National Institute of Corrections and DC Pretrial-Measuring What Matters-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes back after a three-month hiatus due to flipping a motorcycle and being injured, and finally back to doing weekly radio programs.  For those of you who have been kind enough to inquire, “Where you been, Len?”  Well, that’s where I’ve been.  I’ve been laid up telecommuting and away from the microphones, but we do have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen, on pretrial.  The whole concept is measuring what pretrial does, and so pretrial agencies, both in Washington DC and throughout the country can do a better job of pretrial supervision.  We have two experts with us today.  Spurgeon Kennedy, he is the director of research analysis and development of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  WWW.DCPSA.GOV .  I’ll be giving those website addresses throughout the program.  Lori Eville, the correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections, and the National Institute of Corrections is part of the Bureau of Prisons, US Department of Justice, WWW.NICIC.GOV , and to Spurgeon and to Lori, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Thank you Len.

Lori Eville: Yes, thanks for having us.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And welcome back.

Len Sipes:  Thank very much.  Spurgeon, the first question is going to go to you.  There’s a lot of people out there in the criminal justice system who listen to this program on a regular basis, and they’re going to know exactly what pretrial is, and they’re going to know exactly what jails are, but there are people from mayors offices or citizens or community organizations that listen to this program and they’re not quite sure what we mean by pretrial.  What is pretrial supervision?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, simple answer is that pretrial services agencies help their local jurisdictions meet the requirements their state bail laws.  Most bail laws across the country have a presumption of release for most defendants except those charged with capital offenses or very serious crimes.  Pretrial agencies across the country help assess the various levels of risk that these defendants present and offer appropriate releases supervisions conditions that meet those risk levels.

Len Sipes:  Now you do know because I’ve been to community meetings.  You’ve been to community meetings throughout our career.  You go into community meetings and somebody says, “He got arrested, and he was back on the street in six hours, and that’s wrong.  You know, he did a crime, and he’s back in the community.  What gives with that?”  And the point in all of this is it not that people who are arrested are considered innocent until proven guilty.  Until a judge or a jury finds them guilty and sentence has been pronounced, so up until that point, technically, that person is a “innocent” person, and somebody’s got to make an assessment based upon two things, whether or not he or she is going to return to trial on their own with supervision or with bail or with some other arrangement, or B, they’re a risk to public safety.  So do I have – is that summation correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, you’re absolutely right.  There’s a huge difference between a convicted defendant and a pretrial defendant, and what we deal with on the pretrial level are those persons who are still considered to be innocent or presumed innocent until that point of disposition.  What we’ve found over the last decade, especially when you look at the risk of defendants who are released back into the community, and certainly that’s a legitimate concern.  Public safety is always a concern for anybody in the criminal justice business, but what we have found is that defendants by and large who are released pretrial present a low to medium level of risk of failure to appear or to commit another offense while on supervision, so by identifying this risk and offering supervision levels.  Pretrial agencies across the country actually help their jurisdictions manage that risk, and to make sure that defendants who are released are not presenting an overly concern to public safety.

Len Sipes:  And the last question before going over to Lori is the sense that people need to understand, I think, that it is literally mathematically impossible.  There are tens of millions of arrests in the United States every year.  There aren’t tens of millions of jail beds, so it is, even if we didn’t have the presumption of innocence.  Even if we didn’t have a presumption of release on a pretrial basis, it’s mathematically impossible to keep all people arrested behind bars until trial, correct.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  You’re absolutely right.  In 2010, the National Center for State Courts estimated there were 21 million filings of felony and misdemeanor cases across the country at local courts.  Our jail population cannot support that.

Len Sipes:  No, no.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And the risk, again that most pretrial defendants present, and the laws that we live under really don’t allow us to consider jail first.  So again, we need a system that identifies those defendants appropriate for release according to the law and those that should be detained pretrial, and that really is the basis of what pretrial programs –

Len Sipes:  And the final thing I did want to mention in terms of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, one of the things that I noticed years ago, is that you have an 88 percent return rate.  The overwhelming majority of people on your case loads show up for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  True.

Len Sipes:  And it’s a much higher return rate than the national average as measured by The Bureau of Justice Statistics, so first of all congratulations, on doing a very good job.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, thank you.

Len Sipes:  Lori Eville, correctional program specialist for the National Institute of Corrections.  What is the National Institute of Corrections, Lori?

Lori Eville:  Well, the National Institute of Corrections, as you said, is within the Department of Justice, and it’s primary function is to the provide support to federal, state, and local correctional agencies throughout the United States.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lori Eville:  We do that through technical assistance, through education, an information center in which people can go to a vast library to get information that is particular to issues that they’re dealing with, and NIC is also a leader in developing policy and practices, and looking sort of a step ahead.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lori Eville:  Of where corrections agencies and criminal justice agencies need to move or are moving, and give them support, and it’s really one of the primary purposes why NIC is interested in pretrial services because it is a distinct function within a criminal justice system, but it’s an essential contributor to the efficiency of a criminal justice system, as you said.  Not a fiscal efficiency, but as well as a case processing efficiency.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do have to talk about the fiscal part of it because the principle subject of my reading criminal justice literature newspaper articles and radio reports, television reports over the last two years is the fiscals, dire fiscal shape that states and localities find themselves in, so, you know, you just can’t lock up everybody.  It is just mathematically impossible.  It is fiscally impossible to lock up everybody, so one of the things that you did in terms of this report, and the report is measuring what matters from the National Institute of Corrections Outcomes and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field.  What you’re trying to do is to frame this whole concept of pretrial, to get everybody to measure what it is they’re doing so they can figure out how they’re doing and how they can improve.

Lori Eville:  That’s correct, and it’s also distinguishing pretrial outcomes and measures from other criminal justices functions such as probation, jails, and we don’t have a document like this.  We have these established measures for other criminal justice functions, but we don’t in pretrial and as front end of the system, functions are becoming more evident in their need.  That’s why we sought to develop a consistent set of recommended outcomes and measures along with the definitions so we can get to comparing different jurisdictional functioning.  Looking at nation averages, and then also focusing on those things that pretrial services should produce and that is appearance rates.  That’s what a primary function was, a pretrial services should be, is that they have good appearance rates to court, and that they have good public safety records.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Getting them to court.  That’s the bottom line in protecting public safety.

Lori Eville:  That’s the bottom line in pretrial.

Len Sipes:  Before you go on, I do want to mention, the National Institute of Corrections is the place where the rest of us go to get information.

Lori Eville:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  I mean that’s the, you know, I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  I’ve been doing public relations for 30.  I’ve been doing corrections for 20, and it was interesting that when I first became a public affairs officer for a large agency in the State of Maryland that had corrections he as well as laws enforcement, as well as the fire Marshall’s office, as well as lots of other agencies, I realized that I didn’t have any formal training as a public affairs director, and the first thing NIC did was to put me in Boulder, Colorado for a couple weeks of training.  All throughout my career, when we said we needed research, or we needed funding, or we needed to look at this issue, we picked up the phone and called the National Institute of Corrections, so I want to thank you in terms of my own experience, and my own criminal justice career.  I’m not quite sure how, if a lot of people know the National Institute of Corrections.  WWW.NICIC.GOV, but a certainly thank you to NIC for all the help that you’ve given me, and the agencies that I’ve represented throughout my career.  Okay.  So we’re going to get back to larger issues in terms of measuring what matters.  The average person is going to sit back, and he’s going to listen to this program, or she’s going to listen to this program, and they’re going to say, what are we talking about?  This is 2011 we’re, you know, I thought you guys were doing this for decades.  We in the criminal justice system, Spurgeon, don’t do a very good job of measuring things, do we?  I mean most of the criminal justice agencies have a hard time coming to grips with measurement, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  It is, unless you’re a nerd like me, talking about numbers and measures will put you to sleep as quickly as anything.  Here’s the thing though, and you’re right, we’ve been very slow to come to the table.  Businesses across the world have used outcome and performance measures almost since the mid 50s.  This is something that just became popular within criminal justice in the mid 1990’s.  1995, in fact, the American Probation and Parole Association along with the National Institute of Justice put out what I think was the first article about outcome and performance measures or if the probation field.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That was followed by a larger publications looking at outcome and performance measures for the entire criminal justice system that NIJ did.  So it’s really been since the mid 90s that this whole ideas of measuring what you do, especially measuring against what you have out there is as your mission and your goal has become popular within criminal justice agencies.  Pretrial programs, as Lori mentioned, are just getting into the idea across the country, of measuring their performance and knowing what that performance ought to be.

Len Sipes:  Before the program, we sort of set the stage for this.  When the state of Maryland took over the Baltimore City Jail was my first real exposure.  I mean as a former police officer, I’d been in and out of jails.  I’d been in and out of booking situations.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Professionally maybe.

Len Sipes:  Professionally, yes.  Thank you for clarifying that.  But I mean spending a lot of time within a jail, wow, what a chaotic setting.  You’ve got thousands of people being arrested.  They’re moving in the institutions.  They’re moving out of the institution.  It’s chaotic.  It’s dangerous.  You’ve got people who are high on some sort of substance.  You’re processing them.  You’re booking them.  You’re making decisions in terms of who to keep and who not to keep.  It’s a very chaotic, loud, noisy situation, and I sat there as people made decisions based upon instruments as to who they’re going to let go on bail.  Who they’re going to let go on pretrial supervision, who they’re going to let go on their GPS or home monitoring, and, you know, we’re not talking about a business offices where it’s nice and quiet and sedate.  We’re talking about a very loud noisy chaotic place, and in that very loud noisy and chaotic place, we’re making decisions that could have an impact not just on public safety, but as to whether or not that person returns for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Uh-huh.  That’s a wonderful point that you bring up because when we put this document together, and now the folks who helped us draft it, or the people who actually did draft it are the Pretrial Directors Network of NIC.  One of the questions that came us is can you measure performance if you don’t have the things in place to make that performance happen?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  For example, if you are screening defendants for release consideration, if you aren’t using a validated risk assessment…  Something that takes into account factors that have been shown my research to be related.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  The failure to appear and re-arrest.  Can you really make this measure?  And so part of what we’re trying to do with the measuring what matters document is to say to pretrial programs out there, you have to adopt good business practices.  It’s not just putting a number and a target out there.  It’s also sayings, we need to have in place the things that will make us meet these targets and do a job, and so that validated risk scale that helps you identify who the good risks are, who the bad defendants who need to be incarcerated pretrial are.  You have to have those things in place so that that was something that was very much a part of this document.

Len Sipes:  Lori, we’re going to go over to you for a second in terms of talking about that risk assessment instrument, but amazingly, we’re halfway through the program.  These programs go by awfully quickly.  Spurgeon Kennedy, director of research, analysis and development for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, is our guest, WWW.DCPSA.GOV, an 88 percent return rate here in the District of Columbia, one of the highest in the United States.  Lori Eville, correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice is our other guest, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  Okay Lori, so we’re going to go over to you in terms of talking about instruments.  I’ve been in the system for 42 years.  This whole concept of an objective series of measurement has always confused me.  It’s not my background.  It’s not my forte, but it’s bottom line seems to be from the criminological community, from NIC, is that we really can, through objective instruments, objective questions, figure out who’s a danger to society.  Who’s not.  Who’s a danger as to whether or not that person is going to return for trial?  Who’s not going to return for trial.  These instruments give us a lot of information about that individual, correct?

Lori Eville:  That’s correct, and it gives us objective information that has a body of research or tested, so that we can make statistical probabilities of whether this person will appear in court or they’re a public safety threat, if you will.  You know, I liked your, what you said about jail being this chaotic place in which you’re having to make these very difficult decisions around release, and I think one thing that objective validated risk, assessment tools do for people working in jails and pretrial programs is that they serve to provide some objectiveness to sort of coral this chaos so that people are not left to think own subjective thoughts around a person’s risk.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Lori Eville:  And one of the things that often I think are misunderstood around validated assessments is that we’ve given all of our discretion to this piece of paper.  That this piece of paper, these measures are telling us who’s safe and who’s not, and I think that what we need to understand is that it is a tool within the overall tool box to help make good sound release decisions that are in the public’s interest, and again to make the connection to the document.  If we then have local measures and systems set up, we can then see if in fact we are making good decisions on release.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Just a point of clarification, either one of you can come in on this.  We create these instruments and we do this analysis in this noisy chaotic overcrowded place, and then that information is presented to a Commissioner, an Officer of the Court, and he or she uses that recommendation based upon that instrument to decide whether or not that person is released or kept.  If the person is kept, generally speaking, in most states, you have twenty-four hours to present yourself before a judge, and the judge reviews the evidence, reviews the case, and then makes another decision as to whether or not you’re kept or released or the conditions of the release.  Do I have that correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So it’s not just us within the criminological community or us as correctional professionals, so it’s not us making the decisions.  Basically what we’re doing is preparing the paperwork for the courts.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Right.  We’re helping the court make a more informed decision about release and detention.

Len Sipes:  And in essence, to go back to what we did before measuring what matters in the National Institute of Corrections, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  You can get the document there, is to basically guess.  Is that fair or unfair?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  There has always been criteria that courts have used.  There have always been criteria that pretrial programs have used.  Up until recently, I think you can make the argument, and I would, that those criteria, may not have been related to failure to appear and re-arrest as much as we tended to believe.

Len Sipes:  But unless, Lori would say, that unless it’s a validated risk assessment instrument, a validated instrument uses the board, it’s still guessing.  Now guessing may be an unfair term, but in essence, you know, without a validated instrument to guide us, it really is a matter of presumption, again.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well like to call that clinical assessments, but that’s still guessing.

