction with the person that he’s supervising.

Adam Matz:  Yeah, there’s a couple different ways I think you could look at this. Obviously there is potential for mission distortion, particularly if you look at this in terms of partnerships where the emphasis when folks are working with law enforcement, might tend to kind of put more emphasis on the enforcement aspects, surveillance aspects, versus more of the rehabilitative part of it. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case and some of the research does talk about you know, the police officers can kind of help reinforce, sort of referrals, or treatment those kinds of things. It’s a little bit suspect. The research isn’t very definitive on that. It really tends to imply that there’s definitely a surveillance aspect to it.

Now the other part I want to talk about that, to kind of build on what John was saying earlier too, is the idea that part of the issue and part of the reason why partnerships are important and they’re beneficial is that it’s really kind of an issue of coverage, you know? We know that there’s excessive case loads, you know, excessive workloads for probation and parole, so what partnering with law enforcement does, because law enforcement has a greater street presence, it really increases sort of that reach, that extra level of supervision that simply just isn’t possible. So there’s sort of a logistical part to it as well. One more thing I wanted to say too is mission distortion and mission creep, there is a slight distinction there. Mission creep is really where you’re taking on tasks that are beyond what you would normally do. So I think this kind of leaning towards maybe enforcement, that’s definitely more distortion. But the creep would be more like collaborating, sort of the meetings that you do with law enforcement. So there’s multiple aspects to it.

Len Sipes:  We meet within Washington DC, we meet with members of law enforcement every day. Everyday we’re sharing intelligence. Every day we are out there working side by side with law enforcement. We do law enforcement assistance in terms of the serving of warrants, and we just don’t work with the Metropolitan Police Department here in Washington DC, we work with the housing police officers, we work with the FBI, we work with the Secret Service. So we’re constantly working, exchanging information. I’ve been on, joint patrols with our people. We call them community supervision officers here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. So, all of this is supposed to be a good thing because as you just said Adam, it extends the presence of the parole and probation officer.

He or she is not out there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but that police officer is. So oftentimes those police officers will, after going into the home, after identifying who that person is, identifying his risk level or his needs level, will come back to us and say “Look, he’s hanging out in the street corner. We think he’s hanging out with the wrong guys. We think he’s smoking pot. He’s definitely bothering the neighbors. Can you please intervene before we have to intervene?” So there’s a helping role plus a surveillance role all at the same time. Anything I’m saying Craig, that creates problems in terms of your research concerns, worries?

Craig Hemmens:  Well I think you’ve hit on all the issues. I think once we recognize that the probation and parole officers now are expected to again do more than perhaps historically they did, to have a law enforcement or a supervision function, I think that’s there, it exists. I think the partnerships with the police, as Adam had pointed out, have tremendous benefits to the community. So I think those are here to stay. I think what our research was trying to focus on was what are the variations? What are the things that some jurisdictions will allow police officers to do rather than probation parole officers? Of course, probation parole officers generally are permitted to conduct warrantless searches. Usually that’s a condition of probation for the probationer, parolee. So that’s not an issue but it’s extending that sort of warrantless search ability to police officers, who traditionally have not had it. In that sense it’s kind of turning, it’s giving them the greater authority that the probation parole officers have always had to interact with their clientele, but extending it to the police.

Len Sipes:  What was, any one of the three of you, what was after doing this research, what did you come out of it, what were your impressions, what were your fears, your hopes, your dreams when you took a look at this? I mean every state in the United States except Maryland who I’ve represented for fourteen years, every state in the country except Maryland has the right for their parole and probation agents to conduct warrantless searches of the person and of the residence of a probationer or a parolee. So obviously this is something that is in law. That certainly gives the impression that this is something they want done. What’s your impression after doing the research?

Craig Hemmens:  Well I think you’re absolutely, it’s correct, I think you’re absolutely right. For probation and parole officers, this is, they’ve always had this authority and in virtually every state. What we found that is new here, or relatively new, is extending that authority to police officers. Currently it is still only a minority of states that allow police officers to conduct warrantless searches. These thirty-three states do not allow officers to do that. But we found that at least eleven states provide police officers with essentially the same search ability, same search authority as probation and parole officers. Another four states have it in limited situations. So I’d say that while it’s a minority of jurisdictions it’s a pretty significant minority and I think it suggests there is a trend there towards extending the search authority for police officers. Again, giving them…

Len Sipes:  The right to search on the part of parole and probation has been upheld by no less than the Supreme Court, correct?

Craig Hemmens:  Absolutely. There’s no question about that, that they have that authority under the Constitution.

Len Sipes:  And courts are beginning to allow police officers essentially to do the same thing?

Craig Hemmens:  Well, it’s courts and it’s legislatures. In fact in this paper what we’ve found are that there are at least fifteen states that have statutes that have conferred some authority on police officers to conduct warrantless searches in some situations. So it’s not just the courts who sort of extended the authority of probation officers had to police officers but it’s the legislatures who obviously I think are responding to this need to have a greater presence, a greater ability to supervise offenders in the community; and I think that’s why they’re writing these statutes.

Len Sipes:  Well, then it’s probably the third time I’ve been to this point, and but it’s sort of astounding to me at the same time. Part of me understands this, part of me understands this from the standpoint of being a former law enforcement officer, part of me understands this in terms of representing Parole and Probation Agencies for a quarter of a century. So I understand how all this flows. I understand the fact that this is something you probably want done, probably something that needs to be done. But Adam, once again, how do you form that cognitive behavioral therapy relationship with a person under supervision while you’re knocking on the door saying “Hey, I’m going to bring in a cop and we’re gone to search your home, and we’re going to search your presence?”

Adam Matz:  Yeah, actually, you know what, I think a good way to think about this too is who needs to be targeted with these kinds of partnerships, particularly with law enforcement. Where does that apply particularly well? And you mentioned the risk/needs responsivity principles, and those should apply here. I mean these partnerships should really be focused on the folks who need that, you know, that real intense level of supervision. That’s really where this needs to be focused. One of the things that’s kind of interesting, this is just kind of anecdotal comments from some of the literature, but there tends to be this assertion that the presence of law enforcement officers with the probation officers, say when they’re doing a home visit, tends to solicit more respect from the probationer or parolee. In other words they tend to take their supervision a little more seriously.

So if you have an issue with a particular individual that’s sort of out of control, then law enforcement can help sort of support probation and parole. And that’s really where I think these partnerships needs to is law enforcement sort of supporting probation and parole ideally. Not for the other way around. You know, the intent shouldn’t be to give law enforcement more authority, if you will, or more inroads. It should really be based on supporting the Probation and Parole Agency. I think it’s important to keep that distinction.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program. We’re doing a program today on warrantless searches of probationer and parolees. We have three experts at our microphones today. Craig Hemmens, he is the Chair and Professor, departmental Chair and Professor at the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University. www.wsu.edu. John Turner, he is a Doctorial student, again Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State. And Adam Matz has been by our microphone several times, always enjoy having Adam doing a program with us. He is a research associate with the American Probation and Parole Association Council of State Governments. www.appa-net.org.

So Adam, I’m glad you brought that up. What we’re trying to do is focus on high-risk offenders. And that’s something that’s well substantiated by the literature. I’m assuming that even though the document really didn’t address this, I’m assuming that most of these activities, as they are in Washington DC, really are directed towards people who we’re concerned about, who pose a possible risk to public safety and that’s where the police, parole and probation interactions are the strongest, work the best and yes you’re right, in the ride alongs that I’ve been on you really do get the attention of that person under supervision when you bring a police officer into the mix.

Adam Matz:  Yeah and you know, to follow up on that, you know, really from the conversations I’ve had  and from some of the different trainings we’ve done you would think it would be based on the risk level but what I find sometimes is that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it can depend, sometimes folks just like to share a lot of information, or they do these collaboratives, and they don’t really have that focus. So really it depends. And we always have to be careful not to assume that everybody has a risk assessment or fully developed risk assessment. A lot of times that assumption’s made but it’s really not true when you get to some of these really small agencies, so it really depends.

Another thing that’s kind of interesting that I’ve noticed it’s sort of been a development is, there’s some jurisdictions, and this is pretty rare, I haven’t heard of this very much, but there’s some jurisdictions where they’ve used law enforcement as volunteer probation officers and they’ll do like curfew checks for example. That I think is kind of interesting and I wonder if that is maybe a bit too much. And I don’t know, I think that is kind of open for debate.

Len Sipes:  Well John, in the research you talked about the fact that there were some rather successful programs where, that depended upon law enforcement and parole and probation coming together as a joint endeavor. So, you did point out within the research that some of these programs have worked. I don’t think they focused specifically on warrantless searches but philosophically they’re basically saying that parole and probation and law enforcement together as a team provide some value to the community.

John Turner:  Right. That can be the case. But also it had been problematic in that there have been times when law enforcement have tried to persuade probation and parole to work with them in order to conduct warrantless searches. So that’s been one of the problems that we’ve found.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but philosophically parole and probation and law enforcement coming together, we’re basically saying it’s a good thing, Craig?

Craig Hemmens:  Yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment. Again, I think information is so important to all Criminal Justice Agencies, and I think that what folks have recognized is that working together you can get a lot more accomplished, you can learn a lot more about what’s going on. Probation and parole officers are able to share a tremendous amount of information with police officers and vice versa; so I think, and they’re working to the same end, which is both, obviously assisting the offender in the community, but also providing public safety.

Len Sipes:  And Adam, you’re the one who brought up the fact that most Parole and Probation Agencies, and we’ve done shows on this in the past, have extremely high caseloads. When I talk to my counterparts throughout the country, they’re telling me a hundred and fifty to one is not unusual. Here in the District of Columbia it’s fifty to one and below for specialized case loads. But we’re a Federal Agency. We have Federal funding. Our caseloads are much more manageable than what I find throughout the country. In some cases I’ve found there to be two hundred to one. So when you have large case loads throughout the country trying to leverage whatever resources you have in terms of either supervising or trying to help the person under supervision, in many cases I can see where that Parole and Probation Agency would say, “Hey let’s partner up with law enforcement in terms of the surveillance role because there is no way that we can do an adequate job keeping everybody under tabs without the Law Enforcement Agency being involved.”

