Victim Rights in the Pretrial Process

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

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/05/victim-rights-in-the-pretrial-process/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the national’s Capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back on our microphones – Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org. NOVA has a long history, decades-long history, of protecting victims’ rights and the topic of the show today is going to be victim’s issues and pretrial release. What happens when a person is arrested and then released back out to the community and what it means to victims and victim protection? To discuss the pretrial end of it we have Tim Murray. He is the Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute – www.pretrial.org. Before we begin the show a couple of announcements. I’ve been asked to promote a variety of organizations.  One is the National Reentry Resource Center. It’s a project of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. It is a comprehensive website in terms of reentry issues. You can reach them via the website – www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org. The American Probation and Parole Association, they’ve asked me to promote the fact that there is an entire week in July promoting the work of probation agents, not only in the United States, but throughout the world. You can reach them via their website at www.appa-net.org and also it’s interesting. I spoke to our friends down at the Louisiana Department of Corrections. They’re the only other entity in the country doing radio shows on reentry. The Louisiana Department of Corrections Division of Parole and Probation and their web address is simply way too long for me to give out on the radio. It’ll be in the show notes and so we get back to Will Marling and Tim Murray. Welcome to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling:  Hey, Len. Good to be with you.

Tim Murray:  Thanks Len. Appreciate it.

Len Sipes:  Well, gentlemen, this is an interesting topic. It really is and I can’t think of anything dicier or more controversial than this issue because, Will Marling, the victims’ issues are something that the entire criminal justice system should be embracing. I’m not quite sure if we embrace them to the fullest possible extent, but we are here not only for the protection of citizens, we’re here, needless to say, for the protection of victims and you and I have had a variety of discussions where the criminal justice system just is not as good as it should be in terms of protecting victims’ rights. And now we have Pretrial Justice Institute, Tim Murray, to discuss this whole issue of pretrial. The problem is that states and local jurisdictions throughout the country are complaining bitterly.  Their jails are filled to capacity and what they’re saying is that either builds another jail – either invests hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of construction and operating costs – or we have to make decisions as to who we let go before trial. That the more dangerous individual needs to stay – nobody would doubt that, but the lesser offender – that means that he is going to be put out on some sort of bail or some sort of pretrial release. In the District of Columbia we have an entire organization, The Pretrial Release Agency, The Pretrial Services Agency, who’s there to supervise people on pretrial, but citizens object to that, that somebody gets arrested and three hours later the person is back on their block. So there’s a lot of controversy involved in this. Will, did I frame all this correctly?

Will Marling:  Yeah. I think you covered the bases pretty well, but the question and the whole operation for us is where do victims stand? How are they involved? Are their needs represented specifically, first and foremost, for safety and security? But then, of course, the approach to justice and all of these things, mixed together sometimes not clearly and we’re just constantly trying to affirm that victims always…the Pew Institute’s research regarding safety and security, the one thing that comes out in that research is…that’s the number one thing in all of these discussions communities agree on and that is we want safe and secure communities. Of course, the disagreement or the discussion, if I could soften it even there is, well, what does that look like and how does that work? And so when we’re looking at this pretrial justice issue and saying what are the realities because most people aren’t well educated on it? And I’m coming up to speed myself so that I can better serve victims.

Len Sipes:  Tim?

Tim Murray:  Yeah. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this on your broadcast and I appreciate the opportunities that have developed with Will and with NOVA. When Will and I first started having conversations about these issues we both shared a remarkable number of concerns. I think criminal justice professionals have done a less than adequate job in recognizing and effectively dealing with victim issues, needs and concerns and that’s despite the fact that many localities have passed very robust victims’ Bills of Rights and similar legislation. When you get to the bread and butter practitioner, the men or women that are working in our courts or our jails or with our probation or parole populations, they’re relatively unversed as to what services are available to victims; how victims access those services and they’re relatively unversed in how to deal with victims who confront them regarding their dissatisfaction or misunderstanding of how the justice system works. The one thing that Will and I come to constant and consistence agreement regarding is the public’s demand and expectation for safety and even though we both work at organizations that on the face of it might seem fields apart in terms of our individual interests, there is congruence when we start talking about public safety. I think that victims, as you’re described, Len, often don’t understand how the justice system works and I think the justice system often – these are my words – runs and hides from victims when victims raise concerns and I think Will and I have agreed to agree to do what we can with our organizations to remedy both of those situations.

Len Sipes:  Tim, the issue here, it strikes me, is making a proper assessment of the individual within our custody on a pretrial basis and to make sure that if the person poses a clear and present risk to society that that person is kept behind bars. If the person is not that clear and present risk or danger to society, alternative means need to be considered either through monetary bail or through what we do in the District of Columbia is actually have a Government-funded organization to supervise offenders in the community on a pretrial basis. So I think the heart and soul of this in terms of being fair to victims and fair to the larger issue of justice is our ability to figure out who’s dangerous and who’s an acceptable risk. Am I correct?