Lori Eville:  Correct, yes.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  And with a we’ve found and there’s about 60 years of research on this, is that a good validated risk assessment beats clinical judgment about these decisions every time.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  It’s beyond a debate now.  One of the things that I’ll put out there, and there’s an organization that would really be helpful for your listeners to know is the Pretrial Justice Institute.  They have put out a couple of publications on the state of science in pretrial programming.  One of them looks at risk assessments and recommendations, and it’s really a summary of risk assessment of research that has been done over the last ten, perhaps 15 years, and it shows you the common factors that have been coming out of these risk evaluations and shows you that the risk levels that have been coming out, and the factors that predict failure really are becoming common among a lot of jurisdictions, and it’s a good read for people who are really interested in what we’re finding out about risk.

Len Sipes:  Well, let’s talk about those because the audience is going to want to know, well what are the findings?  First of all there are a certain category of people who in all probability are going to be kept.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You commit murder.  You commit rape.  You commit domestic violence.  You’re going to stay in all probability.  You’re not going to be released in pretrial.  You’re going to be held in the jail setting.  You’re going to be held in the jail setting, by the way, let me clarify jails.  Jails are also places to hold people on a pretrial basis.  They also are places where people serve short sentences.  Prison is where they ordinarily serve sentences of a year or more, so within that jail, it’s just not pretrial people, it’s people serving short sentences so that limits the amount of beds that you have.  I wanted to make that clarification.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  You also have people, excuse me.

Len Sipes:  No, please.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Who are also waiting transfer to prisons.

Len Sipes: To prisons.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  In jails and that’s becoming a much larger population as state prisons becoming over crowded.

Len Sipes:  Well, thank you for bringing that up because in a lot of states, it’s a very serious issue.  I mean, 20 percent, 25 percent, 30 percent of your population could be people waiting transfers to state prisons because state prisons are crowded.  Okay, so having said that, what are the other factors?  Okay, so they’re predictive and after years of looking at this, we know that they’re predictive.  What predicts a person returning for trial and not posing a risk to public safety, and I would imagine if he or she has family in the community, owns a home in the community, has a job in the community, that person, more than likely, is going to return for trial.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, community information is not as correlated to failure as we believed.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Lori Eville:  In the early beginnings, that’s correct.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  In the early beginnings of pretrial programs, in the early 1960s, the risk classifications tools that were used relied very heavily on what were very middle class values.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  If you looked like me, and if I was middle class, and you wouldn’t be a risk to be released.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  What we’re finding is that a lot of the factors associated with risk are things such as prior failures to appear, substance abuse usage, mental health issues.

Len Sipes:  Okay, if you haven’t appeared, if you skipped your trial in the past, that indicates that you’re going to do it again.  If you’re on drugs when you were arrested and have a drug history.  That’s then a greater chance of not complying.  I think I saw a statistic from Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia that there’s a huge difference in the success between those on drugs and those not on drugs.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Right.  Those who are nondrug users have much better failure – I’m sorry, appearance rates, and also safety rates.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  than those who are drug users.

Len Sipes:  What are some of the others, either one of you?

Lori Eville:  Well, actually your criminal history is one of them.  Okay.  So if you have convictions in the past, is that on one of them?  The interesting thing you had mentioned about a home.  That is another one that is not necessarily a predictor.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Lori Eville:  And in fact some of the local validated assessments have actually taken that out.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Lori Eville:  Because they have not shown that they have a predictive quality to appearing.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.  What else has a predictive quality?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well those are the big ones.  I think there are about seven or eight that you sees in most of these validated studies, but the question for the local jurisdictions are, A, how do you define these factors.  In Washington DC, for example, a prior failure to appear might be defined a little differently than other jurisdictions depending on how you get data from your court.  The other is whether or not you weight these criteria the same.  A prior failure to appear might be one of the main factors in my jurisdiction.  It might be a lesser factor at other jurisdictions.  So while we see these factors in most risk validation studies, how they’re defined, and how they’re weighted in the final assessment –

Len Sipes:  So one size is not going to fit all in terms of a measurement instrument.  The measurement instrument could be looking at the same variables in Kansas City and San Diego and Washington DC, but yet be interpreted and applied differently.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Much differently.

Lori Eville:  Based on local culture, differences in jurisdictions, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.  So everybody – it’s not just one size fits all.  Everybody gets to take a look at this and measure.  But even with that measurement, there’s still a human being that says, I don’t like this outcome.  I think the person should stay.  I think the person is a flight risk, or a public safety risk.  The person can override the instrument, correct?

Lori Eville:  Absolutely.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  One of the performance measures in our measuring with [PH] Matters Peace, in fact, how often the pretrial program actually complies with their own wrist assessment.  We suggest anywhere between a 12 to 15 percent override rate.  If you find yourself in that range of overrides of risk assessment, we think you’re okay.  Because you’re right, risk assessments tools, as great as they are, do not put all defendants in think proper risk places.

Len Sipes:  Well I imagine it’s also going to be concerns regarding race, gender, income, and objective instruments sort of evens everybody out.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So if you’re suddenly making exceptions for, you know, 30 percent range for income, you get to ask the question, why?  So the whole idea behind all of this is to generate data and ask questions of yourself as to why you’re getting the results you’re getting, and are people showing up for trial, and are we protecting public safety.  It allows the individual jurisdictions to take a good hard long look at themselves and to improve.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Exactly.

Lori Eville:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the bottom line behind what NIC is trying to do across the board in materials of correctional tracking, is to take a good hard long look at yourself and improve.

Lori Eville:  Correct, and you know, this actually – the document, one of the purposes, I mean there are many as we’ve talked about today, but NIC provides a training, as you said, in Colorado for new pretrial directors, and we’ve found that we had new pretrial directors that were being put into these departments and didn’t know really what should they be measuring.  What were their guiding principles, and so it’s part of what NIC is also doing to help bring on new directors and shaping really how pretrial is functioning across the United States.

Len Sipes:  Well, we’re just about at the two minute warning level.  Any final thoughts?  Any quick final thoughts?  Spurgeon?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, only that I really encourage not only pretrial programs, but also any policy maker, or any criminal justice practitioner to take a look at this document.  It should show you how your pretrial programming should work in your local jurisdictions.  It should help you determine what your goals and missions are and how to make sure that you’re doing the best job that you can in order to ensure public safety, and to help the court operate as efficiently as it can.

Len Sipes:  Lori, 15 seconds.

Lori Eville:  I would say go find the document, at the NIC website.  Contact me.  NIC is here to answer any of your questions or help assist your jurisdiction in getting the outcomes that they want.

Len Sipes:  Thank you to the both of you.  Spurgeon Kennedy, director of research, analysis and development at the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  WWW.DCPSA.GOV.  Lori Eville, correctional programs specialist for the National Institute of Corrections for the US Department of Justice, WWW.NICIC.GOV, WWW.NICIC.GOV.  The document we’ve been talking about today is called Measuring What Matters:  Outcome and Performance Measures for the Pretrial Services Field.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We appreciate all of the comments that you give us.  The letters, the phone calls, the emails.  Please contact us, feel free to contact us with suggestions, programs, program suggestions, criticisms, comments, and if you please, everybody, have yourselves a very, very, pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships-US Dept. of Justice-DC Public Safety Radio

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

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a very interesting guest today, ladies and gentlemen—Eugene Schneeberg. He is the director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships of the United States Department of Justice, to talk about the national faith-based initiative throughout the country, and there’s an awful lot of things going on. Before we start our program, the usual announcements–now that we’re doing announcements, I want to announce the fact that there is the National Reentry Resource Center, which is a project of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice programs. The U.S. Department of Justice, all things you ever wanted to know about the reentry concept – The American Probation and Parole Association want us to celebrate the issue of parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. The actual week is in July, but we’re doing it early with all the radio and television programs that we’re doing, to really get people to focus on the sacrifices and what these individuals do to protect our safety every day. So again, that’s Also, interestingly enough, in Louisiana, the Department of Corrections is also doing their own radio series on reentry, and they’re the only other ones in the country. Go to Louisiana Corrections. Their web site is way too long for me to give out, but Louisiana Division of Correction, if you go to that web site and look for the radio shows, you will see what they have to offer. And back to our guest, Eugene Schneeberg. He’s the Director for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Justice. Eugene, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, thanks for having me Leonard. It’s great to be here.

Len Sipes:  Eugene, let’s set it up first in terms of Faith-Based initiatives.  Why Faith-Based initiatives?  I mean, we’re the government, we’re the criminal justice system, we’re the people who are supposed to be out there protecting the lives and wellbeing of partners, of citizens, of communities. Why are we even talking about Faith-Based initiatives?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well,  it’s a great question. Faith-Based organizations have been doing service delivery in our country for tens if not hundreds of years, and there’s a wide recognition that faith-based and community-based organizations have a great impact on the work that’s being done, particularly in local communities. Those are the folks with boots on the ground. They know the families, they know the individuals, and our president in this administration recognizes the value of partnerships, and it also recognizes that the federal government plays a large role in providing services, but can benefit of course from the partnerships of faith-based and community-based –

Len Sipes:  The ministers of [PH] Imanth, and the people within the Jewish faith, the – what am I thinking of? The –

Eugene Schneeberg:  Rabbi?

Len Sipes:  The rabbis. Geez, okay, here we go. Here come the comments from my friends in New York, from the rabbis, who I’ve talked to a lot of them. And they say, “You know, Leonard, we bring a legitimacy; we bring a legitimacy to this issue that you and government do not have. We bring an honesty, we bring a sense of perspective, we know the individuals who we’re trying to deal with. Government nibbles around the edges, we really deal with the heart and soul of what’s wrong with our communities.” Correct, or incorrect?

Eugene Schneeberg:   Well, you couldn’t be more correct, I think. The word that came to my mind is “credibility” and “moral authority”. There’s over 350,000 houses of worship in our country, and those combined are responsible for recruiting more than half of the volunteers in America.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  And so, in communities, when people are in trouble, most times when people need support, they oftentimes go to their houses of worship.

Len Sipes:  Right. And they have an understanding of these issues, that quite frankly, government – I mean, I’m paid to do a job. I’m paid to come to the criminal justice system every day, and I do what I do, and hundreds of thousands of police officers,  and parole and probations agents, and correctional officers, they come to their jobs every day. The individuals within a faith-based community, they do it out of love. They do it because their religious tenets tell them to do it. They do it because they think they can make a difference. They think that they can intervene in the life of somebody coming out of the prison system more meaningfully than we can; and quite frankly, they may be right.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, I think – I would tend to agree with you as well, that oftentimes folks feel this is a calling. But I do want to make an important clarification, which is that our office doesn’t focus exclusively on faith-based groups, but also secular, nonprofit organizations. And of course they make huge contributions in every city and every town throughout this country.

Len Sipes:  Alright, let me get into the whole concept of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It’s under the U.S. Department of Justice, but it’s also at the same time under the Whitehouse. So, you have 13 federal faith-based centers. The Whitehouse Office of  Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the 13 centers throughout the country, and they’re designed to do what?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure. So each center is designed to coordinate, strengthen partnerships between their federal agency and faith-based and nonprofit organizations. And so, that plays out differently in different organizations. For instance, there’s a center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that’s working on summer feeding programs, and connecting the programs that agriculture has with programs in the community. The Veterans Administration is working on connecting faith-based and community-based groups with work around preventing homelessness among veterans.  We have – there’s an office at the Housing and Urban Development that works on foreclosure prevention and first-time home buyer programs, and small business administration. The list goes on and on. The Department of Education is working on school turnaround. And again, in each and every case, they are strengthening partnerships with their agencies priorities partner with faith-based and nonprofit organizations, both locally and nationally.

Len Sipes:  So there are 13 federal centers out there designed to further this concept, to promote this concept, to be sure that faith-based and nonprofit organizations are welcomed into these issues. And the issues, I think, as we described them before the program, are offenders coming out of the prison system, responsible fathering initiatives and youth violence–those three issues.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah, so those are the focus areas of my agency at the Department of Justice Center at DOJ; and each center, as I stated–and the federal agencies have their own priorities, and oftentimes they overlap. For instance, there’s a number of agencies that sit on the Interagency Reentry Council. So, there’s representatives from housing, because people that are coming home from incarceration need stable housing.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  There’s representatives from education that are part of the working group, because offenders, or formally incarcerated folks—excuse me—need to continue their education. So at our office, the priority areas which you’ve already mentioned are promoting effective and responsible prisoner reentry –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – working on issues of youth violence prevention, and lastly, which I think, in my personal opinion, which is most important and cuts across all of these areas, is promoting responsible fatherhood.

Len Sipes:  You know, it’s interesting, because what government does is one thing, but I get the sense through these 13 faith-based centers, Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership Centers throughout the country, operate under the auspices of the United States Department of Justice; it takes the existing resources, it takes the existing fabric, what’s important to a community, and expands upon it and utilizes those resources to do a better job on those three subject areas that we’ve talked about. I mean, again, it’s the criminal justice system. We’re limited in terms of what it is we can do. Why not reach out to the nonprofits and get them involved? Why not reach out to the faith-based community and get them involved? It seems to me that this takes government and extends it 10-fold, 20-fold, 30-fold. So it’s just not how – the fact that they can do a better job in many cases than the criminal justice system, it just expands the reach into these three priority areas—10-fold, 20-fold, 30-fold—because of what it is that you’re doing.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah, and I think it’s not necessarily that these groups are doing a better job, but perhaps it’s that they’re doing it in conjunction with law enforcement, with the courts, with probation and parole; and that’s a large part of what – well, my job is to connect these groups with partners that oftentimes might even seem unlikely partners–clergy working with police; clergy working with sheriff’s departments. And you know, the federal government does a lot, and particularly around research and access to information and best practices, and that’s what we want to be able to share with the field. What’s working, what’s effective, what does the data say? So we spend a lot of time focusing on providing technical assistance, and also connecting folks. So if someone, like for instance, CSOSA’s faith-based initiative, which is very successful,  a very effective program; it’s working in D.C. and there’s a group that wants to launch a similar initiative in California.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Eugene Schneeberg:  My office is uniquely positioned to help generate that kind of peer-to-peer learning, and this radio broadcast, and often kind of does the same thing.