Adam Matz:  Yeah. I think that’s exactly right and I think it’s a good point. You know, that’s really what kind of brought I think, probation and parole and police agencies together, again if you will, ‘cause originally if you go back in the past a lot of the functions kind of overlap. But really it’s kind of brought folks together and I think the partnerships is a perfect opportunity. It makes complete sense. You can look at sort of the pulling levers’ ideology or methodology behind bringing different Justice Agencies together so everybody’s working together as a coordinated system. So definitely partnerships make sense, and they’re definitely a positive thing. The real thing that I think agencies need to be careful of or pay attention to is just to make sure that when they’re forming these partnerships they have some, you know, agreements together, some MOUs, something to kind of outline what the expectations are, provide some measurable goals, and really make it a coordinated approach. Not you know, sometimes informal stuff’s fine, but it’d be much more preferable if there was some structure around these, ‘cause they can be productive. There’s limited research. We’d like to know more about, you know, how or what makes them effective, what doesn’t work, and you really can’t do that unless it’s formalized. So definitely we support partnerships, we just want to get them to the next level.

Len Sipes:  The document itself, again not published as of yet, Is It Reasonable? A legal review of warrantless searches of probationers and parolees. Now help people understand this because again you’re going to get people who are very familiar with parole and probation listening to this program and you’re going to get students and professors and aides to mayors, governors, even congressional aides, in Washington, who are going to listen to this program. Part of this involves some very specific legal terms. You know, I was trained in probable cause, what leads a reasonable person to believe a crime has been committed, then you have reasonable suspicion. What some police officers use who search people on the street if they have a bulge in their pocket and they’re in a high crime area and the person is known to have been involved in criminal activity before, you can, that can provide you their reasonable suspicion in terms of searching that person. Do these terms have an impact when it comes to warrantless searches of probationers and parolees either by parole and probation agents or law enforcement officers?

Adam Matz:  They do. They’re still very much in play. If I can reference the most recent Supreme Court cases dealing with this. In US versus Knights the Supreme Court allowed police officers to search a probationer, to search his home, so because the condition, the probation condition allowed it, and they had reasonable suspicion rather than that probable cause, which as you said is a greater amount of evidence or a greater amount of indication of criminal activity. So the Knights’ decision allows police officers with just reasonable suspicion to conduct a very thorough search of a probationer’s home. In the Samson case, decided a few years after that, that came out of California, which is one of the sates that has a statute which allows police officers to conduct completely warrantless searches without even reasonable suspicion or probable cause of a parolee. And a police officer took advantage of that statute, used that statute to stop a parolee and conduct a search, again, without reasonable suspicion or any indication of criminal activity. So while most states still require at least reasonable suspicion or sometimes probable cause, there are a handful of states at this point that have eliminated that altogether and just said that warrantless searches by police officers, and this is without probation officers present, warrantless searches by police officers on their own of somebody on parole, is fine.

Len Sipes:  Do they have to have, does a parole and probation agent, and I know we’re talking about all fifty states now except the state of Maryland, parole and probation agents, do they have the right even without reasonable suspicion, they do it simply because they’re there, do they have the right without reason, without any justification to search that individual and to search the residence?

Adam Matz:  The answer in general is…

John Turner:  Some states.

Len Sipes:  John?

Adam Matz:  Go ahead John.

John Turner:  Oh I was just going to say we’ve found that in some states they do. In some states they’re allowed to search the residence or the person or even the vehicle without reasonable suspicion at all. But in the majority of states they have to have some sort of reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a search.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so in most states they do have to have reasonable suspicion. They just cannot go into a house or search a person.

John Turner:  Right.

Craig Hemmens:  Unless, and there are those states which have conditions of probation and parole which say that would include allowing warrantless searches, so if there is a probation or parole condition where essentially the offender grants his consent in advance to a warrantless search, those provisions, those conditions have been upheld by courts.

Len Sipes:  Now, but for the law enforcement side of it there seems to be a gradual increase in responsibility unless the state or the local jurisdiction specifically provides legislation saying that they can do warrantless searches without reasonable suspicion, without probable cause. There seems to be a graduated list of reasons as to whether or not police officers can do a warrantless search of the individual and of the premises.

Craig Hemmens:  That’s correct. At this point the majority of states, the mass majority, I think at least thirty three, do not allow police officers to conduct warrantless searches. But that’s thirty three out of fifty. There are at least fifteen states we’ve found, who do allow police officers to conduct warrantless searches in some situations without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Len Sipes:  But what if they have probable cause? Do they have to wait for a warrant? Can they say “I know this person’s on parole. I have probable cause but rather than play it safe and go and get a warrant, I’m just going to go into that person’s house now because I know he’s on parole and I have probable cause?”

Craig Hemmens:  Well unless the jurisdiction specifically authorizes a warrantless search, if you have probable cause, I would say no. The courts would still, typically courts allow warrantless searches if there’s probable cause and an exigent circumstance, some justification for not going and getting a warrant. I don’t think the courts have yet moved to the point where the fact of the person who’s on probation or parole is in and of itself an exigent circumstance.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Adam, in the final minutes of the program when we only have two or three minutes left of the program, does this get us back into the debate of what parole and probation officers could be, should be? I mean the overwhelming majority of the literature I read and the conversations I have are along the lines of helping that individual cross that bridge, breaking down barriers, finding a way to find the right programs for that person, ending the rate of recidivism. And on the flip side here we are talking about in many states badge carrying, gun carrying, parole and probation officers doing warrantless searches. So this will be the fourth time I’m bringing it up and the last time I’ll bring it up, but again, does this again get back to the conflict of what a parole and probation officer could be or should be?

Adam Matz:  Well, I think what it really gets at is, and what you’re getting at really is a need for a balance in the approach that officers take. And I think as you pointed out and most people know, it really does vary across the country. You have some states where it’s very much a law enforcement kind of Probation or Parole Agency and then other ones it’ll be very much social work. And we know some agencies are, you know, armed with firearms and other non-lethal weapons but other ones are not, so it really varies but I think regardless…

Len Sipes:  Just a couple seconds.

Adam Matz:  Sure. Regardless though, the opportunity here, this presents an opportunity for law enforcement and probation and parole to work together and it’s beneficial on all fronts when it’s done correctly and methodically. So you can increase protection of not only the probation and parole officer but you can also increase safety for the law enforcement and you can also help ensure the safety of the probation or parolee.

Len Sipes:  Adam, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve done a show today on warrantless searches in parole and probation. Our guest today Craig Hemmens, Chair and Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Washington State University. John Turner, a doctorial student there at Washington State, and Adam Matz, Research Associate from the American Probation and Parole Association. 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.

[Audio Ends]


The Impact of Criminal Justice Funding-National Criminal Justice Association

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/05/impact-criminal-justice-funding-national-criminal-justice-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Lenard Sipes. Today’s show is the impact of criminal justice funding, produced by the National Criminal Justice Association. We’re going to be addressing the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The National Criminal Justice Association represents the states and territories as the statewide criminal justice planning agencies. Today we’re looking at the tremendous impact of federal funding as to innovative programs across the country. We have three guests spread throughout the country at our microphones via Skype. We have Carlton Moore; he is the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. We have Jeanne Smith; she is the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice the Colorado Department of Public Safety. And we have David Steingraber; he is the Senior Policy Advisor for the National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. All three, to Carlton and to Jeanne and to David, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Moore:  Thank you.

Jeanne Smith:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  All right.

David Steingraber:  Yeah. Thanks, Len.

Len Sipes:  Look, this is an extraordinarily important program. We have funding, and I know there’s all sorts of different aspects to this funding, and when we say federal funding. But today we’re addressing specifically the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. This is absolutely vital to the proper functioning of criminal justice agencies throughout the country, specifically at the state and local level. And so the National Criminal Justice Association is the association that’s been fighting for these funds for decades. And the National Criminal Justice Association finds out what works, what’s innovative, what’s new, what can reduce recidivism, what can protect police officers, what can lower crime, and feeds that information to the rest of the country. David, do you want to start with it?

David Steingraber:  Sure. Lenard, as you correctly noted, there are a number of other federal justice assistance funding programs, they tend to come and go over the years, but the Byrne JAG Justice Assistance Grant Program has endured perhaps the longest and it offers the most flexibility and versatility to the states. It’s currently authorized by Congress at over one billion dollars, but the actual funding appropriations have been closer to 500 million over the years, and in recent years it’s dropped due to primarily the deficit reduction efforts on the part of Congress to something just under 400 million. But that may not, in the grand scheme of things, reflect a large portion of the funds spent across the country on the justice system. As a matter of fact, calculations would probably run somewhere around 1% to 2% of all the money spent in the justice system. But it’s that marginal money that really can make a difference in terms of allowing states to address emerging problems and to particularly deploy more effective and innovative strategies to improve the justice system.

Len Sipes:  Project HOPE in Hawaii comes to mind. This is a program that really provides drug treatment and accountability, strict accountability to people caught up on probation, the riskier probation population who was in need of substance abuse treatment. But they’ve been able to do something tremendous, they reduce recidivism tremendously, they reduce technical violations tremendously. They have a wonderful impact in terms of people successfully completing probation, not going back into the prison system. And states throughout the country are starting to pick up on this and to run with it. And they ran with it because they found out about it because of the National Criminal Justice Association and it was funded by the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. So that’s just one example of what’s happening throughout the United States in terms of innovative criminal justice programs. Jeanne, do you want to come in and talk about others? Jeanne Smith –

Jeanne Smith:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Director of Criminal Justice Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Jeanne Smith:  Hawaii HOPE is an excellent example of a program that on its face you think this has to work, but going in and getting taxpayer money to fund it without being able to prove it works yet is the challenge. And that’s why JAG funding is so important, because it gives us an opportunity to experiment with something to be able to prove to the taxpayer entities for funding that it works. In Colorado, for instance, we wanted to change the way that probation officers and parole officers work with offenders, once again, trying to reduce recidivism. And we found that their interviewing techniques were critical to developing a rapport that would cause the offender to want to change their behavior. So we were able through JAG funding to start a center that really trained criminal justice professionals in how to work with offenders, which is not something you generally get in school. It has been proven successful to the point that the state has now come in and adopted it and it is funded through the state general fund, but it never would’ve happened if we couldn’t start the implementation as an experiment with grant funding.

Len Sipes:  Carlton Moore, you’re the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. Tell me and tell the audience what happens at the state level that’s the process of bringing everybody together, the process of planning jointly, everybody at the table, everybody taking a look at as to what the research has to say and using federal funding to plan for innovative programs. Tell me about that process.