Tim Murray:  Yeah. I think you’re correct on most of that. I would probably pick apart a couple of assumptions you’re making, but let me first start by saying I think that all of us expect the justice system to make sense and in this particular part of the criminal process it often does not. In this part of the criminal case process if you have a pocketful of cash, regardless of how dangerous you are, you are likely to be released in almost every jurisdiction in this country except the District of Columbia and one or two others because in most localities in this country, cash is what’s used to determine who gets out of jail and, conversely, who stays in jail and cash on the same front does absolutely nothing to enhance or maintain community safety. Once I pay that money as someone’s has been arrested to a bail bondsman, I don’t get that money back if I behave and I don’t lose more money if I misbehave. That money has already changed hands. The jail door has opened and I’ve walked back into the community unfettered by supervision, accountability or monitoring. The conversations that I’d had with Will have focused on the need to change that paradigm. Cash is often used as a reason why the bail system is broken in this country because it discriminates against the poor and while that is absolutely true, what is not discussed often enough is that it also pays no service to community safety. It endangers victims. It endangers communities as a whole. Just within the last few months there have been tragic instances where people have paid money to a bondsman shortly after arrest – the kind of area you described, Len, at the beginning of your show – a case just in the last two weeks that the man was arrested in a domestic violence case.

We’re all familiar with the challenges associated with domestic violence and hopefully we would all agree that a rational response to domestic violence is not requiring someone to give someone else a couple of hundred bucks. In this case, in Washington State, there seemed to be a joint charge for domestic violence. He pays the $2,000 bond, goes homes, burns down his house with his five children in it as well as him killing himself and I wish that was an isolated instance. It is not. We know that people who get arrested are problematic. Some of them pose significant dangers. We believe and support the idea that danger can’t be addressed, identified in lesser degrees of danger can be transparently managed in the community rather than hide behind dollar amount and pretend we’re all safer because a dollar amount has been fixed on someone’s pretrial freedom or liberty.

Len Sipes:  I’m going to brag for a second. Our Pretrial Services Agency here in the District of Columbia, which is a federally-funded agency, has a much lower failure to return rate than most Pretrial Service Agencies throughout the country and that’s a pretty decent track record and they’ve been able to combine both public safety and getting the overwhelming majority of people in court to trial, but, Will, again, Tim mentioned it, this is a real dichotomy for victims. This is a real dichotomy for citizens. I agree with Tim that the average person doesn’t really understand the criminal justice system and if think that’s principally our fault within the criminal justice system for not being vocal enough, which is why we do these programs, but it is tough for that person to understand. I mean the person has committed a crime. As far as they’re concerned, the person is as guilty as sin because they watched him do it or they were the victims themselves and how that person could be released within hours of being arrested as far they’re concerned their safety is jeopardized by that release and how we overcome that, how we explain that, well, we’ve got limited finances. We can’t keep everybody behind bars for every crime that’s been committed. We have to pick and choose between the most dangerous and the people who pose an acceptable risk to public safety. That’s an almost impossible concept for victims of crime to understand.

Will Marling:  Well, sure. If you take each individual victim and look at the loss that they’ve experienced, the injustice that they’re endured, we naturally absorb a reaction from them, an anger from them that says, “I’d really like something to be done about the perpetrator.” We recognize that and we certainly honor and respect it. We also try to educate victims on these issues to say, “Now, what’s realistic in the world in which we live, in the justice system in which you are now engaged? What is truly realistic?” And victims were sensible people, most of them, before they were victimized and they’re sensible people after they’re victimized. So you can discuss these issues. I think what Tim and I have engaged on in respecting and reflecting on this issue, respecting one another, is that there are some clearly nonsensical things going on that to say that a person and the risk that he or she poses to society is based solely on a relatively subjective monetary standard…

People don’t realize that’s what’s transpiring. They figure that there’s got to be some sophisticated thought that went into determining that and that it has some level of protection and what we’re realizing is that is just not the case. So we want to look at the issue for the sake of victims because you go to the doctor and you want that doctor’s opinion on behalf of your medical condition, even though you might have perceptions. You might defer saying, “Okay, I understand that you’re focused on this.” So we want to be representing the needs of victims while also working sensibly to bring about meaningful change within the system and so that’s why Tim and I, we’re collaborating on this issue because we believe ultimately it serves society, it serves victims and it serves the process. We’re in a period in our lives, in our culture, in our society, where finances have to be considered. So now we’re driven to consider these things because the jails are overcrowded. We can’t build enough prisons and so on. So this is a good time actually to discuss this. What truly works, what’s truly meaningful in addressing the risk factors? What is sensible for serving victims?

Len Sipes:  I think your example yesterday, Will, when we were talking about this. Okay, so the guy is a major drug dealer. He’s involved in organized crime and what happens is he gets $10,000 bail. He gets a $25,000 bail. That’s a considerable amount of money, but for people involved with organized crime it may not be and that person posted the $25,000 bail and the person’s suddenly out. So there the decision is not necessary made on the dangerousness to society. It’s done purely because he has access to the money.

Will Marling:  Well, absolutely.

Tim Murray:  Len, if I can jump in here.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, Tim.