Len Sipes:  Eugene, we discussed at the beginning of the show, a little bit about yourself and the fact that both of us worked in the field, both of us have a history of working with youth, working with younger people out in the field. So tell me a little bit about yourself. You came from Boston?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure. Yup, born and raised—was raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts. And Roxbury, for those who might not know, is really, I would say, the roughest, toughest part of Boston.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  I was raised in the late eighties, crack epidemic, gangs kind of running rampant.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  And only by the grace of God didn’t join a gang. Was recruited to join a gang, recruited to sell drugs, and thanks to God and adults who were caring, was able to kind of be resilient and overcome some of those obstacles, and go on, and go to Boston University. Studied urban affairs. I actually  thought I was gonna be a city planner, go back and do something about all the vacant buildings and abandoned lots in my community. But my first job out of college was working for a juvenile detention facility, and it was there that I really fell in love with working with these young people, and where my mind was really changed about the perceptions I had, that these – the preconceived notions I had that these were these horrible kids with bad attitudes and –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  And when I met them and heard their stories, I really realized that they were indeed, in many cases, victims; and had tremendous potential that just wasn’t being tapped into. And so I fell in love with the work then, and went on to working for the state Juvenile Justice Agency, to working for a faith-based nonprofit called Straight Ahead Ministries –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – that really focused on providing hope to these young people inside the facilities, and went on to run their reentry program, in helping these young people to make the successful transition from incarceration back into the community.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.  Those are tough assignments though. I mean, you fell in love with the concept as I fell in love with the concept. I always said those kids taught me far more than I taught them. I came to the same realization when I was on the streets doing gang counseling in Baltimore, that a lot of these kids were salvageable, that they weren’t the monsters – I mean, if you do the crime, you deserve the time. I mean, I’m not suggesting, and I’m quite sure we’re not suggesting if you do something nefarious or wrong or illegal, that you’re not held responsible for it. But a lot of these kids, even though they were either involved in criminal activity or on the edges of criminal activity, virtually all of them were salvageable. Virtually all of them, given the right guidance, given a fathering figure, given a firm hand and a come to you-know-what meeting from time to time, these were kids that could be plucked out, pulled out. But it was nevertheless an extraordinarily difficult assignment. I can’t imagine tougher work than the time that I spent working with young kids caught up in the criminal justice system.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, it’s funny that you mention the need for having fathering figures. As I mentioned before, before we started, Leonard, that I grew up without my dad. I’m 33 years old today, and never met him a day in my life. And so I think I was able to connect with those young people and connect with their experiences, and I’ve seen firsthand the impact that fatherlessness has on a community. It was actually the norm for my friends and I to grow up without our dads, and that really had a disastrous effect on our neighborhood, our community. And I think that’s why I’m so proud and so excited to be working for this administration, working for this president who also understands the importance of responsible fatherhood. As you probably know, and your listeners probably know, the president only met his father once in his life.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Eugene Schneeberg:  And so his – being able to work on the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative is a great opportunity to reach out to some of the outstanding fatherhood groups throughout the country that are doing great work. You know, with Father’s Day looming in just over a month, we’re excited about the president doing his annual fatherhood speech –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – and all the programming that’s associated with that.

Len Sipes:  You know, it’s interesting, because this administration, and as well as the prior administration of President Bush, the concept of faith-based, the concept of utilizing those resources, the power of those resources, then also reaching out to individuals and reminding them of the rights and responsibilities as father, and how important fathering is, it seems to be an issue that goes across the political spectrum, that it’s not necessarily Republican or Democrat. These are all things that everybody can support. But having said that, it’s interesting that President Obama really has pushed this issue of prisoner reentry, really has cited the fact that we’ve got to do a better job in terms of the kids that are coming up through the criminal justice system and reaching out to them; is a very very very important factor in terms of getting them out of a life of crime.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, absolutely. I mean, the president is working in Chicago. I saw this firsthand when he was in the Senate, and I think we’re at a point–and you mentioned this too–reentry has overwhelming bi-partisan support. It’s being smart on crime. It’s saving taxpayer dollars. You know, mass incarceration is just incredibly expensive, as you all know; and by being smart on crime, we can not only reduce our prison population and make wise investments in prevention and intervention and reentry.

Len Sipes:  And most states are backing off of their incarcerative policies now.  I’m not quite sure it’s philosophical, but they simply can’t afford to do it any longer. For the first time, the rate of incarceration in the United States is going down. And so, in states–and my Heaven’s newspaper articles that I read every single day–of states that can no longer afford a certain level of incarceration. Well, if we’re going to continue to have an impact on crime, there needs to be an outreach too, in terms of prisoner reentry, in terms of kids on the street, in terms of fatherhood. If we’re going to continue to reduce crime in America, we have to do those things.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely, and that’s an area where there’s, I think, an increasing interest on the part of faith-based and community-based groups to get involved in reentry.  They recognize we’re at crisis points. We recognize these folks are coming home, they’re coming home to our communities, and they need support. I also want to just call your attention–you mentioned the National Reentry Resource Center web site –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – in your opening. I want to call your attention to, which is really a clearing house for all things that are fatherhood. And I also want to call your attention to an initiative that we’re working on called the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. This is, at this point, a six-city initiative where city leadership, community-based, faith-based groups are working together to develop comprehensive violence prevention plans. Those cities are Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, San Jose and Salinas, California. And to find out more information about the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, you can check out, that’s, and there’s a tab on there that says, “Youth Violence Prevention”.

Len Sipes:  I want to re-introduce our guest, ladies and gentlemen, Eugene Schneeberg. He is the director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the U.S. Department of Justice, as guided by the Whitehouse, which has been very, very, very influential in this effort. So we talked about, we talked about – all of this is designed to do what—is to energize communities and use whatever resources available to attack these problems? I think that’s the generic. We’ve pretty much substantiated that’s what it is that we’re trying to do. But put something on the [PH 00:17:20] boat. And so, okay, so the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, what is involved in that?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure. Well, as you know, youth violence is a critical issue in cities and towns throughout our nation. And oftentimes, if you survey folks living in these cities, and you asked them, “What’s the most important issue?”, oftentimes youth violence bubbles up to the top. Obviously public safety and people feeling safe, and particularly the safety of our young people is of critical importance. The President, the Attorney General, Secretary of Education got together just over a year ago, and charged the federal agencies with coming up with some comprehensive approaches to addressing the issue of youth violence throughout the country. And so we started with the six cities that I mentioned earlier—Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis San Jose and Salinas. We did a series of listening sessions throughout the summer, to hear from folks in the communities what their concerns were, what was working, what wasn’t working, and I think one of the very important pieces is we have buy-in from the mayors, the chiefs of police, superintendents of schools, people from public health, and the community. And each of those cities work to develop these comprehensive youth violence prevention plans that have a lot of community input, and that information is available on So the plans are finished, and we’ve just transitioned, just in the latter part of April, to the implementation phase where these cities are now beginning to put these plans into action. So has a lot of good information for cities that weren’t able to participate in the national forum, to go there, to learn information because it’s definitely not these six cities that are the only ones that are struggling with the –

Len Sipes:  Oh, absolutely, absolutely! Now what’s the key ingredient? Are there key ingredients coming out of the experience of these various cities in terms of stopping youth violence or reducing it?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely. I think there’s some basic principles that the data shows, that the evidence shows, that you have to have a balanced approach. When you go into these with solely a law enforcement approach, you don’t get the results you want.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Obviously law enforcement police are critical components of youth violence prevention, but it has to be balanced. You have to have a strong prevention element. You need to reach young people before they get into trouble, before they get involved with the criminal justice system. Providing things like after school programs and tutoring programs and mentoring programs, all of which faith-based and community-based programs are uniquely suited to provide.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  You have to have a intervention component for those young people that have begun the process of having those brushes with the law or with the child welfare system, or what have you. Or those kids who may be eligible for a diversion program. You need to have a strong intervention program. As I said, enforcement is critical, you need the cops.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Eugene Schneeberg:  The cops play a critical role in getting the bad guys off the street, but you have to also – those guys are gonna come home, and so you need to have an effective and thoughtful reentry component. So the data shows you need to have a balanced approach, you need to have a multi-disciplinary approach. You need to have public health at the table, you need to have the schools at the table, you need to have law enforcement, faith-based, community-based, the business community. It really has to be a community-wide approach to this work.

Len Sipes:  I was reading a [PH] literature review some time ago and looking at the power of all of these different programs, and some are more powerful than others. And one of the most powerful programs was intervening in the lives of kids with social workers. The kids were acting out in school, they were starting to get involved in the criminal justice system, but we’re talking about young kids. We’re talking about preschool in some cases. We’re talking about very young individuals, and where social workers were going in to the homes and dealing principally with moms, because dad, in many cases, was not there. And talking about reading to your child 15 minutes a day, talking about effective parenting techniques, talking about what it takes to raise a child, and raise a child responsibly—basically saying, “Look, you know, you’ve got to be up before your kid, and that kid’s got to eat before going out of the house.” And that may sound simple, and that may sound—I don’t know–a bit oppressive on the part of government taking over the lives of moms and their kids. But what they’ve shown, what the data have shown, is that this may be the most powerful anti-crime program that we have at our disposal. Not saying anything is bad with prisons, not saying anything is wrong with law enforcement, but in terms of sheer prevention, intervening in the lives of individuals early on, and helping them in terms of how to raise that child, and what to do about that child, seems to be quite effective in terms of that child not going into the criminal justice system. So there’s good, hard data that says intervention programs do have an impact.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely. And I think the third principle that the national forum really espouses is that these strategies need to be data driven. They need to be looking at not only crime data but school data, social service data as well. We need to be thinking about outcomes and tracking outcomes and being thoughtful, and not just being kind of random in our approach.

Len Sipes:  Now the fatherhood initiative, can you summarize that? I mean, to a lot of people it’s confusing. What is a fatherhood initiative?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure. Well, there’s been fatherhood programs in our country for 30, 40 years –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – that have been effective. The president has been using the bully pulpit of his role as a public servant since his time in Illinois, every year, using Father’s Day as an opportunity to really lift up the importance of responsible fatherhood. And now, as the Commander in Chief, he’s used this opportunity to really promote this on a federal level. So his first year in office, the coordinator, by the way, Whitehouse Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under the leadership of Joshua DuBois, executive director, they held a series of town hall meetings all throughout the country with federal agency principals.  The Attorney General had a round table in Atlanta. The Secretary of Education did a round table in New Hampshire around education. The Veterans Affairs administrator did one with military dads and the like, and partnered with – there’s some outstanding fatherhood programs all throughout the country that are bringing – they’re doing excellent training for dads, they’re convening dads. I can’t really go into the specifics, but there’s just quite a few excellent programs out there in the community that are doing great work in charging dads, equipping dads to effectively parent their children. You know, being a dad is not an easy task.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  It’s probably the hardest job you’ll ever have.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  The president often talks about how being a dad is more challenging than being the president.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  But it’s also more rewarding. And so quite frankly, if we had more responsible dads at home, we would  need less federal programming.

Len Sipes:  How did we get to this? I mean, the kids when I was on the streets in the city of Baltimore doing gang counseling whether jail or job corps, or the groups that I ran in the prison system, routinely did not have fathers. You talked about your experience, you talked about the president’s experience. How in the name of heavens did we come up with a situation where the fathers are suddenly absent? Because I agree with you, if the fathers were there, steadfast, steady in the lives of their children, probably 50 percent of what it is that we’re talking about today in terms of today’s social ills, would disappear. So what happened? Why are we at this point where we have to instruct and sometimes use the bully pulpit to get people involved in the lives of their own children?

Eugene Schneeberg:  That’s a whole other broadcast –

Len Sipes:  Yes, it is.

Eugene Schneeberg:   – Leonard, and I’d be happy to kind of have that conversation. But I think, you know, there’s a whole lot of contributing factors to the crisis we face in fatherlessness in this country. The numbers are continuing the trend up, and the number of children born out of wedlock is steadily rising. But I think that, you know, it takes one person to change the destiny of a family.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Eugene Schneeberg:  You know, I grew up without my dad, but now I’ve been married for almost eight years, father of three, and training my children on how to be, you know, responsible parents.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Eugene Schneeberg:  My oldest is five years old. So I think, you know, I live by that mantra that one person can change a destiny.

Len Sipes:  Well, my oldest is 26, and let me tell you, it is the most challenging thing. I mean, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 40 years in a variety of capacities, and there’s nothing that’s been as challenging as being a good father. But the bottom line is, is that once we get fathers reconnected with their children, ordinarily good things happen.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s, you know, to use a faith term, I believe that God has designed the family to meet the needs of children; and our biological families are supposed to do that. We’re supposed to nurture and protect and provide and train and teach. And when you remove a dad from that equation, you know, you’ve done damage to that family. So we’re looking to continue to promote responsible fatherhood, we’re continuing to lift up the efforts of the president and the attorney general, and there’s a ton of good information on So I just really encourage your listeners to go check that out.

Len Sipes:  We only have about a minute left before we begin to close. What did we not hit, what needs to be hit, anything else? Or did we cover everything?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, I encourage folks to check out the Whitehouse Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.  If you go to, you can navigate fairly easy to the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. There’s a ton of work that’s being done all throughout the federal government, all throughout this country, to engage faith-based and community-based groups in the work that’s going on, particularly in this time of tough economic situations and budget cuts. We’re in a unique time where faith-based and community-based groups are being increasingly more called upon to provide services to the most needy in this country; and we’re looking forward to partnering. My office can be reached at That’s Looking forward to hearing from any of you listeners that might be interested in learning more.