Carlton Moore:  Okay. First let me just say something. We have a fire alarm going off in our building right now. So I’m going to answer your question and then see if I actually need to respond to this fire alarm or not.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Carlton Moore:  But I just want to kind of build on what Jeanne said about the ability to use Byrne JAG funds to implement things that you don’t otherwise have budgeted in local government or in state government. So here in Ohio we have a number of large cities across our state who have gang issues, whether we have gang homicide issues or felonious assault issues or gangs are responsible for a wide array of criminal justice problems that exist across our state. And so what we were able to do, one of the things that we used Byrne JAG for was to take a strategy that had been tried and true in other parts of the country and implement that here in Ohio. In some places it’s been called ceasefire or pulling levers, it’s been known as The Boston Miracle. It was first implemented here in Ohio in Cincinnati. It was called the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence. It caused a substantial reduction in gang related homicides. All these years later we’re still looking at about a 41% reduction in overall gang related homicides in the city of Cincinnati. Not only did we take Byrne JAG to copy that intervention from another state and then to implement in a single city, we then took what we learned from that city and implemented it all across our state. So in places like Toledo, in Youngstown, in Canton, and Dayton, these cities have all seen tremendous reductions in gang related homicides, and that’s all a result of, one, the network that exists actually learned about this strategy at the NCJA forum in Baltimore, and our ability to make funding decisions with Byrne JAG because of the flexibility that it provides to us to be able to quickly put programs into practice all across the state.

Len Sipes:  So the bottom line in all of this, and this is something I want the audience to know, it’s not Washington DC that’s coming up with the true innovation and the true driving force within the criminal justice system, it’s what’s happening in Cincinnati, what’s happening in Baltimore, what’s happening Honolulu, what’s happening in the different states, and to have the money to try different things, to try new ways of doing things, to be creative, and that innovation is going to come from the county level, that innovation is going to come from the city level, and that innovation is going to come from the state level. But that innovation is only possible if the money is there to try new things, correct?

Jeanne Smith:  That’s right, Len. And you touched on another point that I think is very important. That it’s not the federal government coming in and telling you how to do something. It’s giving locals and states the ability to develop their plans around what the needs are, what the challenges are in each region. Carlton just mentioned a number of cities in Ohio that were able to benefit from a particular program. There may be some cities in Colorado that could benefit from the same thing. But there are others, particularly our rural versus our more urban areas that have completely different challenges. And what they need is the flexibility to plan around their local resources and their local criminal challenges.

Len Sipes:  I noticed in the report that that’s exactly what was happening in one state in particular, assisting rural or local law enforcement agencies in less populated areas to deal with drug dealers coming out of urban areas where they’re catching some heat and going into these areas that are considered safer. Heroin comes to mind, meth comes to mind, the fact that this is happening throughout the country and this is they’re trying to figure innovative ways of taking those resources or these strategies that happen in larger urban areas and applying them to rural areas. I thought that that was pretty doggone interesting.

The report is called The Impact of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, How Byrne JAG Is Changing the Criminal Justice System, read the report from the National Criminal Justice Association. So what I’m also finding is that there’s a lot innovation, a lot of effort on two areas, number one, high crime areas, what can we do to focus police and other law enforcement resources, community resources, collaborative resources, and number two, this whole issue of offender reentry, to stop the flow of people going back into the prison systems and to see if we can safely maintain them in the community. There’s a lot of innovation around those. Project HOPE, again, in Hawaii certainly does come to mind. But there are dozens and dozens of others.

David Steingraber:  Well, Len, let me add, I think as both Jeanne and Carlton had implied, one of the great force multipliers is the fact that through the National Criminal Justice Association, information about successful programs can be made available to states who’re experiencing some of the same problems. And clearly I doubt there’s a state out there that isn’t experiencing the strain of correction budgets, their state corrections budgets and local corrections budgets. So, something like a justice reinvestment initiative that really focuses on reducing recidivism can deliver substantial benefits and I think everybody needs to learn about those success stories and be able to adopt that strategy and the programs that accomplish that.

Len Sipes:  But there is a state of the art, right? I mean the bottom line is that we at the state and local level, we are coming up with a collective sense as to what it is we should do, what is the state of the art, and we’re learning how to adapt and do better through application of state of the art related programs, through the application of research, through the application of best practices. But, again, the point is, if you don’t have the money, the budget problem within this country regarding criminal justice agencies has been tremendous. Somebody asked me a little while ago what was the most significant issue facing the criminal justice system over the course of the last ten years and I had a very quick response, budget. Law enforcement, community corrections, mainstream corrections, prosecutorial offices, juvenile justice agencies have all taken a huge hit. If it wasn’t for federal funding I don’t think we would have the innovation, because locals and county agencies and state agencies are strapped for funds. So these grant programs from the Department of Justice as coordinated through the National Criminal Justice Association they’re just not important, they’re essential.

Carlton Moore:  Yeah. I think you’re right about that. The budget problem that most states have gone through really to me it serves as a great opportunity for us, because the responsibilities that folks had prior to the budget problems have not been reduced, those responsibilities are still there. And so what we need to figure out a way to do is to take the limited resources that we do have and figure out how to make smarter investments in criminal justice. And that’s one role that the SAA can play, not only as kind of the clearing house of innovation, but at the same time, the convener of solving problems and making sure that you’re bringing all the right people to the table.

I want to give you just one little example of something that we’re doing in Ohio. Earlier you talked about smaller and rural communities and some of the difficulties that they have. The reality is that in large communities, while they do at times need a push and they certainly need support. If they’re aware of evidence-based practices or if they need analytical support, very often that is available to them if they choose to make that a budget priority. Where we see that difficulty is in smaller communities who don’t have that type of budget flexibility. So what we created in Ohio, it’s called the Ohio Consortium of Crime Science, it’s a partnership between my office and colleges and universities across the state who have expertise in implementation of evidence-based and promising practices.

And basically what we have done with this program is if you are, if, Len, if you’re the chief in a small community and you’re having a specific crime problem and you want to know if there’s something out there that can address your problem you can submit that request to my office, we have a team of experts who will review that, we’ll identify the best practice to solve the particular problem that you’re dealing with, then we will take it a step further, because we have concerns about implementation. We will hire someone to come to your community and help you implement the solution, because the one thing that we want to make sure of is this. If people have the will to implement evidence-based practices, we want to make sure that knowledge and resources are not the reasons that they don’t get an opportunity to do that.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce our guests. Jeanne Smith; she is the Director Division of Criminal Justice, Colorado Department of Public Safety. We have Carlton Moore, Director Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. And you’ve done a great job, Carlton, through that smoke alarm. And we have David Steingraber; he is a Senior Policy Advisor National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is funding, the impact of criminal justice funding on the states, on the counties, it’s produced by the National Criminal Justice Association. But we all agree, ladies and gentlemen, that the point in all of this is that there is a state of the art.

After decades and decades of research we are coalescing around a variety of things that we believe do work, have the best chance of working. So it’s a matter of making sure that everybody at the state level, the county level, the local level, larger agencies, rural agencies, are aware of what the research has to say and the best way of implementing that and, again, that is happening because of the grant system, the federal grant system, specifically today, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The fact that that exists allows the states to help local agencies and allows local agencies to develop innovative programs, and that’s all based upon an acknowledged state of the art, and that’s all based upon pulling in partnerships, collaborations, everybody coming together, everybody looking at the table, having that argument, having that discussion, and coming to agreements, right?

Jeanne Smith:  Absolutely.

David Steingraber:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You know? And where do we go to from there? I mean when I started in the criminal justice system as a Maryland state trooper 40 years ago, we had no clue as to what was happening in Ohio, we had no clue as to what was happening in Colorado. And so we have now this general consensus in law enforcement, in corrections, in juvenile justice. Within the court systems here seems to be an emerging bubble of knowledge that all of us can pretty much agree on.

Carlton Moore:  [OVERLAY] –

Jeanne Smith:  I think that’s –

Carlton Moore:  I’m sorry. Go ahead, Jeanne.

Jeanne Smith:  I think that’s really true to the extent that there are certain practices that have been shown to be very effective; others along the way have been discarded because they’ve been shown to be ineffective. One of the benefits for Byrne JAG funding is that it can be used for assessment and evaluation. You talked earlier about the budget limitations and how that has really caused a new look at the justice system and how we’re spending our funding, but it is also constrained funding things beyond direct services, because when you only have one dollar you’ve got to make sure that dollar is going to get a direct benefit.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Jeanne Smith:  So you discard things like assessment planning and evaluating, because those don’t have the immediate payback that you see for a direct service. So with the JAG funding we’re able to go in and assist with dollars that will assess a program and evaluate whether or not it’s working, and then through the auspices of NCJA and others, share that information, not just on the successes, but on the failures, so we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

Len Sipes:  And that’s so important, because that’s what we’ve done throughout the criminal justice system, is we’ve been on our own. And now through federal funding and now through the National Criminal Justice Association we know what’s going on in probation or law enforcement or juvenile justice. So if there’s, if Juneau, Alaska needs to come to grips with a law enforcement issue, they could turn to the National Criminal Justice Association, they can turn to the other statewide criminal justice planning agencies and find out what the best fit is for their particular situation. David?

David Steingraber:  Well, I, like you, have a long history in law enforcement. And I do have to say this, the situation we’re faced with today offers a great deal more in at least a potential ability to share information. I think that where there’s a willingness to kind of look at innovative ways I think the tools are there to do it. I think Carlton kind of summed it up. The budget constraints we’re dealing with right now are likely to become the new normal. And in that context we’ve got to kind of reinvent the way we approach things and that provides the motivation to look for innovative and evidence-based practices. And at least it is my hope and my belief that the National Criminal Justice Association, which is really a collective effort by all the state planning agencies, to kind of provide that resource, both in the way of direct technical assistance in areas like planning and evaluation, and then just sharing information about successful programs such as the document that you’ve referred to several times, is a good example of highlighting the programs that have worked across the country.

Len Sipes:  But there’s been an almost continuous 20 year reduction in crime. Now, for those of us who lived through the 60s and the 70s and the 80s, for those of us who were in the criminal justice system the entire time, it almost seemed at a point where it was hopeless, crime rates were going up year after year after year, and now for the last 20 we’ve had an almost continuous decrease. And I understand fully that in some cities throughout the country and in some urban areas throughout the country, people just have no recognition of any crime reductions at all. And I understand that crime is still a problem within the United States, but there’s been a huge reduction across the board, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and according to the FBI, two national measures of crime in the United States, has been, again, both indices indicate an almost 20 year continuous reduction in crime. And I think that’s because we’ve gotten smarter, we’ve gotten better, we’ve done a better job of passing information on. And, again, that’s one of the reasons why I like the National Criminal Justice Association as much as I do. You’ve got to share the successes as to what’s happening. If you’ve got a great program, again, not to beat the horse to death, but Project HOPE in Hawaii that has huge reductions in recidivism, if you have a program like that you need to get the word out.

David Steingraber:  Well, and let me say that National Criminal Justice Association really delivers the message in both directions. We like to let those out in the field know what’s working. But Congress and the funders of this program also need to know what’s effective and the importance and significance of the Byrne JAG funding. And I think NCJA is the collective voice of not just the state planning agencies, but the broad criminal justice community as a whole is really important, because Congress needs to learn about what’s working.

Len Sipes:  But does everybody understand that? Carlton, go ahead.

David Steingraber:  Does everybody understand what [INDISCERNIBLE 00:24:08].

Len Sipes:  Carlton, go ahead, please.

Carlton Moore:  Oh, I was just going to talk on a little bit of a different topic, kind of piggybacking on what David was talking about. And that is, you know this movement towards looking at the research and the movement towards evidence-based practices, that movement in terms of the grant programs has also the effect of changing the field. So it’s kind of a cultural shift in terms of people saying, “Well, look, this is the direction that criminal justice is moving, and so I need to move in that direction, because that’s also the direction resources are moving.” And we want to be responsible to those who provide the funding, to Congress, to let them know that we’re making good investments out in the field and that we’re doing our best to reduce funding of programs that do not work and continue to fund programs that do work. And I just want to talk about just one program in Ohio called the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium. And this is a collaboration of the eight largest cities in Northern Ohio. And when we started this program back in I think it was 2006 or 2007 that this started very few of the agencies had analytical support.

And now when we go to a meeting and start talking about implementation of some strategy, it’s not me, it’s the chiefs in the room, it’s the sheriffs in the room, it’s the people from the US Attorney’s Office. And the first thing that we’ll talk about is how to identify this as a problem, so where’s the evidence that there is a problem, what is the solution that we’re looking at, if we have a solution in mind, is it evidence-based, and we’re also looking at what – and we’re getting that information from the analysts; the analysts who in many of these organizations didn’t exist six or seven years ago, and now all of these organizations have made this change where the analysts play an important role in the organization. Not just people who’re off in a room together, but they play a role in terms of when the cops in the street are asking for analytical support and, “Where’s the proof and where do we need to go?”. So this has made an enormous change or impact in resource allocation as well, not just in funding, but where do people put their people in order to solve problems in their communities.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s it, information sharing, getting the word out to everybody else throughout the country. We only have a couple minutes left. Any final conclusions from everybody as to what this means in terms of federal funding, what the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program means to everybody, what planning means to everybody, what everybody coming together and sitting at the table and forging an agreement and getting that information out to states and localities throughout the country, anybody have any final conclusions as to all that?

Jeanne Smith:  Len, just to get back to the point you were making about the crime rates in the 70s and 80s and how that drove public policy – generally, the policy it drove was incarceration, and that’s a very costly remedy. What we have done with a lot of the programs funded through Byrne JAG is to show that there are other alternatives at various points in the criminal justice system, from prevention all the way through to reducing recidivism after a prison sentence. What we’ve done is be able to show that there are alternatives, there’s a better way to do things. We don’t have to do it the same way we’ve done it for the last 20 to 30 years.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do want to improve the criminal justice system, we do want to lessen the burden on taxpayers and yet at the same time create a more effective criminal justice system, and I think that’s what we’re beginning to do. David?

David Steingraber:  Well, let’s remember the criminal justice system needs to be measured in qualitative terms as well as quantitative terms. I mean it’s a unique system in that we are really needing to function within a constitutional framework, guarantees the rights and due process for everybody. So I think there’s, I think we’re in an environment right now where it’s sort of the perfect storm where we can make all this happen. But I think we still have to, I think the reality is there still is some dogma out there in terms of what works and how to deal with crime, and I think we just have to keep hammering away at it. I hope Congress gets the message that the investment, however limited it is in Byrne JAG funding, is a great investment in helping the states address their criminal justice issues.

Len Sipes:  We only have like ten seconds. It’s essential. The funding level is essential, correct?

David Steingraber:  Absolutely.

Carlton Moore:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  All right, I want to thank everybody for being with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests have been Jeanne Smith, a Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, Colorado Department of Public Safety; Carlton Moore, the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services; and David Steingraber, the Senior Policy Advisor National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Criminal Justice. I’d like to thank everybody. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Criminal Justice Best Practices-Washington State Institute for Public Policy

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/06/criminal-justice-best-practices-washington-state-institute-public-policy/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes, today’s show is an examination of best practices at the state level. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been looking forward to doing this show for the longest time. At our microphones is Elizabeth Drake, a Senior Research Associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Elizabeth, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Elizabeth Drake: Thank you, Leonard. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Len Sipes: I appreciate the fact of you guys being here. Ladies and gentlemen, let me put this in perspective for a second. The State of Washington may be the best example of an exhaustive examination of research at the state and national levels to guide public practice as to criminal justice and additional public initiatives. The research that they’ve offered over the course of decades is easy to read, it’s easy to understand, and they contain a cost-benefit analysis. So even though we’re talking about the experience today in the state of Washington, we are talking about an organization that has had a profound impact, profound influence all throughout the Unites States. Whenever I get into debates or discussions about criminal justice issues and criminal justice practices, the research from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy always come up. Elizabeth, anything I’m saying is an exaggeration to you?

Elizabeth Drake: No. It’s definitely, that’s not an exaggeration. Thank you for the nice thoughts.

Len Sipes: I don’t know of a state that has had this impact. I mean there’s the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. They’ve been around for a long time. Ohio has been around for a long time. Different states are known for doing good research. But no state, no individual state organization, research organization, has had the impact that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has, and I’m sort of wondering why that is. I think I know why that is, but you tell me.

Elizabeth Drake: You know, I think it could be a couple of different things. I think we’re set up pretty uniquely unlike other states. I think from our experience in talking with other states and sort of traveling around and doing presentations in other states, we’re set up, we were created by the legislature in 1983, and we do nonpartisan research directly for the legislature, so all of our projects are assigned to us through policy bills or budget bills. We also have a board of directors and so our projects can be assigned in that capacity as well. And so I’m not certain that many other states are set up quite like ours. And so that could be one possibility.

We have also been around a long time, like I said, since 1983. So we started our work doing criminal justice projects and have been around since then. We do research in a lot of other areas as well, including education and child welfare and adult behavioral health services and now in public health and other areas as well. So I think sort of growing in that kind of grassroots way, doing research and then getting assignments directly from the legislature and expanding into other areas is sort of what has kind of given us this maybe, different, capability than other states. I don’t know.

Len Sipes: I think it’s that plus. I have sat with folks from the Urban Institute, from the Department of Justice, from lots of other organizations, and the question I always ask is, “Why can’t your research, your very complicated, esoterical, methodologically laden, extraordinarily complex research, why can’t your stuff be as simple to read, as easy to read as the material coming out of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy?” I think it’s the fact that you communicate to the average person. You don’t have to be a criminologist, you don’t have to be a sociologist, you don’t have to be a methodologist to read and understand the impact of various programs and whether or not they’re cost-effective an whether or not we recommend implementing them. And if you implement we believe that this, that there’s a 15 degree, a 15% reduction in recidivism, and we think that you can expect a similar reduction in recidivism. I think it’s the clarity of the material that you create is the secret sauce.

Elizabeth Drake: Len, you’re absolutely right. And that’s something that our Director, it’s something that he tells us all the time. It’s the way that we present our findings, either in presentations or in reports, it has to be readable to the everyday average person, because it really is complicated. It’s complicated message wise, the research, the things that we’re doing, and all of that information is really important. That kind of stuff goes in the appendix. When you’re conveying bottom line information to legislators or policymakers, it absolutely comes down to that front summary box and summarizing things in a very clear and concise way. And I think also a lot of it too is the fact that we are nonpartisan researchers. So there’s a lot of thought that goes into every single word that ends up being put to paper, and we have a really serious editing process to make sure that when we’re writing reports, reports are getting read by several of us in the office, and just to make sure that, “Does this make sense to someone who would pick this up, they don’t anything about this particular topic?”. So that really is something that I think is an important key ingredient to conveying information to policymakers.

Len Sipes: And as I talk to the Urban Institute, and as I talk to the folks over at the Department of Justice, and as I talk to other organizations, they cite your research in terms of the clarity and simplicity, and they’re beginning to try to emulate it. I think Urban has done an extraordinarily good job of taking the complex and making it simple. So let’s move on a little bit, because, but I do want to give the audience a sense as to why you guys have been as successful as you have, a state public policy institute driving the agenda, not just for the state of Washington, but for the rest of us throughout the United States. Okay.

So all of this came out of the Washington State legislature. You get your assignments from them and they say, “Hey, we want you to take a look at recidivism, we want you to take a look at all the programs that apply to people on supervision, offenders on community supervision, programs in prison, and we want you tell us what programs work, what programs don’t, what programs will be cost-effective, how much can we expect for every dollar we invest, and what is the expected percentage decrease in terms of these programs?” And you just don’t look at State of Washington, you look at, you do what we used to literature review. You look at programs that are methodologically correct, which means they’re done properly throughout the Unites States and beyond to come to your conclusions, correct?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, correct. We got two kinds of assignments I would sort of put into two different categories. We will often get outcome assignments to look at outcome or do an outcome evaluation, specifically in Washington, that’s sort of one research project that we might get. But oftentimes, more often lately what we’ve been getting are these assignments to look at systematically what works to improve outcomes – either programs that are effective at reducing recidivism, programs that are effective at increasing high school graduation rates or decreasing substance abuse, reducing child abuse and neglect. And so you’re right in that we take the systematic approach to reviewing the research literature and coding all of those studies to see whether or not, say, for example: Are drug courts effective at reducing crime?

And so we take this average effect of studies that meet our minimum standards of rigor, and we have these minimum standards of rigor because we want to be able to reliably provide sound advice to our legislature. And so if we can’t have confidence in a study in terms of its rigor, we don’t include those studies in our systematic review. So that’s something that’s sort of a what works approach, looking at the literature to see what works to improve outcomes and then doing this cost-benefit analysis. And we have a piece of software that we’ve developed in-house that computes benefit-cost statistics, benefits to taxpayers in the state of Washington and return on investment statistics so that we have a sense of how these programs – that’s an internally consistent approach and apples to apples approach so that we can compare different policy options. So then policymakers can look at this sort of consumer reports type list to see which programs have the highest return on investment. So that’s sort of our two step research approach when we’re doing these systematic reviews of the literature.