Len Sipes:  And we’re gonna do all of these, all the notes that we mentioned within the show, we’re gonna put them into the show notes so people can – when they listen to the show, if they come through our web site, they will have steady access to them. Eugene Schneeberg, he is the director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the United States Department of Justice. Ladies and gentlemen, just to go over some of the things that Eugene said today,,

Eugene Schneeberg:  Findyouthinfo.

Len Sipes:, for the Department of Justice, and We’ll put all of those within the show notes. We do want to remind everybody once again, before we close, about the National Reentry Resource Center,, the American Probation and Parole Association, their efforts to celebrate the roles of parole and probation agents throughout the country, And the Louisiana Department of Corrections, they have a whole series of interesting radio programs in terms of what it is that they do. If you go to the Louisiana Department of Corrections web site, you can find your way to the radio shows. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Watch for us next time, or listen for us next time, as we explore another very important topic in our criminal justice system. Have yourselves a very very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Correctional and Vocational Education: Does it Work?-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the Nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Today’s program is about correctional education, vocational education.  It’s been talked about for decades, the whole concept of preparing people coming out of the prison system.  And the research certainly seems to indicate that the better prepared they are when they come out of the prison system, the less they recidivate, the fewer crimes are committed.  And in fact, states find themselves saving literally hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of reduced prison costs, in terms of reduced operating costs.  It’s a win/win situation for everybody involved.  But we have two issues going on today, ladies and gentlemen.  We have massive budget cuts at the state level and states are basically saying hey, we can no longer afford to do the sort of programs that are necessary.  We understand that they cut recidivism, but then again at the same time, there are budget cuts that need to be made.  And with the whole reentry movement, where in essence what the Department of Justice and everybody else is saying is that the better prepared individuals are upon release from the prison system, the better they do.  Again, the less they recidivate and the less they cost states.  We have two principals with us today to discuss this entire issue, Steve Steurer; he is the Executive Director for the Correctional Education Association of America and Bill Sondervan.  He is a professor and Executive Director of Public Safety Outreach for University of Maryland University College.  First of all, give me a sort of an overview of the Correctional Education Association and you guys have been around for decades, and in terms of the preshow, we were talking about the whole issue that you all had been pushing this whole issue of reentry for decades.  So this concept that we think is new, preparing offenders coming out of the prison system and have that seamless transfer to resources and the community, that is something that you guys had been advocating for decades, correct?

Steve Steurer:  That’s correct.  CEA has been around, it’s heading towards its 70th birthday in a few years.  And we’ve always advocated to educate inmates for preparation for, you know, getting back into society and being productive people, workers, parents, etc.  But that’s nothing new.  The reentry efforts, I’m very happy that we’ve seen this emphasis on reentry.  I think the only thing that I feel badly about is that it doesn’t really focus as much on education as I would like to see.  We do have an opportunity to get some educational efforts going through this Second Chance Act and we have taken advantage of some of that.  But education seems to get lost.  A lot of programs want to go forward for reentry, but if you have a highly illiterate population unprepared, you need to catch them up a little bit with skills and the ability to communicate in order to be successful in other programs.

Len Sipes:  But Steve, the bottom line in all of this is that the research does indicate that the better prepared offenders are upon release, especially if they transfer seamlessly in terms of similar programs in the community, the less they recidivate, the less crime there is and the fact that states do save hundreds of millions of dollars in delayed or completely postponed prison construction costs, correct?

Steve Steurer:  That’s correct and most people in criminology believe that and understand it because of the research.  I mean you can get into the particulars about which programs might be more effective than others, but that nobody really knows precisely.  But they do know overall, education programs with basic literacy or post-secondary education, an investment in that pays off tremendously in fewer crimes and fewer re-incarcerations and then costs to the public, you know, in general.  But that’s a given for almost all of us.  But the problem with budget now is there are all kinds of priorities.  And so corrections kind of falls to the bottom underneath public schools, university and education, etc.  So we’re fighting for a small number of dollars’ worth, you know, with other priorities.  So we’re in a real pickle right now.

Len Sipes:  Bill Sondervan, you are a professor and Executive Director for Public Safety Outreach for University of Maryland University College.  University of Maryland University College, it just teaches an immense number of individuals.  What is it, like 90,000?

Steve Steurer:  I think last I looked; we’re up to about 95,000 students or more.

Len Sipes:  95,000, that’s amazing.  And one of the things I do want to be sure that people understand before we get into the crux of the conversation today is that you have had a lifetime in the criminal justice system, but you ran Corrections in the state of Maryland for how many years?

Steve Steurer:  Len, I was a deputy commissioner for five years and I was the commissioner for five years before a short stay at the American Correctional Association and then coming to University of Maryland University College to run the criminal justice program.

Len Sipes:  So both of you have seen everything.  Both of you have been around in this system for a long time.  Bill, again, I’m assuming that you agree with the proposition that I’ve placed to Steve and that is is that the better prepared they are in prison, the less they’re going to recidivate when they come out and there’s research that shows this, correct?

Bill Sondervan:  Yeah, absolutely Len.  I think one the realizations that the corrections community came to is that we have to do better than we were doing in the past.  In the old days, we did very little research.  We did very little to prepare inmates to go home.  But there’s been a realization that we need to do research.  We need to see what works and what doesn’t work.  We need to focus our limited dollars on the programs that work effectively.  And when inmates come into the system, like I ran a state system with 27 prisons, and what we all decided that we needed to do is as inmates came into the system, we need to assess them, see what their needs were, get them to a prison that had programs to deal with their needs, do effective things and start preparing them to go home from the time they get in, cause 95 percent of them are going to go home.  And in the old days, like in Maryland, we would give them 20 bucks and put them on the bus and that was the end of it.  But we’ve got to do a whole lot more on that end.  In Maryland I’m proud of the fact that we did some of the initial research, the Department of Justice and others, to determine what those needs were and start putting those programs into place and doing pilot studies to show that we can make a big difference in recidivism rate if we did the proper things.  And one of the things that really stood out of that was correctional education.  I think correctional education is one of the things that really works.  It’s been empirically shown to be effective through studies.  And I think it would really be a crime if we didn’t continue to support and expand correctional education the best we can.

Len Sipes:  Steve Steurer, I do want to give out the website for the Correctional Education Association,,, and for Bill Sondervan it’s,  Okay, well gentlemen, look, we set up the program.  We talked about the fact that these programs are necessary.  We talked about the fact that these programs are effective.  We’re talking about, you know, we’ve pretty much substantiated the fact that the programs reduce crime, reduce recidivism, calls fewer people to be brought up in the criminal justice system, saves the state tens of millions of dollars.  Okay, if it’s that clear-cut, why are states cutting back on correctional education programs.  And Steve, you told me something I didn’t know before the program began is that the cut-backs also apply from federal funds, that the federal government is cutting back on correctional education programs.  So if it’s so clear-cut, why are we facing such a hard time convincing states to not only expand, but keep the capacity they currently have?

Steve Steurer:  Well, I like to think it’s not because people are mean-spirited, I think we find a few people in politics who are, but I think politicians operate with a meager amount of evidence when they start trying to do things, so they operate more on what seems to be popular or what the voters are like.  The latest example you gave of having cut all the post-secondary funds available in the United States for college education, mostly which went for career and vocational programs after somebody, you know, graduates from high school, their GED.  All that’s gone and it was done with a committee that got together with the White House and Congress secretly and decided to cut out 38 billion dollars.  Well, they went for all the low hanging fruit.  You know the things that could be easy, not just for excellent education but an icon of a program like Reading is Fundamental with zero out.  And that’s been a successful book program for years.  It’s had terrific effect on helping children read.  I mean and so who would argue against Reading is Fundamental?  And if they looked at the research, who would argue against prison education?  You could argue about whether they should get a Bachelor’s or a Master’s and how much you’re going to contribute to their education.  But people get together, politicians get together, they’ll lay everything out, they have meager evidence in front of them on all these things unless they really have a terrific staff helping them sort this out and they go to town.  And the result is a lot of stuff like correctional ed. and drug programs, you know, often get cut or other things that are good for, you know, for public welfare.  And they’ve got the voters out for these issues, so that’s part of the reason they cut them.  They’re low hanging fruit.  They’re not anything that people are going to argue about too much.

Len Sipes:  Bill, you want to take a shot at the same question?

Bill Sondervan:  Well, I think Steve hit the nail on the head, you know, and I’ve been through the budget battles.  I had to ask Corrections Commissioner, I had a $620 million budget and that seems like a lot of money.  It is a lot of money, but it wasn’t enough money to do all the things you needed to do.  It wasn’t enough money to even do the basics.  And right now, looking at what’s going on around the country and looking at the states, the budgets are really, really tight and people are cutting, you know, wherever they can and the decisions are being made physically and they’re being made politically.  And the money’s really, really tight and folks in the legislature are going to vote for budget expenditures on areas that’s politically helpful to them to get reelected.  And unfortunately in corrections, you know, there’s not a big voting block.  You know inmates don’t have a big constituency.  And I’ve had private conversations with senators and delegates and pleaded my case and asked for money for these sort of things and got a variety of answers.  And some of them were, you know what, we like you, we think you’re on track, but if I vote for this, if I approve this, I’ll get voted out of office and I’m not going to do it.  So again, I think that the issues are physical and they’re political.  I don’t think anybody’s mean spirited.  I think everybody or most people who understand the process after it’s explained to them, would want to help you if they could.  But times are just really, really tight.

Len Sipes:  Now, the PEW Center on the States just came out with a report gentlemen, where they contrasted recidivism rates state by state by state.  And they talked about the states that were doing it well and the states that really weren’t doing it well.  And we here at DC Public Safety, what we’re now doing is interviewing the commissioners or the public safety secretaries from a variety of states that have claimed reductions in recidivism due to the programs that they’ve put in.  I just did an interview with the Public Safety Secretary of the State of Kentucky and he has now cut recidivism rates to a ten year low.  So there are states out there, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, Oregon, and I’m probably forgetting one, that are claiming reductions in recidivism and we hope to bring them all on this air at DC Public Safety and talk to them about what they think was effective in terms of cutting rates and recidivism.  But that’s five states.  That’s five states out there that have claimed reductions in cutting recidivism.  A couple of other states have also claimed reductions, but they’ve since backed off those claims.  So some states are out there and they’re saying okay, we understand the GED programs are necessary.  We do understand that drug treatment programs are necessary.  We do understand that vocational programs are necessary.  And we do understand that when that offender comes out of prison and goes into the community that those services should be there.  So again, some states are embracing this and some states aren’t.  And everybody’s operating from the same base of knowledge, I think.   I mean the research is the same regardless of whether it applies to Michigan or Oregon.  Some states are doing it, some states aren’t.

Bill Sondervan:  Well politics drives things more than a research Len, and, you know, sometimes that’s a shame.  But you know it’s an enormously complex problem.  And we did a lot of research on what works and we came up with some good answers and more research is going on.  But it involves a lot of things.  Not only does it involve assessing inmates when they come into the program to determine their needs.  Like Steve said, you know, the average inmate has like a sixth or seventh grade reading level, but it’s more than that.  We have to, while they’re in prison, we have to do things like teach them employment readiness skills.  We need to teach them how to do, you know, cognitive thinking skills.  We need to prepare them to go find jobs, how to interview.  We had to do simple things like get them ID cards, so that they can prove, you know, who they are when they go for a job.  But it’s more than that, you know?  And it’s more than just, Corrections said it’s more than just the prison systems.  When inmates get out, there needs to be some kind of a hand off back to the community.  And the things that we found that inmates need are temporary housing.  They need to have healthcare.  They need to have medical care.  They need to have people on the outside to help them find jobs.  They need to have people on the outside to help them reconnect with their families and other people in their communities.  So it’s a very broad spectrum of things and it crosses, you know, several boundaries.  And one of the issues that I found at being a corrections commissioner, is that my money, my authority, my funding, everything I had, was all in a stovepipe.  And once I wanted to do things that crossed that boundary to reach out to the community, you really had to go out and spend the time to convince people to ask, you know, for help from people to get other organizations to chip in.  And what really made that difficult is that the inmates going home, we had 13,000 inmates go home every year, they weren’t all going home to, you know, one community.  The bulk of them were going to Baltimore, but they were going to communities all around the states.  So all those support things that you need for inmates to help them to be successful when they get out, have got to be replicated in several communities and not just one.  And that’s an enormously complex task.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program.  Steve, let me go ahead and reintroduce both of you.  We’re halfway through the program ladies and gentlemen.  Steve Steurer, the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association,, Bill Sondervan, Professor and Executive Director of the Public Safety Outreach Program and the University of Maryland University College,  They’re our guests today, talking about this whole concept of correctional education, correctional vocational educations, correctional programs and how that these programs certainly are proven to have an impact in terms of recidivism rates.  But the fact is is that the states are struggling financially.  And as you said a little while ago Bill, they’re cutting low hanging fruit.  So is there a way, are there new techniques or are there new ways of approaching this issue that are cheaper and at the same time more effective.  Steve, you and I talked before the program that my folks wanted to ask you is that why aren’t we doing more long distance learning?  Why aren’t we having a person sitting in a classroom in Iowa teaching inmates how to read or teaching inmates vocational education in four or five adjacent states?  Why, aren’t there more interesting and more powerful ways of conducting business that are cheaper and at the same time more effective?