Len Sipes: And now we have an entire audience that’s sitting there going, “All right, Leonard, stop plugging them and praising them, and, Elizabeth, stop talking about your process.” They want to know from your findings what have been some of the most effective programs in terms of reducing recidivism, coming out of the prison system or being caught up in the criminal justice system. What are some of the most effective programs? That wasn’t on the list of what we were going to talk about. But I just said to myself, “My heavens, we’re driving our listeners crazy.” They want to know what in terms of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s research, what programs truly are effective.

Elizabeth Drake: Sure, yeah. So for adult corrections a lot of our work has really been focused on corrections in the criminal justice system. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one program that has a pretty return on investment, pretty effective at reducing recidivism. Different drug treatments, therapeutic communities for chemically dependent offenders, sex offender treatment, supervision when it’s coupled with treatment is fairly effective, and supervision when it’s focused on the risks and needs and responsivity to offenders, that kind of supervision is even more effective than just traditional supervision that’s more of a surveillance style. In the juvenile justice system some of the programs that are heavily invested in here in Washington are invested in, we’ve invested in them, or the state has invested in them because of how effective they are at reducing crime. And some of those programs include aggression or placement training or functional family therapy, multi-systemic therapy.

We have a pretty comprehensive list on our website. These days we’re putting our benefit-cost results directly to our website so that users of our work can find them really easily. We have these sort of reports over time that are static reports. And they’re sort of in a library on our website. But our benefit-cost results now are available on our benefit-cost page to user. So you can click on any of these research areas: Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare, General Prevention of Substance Abuse and see which programs are the most effective. And we rank them by the highest return on investment.

Len Sipes: Elizabeth, what is the website for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy?

Elizabeth Drake: It’s www.wsipp.wa.gov.

Len Sipes: Okay. That’s www.wspp –

Elizabeth Drake: Ipp.

Len Sipes: Ipp?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah.

Len Sipes: .wa.gov.

Elizabeth Drake: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay, cool. And one of the things that I discovered in terms of your research was that the that one program in particular that had the highest rate of recidivism reduction were early intervention programs with juvenile offenders working with the parents and working with the offender himself or herself when they were juveniles. I was sort of astounded that by, well, just the impactful program was that particular program. Am I right or wrong?

Elizabeth Drake: Which program are you talking about?

Len Sipes: I don’t remember the name of the program.

Elizabeth Drake: Okay.

Len Sipes: It specifically dealt with going in and dealing with a parent or parents –

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Of the person caught up in the criminal justice system.

Elizabeth Drake: Well, and there’s several. I would say in the juvenile system many of those interventions take this sort of multi-systemic approach, multi-systemic therapy, functional family therapy, multi-dimensional treatment foster care. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they are so effective is that they’re taking an approach that includes both the youth, the parents, the schools, and it’s a multi-dimensional approach. So several of those programs are on our list and being done here in Washington State.

Len Sipes: Well, but were they right in terms of the fact that they seem to have higher percentage decreases in recidivism than other programs designed for adults?

Elizabeth Drake: I don’t know about design for adults, but definitely compared to other juvenile justice interventions, yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. I mean that’s what I came out of it. I came out of it with most of the adult programs will give you reductions in the 10 to 15% range. And several of the early intervention programs dealing with the mom and dad or just the mom of the juvenile offender caught up in the criminal justice system, oftentimes those were in the 20 and higher percent reduction levels. So it seemed to me just as a layperson, that reading that seems to say that if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, intervene early in the lives of people caught up in the criminal justice system. I know that statement carries baggage because we don’t want to overly involve ourselves in their lives and we want it to be appropriate because we don’t want to start focusing on lower level people, we want to focus on higher level people, but nevertheless the juvenile justice initiatives seemed to have a greater impact than the adult initiatives.

Elizabeth Drake: Right. And I would say that that’s probably true for two reasons. One being that you’re intervening with the youth when they’re in their sort of high crime years, that peak of committing crimes; and over time generally people will tend to age out of crime. So that’s one reason why I think that we see a higher return on our investments for these juvenile justice programs. I think the second reason is that we’re trying to take advantage of what the literature tells us, not only about programs and their effectiveness, most of these studies specifically measure the impact of the intervention on crime. But at the Institute for Public Policy we also look at how outcomes may impact other outcomes.

So for example, what we have found is that when we look at the literature that says that if you can get a youth to graduate from high school they’re less likely to commit crime. And so in our cost-benefit model for those juvenile justice interventions we’re able to monetize that information about high school graduation. And so benefits that are included in those particular programs include not only crime benefits but education benefits from graduating high school.

Len Sipes: Our guest today is Elizabeth Drake; she is a Senior Research Associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. They produce some of the best research and most impactful research, not just for that particular state, but throughout the rest of the country. We follow every report that comes out fairly religiously, www.wsipp.wa.gov is the website. Did I get that correct, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Drake: Yes.

Len Sipes: Www.wsipp.wa.gov. Now, Elizabeth, I do want to talk to you about the ramifications, the real-world ramifications about doing evidence-based research. All of us talk a good game throughout the United States in terms of doing evidence-based research, in terms of doing best practices research, but Washington State is one of the few states out there that really has embraced it and implemented it. Have you ever gotten any pushback from it? I just talked about juvenile offenders and intervening early in the lives of juveniles and intervening with their parents.

But, again, I mean there’s people out there – as soon as I said that said, “Wait a minute, Leonard, we don’t want to be intervening in the lives of all juveniles.” Most of these people age out. I was reading a Department of Justice report yesterday about how most age out without continuing, without being involved in the criminal justice system. I know the research is very clear that we’re supposed to be focusing on high-risk people, not necessarily low-risk people. Does the process of putting out research and giving all this advice, is it uniformly embraced or does it come with stumbles?

Elizabeth Drake: No. It’s definitely not uniformly embraced. And I think what I would say is that our success in getting our state to use research really hinges upon building relationships with legislators and legislative staff. And I think when we receive an assignment and we can provide information that the legislature can rely upon and know that this is nonpartisan, unbiased information; I think it’s something that we get from both chambers and both parties. It’s helpful to them. And so I think that’s one of the reasons why we can be successful in certain areas and we’ve been particularly successful in corrections, both adult corrections and juvenile justice, but not necessarily in others. And I think it does go back to sort of that grassroots, homegrown, you’re building these relationships over time. So it’s not just an overnight thing.

We’re starting to I would say get more assignments in education. Part of that is hinging upon the fact that our state supreme court ruled last year that the state of Washington was not fully funding basic education. And so now I think that budget decisions are having to be made about how public education is being financed. And so people are starting to use our work a little bit more in education as well. We’ve gotten an assignment with the Initiative 502 that was passed by that state of Washington, our first assignment that we’ve received through an initiative actually for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and we were named in that initiative to study that implications of legalizing marijuana. And I would say that there are people who are skeptical about who we are and what we’re doing in that particular project. It’s a very long-term project. And it just will take time in building those relationships I think and having people understand what it is that we do exactly.

Len Sipes: But I’ll give you an example. Again, all of us are supposed to be evidence-based practitioners, all of us are supposed to be research-based practitioners. And we like to believe that we here at my organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is that we are best practices based, we are research based. But boot camps, especially for younger offenders, the research says overwhelmingly that they don’t work, yet they remain popular throughout the country. So there seems to be a point where you can say, “Hey, this is the best practice; this is what the research tells us.” And people are going to say, “Well, we don’t care. I like this program. I’m going to move forward with this program.” So there’s always that yin and yang between best practices and state of the art research and what people are actually willing to do.

Elizabeth Drake: Right. Yeah. And I think that that does happen in Washington and I think luckily there are some people who have an understanding that you know, in the juvenile justice system, for example, we got one of our very first assignments looking at a supervision probation program that you know, the claim was that it worked and we did an evaluation of it and found out that it didn’t work. I think, you know, we were fortunate in that many of the juvenile court administrators at that time said, “Well, you know, if this doesn’t work, we have, it’s incumbent upon us to provide to our clients something that does work.” And so they – they have a good attitude about it and you know, and I think that that’s what led to the systematic review of, “Okay, well what does work for use in the juvenile justice system?”

You know, it’s not always that way with everything that we do and sometimes you know, there are lots of times that people don‘t necessarily use the research that we come up with and you know, eventually, maybe sometimes it just takes time for those things to happen.

Len Sipes: And there’s always the inevitable argument. Okay, so it reduces recidivism by 10 to 15%, and different people are going to come along and go, “Well, Leonard, that’s really not a lot.” So you can say it’s effective and you can say it’s cost effective, and you can say it will return $4.00 for every dollar invested, but you know, a 10 to 15% reduction in recidivism is not grand and glorious, so you have to deal with the fact that, okay, it is effective, but it’s not super effective. Do you know where I’m coming from?

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I think our response to that is that, you know, crime is expensive, and so even a small reduction in crime, percentage reduction in crime can yield big taxpayer benefits. But you know, on the flip side, what I would say too is there’s just, you know, one thing that we’re looking at and that’s a reduction in recidivism. Sometimes there are programs or policies that exist out there for – they have different goals or different purposes and one of them, you know, can be punishment, for example. And so we’re just speaking to – in those instances, we’re just speaking to recidivism.

You know, sometimes you might have – for example we did an evaluation looking at earned early release from prison and found that the people who did not get earned early release were eligible for it, that they actually did better when they were eligible for earned early release but you know, the governor wasn’t, at that time wasn’t interested in expanding earned early release [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:45] time.

Len Sipes: Understood. And you know, when I say 10 to 15%, don’t get me wrong, 10 to 15% could save a state billions of dollars over time and could reduce rates of crime by the thousands. So a 10 to 15% reduction is certainly worthy of anybody’s consideration. It’s just that I hear from different people, “Oh, Leonard, it’s only 10 or 15%.” And I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. So we only have a couple minutes left in the program. It’s going by like wildfire, a lot quicker than I would want it to. The lessons learned in all of this – what lessons do you have for the rest of us who want to invest in state of the art practices, research based practices, best practices?

Elizabeth Drake: You know, I think some of our lessons, biggest lessons learned you already touched on building relationships and that’s a big one. Another one of our lessons, I think big lessons learned is that quality assurance matters and we found that out the hard way. You know, I think that knowing what works is the first step, and then implementing it and implementing those programs with fidelity is a whole ‘nother thing.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Elizabeth Drake: So we had, you know, found several programs in the juvenile justice system that were effective at reducing crime, implemented those programs here in Washington, did our own outcome evaluation to follow up with those programs, to see and actually sound that when therapists were not delivering the program with fidelity to the model that those kids were actually worse off than the kids who did not participate in the intervention at all. And so the juvenile courts then implemented a state-wide quality assurance for, I think it’s four or five different programs and it’s now being done. So that I would say is one of the biggest lessons learned. The State Department of Corrections is also now implementing quality assurance for several of their programs as well.

Len Sipes: We can do – we within the criminal justice system can do damage. I mean, I have seen research out there that has, that where programs have made recidivism worse, not better. So if they’re not implemented properly and if we don’t follow best practices, we can do more harm than good.

Elizabeth Drake: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. And I think that that’s, you know, one of the important things about doing outcome evaluations, especially when you’re relying on these systematic reviews then I think it’s a good idea to go back in and do an outcome evaluation here, you know, in Washington, once we’ve implemented the program to see whether or not we’re getting the results that we expect.

Len Sipes: And you know how interesting and how different that is from the experience in most states? You do an exhaustive review as to what’s happening throughout the country, an exhaustive review as to what’s happening in the state, you measure it, you provide the results, you do the benefit-cost analysis, you make these recommendations and then you follow up and do your own research to see if the program was implemented properly. That is the state of the art.

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, I think it is. Yeah.

Len Sipes: And that’s unusual, in a lot of states.

Elizabeth Drake: Yeah, it seems to me as though it is unusual. You know, we have – we have a project that we’re working on right now – we’ve –

Len Sipes: We have about 15 seconds.

Elizabeth Drake: Oh sure. It’s funding from the Pew Center for the States and we are partnering with about, I think it’s 14 other states out there and I think that that’s what our colleagues at Pew Center for the States would also say is that, you know, in their experience, that this is not something that everybody’s doing, but seems like a really good idea.

Len Sipes: And we’re really remiss in terms of all the programs that I mentioned before, who have done a great job in terms of communicating with the public – Pew is certainly one. Our guest today has been Elizabeth Drake, a senior research associate for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. We talked about the wonderful job this organization has done over the last two decades in terms of analyzing criminal justice as well as public policy. And to provide guidance, not just to the State of Washington, but to the rest of us. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety, we really appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourselves a pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Expanding Correctional Education Through Technology-Correctional Education Association

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/06/expanding-correctional-education-technology-correctional-education-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. And back at our microphones, Steve Steurer is the Execute Director of the Correctional Education Association. www.ceanational.org. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is Expanding Correctional Education Through Technology. We’ve just come from the conference, the national conference that Steve put on in Arlington, Virginia, where he had federal secretaries of different agencies and people from all over the country talking about the expansion of correctional education through technology. I think it’s a really exciting concept. I think this is a very important program. Steve, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Steve Steurer:  Thank you, Len! I really appreciate it.

Len Sipes:  All right. We’ve got a great story for you to tell about what happened in Ohio, but I want to start off the program with two basic constructs and you tell me if I’m right or wrong. By and large, whether it be vocational education, drug treatment, mental health treatment, GED programs, advanced education, basic education, by and large, those programs are vastly underfunded within just about any prison system in the United States. Am I right or wrong about that?

Steve Steurer:  You’re absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what we’re trying to do is through technology and remote training, it may be the answer as to dramatically increasing inmate participation in basic GED and advanced education, correct?

Steve Steurer:  That would be correct, I’d say.

Len Sipes:  All right. So tell me about that. Tell me about this idea of using technology to expand correctional education.

Steve Steurer:  Up until now, the correctional systems in this country have for the most part been just dead set against any kind of internet hook up that goes beyond an officers’ desk or an officials’ desk. Only recently have some teachers been able to get some internet connectivity on their desk in the classroom in the prison, but the inmates are not allowed, and so that’s very closely gauged and watched, and that’s for a very, very simple and very good reason – because they’re afraid of gang communication and those guys getting out there and doing terrible stuff at porno sites or what have you. That’s a legitimate concern. We have said and we’re trying to prove now, that you don’t have to worry about that. We have enough capability to block that. Not that occasionally somebody would sneak through it, there’s always somebody out there, but we would probably have very few incidents using current technology.

Len Sipes:  So in essence the security part, the security concerns have been addressed?

Steve Steurer:  They have been addressed and there are many people that agree with that now, even correctional officials.

Len Sipes:  All right, so you had this wonderful conference. You had hundreds of people from all over the United States, you had two federal secretaries, you had lots of experts talking about correctional education, and what was the buzz within the conference? Was it enthusiastic about the idea of taking technology and dramatically expanding correctional education? What were the perceptions on the part of the people who came to the conference?

Steve Steurer:  The people that came there were really enthused. I’ve talked to a lot of folks and I’ve talked to other folks who’ve talked to other folks. They’re really enthused because of what they’ve learned and what they participated in, in terms of technology applications from different places in the country. And we even prototyped, we did a WebEx live from Ironwood Prison in California with Hollywood Producer Scott Budnick, who has devoted himself to this cause now. We had fifteen inmates in a room with a captain, Captain Roe, doing the technology and the WebEx and also in the hotel room interacting with these students back and forth with questions. There are how many prisons in this country have an internet connection in a classroom, able to do a WebEx, the distance learning on this from coast to coast, nobody’s ever done that.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead please.

Steve Steurer:  Well I was gone to say, and I mean, I have some other example but just to start, just to have that in the conference, people said they’d never had such a terrific, that was the teacher of the year dinner event. They’d never seen anything like that. It was the best they’d ever had.

Len Sipes:  I interviewed Dr Lois Davis. She works for the RAND Corporation. Their report in 2014 “How Effective is Correctional Education? Where Do We Go To From Here?” Within that report she did, and we interviewed her, and we’ll put a link to that interview in the show notes, but within that report, I got the sense that what she was saying is that using remote tools, using technology to provide an educational experience, again whether it be learning how to read, whether it’d be basic education, GED, advanced education, that the individuals participating in remote education have the potential for doing as well as having a teacher in the room. Am I overplaying that? Am I underplaying it? Give me your assessment.

Steve Steurer:  Well I think she’s not 100% right. I mean in my opinion I think that using and having the technology and then having the back up of experienced teachers working with it just will make it even more powerful because the population we’re working with, we’re working with for the most part, is not engaged in education on the street even where they have the technology. So there’s another human factor that needs to be put in there other than remote technology. But that’s a debate that goes on among professionals. But she has come out with a study that has shown us that there’s just a dearth of, a lack of technology being used in a situation where it could be so effective.

Len Sipes:  But the bottom line, and again, this is what I want listeners to do because a lot of people listening to this program are going to be from the Criminal Justice System and they’re going to be saying, “Leonard, tell me something I don’t know about the lack of programs within prisons.” But there’s a lot of other people out there, the aides to mayors, aides to congress people, congressional aides, aides to county executives, who don’t know. And I think the point needs to be reinforced that the studies that I’ve looked at indicate that in terms of drug treatment, mental health treatment, ordinarily you’re talking about 10% of the prison population or below that. In terms of educational programs you’re talking about less than that in some cases.

So the overwhelming majority of prison inmates, they’re sitting there for five years. Basically their needs for either mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment and I know that’s not what we’re talking about today, but educational programming, they’re not being met. So the only way we’re going to meet those needs is through technology, hopefully supplemented by real, honest to God teachers, trained teachers. But again, the premise of the program, and tell me if I’m wrong, is that if they’re not going to get it through technology in all likelihood they’re not going to get educational programs at all.

Steve Steurer:  That’s correct. That’s correct. And if I had a choice, if somebody said you can’t bring the teachers in but you can bring technologies in, I’d be the first person to carry the first computer in and help wire a place up, but then I’d start fighting for teachers that are technologically astute to be part of that. But we need to get technology in there and a lot of staff can be helpful with that. They don’t have to necessarily be teaching staff to have some kind of an impact.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about the program in Ohio. You did a pilot program and now they’re expanding it?

Steve Steurer:  Well, you know, the whole thing is nobody wants to take a chance. We’re not going to bring in even tablets because inmates can get off there one way or the other and do gang communication which is probably the biggest fear. And they’ll be sitting there looking at pornographic sites, which is you know, political death for people trying to run a prison and somebody finds that out.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Steve Steurer:  And so we got a project going in Ohio, where at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution last fall, with tablets from Union Supply, a company we’re working with, it’s a commissary company. They created a tablet that’s very secure. It can go to the Internet with Wi-Fi but it’s been locked down tight and blocked with the kind of software protections they have. Nobody’s been able; they’ve been using it as a media thing in many states. Nobody’s been able to get off that, nobody’s been caught on the Internet. So we turned into a classroom situation. Ashland University provides post secondary education for years in Ohio prisons, including Lake Erie. We issued twenty tablets from Union, put on college level courses, course in first semester with full credit entry level collage courses. The fellows had to qualify to be in these courses, so they met all the criteria.

The course was loaded onto an angel, which is like a blackboard program, online program, and they were put on tablets. The tablet also has a keyboard that you can plug and play so they can type rather than just picking away on the screen of the tablet. It has Microsoft word in it so they can write papers and save them. And twenty students started that course, eighteen finished it successfully, and there was not one tablet that was abused. They came out without any problem being broken or cracked on. Nobody, the correctional officers could open those tablets at any time, and they did to look and see what these guys were doing inside. Nobody attempted to mess with these tablets to create something different, to get out on the Internet. It was a total clean operation.

The Corrections Corporation of America has now signed off on these tablets for use in their facilities and they’re looking to do it in other places. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, which work with them, and owns, they co-manage that facility, has okayed tablets in Ohio for other uses. So the Ohio Central School System which is the school system by law, which operates the Prison Education Program in the state prisons, has now ordered and finalized a purchase for three hundred and fifty tablets to be deployed in various situations in the adult prisons over the next year and we’re working with them on that.

Len Sipes:  I’ll tell you I had a conversation and I’m not going to identify the person, and he said, here’s his vision; let’s just take the state of Richmond for an example, that you have somebody in the state of Richmond, somebody in the city of Richmond, doing classrooms, and there are twenty, thirty, forty classrooms going on at the same time, and that every person who wants to participate in the state of Virginia, that these programs are automatically going out to these individual inmates. Many of them are live instruction. In some cases the hope is that you can take questions, that you can ask questions back and forth between the teachers and the students spread throughout every prison in the state of Virginia.

And then that person said, “Well, Leonard, you know, if we can do that for any particular state, we can do it for every state in the United States. We can do it for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We can constantly pump out again, basic education, 8th grade certificates, GED, reading programs, collegiate programs, vocational training, and we can also put on programs dealing with mental health and substance abuse. We can also have families talk to the individual inmates.” He saw it as a revolution in terms of correctional education. Is his thought just pie in the sky or is this something that actually can happen?