Steve Steurer:  Yes, and we’re involved with trying to get some of these efforts going.  Part of the, I’ll give you a good example of what the problem is.  The GED, everybody knows about the GED.  Well, the normal way that that takes place now is a face-to-face instruction or maybe some computers that people sit at and receive some instruction that way.  And well that’s all going to change.  The testing for the GED is normally done with a guy or a gal walking in to test, passes out the papers, times each one of the tests, takes the papers back and then they’re corrected.  Well, that’s all going computerized.  That’s all going to go online.  And at a local jail here in the Washington, DC area, where we’re going to be part of the pilot of this, they thought there already, because they had invested in a lab of 20 workstations a number of years ago, etc.  Well the GED testing software is going to require them to have a better fileserver and better workstations than they have.  That’s going to be the case all over the country.  There are very few states that have the technology inside that is good enough to do just basic stuff like the GED.  There’s going to be a best cost on that.  So where’s the money going to come from?  And GED testing is going forward with it and it’s going to happen at the community colleges, wherever else people go for GED testing.  So what is going to happen when somebody like Bill Sondervan, you know, when he was commissioner, goes to Annapolis and says you know, we need to upgrade our computers?  We need to do this, you know, and dollars are so tight.  So where’s that money going to come from?  But it either has to be done or all of a sudden GED passing rates are going to plummet in the nation’s prisons.  It’s one of the core programs.  It’s one of the things that people in the public would certainly support, the idea of people getting high school diplomas.  Where’s the money going to come from?  So taking that example and pushing it out there with other kinds of courses, whether it’s adult basic ed., literacy and English as a second language, parenting skills, preparing for work, etc., using computers, it costs money.  And people, they have to have staff to run it.  You have to pay, you know, fees to bring the Internet in.  And the real big sticking point for corrections is it has to be absolutely secure.  The inmates cannot get on the internet somewhere else other than what it’s designated in how do you do that?  All that can be done.  It costs money and you’re going to have to have the right kind of technical support to make it happen.  So yes, where do you go from here

Len Sipes:  But can it, I guess what people are asking Steve or Bill, can it be done?  I mean Bill Sondervan you’re a specialist in long distance education, but you’re dealing with college students.  Steve is dealing with prison inmates.  Can you really truly effectively do long distance learning remotely?  Number one, is it defective?

Bill Sondervan:  Well Len, there’s several issues there.  You know first of all, correctional systems are really technology deprived.  I became the State Corrections Commissioner in 1999.  I did not have a computer on my desk.  None of the wardens had computers on their desk.  Everything was done by stubby pencil, you know?  And there’s been big efforts made and strides made to try to computerize operations just for the basic running of the organization.  It’s been very, very difficult.  And not only are you competing for money for technology for corrections ed., you’re competing for dollars to do technology for security purposes and security reasons.  So that being one.  I’m a big proponent of online education.  I teach at UMUC and you know, probably 75 percent of our students are online worldwide.  And I’ve spent the last five years learning a tremendous amount of about it.  And it works, it works very well and it produces some really good results.  But the issue is again, like Steve said, as a correctional administrator despite the fact that I think that online education works very well; it’s very difficult to do it in a prison system because you can’t allow the inmates to go online.  If inmates go online, get onto the Internet and get into other things, things other than what they’re supposed to be doing, it can cause all kinds of problems, all kinds of difficulties and it just won’t work.  So to use that kind of technology in prisons, we have to come up with the money.  We have to find ways to do it where they can only log onto the sites that you want them to

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Sondervan:  log on, and you know, I think the technology’s coming along but I don’t think we’re there yet.

Steve Steurer:  I’d have to say I’d have to differ with Bill on that just because of some things I’ve learned recently.  And that it is there, but I don’t think the attitudes are there.  I don’t think that the correctional community is ready to buy into when an IT person says we can lock it down.  We can make it go just to that one site and that’s it.  And we can set it up so somebody sitting at workstation tries to break out, that computer freezes up and a signal goes out and, you know, that somebody’s violated the protocol at that workstation.  All that can happen, that can be done.  And we’re going to actually pilot that in the next couple of months at one of the local jails.  And we’re going to be trying to put GED and all kinds of other programs on that system.  But I don’t think that the average secretary of public safety or commissioner is convinced that that’s going to happen yet.  There are going to have to be some examples, successful examples that take place for a while that people don’t get out on the internet but are successful in getting a lot of educational learning done with technology that’s on the internet, and then people will start feeling more comfortable with it.  I remember years ago we couldn’t even bring a computer in a prison, although there was no Internet.  People were afraid that it would cause a security problem.  And now that nobody’s really afraid of bringing in a computer into a classroom that’s freestanding, you know, they’re more afraid of the Internet though.  So we have to go through some progressive learning here, some attitude changing as well.

Len Sipes: Well the reason I’m asking is because we’re at a dilemma.  We’re at a crossroads if the states are struggling as mightily as they are in terms of their own budgets.  You know, but some states are obviously, state of California comes to mind; some states are basically gutting educational programs.  And, you know, there’s a certain point where, you know, these other states have proven that they can reduce recidivism and other states are basically saying well, that may be but we just don’t have the money.  So somehow, someway there’s got to be some sort of solution to this issue of educating inmates within the prison system whether it’s reading, whether it’s getting the GED, whether it’s bricklaying.  I know it’s almost impossible to teach bricklaying remotely.  But there’s certainly a good part of that component that can be done remotely.  What people are struggling with is some sort of intermediate measure, some sort of idea as to where we continue to, can continue to educate inmates and at the same time live within existing budgets.  But what I hear from the two of you is that that’s still very problematic.

Steve Steurer:  Well, it’s problematic because of the cost, because of the attitudes.  And also, one of the other issues I’ll introduce here, Bill and I, you know, we’ve worked together for years in corrections and he’s got me teaching a course in criminology at the University of Maryland University College and I’ve been doing that for about four or five years now, probably driving Bill Sondervan nuts with some of my goofy activities.  But, you know, one thing that I have learned since the university is an open one, that there are a lot of students who are just marginal or maybe below margin in terms of their skills to be successful in college courses.  As a professor, I can only do so much online.  There are services at the university that I can refer them to.  You get into the same problem in prison, even in a bigger way, because so many people have marginal skills and there are software programs that help, you know, with lower level literacy skills and all that.  But you really need to do a lot more work with these students and probably have a lot of face-to-face assistance as well.  So just putting people online, even if you forget about and solve the security problem, you’re dealing with a population that often doesn’t want to, doesn’t know that education’s a good thing because they’ve been so unsuccessful in it.  A population that doesn’t know how to use technology very well, and so you’ve got to get them comfortable with it and just all these skills that have to be filled in that they missed somewhere along the line.  So technology’s not going to solve it completely, you’re still going to have to have adequate staffing.  I mean it’s a huge problem.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and the final minutes of the program gentlemen, I can’t imagine anybody better qualified to discuss this issue than the two of you.  But what, are we at a stalemate?  Is it the fact that states are just going to cut and that’s all there is to it because they feel they have no choice to cut? Is it a matter of education?  Is it a matter of getting the word out as we’re trying to do with this program?  I mean the Congressional staffers listen to this program.  We have people who run correctional systems around the country listen to this program.  What do we say to these individuals?  Are we missing a golden opportunity here in terms of the reentry world?

Bill Sondervan:  Len, I think it’s all the above.  I think that first of all, correctional educators and correctional administrators have got to work together, there’s got to be a partnership.  We’ve got to be creative in what we can do.  I think you’ll never get away from face to face teaching in the classroom.  There’s some instruction you can do on self-contained computers.  There’s some things that you can do on tape and there’s some things that you can do online.  I think we need to pursue all the avenues to make it work the best we can.  We’ve got to be part of the budget solution.  But I think there’s also an educational component.  And what I find is that so many people know so little about corrections, it’s really amazing.  I think all us, we’ve got the responsibility to work with our governors and with our legislators to educate them on the importance of this program.  And I think what we can show them is that for the few dollars you spend on correctional education, you can get an exponential return in terms of reduced recidivism down the road.  And I think we all need to get out there and discuss that and sell the message.

Steve Steurer:  I think Bill’s absolutely right.  In addition to those things, I just came back from Indiana.  They went through a whole revamping of their system, not to eliminate education but to find more economical ways.  And in some cases, I don’t necessarily agree with it because they’ve hired teachers with no benefits and everything, and so they’re going to have a tremendous turnover with those people and not a lot of effective teaching going on.   But they’re also getting bits from community colleges where teachers, you know, do work with benefits and such.  But it’ll save the state some money from, you know, having to pay people, the state employees, with higher benefits.  Now that’s what I was and I retired from that, so I like to defend that system.  But there are economies that can be made.  A number of states have really negotiated with the teachers to create, you know, some economies.  There’s going to be a lot more privatization efforts.  Ohio is selling five prisons, not privatizing them, selling five prisons.

Len Sipes:  Yes, yes.

Steve Steurer:  And the Corrections Corporation of America will probably bid and maybe Management Training Corporation.  And Management Training Corporation is very big on education.  In fact, they’re accredited by CEA.  We always fight with them because their salaries are a little lower, but you know, they really put on terrific programs.  And I’ve seen CCA education programs that are pretty good too and I’m going to be there next week at CCA to talk to them.  They’re talking about working more closely with us.  These efforts will probably save money.  We’re going to reconfigure, try to figure out more ways to do things more economically.  You know, maybe try to convince some technology companies to come in and try some things out.  We’re working with the GED tech office to find out ways to make this work in prisons and jails and juvenile facilities.  You know, this will all happen.  I’m optimistic.  It’s going to take a lot of work.  If correctional education isn’t at the table, something else is going to be put upon this as educators that might not work quite as well.  We need to be there working out all the details.  You need to have people like Bill Sondervan who when he was commissioner, Bill and I would work hand-in-hand.  I mean I was actually accused by some people in my own department of working for the Department of Corrections instead of the Department of Education.  I thought that was a compliment.

Len Sipes:  Bill, you’ve got

Steve Steurer:  I really did.  I thought it was a terrific compliment because I said, you know, you’re working for the state government for the same cause, so who cares if you’re corrections or education?  Bill stood for staff training, inmate training, you know, everybody needed to be professional and inmates needed to be retooled and put back out in the community so they could survive and be productive citizens.

Len Sipes:  Bill, you’ve got about 15 seconds before I have to close the program.  Any final words from you?

Bill Sondervan:  Yeah, no, no, I’d just like to say that, you know, we know that corrections ed. works.  It’s been empirically proven.  I think we all have a responsibility to support it and get behind it and I think if we all do that, I think we have a great chance for success.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Steve Steurer, the Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association, Bill Sondervan, Professor and Executive Director of Public Safety Outreach.  For Steve’s organization for the Correctional Educational Association, it is,  And for Bill Sondervan for University of Maryland, it’s,  Before we close, the American Probation and Parole Association encourages everybody to really try to respect the community supervision officers, the parole and probation agents.  There are hundreds of thousands of them throughout the United States, throughout the world, who are out there protecting your safety on a day-to-day basis.  They ask you to spend some time and spend some thoughts thinking about people who are out there every day who are protecting your safety and mine.  Again, that’s from the American Probation and Parole Association.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’ve been your host, Leonard Sipes.  Listen for us next time as we look at another very important issue in the national and DC criminal justice system.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Sexual Exploitation of Children-DC Public Safety-US Department of Justice

Sexual Exploitation of Children – “DC Public Safety”

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[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s show is about sexual exploitation of children, and you know what?  It’s really about a rescue mission.  The FBI estimates that on any given day there’s a million pedophiles online looking for your children.  The attorney general, Eric Holder, what he did was to frame a national effort to look at what we can do, what we in the criminal justice system can do, and to look at what you as parents can do.  To discuss this on the first half of the program, we have Francey Hakes.  She is the national coordinator for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction from the U.S. Department of Justice, and we have Dr. Michael Bourke, chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office, and to Francey, and to Michael, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Francey Hakes:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, did I frame all this issue?  I mean, we have a lot of people, a lot of concern, a lot of individuals involved in exploiting our children.  So can you frame it for me a little bit, Francey?  And can you give me a sense as to the national effort as announced by the attorney general, Eric Holder?

Francey Hakes:  Of course.  Some people have described the sexual exploitation of our children as an epidemic.  I would certainly describe the explosion of child pornography that way.  So last August, the attorney general, Eric Holder, announced our national strategy for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction.  It’s the first ever national strategy by any government in the world, and it’s certainly our first.  It’s supposed to have three prongs: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  What we decided to do is bring together all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, all our prevention partners, all our sex offender management partners, our court partners, and most importantly, our parents and community groups together to bring this effort under one umbrella so that we can fight child sexual exploitation on all fronts.

Len Sipes:  The numbers that I’m talking about, they’re going up dramatically.  The numbers are astounding.  We’re talking about a huge number of individuals trying to violate our kids on a day to day basis, and when I say violate, we’re talking about psychological and physical bondage, are we not?

Francey Hakes:  Unfortunately, the children that are being sexually abused, especially the ones whose images are being traded like baseball cards across the internet, across the world, are being violated in increasingly violent ways, and we’re seeing increasingly younger and younger children being violated that way, and that is the reason that the attorney general and all of our partners decided to get together and start this effort, so that we could do something about it, and our ultimate goal is to eradicate child exploitation ultimately.

Len Sipes:  Michael, you’re the chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office.  You are an expert.  You understand these individuals; child sexual predators probably better than anybody else.  Who are they?

Michael Bourke:  Well, for eight years, prior to coming to the Marshal Service, I treated these men in federal prison, and the truth is there isn’t really one mind of a predator, you know, so to speak.  These men come in from all walks of life, they’re from all socioeconomic groups, they’re both genders, frankly, and these men tend not to burn out like other types of offenders do.  So really, when we talk about what is the sex offender, they, they’re folks that are our neighbors; they’re folks that are our coaches and civic leaders in our communities in some cases.  So they, most individuals that offend against children are actually known to those children and some have a very positive relationship in other ways with those children.

Len Sipes:  Well, help me frame it Michael, because on one hand, we have, according to the FBI, a million pedophiles online, and they’re trying to entice these kids into meetings, and they’re trying to entice them to exchange images.  These images are going to haunt them for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, most sexual exploitations involved people who were known to the victim.  They’re the neighbor.  They’re the uncle.  They’re the coach.  I mean, what do you say to parents?  I mean, the numbers seem to be overwhelming.  What are the chief lessons to be learned here, and what prevention lessons can we put on the table?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, I think, and Francey may have something to add to this, but from my experience, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online.  They need to be aware of who their friends are online, with whom they’re chatting at night, they should be paying as close attention to those friends as they do if their child’s going to go spend the night at someone’s home, and frankly, a lot of parents are a little intimidated by some of this advanced technology on the internet, children have a lot of access and avenues by which to access the internet, including mobile devices, and parents need to just get a little, get some additional education, and they need to pay attention to what these kids are doing online.  It’s a very dangerous place.

Len Sipes:  They’ve got to be aggressive.  We run, by the way, in this program, we run a commercial about parents intervening with their kids and their online experiences, but the parents need to be aggressive.  Is that the bottom line?  I mean that’s the principal prevention method, if parents are aggressive in terms of what their kids are doing, and keeping an open line of communication, so if that child is approached, he can go to the parent and tell the parent about this experience.  Am I right or wrong?

Michael Bourke:  Yes, I think that’s accurate.  And also that relationship is very important between the parent and child as well.  For the parent to have a relationship with the child where the child feels comfortable coming to the parent and saying, someone attempted to solicit, or asked me to send them a dirty picture.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke: or something like that, so that the parent can take action because so much can occur despite parents best efforts…

Len Sipes:   Right.

Michael Bourke: these children can access the internet in a number of locations in a number of ways.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke:  so building that relationship and that type of rapport with the child is very important.

Len Sipes:  Francey, you mentioned at the beginning of the program that The Department of Justice, for the first time, is bringing a coordination of effort in terms of parents, in terms of community organizations, in terms of law enforcement, in terms of everybody within the criminal justice system.  What is the bottom line behind that coordination, is it to be a more effective tool for prevention, a more effective tool for apprehension and prosecution?  What is it?

Francey Hakes:  Well, like I said, in the beginning, it’s really three prongs.  There are three main focuses of the national strategy: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  Interdiction is traditional law enforcement investigation and prosecution.  I’m a federal prosecutor, and I’ve been prosecuting these cases for 15 years.  That’s obviously very important and will continue to be very important.  But we’re never going to investigate and prosecute our way out of the problem.  The numbers are simply too large.  So deterrence is very important, and that’s where the United States Marshal Service and others, our state and local partners, through their sex offender management and monitoring, they are so key, and one of our best tools is going to be prevention.  We’d rather not have the victims to have to rescue in the first place.  We’d rather the children be empowered to protect themselves.  We’d rather the parents have the tools that they need to know how to protect their children, and so that’s why organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Netsmarts, these organizations give out free materials, they have websites, they give out free materials for parents, teachers, students, and groups to obtain the information that they need to protect themselves online.  It’s not just the parents, it’s not just the students, it’s not just the teachers.  It’s all of those groups, plus our community groups, that need to have the materials necessary to protect themselves, not just online, but in their day to day activities, I think sometimes in this internet world, we’ve become, and Dr. Burke is correct, that children have access to the internet through so many devices now that it’s, sometimes, I think, a little terrifying.  But we also have to remember that the majority of children who are being sexually abused are being abused by those that they know, and so arming them with the knowledge, the empowerment, the understanding of what is right and what’s wrong and what’s okay to tell, who to go to, a trusted adult, those things are very important.

Len Sipes:  Having those age appropriate conversations with the kids, informing them, but not scaring them.

Francey Hakes:  Exactly right.

Len Sipes:  Now, so all these statistics that I mentioned at the beginning of the program, one million pedophiles, and a 914% increase in the number of child prostitution cases,  do we have the capacity to deal with this?  Is the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local level overwhelmed by this process?  Do we have the wherewithal to deal with this effectively, or are we fighting an uphill battle?

Francey Hakes:  Well I think, sometimes in prosecution, we always used to call it shoveling smoke because it seems like the more you shovel, the more that there is. And I think with respect to child sexual abuse it’s been around for a long time, we hope that we can eradicate it, and where I think, we’ve started well, we’re on a good path.  Are we somewhat overwhelmed?  I think it’s overwhelming.  I don’t think we’re overwhelmed.  There are huge amounts of effort going on at the federal, state, and local level, but the key here is what the national strategy was designed to produce, and that is partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation at all levels of government, including globally.  This has become, of course, an international problem with the advent of the internet.

Len Sipes:  A global issue, right.

Francey Hakes:  It is an absolutely global issue.  And so we’re working with industry on ways to solve the problem.  You probably heard the announcement last week from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Facebook and Microsoft.  Microsoft has invented a new technology called Photo DNA.  They donated it to the National Center.  The National Center, in turn, gave it to Facebook, and Facebook is going to employ this technology throughout their systems which will search for and find known images of child pornography so that they can be eradicated from their systems.

Len Sipes:  Wonderful.  Michael –

Francey Hakes:  So these are things that we have to do to work together and really think creatively between law enforcement, community, and industry.

Len Sipes:  Michael, can we persuade people who are child sex offenders, who are pedophiles, not to get involved in this, or is that drive, that’s going to be with them for the rest of their lives–can the system have an impact on their behavior?  Can we persuade them not to do this–that we’re taking sufficient actions that’s likely for them to get caught, can we persuade them not to do this?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, it’s a great question, Leonard.  I think the answer is, it’s fairly multifaceted, but the short answer is that there is no cure for pedophilia.  There’s no cure for these fantasies and these drives, per se.  There is, however, for any of these individuals, a possibility of managing that behavior.  This is not something inevitable, this is a choice, these men are responsible for those choices, and women, and we can assist them in doing that with creative external management.  By that, I mean things like the registrations and outpatient treatment programs and things like that.  With proper external management and proper internal management, these men are capable of living a life in which they never harm a child.

Len Sipes:  Right, so treatment does work.  That’s one of the things I did want to get across.  Treatment does work, and we within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our sex offender agency, we’re going to talk about that with two people involved in that unit on the second half, but treatment does work,  we can really persuade individuals who are on the edge.  The commercial that will run between the first and second half, we’ll talk about ìwhen did you become a child sex predator?î  Obviously, we’re under the opinion that we can persuade people who are on the edge not to do this.  This is wrong; you’re going to get locked up.  We can meaningfully intervene.

Michael Bourke:  Right, well there are individuals that, with those proper things in place, have a choice not to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Michael Bourke:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  The final part of it is aggressive prosecution.  We need to go after them in every way shape and form and that’s what we’re trying to do with the federal, state, and local level, is to set up these dummy operations to pretend that you’re the 14 year old, the 13 year old, to monitor whatever it is that we can monitor, and to go after these people and arrest them and prosecute them.  Is that correct?

Francey Hakes:  Well that’s right, and that’s one of the reasons why we place such a high emphasis on technology and training for our law enforcement and for our prosecutors, because this is often a very high-tech crime, and we need a high tech solution, and that’s why we’re working with industry on things like I talked about, the Photo DNA initiative, but there are lots of other tools that law enforcement uses to keep up with the bad guys who are trying to assault our children.  There are very sophisticated groups out there that have banded together to discuss their deviant fantasies and to plan ways to sexually assault children, and we have to find ways to be just as sophisticated to break their encryption, to get into their passwords, to find a way to infiltrate these groups, and we are doing that at the national level in order to make clear to these would-be predators that they have nowhere to hide, and that’s why it’s so important for us to have very strong, firm sentences as well, because that is part of our deterrent prong.

Len Sipes:  Okay, we have one minute.  So through the national effort, for what attorney general Eric Holder announced, the Office of Justice Programs, US Marshals Office, Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, we can look them in the eye and say that we’re gaining ground, that we have the wherewithal to come after you guys.  Stop it.

Francey Hakes:  I think the message is, to the would-be pedophile out there is you’re probably talking to a law enforcement officer, and watch out for the knock at your door.

Len Sipes:  Cool.  Michael?

Michael Bourke:  I agree.  United States Marshal Service has also set up what we call the National Sex Offender Targeting Center.  It’s a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary intel and operational hub.  We’re looking in all corners for these men.  We are going after them when they fail to register, and we’re putting all of our efforts toward this problem.

Len Sipes:  We have to close now.  I really appreciate this stimulating conversation.  Ladies and gentlemen, Francey Hakes, National Coordinator for the Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction from the US Department of Justice, Dr. Michael Bourke, Chief Psychologist for the United States Marshals Office.  Stay with us on the second half of the program as we talk to individual parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers, who supervise sex offenders on a day to day basis.  Please stay with us.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes:  Welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to explore this topic of sexual exploitation of children.  The first half, we talked to two individuals from the Department of Justice, and we framed the numbers, and the numbers are truly staggering, but what does that mean in terms of the local level?  We talked about the importance of partnerships, and we talked about the importance of people at the local level enforcing laws and providing treatment services.  To talk about what it is that we do here within the District of Columbia; we have two principals with us today.  We have Ashley Natoli, a community supervision officer for the sex offender unit of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Kevin Jones, another community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, and to Ashley and Kevin welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ashley Natoli:  Thank you.

Kevin Jones:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, Ashley, give me a sense as to this issue of the sex offender unit.  What is it that we do?  What is it that we do in the District of Columbia that’s unique?

Ashley Natoli:  Well, we supervise offenders who have either been convicted of a sex offense, had an arrest for a sex offense, or an offense that is sexual in nature.  They come to our unit and are supervised in our unit.  There is roughly about 450 active cases in our unit right now, about 670 total of all sex offenders right now.

Len Sipes:  Now, the interesting thing is what we at CSOSA do, and this is different from a lot of parole and probation agencies throughout the country, is that if you’ve had a sexual conviction in the past, not your current charge, but 15 years ago, if you had a sexual conviction, or if you had an arrest, you come to the sex offender unit, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Kevin, I want to talk to you.  This is something that’s intrigued me from the very beginning of my time in corrections, that is, is that so many of the offenders on the sex offender unit are so compliant.  They dress well, they work, they show up on time, they dot their I’s, they cross their T’s, and they give every appearance of people who are compliant vs. other offenders, sometimes it’s pretty obvious that they have issues.  With the sex offender unit, the sex offenders, they can give the impression that nothing’s wrong with me, just spend your time with more troublesome people.  You don’t have to really spend that much amount of time with me, look at me, I do everything right.  Am I in the ballpark?

Kevin Jones:  You’re in the ballpark exactly, Leonard.  These guys are the most compliant guys on our caseloads.  They actually drug test as scheduled, always on appointments, on time.  They’re in the office, they appear to be, have all their ducks in a row.  I think our main focus is, what are you after you leave our office?  So that’s why we use a lot of our safety tactics, are that, we have a lot of collateral contacts with the offenders and the offenders’ families, and we really get to see what kind of guys they are once they leave our office.

Len Sipes:  Now, I guess I shouldn’t brag, but then again, I am the host of the program, and this is our agency, so I am going to brag.  We have one of the best sex offender units in the country, in my opinion, and what I’ve heard that from a lot of people, one of the best sex offender units.  We have very high levels of contact.  We drug test the dickens out of them, we submit them, they have to submit to lie detector tests, polygraphs.  We put them in treatment, sometimes through the treatment process we find out about other things, we search their computers.  We put them under surveillance, if necessary; we work with local law enforcement in terms of joint supervisions.  We go to their home unannounced.  You guys do it, and sometimes with our partners in the Metropolitan Police Department, they’re under a lot of supervision, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do for that person, either one of you?

Kevin Jones:  That person, as we do unscheduled contacts, it kind of keeps them off balance. Again, he has to be held accountable for, if he has no contact with minors, we assure that by doing home visits, and when we’re in home visits, we’re actually looking for things that might kind of be off the beat, maybe a possible toy, things of that nature in someone’s home, and at that point, they’re questioned.

Len Sipes:  Now it’s also extraordinarily difficult, at the same time, with handheld computers, commonly known as smartphones.  I mean, the smartphone that I carry every day is as powerful as a desktop computer five years ago.  You can do anything you want with a smartphone.  So yeah, we have the right to search their computers, but they may not be operating off their computers.  They may be operating off of a portable device, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  How do you deal with that?

Ashley Natoli:  We look at the smartphones and the handheld devices similar to a computer.  We have the ability to search those just as we would a computer, and in most instances, the offenders will be having these handheld devices as opposed to having a computer,

Len Sipes:  Right. And the other thing that we are aware of too is a lot of the gaming consoles, such as Play Station 3’s, can be manipulated into being a computer as well, so we have to be looking out for a lot more than just a laptop in the home.  We have to be looking into what they’re using as a phone, what they have, and then we’re asking the questions and following up with the searches.  And that becomes the intriguing part of this, because it truly is a cat and mouse game.  Now I don’t want to overplay my hand here.  These individuals, in many cases, are compliant.  You’re supervising them, they are in treatment, treatment does work, you can take individuals, and they can control their impulses.  They don’t necessarily have to be out there offending.  But this is truly the, Dr. Bourke mentioned it in the first half, this is the master psychological game.  It is a psychological game, is it not, of cat and mouse, of looking for nuances of listening to individual little things that may not mean that much to another community supervision officer, but to you, means a lot.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, that’s correct.

Ashley Natoli:  A lot of these offenders, they are masters of manipulation and deception, and that’s, in most instances, in a lot of instances, how they ended up offending in the first place, because they have an incredible ability to groom these victims, and they’ve mastered the art of manipulation, and so we have to be aware of that so we aren’t taken advantage of.

Len Sipes:  Well, tell me a little bit about the grooming of the victims, because we didn’t get involved in that in the first half.  They will go online with them, and they will have, not just hours of conversations, but days or weeks or months of conversation before they ask for a photograph, or then that photograph moves on to a more sexually suggestive photograph.  This is a process.  They’re very patient individuals.  Correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  A lot of the guys that are in the grooming process while on sex offender treatment, a lot of that comes out in the treatment process, and once you find out that a guy might be on supervision, an offender might be on supervision for one offense, during that sex offender treatment process, you will find out that this offender has had multiple victims that he has proposed and that he has groomed, and this makes this offender a little more dangerous than what, from the outside, what it looks like to just this one victim.