Steve Steurer:  It has happened in bits and pieces everywhere, and it will, and I’m hoping that we can make it happen, all those pieces together in lots of places. I mean you do have inmates now writing email. It goes through a secure server out to the family and back. And it’s the same thing like writing letters. The staff would sort of look at the letters in the mail coming in and out you know, and the same thing is now on email. That’s been done, that’s been done for a good number of years now. In the United States it’s happening, it’s happened in Europe quite a bit. We have now shown that you can use tablets safely, if you want to get it on wifi. We have had courses in various places going out on the Internet and teachers at the university nearby or something connected up, but it’s only happened in a few places and it’s usually more of a less a secure place.

But you know, we did this WebEx in California last night. We had fifteen inmates in the class in the middle of the Ironwood Correctional Facility in California. There was a correctional officer in the room, Captain Roe, who is very tech oriented. He was running the WebEx on one end and I was on the other end running our talk with the participants, we had three hundred people in a room we had teachers of the year. We were talking back and forth. We were applauding each other. We were asking questions of each other. You know, we could’ve run a video that everybody could see for some instructional purpose if we had wanted to. We could’ve provided paper on each end to do some subsequent work afterwards. We could’ve, you know, this could be done, it has been done, it’s being done in that one prison in California. In fact, that is being considered now in some of the other places because we’re doing it. It’s very secure and you know, you can go and find little bits and pieces of this stuff happening everywhere. It’s possible. It’s secure. And the enthusiasm of the students when they get involved with this stuff is terrific.

Len Sipes:  We’re almost halfway through the program. I might as well reintroduce you now, Steve. Steve Steurer, he is the executive director of the Correctional Education Association. www.ceanational.org. The program today is about expanding correctional education through technology. It’s piggy backing on the conference that Steve just had over the course of the last couple of days in Arlington, Virginia, right outside of Washington DC. It’s also piggy backing on a rather substantial piece of research; “How Effective is Correctional Education and Where Do We Go to From Here?” by Lois Davis and I did interview Lois on another program and I’ll put the link to her program in the show notes as well as everything else we’re talking about. Steve, you had representatives from the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice at this conference, correct?

Steve Steurer:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And what was their take on all this?

Steve Steurer:  Well, the US Department of Education has been terrific in the last several years. And so we had the Deputy Secretary Johan Uvin, who is in charge of what is Career and Vocational Education, they call it OCTAE now. It used to be called OVAE. And he was there and he discussed with Gerri Fiala, the Assistant Secretary of Department of Labor, issues of workforce preparation, and services that are available through the Federal Departments and some of the things that they’re supporting with some upcoming small amounts of competitive funds. And then we had, the next day we had an assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who is in charge of the Second Chance grants and lots of other areas, BJA, Dennis works for her, and Solomon works with her, people that you and I know very well; and she was talking about particularly focusing on juvenile issues, juvenile justice issues and so that they were sharing some efforts they’re doing, some things they want us to be involved with and so the audience received us very well. We’ve never had that level of Federal participation in our conferences so that is very optimistic to me that we’re getting the message out and people are listening at a level where hopefully they can do something where it will affect policy.

Len Sipes:  But this concept has been kicked around for years in Washington DC. The sense is that okay, the states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons do not have the money; it’s not that they don’t want to do it, they just don’t have the money for the expansion of correctional education. We’re talking about over two million adults incarcerated in US prisons every year, with seven hundred thousand leaving Federal and State Prisons every year. We’re talking about a 50% rate of recidivism in terms of re-incarceration. We’re talking about the possibility that if Lois’ research is correct in terms of the effectiveness of correctional education and where do we go to from here, if we can impact the rate of return by 10, 15, 20%, through educational programs, or through contacts with the community, contacts with employers, contacts with family, again all the different programs we’re talking about, if we can have a 10 to 20% reduction in recidivism, it will substantially remake the Criminal Justice System, it will reduce the crime rate in this country substantially and it will reduce the burden on tax payers by billions of dollars. So this seems like an obvious win-win situation.

Steve Steurer:  Well it does and the problem I run into however is you can now convince most politicians, you know  they can be skeptical, “Well I studied via the prestigious RAND corporation that summarizes all the studies that have been done for years”, people will still doubt that but most people will say, “Okay, that’s great. It’s not the priority right now because we’ve got too much stuff going on in our public schools here and our colleges and students in the free world are just being burdened with tuition, why should they stick the money over here?” So that’s what we’re fighting now. We’ve won the battle for the most part, at least with people who are in the know like you and others who read and discuss this issue. We’ve won the battle that education and drug programs and such can reduce recidivism and help public safety, help drop the crime rate, etc.

It’s the priority now with the country in such a bad budget situation and tight dollars, to shift money over there. So technology can help us here because we can do a lot more, can reach a lot more with the same amount of dollars for technology than we’d have to spend on hiring a person to teach and only reaching so many people. So this is very exciting. We have another example here. I invite you to come, nearby here to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, I’m running this little project with Rob Green, the Warden, and Art Wallenstein the Director of Corrections. We have thirty tablets.

Len Sipes:  For Montgomery County. Yes.

Steve Steurer:  For Montgomery County. I’m at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility up in Boyds. Teachers are using the tablets, the students are being taught how to use the tablets in the class, taking them back to the cells, bringing work back, and the correctional officers helped me set it up. I didn’t go in with the teachers, I went in and talked to the officers. Well the officers were so enthused about it, that instead of having me come in and load software, Officer Powell was in charge of security, he said, “Teach me how to do it, I’ll do it. I got kids and they’re doing stuff at home and I can help this, I think it’s a good thing for these guys and gals.” And it was a co-ed class, we had men and women there, and it’s working out very well so they’re gonna get some more tablets.

Len Sipes:  But you know… go ahead, please.

Steve Steurer:  And this is a key thing for me. All of a sudden people around the county are saying, “Well, what are you doing with those tablets? Now they’re looking at them. But, you know, I think this is, a piece of this is getting correctional officials to feel secure enough to make these leaps and use technology, especially when one of their peers they respect like Rob Green or Art Wallenstein are doing it. They’ll take a look at it. We’re beginning to crack that with the Corrections Corporations of Americans saying, “We’ll buy these tablets now.” The Ohio Department of Corrections, Rehab and Corrections led by Gary Mohr, Secretary Gary Mohr. They’re buying them. They’re talking to their peers at the American Correctional Association Conference and showing off. Gary Mohr was playing with a tablet at the last ACA meeting. “Oh I hadn’t seen ‘em! Oh this is great!” And he’s showing the next guy at our table who might’ve been running New Jersey. So it’s word of mouth. It’s the security that you’re friends are doing it, your colleagues, that’s what’s gonna do this. I mean that’s what I’m hoping’s gonna do it and that’s my belief and that’s why I try to meet with all the folks and talk with them and get the word out.

Len Sipes:  Well everybody’s excited about this Steve, everybody, but I just want you to know that nobody here at my agency, the Court Services of Offenders Supervision Agency here at Washington DC, we just did a computer network, a virtual network to twenty Federal Prisons yesterday, where we spent the entire day bringing in people from Washington DC, instructing inmates from Washington DC at these various Federal Prisons, plus other inmates as to what their resources are in DC when they come home, what they can expect, what they should take advantage of, how do they get their GED, how do they get their plumbing certificate, how they take advantage of collegiate programs, where do they go to get their identifications, what are the roles of supervision. I mean we’re doing that now. We have our own television network of prisons throughout the United States. So this technology is possible, this technology is here now.

Steve Steurer:  Right, it is, and it’s a matter of letting it go deeper into the prisons, where it’s not just up on the correctional officers’ desk down at the end of the hall, and maybe on the teachers’ desk, but it’s in the classroom and you got a computer set up, and then you got a land going, but it can go out, be switched on and go out to the centers, into certain sites where there are a lot of resources available. And it’s a cost factor that people have to have money to do that. Montgomery County is better off than lots of counties and so they’re able to play around with this. They’ve got the community collage coming in with another tablet. I’m gonna have two tablets in the school. Technically, the school is run by the Correctional Education Association by the way, the Montgomery County brought us in seven years ago, when they were having budget problems and so they actually work for us.

And I go there. And so I wanna keep my hands on in this business. And so you know, it’s happening and we can get out there with it but we’ve gotta get the word out to more people and what I’d like to make a comment on real quick about your television – giving these inmates all this information [INDISCERNIBLE 00:23:40] hookups, remote hookups, and television and all that, that’s terrific and that’s been done for a long time. What we need to do on the other end of that, with the inmates, is to have tablets and things in their hands, or computers in their hands that are secure. Where they can go, start playing around with this. Teaching these guys how to use these things other than for phone calls and text messages, is absolutely necessary. You have to make people computer literate.

Len Sipes:  But the hope and dream of all of this is at your time, at your leisure, so the person can learn, go through a learning to read program from ten o clock to twelve o clock and then pick it back up again at three o clock to four o clock, and then pick it back up again at seven o clock to eight o clock, or it can be live instruction. I mean the possibilities here are endless.

Steve Steurer:  Yeah, and that’s what happens in Montgomery County. They don’t have enough tablets, ‘cause they have thirty, so the other students want them now. So these thirty people go back and they’re working in their cell. They can’t take it out in common areas, so they have to be, so it doesn’t get passed around like a toy or something; and they’re wanting to do this. They’re sitting in their cell, working on stuff, bringing it back the next day. I had one woman drop one of the tablets. She thought she broke it. She was so upset. I mean, can you imagine if we could’ve taped this, this woman comes back from her cell, she’s in jail for who knows what, and then she’s about ready to cry. She says “I dropped my tablet and I was doing my schoolwork,” and it turns out the tablet was not damaged and I guess she was probably afraid she was gonna have to pay for it too which we weren’t gonna charge her but everything’s fine. She’s happy. I mean they guard those, you know, when you give them the opportunity to start, showing them what to do, they get enthusiastic and then want more. You know, that’s what the story of good education is.

Len Sipes:  Well the enthusiasm, I think, is running across the board from anywhere from the inmate population to Washington DC to state capitals because I think some people will suggest that things are changing in terms of prison education, in terms of remote education within correctional facilities, because states are saying, “We’ve got to bring down our rates of recidivism because we can no longer afford the billions of dollars that we’ve been throwing into mainstream prisons.” So I think across the board whether it’s politically, I don’t care what state you’re in, every governor has told every correctional commissioner that they’ve got to do something to lower the recidivism rate because they can no longer afford to keep putting the same amount of money into their prison systems as they have within the last twenty or thirty years. So I think you, we may find ourselves surprised as to how well this will be accepted in the next five, ten years.