Len Sipes:  And again, I mean, the idea of going in unannounced, putting on a GPS tracking device, but all of that, we talk about the technology, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with the technology, it strikes me, the most important ingredient we have here in terms of protecting the public is the savviness of the people who are supervising these sex offenders.  Do I have it right?  It really doesn’t matter about the computer part, the GPS, and the tracking devices, and the lie detector tests, what really matters is your ability to read the tea leaves as to whether or not this person is truly compliant or not.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.  You have to be very patient and very thorough and leave no detail unturned.  Like with the GPS, we’re not just looking at, are they complying with their curfew, are they charging their device, we’re looking at, where are they going during the daytime.  So you actually look at all their tracks so you can know, did this offender go to the park, or was this offender near a school, so we’re aware of that, and we can put alerts on there so it helps us to identify that, but we have all this information, and if we’re not doing the right thing with it, then

Len Sipes:  And the neat thing about it is we can overlay Google Earth, so we’re taking a look at that intersection, and we’re not quite sure he’s hanging out at the intersection, but when we overlay Google Earth, a-ha, there’s a playground that didn’t show up on a regular map.  So we do have the technology tools to try and keep up with the individuals, but it’s really is more understanding who that person is.  How long does it take until you get a sense as to that sex offender?  How long does it take before you feel that you’re inside that person’s head, that person’s mind, that person’s modus operandi?

Kevin Jones:  Well, again, with the treatment modal-, coupled with the GPS, you can probably feel your offender out, I guess, in about two months, maybe, to that nature, and a lot of it is, you’re questioning his every move, which makes him uncomfortable, which is, at the same time, holds him accountable for where he’s going, so as long as he’s knows that he’s being tracked, and that we have exclusion zones from the zoo, from parks, and things of that nature, then that kind of keeps him in compliance.

Len Sipes:  And we’ll get word from the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement partners that we saw the guy spending way too much time outside of the St. Francis School.  It was a block away, and maybe he has a legitimate reason for being there, maybe he doesn’t, but that’s also the law enforcement partnership feeding us information, right?

Kevin Jones:  Yes.

Ashley Natoli:  Yeah, definitely.

Kevin Jones:  And apart with the law enforcement contact, we do unscheduled accountability tours, and that’s with our partnership with Metropolitan Police Department, and at that time, we also have what we call GPS clean sweep tours, where we will come do unscheduled accountability tours on an offender who has a GPS curfew of 7:00, just to make sure that they’re in place, that there’s no type of shielding, anything of that nature, and we also are really big on the Halloween project, where, that we will come to the offender’s home between the hours of 3 and 11, and he is to be in that home at that particular time.

Len Sipes:  Right, and we have found violations on the Halloween tour. We have found kids inside the home, and we have found them, they’re not supposed to be giving out candy, they’re not supposed to be decorating homes.

Kevin Jones:  Lights supposed to be off.

Len Sipes:  We roll up to the house, and there’s decorations, and there’s candy, so we’re trying to protect the public in that way.  The other major thing that we’re trying to do is look at social media, look at Facebook, but there are literally hundreds of sites that kids go onto.  I was reading this morning about going onto gaming sites.  You know, it’s not a chat room, it’s not Facebook, it’s now gaming sites.  So we’re now in the process of taking a look at social media and tracking that person through the social media process, correct?

Ashley Natoli:  Yes.

Kevin Jones:  That is correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and there’s a certain point where we are going to be expanding this to other offenders beyond sex offenders, but that’s part of their world, and that’s part of the experience of kids, and if they’re going to be there, we need to be there, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, and we actually have a mechanism where we are monitoring Facebook, and we’ve had situations where we’ve seen our offenders who may have no contact with minors, and in his profile sheet, he’ll be holding

Len Sipes:  Right!

Kevin Jones:  a child.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Ashley Natoli:  And it’s not as simple as just searching them by their name.  You’re searching their aliases; you’re looking, searching by email addresses and different things, because a lot of it is not going to just be given to us.  We have to find the information.  It’s there if we search for it, deep enough.

Len Sipes:  Right.  We’re not going to give away our secrets in terms of how we’ve figured this out, but Cool Breeze was his moniker, nickname seven years ago, and son of a gun if he’s not using Cool Breeze in terms of his Facebook interactions, so there are all sorts of ways of getting at this issue.  So the bottom line is this.  What do we tell parents?  I mean, you guys are there protecting their kids, you’re protecting all of society, just not the kids, but you’re protecting society, protecting kids from further activities on the part of these individuals.  You know them better than just about anybody else in the criminal justice system.  What do we tell parents?  One of my chief messages is having an open conversation, so if somebody approaches that child, that child talks to the parents.

Ashley Natoli:  I agree, and I also think parents need to be aware that this is something real and that happens every day, and that a lot of people think, oh, it won’t happen to me, or it won’t happen to my children, but you need to be aware that it is a problem and it will happen, and you need to know what’s going on so that you can educate your children appropriately and know that this is real.

Len Sipes:  Well, the FBI is saying one million predators.  That’s just an unbelievable number of people.  I mean, they’re attacking your kids, correct, Kevin?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  And a lot of it is, just like we were stating, collateral contacts.  You have to build a collateral contact with the offenders’ family members.

Len Sipes:  Right, and employers and friends.

Kevin Jones:  Employers, friends, significant others.

Len Sipes:  The bottom line is that you’ve got to get, and we’re going to close with this question, you’ve got to get a complete psychological profile of who that person is.  You’ve got to know that person better than their own mother knows that person, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right, we’re going to close on that.  Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Jones, community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Ashley Natoli, the community supervision officer, again, with the sex offender unit.  Thank you very much for watching, and please, protect your children.  Please have an open and honest conversation and age appropriate conversation with your children.  Watch for us next time when we explore another very important topic in our criminal justice system.  Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]


Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders – UDC Sound Advice

Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders – “UDC Sound Advice”

“Faith Based Partnerships and Offenders” features a discussion with a policy maker within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a Cluster Coordinator with CSOSA’s Mentoring Faith Based Program and an individual currently under CSOSA supervision.

Guests for this program:

  • Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Office of Legislative, Intergovernmental and Public Affairs – Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA)
  • Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator for CSOSA’s Faith Based Mentoring Program
  • Tonya Mackey, an offender on CSOSA Supervision.

The show is hosted by Shelly Broderick, Dean of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law.

See for our radio shows, blog and transcripts.

Television Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

[Video Begins]

Shelly Broderick:  Hello, I’m Shelley Broderick, Dean of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and your host for Sound Advice.  In the District of Columbia, approximately 70% of convicted offenders serve some portion of their sentence in the community.  As such, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (or CSOSA)’s effective supervision of convicted offenders provides a crucial service to the courts and paroling authority and is critical to public safety.  Establishing partnerships with other criminal justice agencies, faith institutions, and community organizations is very important in order to facilitate close supervision of the offenders in the community, and to leverage the diverse resources of local law enforcement, human service agencies, and other local community groups.  Approximately 2,500 men and women return home to the District of Columbia from prison every year.  Among the challenges they face are the need for housing, health care, education, and employment.  With me today to discuss how CSOSA meets these challenges are Cedric Hendricks, Associate Director, Reverend Kelly Wilkins, Cluster A Coordinator, and Tonya Mackey, successful returned citizen and day care assistant.  Welcome.

Cedric Hendricks:  Thank you.

Shelly Broderick:  Let me start with you, Cedric.  We go back many years.  It’s so nice to have you on the show.

Cedric Hendricks:  Thank you.

Shelly Broderick:  And I don’t get complacent, we’ll get you back, too!  Because you have a lot to talk about.  Tell us what CSOSA’s mission is and what its reach is, because it’s hugely important in the District of Columbia.

Cedric Hendricks:  CSOSA is a public safety agency responsible for supervising men and women on probation, parole, and supervised release.  So we have about 16,000 individuals under supervision on any given day, and about 60% of them are on probation, meaning that they went to court, were sentenced, and went home, and then about 40% are on parole or supervised release, meaning that they experienced a period of incarceration and have come back home.

Shelly Broderick:  Okay.  And what are, and you know, it’s such a crime what we do, because when we send people to prison, we don’t provide education, we don’t help people get the housing they need, and we don’t, you know, we just don’t take care of business, and so often, people come back and don’t make it.  And so that safety net that CSOSA is helping to provide is just critical to people being able to succeed.  So how many folks work at CSOSA?

Cedric Hendricks:  We have about 900 employees that work at the agency, and we’re a fairly unique federal agency because our mission is focused solely on the District of Columbia, and so the men and women that we supervise, for the most part, are residents here, and what we are trying to help them do is successfully complete their periods of supervision which can involve a few months to several years, and so what we see across the board, and this is what those who are on probation as well as those who have returned home is that, as you’ve indicated, housing, health care, education, and employment are the major challenges that they face, and so we’re very active in trying to partner with the District government, the faith community, and nonprofit resource and service providers to try and help those we supervise meet the needs that they have.

Shelly Broderick:  Okay.  Tonya, let me turn to you.  You’re a returned citizen.

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  You were locked up for how long?

Tonya Mackey:  For about five years.

Shelly Broderick:  And you came back to the District of Columbia?

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  All set, you were ready to go, everything was perfect?

Tonya Mackey:  Not –

Shelly Broderick:  No, okay.  It’s not surprising.  How did you, you went to CSOSA, because you were required to –

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly, for reentry.

Shelly Broderick:  And tell me what advice they gave you.

Tonya Mackey:  The advice they gave me was just some little simple things that, at first, didn’t sound so simple, but I knew I wanted my freedom and I wanted to be on the street, and so I did what was necessary.  It took, it wasn’t all good, but at the end, I’m on top because I’m successfully completed, and through CSOSA, what they told me was, is that I needed to, I needed to get some help from some other women, and a lot of times, women like me never really wanted to communicate with other women because we didn’t, I didn’t think that we had anything in common but being a woman, but thank god that CSOSA sent me to a faith based program where I met Reverend Kelley, who is now my spiritual guidance, and I have a mentor from a program which is from women based empowerment, it’s a program called Empowerment for Women.  Ms. Mignonne who teaches it, I got a whole lot out of it, and what they help me to do was deal with my mom, coming home in society, dealing with other women, dealing with getting an education, dealing with how to ask someone how you get housing, where to go and ask, believing in myself again and believing in God, and –

Shelly Broderick:  Talk about your mom.  Talk about your mom.

Tonya Mackey:  My mom, who has been there with me for my whole entire life, she, I have always done, I felt like I have always done wrong to her, and now I’m trying to make a difference in her life and my life, actually my life first, and then her life, because that’s the only way I can do it.  My mom is a cancer survivor, she’s been diagnosed, she just –

Shelly Broderick:  She just found out.

Tonya Mackey:  – just found out she was diagnosed with cancer, and I went on actually my first cancer walk with her last year, so –

Shelly Broderick:  Wow.

Tonya Mackey:  – to be, the grace of God, and I always say, to be, to God, because without him, I know that I wouldn’t be on this journey, and other people that help me along the way so far, CSOSA, and faith based led program.

Shelly Broderick:  So you came out of all this in West Virginia –

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  – and you came back, and one of the first things that happened is you found out your mom had cancer.

Tonya Mackey:  Yes.

Shelly Broderick:  Now is that the kind of stress that can really –
Tonya Mackey:  – take me back out, or would have.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s right.

Tonya Mackey:  Would have.

Shelly Broderick:  I mean, that’s the kind of thing that makes people go back on drugs.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  As one of my friends, a drinker, says, what’s so great about reality?  You know, right?  So it’s one of those things that can just turn you upside down.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  Reverend Wilkins.  You met Tonya around that time.

Kelly Wilkins:  Yes, actually, I did, and Tonya, when I first met her, she came to the group.  It was Purpose Empowerment, women’s empowerment group.  She came to the group, and she really was not participating that much.  You know, she really didn’t want to be there.  She didn’t really see the reason why she needed to be around a bunch of women because she had never really had any bonding relationships with women before, and so I would say about, let’s say two months into the program, they started in December, somewhere about February, we had that, we had awful snow in the District of Columbia, and I remember people in the group calling me saying, is there a way we can still meet at the church?  And I’m thinking, like, no, there’s no way!

Tonya Mackey:  We can’t get there!

Kelly Wilkins:  So the facilitator who was just, she created the program, and she’s completely committed to it, figured out a way for them to talk on the phone, to really deal with whatever stresses they were dealing with, being locked in the house because of the snow, so I mean, awesome support for Tonya, and I saw her grow.  I mean, she just grew so phenomenally from December, and she graduated in May, the first week of May.  So yeah, it was a 17-week program at that time.

Shelly Broderick:  What does that feel like?  Was it hard at first?

Tonya Mackey:  At first, yes.  I was like, didn’t want to be there, I wasn’t going to participate, I was going to go pass and go through –

Shelly Broderick:  Check it off your list.

Tonya Mackey:  Right, right.

Shelly Broderick:  Check it off.

Tonya Mackey:  But after a while, you know, even after I finished the program, now I’m returning back.  So it was real, it was a real blessing to me because now I have, like Ms. Kelly says, I have women that I can call, we can talk, we can bond.  We can talk about anything that’s going on.

Shelly Broderick:  What kinds of things?