Steve Steurer:  Well I hope so and I really think in our business it’s a matter of peers convincing peers and then if they get all enthusiastic and they go to deal with the politicians and they’re well respected in their work, they can convince the politicians that they don’t have to defend why they gave a couple bucks for a piece of computer equipment to a prison and the public schools you know, some of them need some more stuff. So you know, we’ve got an attitude in this country to break through. I’m very confident correctional officials wanted to do more and do better. I think that they’re fighting their battles trying to convince the public, and trying to protect their jobs you know, sometimes because this is not a popular thing to talk about. So, we have to somehow turn the public mind around on this to accept this that we have to actually educate the people that we throw behind bars or they’re gonna come out and do the same thing or worse, and we can do this and you’re gonna have to be a little bit more liberal on your attitude about whether they should have some special thing like a laptop they’re working on or a computer or whatever, a pad. You know, so we’ve got a battle to do here.

Len Sipes:  I’ve talked to a lot of wardens, and I’ve walked through a lot of prisons and a lot of jails in my career and I’ve yet to find a warden that was not enthusiastic about correctional education because he or she will suggest that it keeps the institution safe, that inmates that are gainfully employed in educational or vocational programs throughout the course of the day, that makes for a happy, safe and sane prison. It’s the prisons that don’t have these things that become dangerous places. I would tend to believe that you would agree with me on that.

Steve Steurer:  I would agree with you on that. I think there are a lot of people who where we’ve started programs that that’s their main motivation; the wardens and you know, they wanna keep the place secure, they don’t want a lot of trouble. They don’t want guys fighting with each other and they like the inmates to be halfway content with the situation they’re in and then it’s easier to run the place and get something done. But I think there are a good number of these people who originally come from program areas themselves and up to the leadership as the warden or whatever, that also see it beyond that as a really good thing for the community, for people that can change, that they’re optimistic that some of these, fifty 50% of people don’t come back, not all of them have changed but at least you know, they’re not getting arrested. Hopefully not committing crimes but 50% are coming back, if we could drop that so it’s 75% don’t come back, I mean that’s going to require an investment. [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  And if you could go, if you could change the recidivism rate from 50% to 25%, that entity would win the Nobel Prize.

Steve Steurer:  Oh, it would.

Len Sipes:  It would save the state billions of dollars, save a lot of people from being victimized and it would be a win-win for everybody.

Steve Steurer:  Yeah, and I don’t know what the time limit is here.

Len Sipes:  Very quick Steve, we’re running out of time.

Steve Steurer:  We ought to take a look at what some of the other countries are doing, like Germany, and their attitude about what programs, what the program priority is behind bars. I mean those Americans that go and visit abroad say, “You know, we have a whole different political attitude” and I don’t know how we can change that but you know, lots of other countries, particularly in western Europe think about this stuff in a much different way than we do.

Len Sipes:  All right, Steve Steurer, is my guest today, Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association www.ceanational.org. 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.

[Audio Ends]


Discover Corrections Website-American Probation and Parole Association

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/06/discover-corrections-website-american-probation-parole-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, Discover Corrections is our topic today. It’s a website for job seekers and employers, for mainstream and community corrections. At our microphones is Mary Ann Mowatt, she is with the American Probation and Parole Association Council of State Governments, and she is heading up this website that includes literally hundreds of jobs from employers and people looking for work all throughout the correctional system. Mary Ann, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Thank you!

Len Sipes:  Alright, tell me a little bit about your website. www.discovercorrections.com. Describe the website to me.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  The Discover Corrections website was launched in February 2012, and the website really was designed to not only provide the public with a positive image of corrections, but also provide employers and job seekers an avenue to, number one for job seekers, to look for employment on a national basis, and for employers to recruit on a national basis. What Discover Corrections enables you to do is to, for employers, is to reach a local and national audience of informed and interested, qualified candidates. It also allows agencies to provide a profile about their agency and to add specific information so that the employee or the you know, possible job candidate, is able to make a good decision about applying for that position. Also employers can search resumes, registered job seekers, and they can do this at no cost. And that’s what we find is very appealing to agencies.

Len Sipes:  It’s an amazingly comprehensive website. You’ve got little vignettes up there about jobs and corrections, and about what different people have done over time, so it’s an interesting website, and the bottom line is anybody interested in a career in corrections, so you could be sitting there in Rhode Island and say “You know, son of a gun, I’ve always wanted to live in Hawaii. I wonder what parole and probation jobs are or what correctional officers jobs are available in Hawaii.” Correct?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Correct. And you can easily go to the Career Resource section on the website and click on the state you’re interested and look at the various corrections agencies, be it jails, detention centers, prisons, and community corrections agencies.

Len Sipes:  Now you have juvenile agencies as part of this process as well, correct?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Correct. And most recently we added additional content regarding juvenile detention centers and just juvenile, what am I looking for Leonard? You know the area of juvenile corrections.

Len Sipes:  Oh juvenile justice, yes.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  And really what that needs.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Okay

Mary Ann Mowatt:  And tribal…

Len Sipes:  And tribal.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  …justice as well. So it is more of a comprehensive view of both of those focuses.

Len Sipes:  Now you’ve got close to three hundred jobs as of today on that website. That’s three hundred jobs that are all good paying, that are probably 95% government jobs with good benefits, and they are there. Right now people are looking for candidates for those three hundred jobs, right?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Oh exactly. And I don’t wanna forget our private agencies. If you look at our website, one private agency has sixteen job openings currently. And that includes you know, training and procedure coordinators, a licensed electrician, case manager positions, client monitoring positions. So there’s a variety of positions that people really can consider outside of what we, you know, think of the traditional positions such as correctional officer or probation officer; it also includes positions such as IT and nurses, and dentist positions. So we want individuals to consider a career in corrections.

Len Sipes:  Well considering that we have seven million people on any given day who are under the auspices of a correctional organization, whether again it be mainstream, whether it be parole and probation and that doesn’t even begin to include jails to my knowledge, if I remember that correctly. So there, you know, this is just, and people are gonna say, “Well gee that’s a sad commentary letter,” but this is a growth area. Whether we like it or not, regardless of the how we feel about it or not, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of jobs in the correctional field and you know, I’ve been inside of prisons, I’ve walked alongside of correctional officers as they’ve made their rounds. That’s one of the most interesting and toughest jobs I can possibly imagine. You need a good, solid person to be a correctional officer. And I do believe that correctional officers, they really do not get the respect that they deserve, and that’s a very tough job. I mean, I’m a former police officer and you know, to be a correctional officer I think it’s tougher and probably more interesting than anything I ever did in law enforcement. So first of all we need good people to be correctional officers and there are correctional officer positions available. Correct?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Correct. There are many and actually as I’m looking at the list, there are a number of correctional officer positions throughout the country:  Wyoming, California, just to name two of the states. And it is a very honorable position and when people apply for this job I hope they’re thinking about a career in Corrections as far as what steps can they take. Can this lead to promotional opportunities? Can it lead to other positions within the criminal justice arena?

Len Sipes:  And within any huge bureaucracy there are always opportunities for advancement, so if you start off as a correctional officer, I mean look, I started off as a cadet for a state police organization. You don’t get any lower than a cadet for the state police. So we all start off at these lower level positions and we go throughout our careers and we build and build and build, but you’ve gotta start somewhere and these entry level jobs within Corrections are just one excellent way of involving yourself in the criminal justice system. That doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Yes, we do want them to make a career out of it so we do want them to go into K-9, we do want them to go in Intelligence, we want them to go into the special tactical teams, we want them to go into rehabilitation programs. So, there’s endless opportunities for advancement, endless opportunities for career advancement, for pay advancement, for benefits advancement.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Exactly. And I just, just a highlight, there was an article in our, you know, I live in a major metropolitan area, and it talked about the millennials not viewing government jobs as attractive or having stability but yet, you know to counter that, you know, government jobs offer pensions, which is very difficult to find in today’s world. Also medical benefits, health insurance, short term and long term disability. All of those are very attractive and I know for some young people, and certainly when I was in my twenty’s I didn’t often think about, “Okay, what am I looking at when I’m forty or forty five?” Pensions are very attractive. It’s an income you know, for the rest of your life.

Len Sipes:  As I approach retirement I’ve never been more sold on that concept. I think it’s extraordinary. And in a lot of cases there are twenty-year retirements for people in law enforcement and people in corrections. But let’s shift gears for a second. Parole and probation agents, now again, the emphasis here is that there are doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, public affairs people, there’s all sorts of positions at the Discover Corrections website. www.discovercorrections.com. But in terms of parole and probation officers, again I’ve been out with them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve seen them doing what it is that they do. And again, immense respect that I have for parole and probation agents. Here in the District of Columbia we call them community supervision officers. They have an extraordinarily difficult job, sometimes a bit of a dangerous job, but the challenge is immense and the interesting jobs that they have, I mean, I don’t think there’s any more interesting job on the face of the earth than being a parole and probation agent, and you’ve got plenty of those.

Mary Ann Mowatt:  And let’s not forget the rewards, because many of us enter this career and I certainly had a long career in community corrections, because of the rewards and assisting people in behavioral change, and seeing those successes. Those are all very positive things that contribute to an individual’s career and it’s hard to conceptualize those rewards, those types of rewards.

Len Sipes:  Well we do want people to enter the Corrections field, we want to get the very best people we possibly can and that’s the whole idea behind doing this abbreviated version of DC Public Safety today, and to basically say “look, if you’re interested in a good job with decent pay, with decent benefits, with a retirement system attached to it, with the opportunity to be mobile, with the opportunity to build, with the opportunity to move into dozens of different areas, and you never will be bored in terms of a job in Corrections. It is the very antithesis of a boring job. You will always find yourself immensely challenged whether you go into mainstream corrections, or community corrections, or juvenile justice, right?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Absolutely. And I just wanna add, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. We also have a section if you’re really wondering about a specific career; we have stories from the field. It is about real people telling about their careers and their experiences and where they’re at today.

Len Sipes:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Discover Corrections blog, and also in the show notes I’ll put in those connections and I’ll put in the RSS feed for those of you who understand what an RSS feed is, but the whole idea is that you’re all over the place trying to promote the idea that you want a career in corrections, you want a good career, you want a stable career, you want an interesting career, you want a career with ten tons of benefits and good pay, decent pay I should say, then you go to www.discovercorrections.com right?

Mary Ann Mowatt:  Exactly!

Len Sipes:  All right! Mary Ann Mowett, she’s been our guest today. She is with the American Probation and Parole Association of the Counsel of State Governments. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]