Tonya Mackey:  We talk about how we hurt our families, we talk about how we can make a difference in other people’s lives, how I can come back, and this right here is even a blessing to me, because I was like, oh wow, somebody’s calling me and asking me to be a power attraction to someone else, whereas I had low self esteem, low self worth, didn’t think that I could become better than what I am today, and I feel real good about where I am today, and where I’m at today is that I’m helping my mom, even with her cancer, the part of surviving, you still have to go back and get treatments, but I’ve been able to be accountable today.  You know, I’m not stealing her money today.  I’m not lying today.  You know, it feels real good.  You know, a lot of times, she still may have doubt, but that’s not up to me.  As long as I stay on this path, I know that everything’s going to be all right, because she’s along with me to take care of her children today, that she had just started her business, her own day care business, so now I am an assistant to her, and it feels real good, and like I said, I graduated from the empowerment, women’s empowerment program, and I still go back, and I still constantly go down to the courts every now and again, and just to hear cases, and to find out how I used to be and how I can go back, and I don’t want to go back.  I want to stay where I’m at today, and being here with you guys makes me feel so good, lets me know that I’m accomplishing something.

Shelly Broderick:  It lifted me up, I’ll tell you that!  I was a defense attorney for a long time, and I watched some of my clients go away for a good long period of time, and it’s heartbreaking, and sometimes you can feel like it can be a good thing, just put a stop in the action, get away, it’s not a good place you ever want to send anybody, but get to a place where you’re out of this environment and get it together and come back and make it work, and you know, for so many people, it doesn’t work because they come back and they don’t have the safety net and the support system and the help.  You come back, you can’t get into housing.  You can’t get public housing.  Okay, where are you supposed to, oh, back in the old neighborhood!

Kelly Wilkins:  Yeah, and let me just say, support is very critical to recovery and reentry.  Without support, we can’t do it by ourselves.  Even the faith, the faith based community can’t assist returning citizens by themselves.  That’s why we need Court Services to be a partner with us.

Shelly Broderick:  Tell me what the partnership looks like.  How do you enter in?

Cedric Hendricks:  We came to recognize at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency that we couldn’t do it by ourselves, and that we really needed to have solid partnerships with the natural resources, the natural systems in the community.  There are many neighborhoods in the District of Columbia where you can find a church on every block, and all of these faith institutions have ministries. They’re about the business of serving their congregations and their communities in a wide variety of ways, and so what we saw to do was tap into that network.  So back in 2002, we put out a call to the faith community through using a strategy called re-entry Sunday, and through having collaboration, communication with faith institutions, we were able to build a network that was willing to work with us, and from the congregations of those faith institutions, many men and women came forward to serve as mentors for those men and women who had come home from prison.  So that work continues to this day, and we continue to match men and women who are coming home with mentors so that they can have someone to talk to, as Tonya indicated, many of our mentors are returned citizens as well, and we’re allied with faith institutions across the city who are opening their doors to be helpful in so many wonderful ways.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s fantastic.  So my first job at a college was at Lorton Prison doing group therapy with inmates.  Now why did they hire a 21-year-old white girl?  I don’t know!  What were they thinking?  But anyway, you know, I learned way more than I taught, and I had an opportunity to meet a lot of guys who it was clear to me didn’t need to be there.  Guys who got in trouble when they were real young, just 20 to life, right?  20 to life is what everybody got.  And they just did maybe 15 years of that, no education, no job training, just, and they were poets: smart, interesting, thoughtful people being wasted, and I think it had a huge amount to do.  Actually in college, I worked at a halfway house on Euclid Street for inmates within six months of release.  I was at AU, I didn’t know anything.  But I was interested.  I don’t know why.  And then I ultimately went to law school and became a defense attorney.  So this is a world that I care very deeply about, and I’m so glad to hear, because it really, it’s so important to put these families back together, because what happens is the kids don’t know Dad or Mom, and there, it’s just, it’s destructive forever if we can’t make this kind of connection and help you make it work.

Tonya Mackey:  That’s what, actually, I was getting ready to say something on that part right there about you saying that a lot of times, the parents, you know, don’t really have the time to be there, and then they get subjected to some things you might have just one father, one mother trying to do the best that they can, and a lot of times, we make our own decisions too, you know, but when we get the help that we need.  I know it’ll be a lot more than me that would do better than they’re doing.  It’s just that we have to want to do the best that we can, and today, I’m just choosing, saying, I wasn’t great, I wasn’t good all my life, and that’s why I’m here saying that if we put forth the effort, we can be the best people that, we can be whatever we want to be.

Shelly Broderick:  It’s a wonderful think.  So Reverend Wilkins, talk about your church and how this came about for you and –

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay.  Well –

Shelly Broderick:  We love your church, and we want to give them full credit.

Kelly Wilkins:  I attend Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, which is on South Capitol Street SW.  My pastors are Drs. Christine and Dennis Wiley, and at our church, I serve as the associate minister of social justice and reentry, and we also have a nonprofit, which is called Covenant Full Potential Development Center, and that’s really how we are able to work with Court Services is through our nonprofit organization, and our church, we have a, we’re a very progressive church.  We have a very strong social justice stance in our community, so we, this is our area.  We believe that helping the least of these is our calling and our job.  We’re located in Ward 8, and Ward 8, which most of the returning citizens return home to Ward 8, a large portion of them, and it’s a lot of poverty in Ward 8, and –

Shelly Broderick:  And not very many jobs.

Kelly Wilkins:  Not many jobs –

Shelly Broderick:  Not housing that –

Kelly Wilkins:  That’s right.

Shelly Broderick:  – folks have access to.

Kelly Wilkins:  But they’re good people in Ward 8, and they just need the support, and they need the support of our faith community as well as our federal agencies, and I think advocacy is really at the top, and when we look at returning citizens, I think the environment, the whole attitude towards returning citizens has begun to change because of advocacy in the community.  There are plenty of advocacy groups, and our church tries to partner with as many as possible so people know that, you know, just because you were incarcerated doesn’t mean that you’re not a person, that you’re not human, that you don’t deserve a second chance, that you did pay your dues, so it’s time to allow people to have a second chance, and so our church takes that stand as the lead institution for 7 and 8.  When you say Cluster A coordinator, that means I actually recruit mentors and services for 7 and 8, but we do a lot of citywide events and services as well, and so part of our church’s stance on returning citizens is, not to be silent about it.  Let’s not be silent about incarceration anymore.  I think the, particularly, African American community has felt ashamed about incarceration, where you talk about the number of years that people went away, and we didn’t know the impact of that in our own families.  It has exacerbated our families in our communities.

Shelly Broderick:  It’s so true.

Kelly Wilkins:  And so we didn’t know what the impact of that was going to be, but what has happened is, particularly the black church, but our faith institutions, have always had a strong social justice stance, and so incarceration wasn’t a part of that.  So it is the tendency for churches and faith institutions to be silent about it.  So we want our partners to talk about incarceration: the pain, the struggle of the family, the needs, all of that.  We want to educate pastors and tell them, look, don’t be quiet about incarceration in your family.  You have people in your pews who are returning home or families who are struggling because of a family member missing, and so that’s the kind of things that we want to educate our community and our faith partners on as well.

Shelly Broderick:  It really, you know, when I was a little girl in Maine, there was a prison called Thomason Prison, and they had a store.  They had people doing crafts.  And so every time we went past there, we used to go into the store, they had prison inmates working in the store, you know, getting close to getting out, so I grew up thinking prisoners were all white, because in Maine, they’re all white, and they’re really good at crafts!  I still have this set of three paintings that we got.  I still have the stool in my kitchen made at the prison.  My sister gave us each Christmas stocking gifts last summer, all from the prison, because that was my conception as a kid.  You know, and because the prisoners I knew were getting close to coming out, it was just all very natural and, you know, we don’t do that.  We send our prisoners a million miles away.  They are completely hidden from society, and we don’t have that kind of easy give and take back and forth that I experienced.

Cedric Hendricks:  Well, you know, one of the challenging things about the District of Columbia is that the District’s prison, Lorton, that you mentioned you worked at closed back in 2001, and all of our inmates were dispersed across the United States.  And that has made it, I think, extremely difficult to maintain contact with your loved ones.  So if you were locked up in Louisiana, Idaho, you’re not going to get visits from your family.  It’s even going to be challenging to get phone calls from your family, and if you’re away for five years, as you’ve mentioned, and you don’t have regular contact with your support system, it does create, I think, challenges to come back, and so it is essential that we have mentors from faith institutions to kind of step in while folks are coming back trying to reestablish connections with the community, because sometimes families are slow to embrace their loved ones when they come home.

Kelly Wilkins:  They’re mad.  Sometimes they’re mad because you left them.

Tonya Mackey:  – you took my stuff and, hey, I just don’t want to be bothered with you, I felt you have to prove a point to me, and I’ve been there, because that in and out of, coming out of jail and nobody believing in you because you said it over and over again, so when do you change?  When do we stop?  It has to.
Shelly Broderick:  Well, you make a good point –

Tonya Mackey:  But you have to make a community.

Shelly Broderick:  First of all, Alderson is, what, six hours away?  You were just right around the corner in West Virginia, but six hours, that’s crazy!  You can’t, like, there’s no plane there.  It is a trek!  It is so hard.

Kelly Wilkins:  And if you have children, how do they eat in the ride going down there, when they get down there, do you drive six hours, and then you visit an hour, and then you drive six hours back?

Shelly Broderick:  And can you afford to stay in a hotel?  Is there a hotel anywhere nearby?  A motel or anything?  No, it’s crazy.  And then, they don’t lock women up very often unless they’ve got a history, so you –

Tonya Mackey:  Yeah, I had a history.

Shelly Broderick:  You did, in and out –

Tonya Mackey:  In and out of jail.

Shelly Broderick:  – locally and all that.  So you had a mountain to climb.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  You had a mountain to climb.

Tonya Mackey:  Exactly.

Shelly Broderick:  So talk to me about your mentor.

Tonya Mackey:  Well, what happens is, a lot of times, when I go to my other program, Empowered by Women, we stay in touch, me and Ms. Mignonne, and me and Ms., my mentor, we stay in touch, Ms. Kelly, and what happens is, just like she called me today, and she was like, well, I need to kind of like, help me out.  I’m in a spot.  Not a problem, and that’s what it’s about, me being accountable today.  Even though I was at work –

Shelly Broderick:  I see that.  I’m guessing you don’t wear that on Saturday.

Tonya Mackey:  But thank god that I’m able to do that today!  You know, thank god I was able, like I said, not just come home and get a job, because I still have some things that I have to do, but I’m just helping my mom, because like, she’s going through her cancer situation, which I know God already having, and I’m her only child to speak about it, so I took my mom, when I got locked up, she was locked up, and a lot of us don’t realize that until after we get a certain amount of clean time, people in our life who we can share the real gut level things about how you treated your moms when you was on the street, and then a lot of people don’t have their mom, so I’m real grateful today that I have my mom to talk to, and like I said, I talked to Ms. Willis and them, and Ms. Kelly, like, on a regular, because it’s like, I need people in my life to keep me on the right track when I need to stay outside of myself, when I get angry, and it feels like there’s nobody in my corner, you know, I’ve learned how to pray.  I mean, it’s like, I talk to God, at first I was like, I don’t know how, I don’t know where, but I’m like, God, can you just help me.  Next thing I know, there’ll be a phone call.  I’m here.  And that’s only through the grace of God, because, hey, I always wanted to become a positive role model.  I just didn’t know how.  So today, I’ve learned how to become a better person and a better human being.

Shelly Broderick:  We’ve got about four more minutes.  You’ve got two, and you’ve got two.

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay, great!

Shelly Broderick:  What else do we need to know?

Kelly Wilkins:  Through the faith-based initiative, we look for faith partners.  I’m always…

Shelly Broderick:  You’re recruiting right now.

Kelly Wilkins: I guess, I’m always recruiting mentors, and I’m always trying to recruit services that will help our returning citizens –

Shelly Broderick:  How do you become a mentor?  Somebody who actually wants to, hey, you know what, I’d like to work with somebody like Tonya!  I think I could do that!  I like her, and I could do that.

Kelly Wilkins:  Be a concerned citizen.  We are looking for concerned citizens.  We have a mentor training that, a mandatory mentor training that we ask that you go through.  There’s the application and interview process, and then once you complete that process, then what happens on a regular basis is CSOSA refers clients to me.  Their parole officers, or what they call Community Supervision Officers, refer clients to us, and we will match those clients with a concerned citizen in the community, and that person, just an hour or two a week, just to make sure they’re talking to their mentees and making sure, maybe they may have certain needs.  We create a mentor plan for them, each individual in the mentor plan.  So making sure their needs are getting met –

Shelly Broderick:  I lied.  We only have one more minute.

Kelly Wilkins:  You only have one more minute?  Okay.

Shelly Broderick:  I’m going to give it to you –

Kelly Wilkins:  No problem.

Shelly Broderick:  And then you’re going to have to come back.

Kelly Wilkins:  Okay, no problem.

Shelly Broderick:  That’s what it’s going to have to take.

Cedric Hendricks:  Well, let me just say, at CSOSA, what we’re after are people successfully completing their community supervision, and that’s why Tonya’s here with us as an example of what is possible.  And so we want to let the community know that, in order to realize the success, we need help.  We partnered with the faith community, we actively partnered with the District of Columbia government, so anybody listening who wants to join this effort, they should contact me at 220-5300, and we’ll pull them into the network of help and support.

Shelly Broderick:  Absolutely fantastic.  I am so glad, especially you, Tonya, but for both of you, just to have you on and let people know there are so many positive things going on, and there is a place to get help and to get support.

Tonya Mackey:  There’s hope.  There’s hope.

Shelly Broderick:  If you are interested in learning about CSOSA and reentry programs regarding men and women returning home from prison, please visit CSOSA’s website at and click on the offender reentry link or call Cedric Hendrick’s at 202-220-5300.  CSOSA and their faith partners, partnerships, are committed to assisting our returning citizens come home and stay home.  They invite the public to assist them with achieving that goal.  I’m Shelley Broderick.  Thanks for watching, and please join me next time for more Sound Advice.

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