Tim Murray:  I think it’s important for everybody who is listening to remember that our nation’s court have always dealt with the issue of danger when they set pretrial release conditions, but our traditional way of dealing with danger is setting a dollar amount and keeping our fingers crossed that the bad guy doesn’t have the money and in many cases that turns out to be exactly the case, but decision-makers never know for sure. Maurice Clemens was a defendant in Tacoma, Washington, a year and a half ago or so. They sent a $190,000 bond on this guy with, I believe, child molesting, sexual molestation of an underage child – $190,000 bond. He pays it and shortly thereafter he walks into a diner and shoots and kills four deputies.

Now, as a result of that tragedy the state of Washington is looking at creating legislation that resembles the legislation in the District of Columbia and that’s something that Will and I have talked about. The court should have the power to detain someone pending trial and the Prosecutor makes a case, rebutted by Defense in an open evidentiary hearing and when the Prosecutor makes the case that this defendant is so dangerous that no condition of supervision or combination of conditions can reasonably assure appearance, then that individual, as is currently the case in DC and in the federal system, is helped. He has some safe bets that go along with that. Their trial has to be accelerated. You can’t just keep them locked up on an accusation for years at a time, but that is a fair transparent and rational and, I believe, an honest way of dealing with an issue that the courts have always had to deal with, but have done so in a hypocritical way – by pretending that a $100,000 bond is actually going to protect the community. It only protects the community if the defendant doesn’t have it and in some cases…the case that you discussed yesterday. Those cases raise the issue….in the case of a drug dealer who get s $25,000 bond, where did he get the money to pay the bond? And it’s not unheard of in this country that defendants make deals with commercial bondsman. They pay them over time. They literally get released. Go out and commit further crimes, creating more victims, in order to pay the bounty for their release. It’s just no way to administer justice and it’s really time to end it once and for all and I think the voice of the victim’s community is a powerful one and when people like Will start having these conversations out loud, officials take notice and listen and I think that’s an important conversation for officials to pay attention to.

Len Sipes:  We’re way more than halfway through the program. I want to re-introduce our guests. Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, www.trynova.org. Tim Murray, the Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, www.pretrial.org. Gentlemen, in the final minutes of the program, the final ten minutes, I want to cut to the chase now, okay? We’ve had a larger philosophical discussion. What I’m hearing is…what you’re saying, Tim, is that you want to see supervision upon release and you want to see that the person released from pretrial incarceration from our jails throughout the country, that release decision should be made solely upon the person’s level of dangerousness. So it’s supervision plus that conscious decision as to the degree of dangerousness. Do I have that correct?

Tim Murray:  Yeah. Let me try and give you very succinct answer. We had had the right to bail in most countries since 1789. That accompanies are presumption of innocence, but as you’ve described it, many people see the crime occurs. It’s a slam-dunk the crime occurred, as are that particular defendant. It’s not a shocking surprise to see the tremendously high conviction rate of those who are arrested. Cops arrest the right guy for the right reason most of the time. There are due process considerations, which we all support and defend. In making the constitutional right of determining who is released pending trial, when I am asked base that decision on the risk of that defendant not by the number of dollars he can get a hold of and if that defendant poses a risk that is greater that the community supports to manage it, then hold that defendant without the option for release and bring them to trial in a speedy manner.

Len Sipes:  Will Marling, the other issue is that we have these wonderful tools now and we’ve have thirty years of development trying to figure out who poses a clear and present risk to the public and who’s an acceptable risk in terms of release on a pretrial basis, but you’re not perfect.

Will Marling:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  And even under the best of circumstances the decisions that we within the criminal justice system make, some of them are going to blow up in our face and then the victims community is going to…well, not just the victims community, but society in general is going to rightly sit back and say, “Well, what’s up with this? I mean, don’t you guys know what you’re doing?” I mean, so somewhere along the line the victims community and society at large really has to give us a lot of leeway because we’re going to get it right 95% of the time, but that other 5% is going to kill us.

Will Marling:  Well, sure, and accountability works its way in there, hopefully, appropriately so because when things don’t go as they should go we naturally say, “Was there a gap? Did there need to be a change somewhere? Is there a policy change in view?” I think what really gets us is when the state is designed to fail, okay. When somebody gets out on bail and goes and injures children, for instance – like Tim was articulating in a recent story, a recent reality – we ask the question: Well, okay, where was the gap? Well, when you discover the gap is built in, the process is built in, that’s what creates the greatest outrage for us and victims, again, they’re sensible people and they say, “You mean actually it wasn’t based on risk assessment there? It was just based on money?” And that’s where we stop and say, “Now wait a minute. Come on. Let’s work on this.” Nobody can solve this problem perfectly because we’re humans, but clearly there’s a gap that we’re either brushing over or for other agenda reasons ignoring. That really becomes problematic and that’s what we’re advocating.

Len Sipes:  Tim, we have a criminal justice system. I’ve been in it for over forty years. You’ve been in it for quite some time. We’re overburdened. We have high caseloads. We have literally thousands upon thousands of offenders entering and leaving the criminal justice system. We have severe budget cuts all throughout the United States. The local jails as well as the prison system are basically saying that we’re maxed out. We just don’t have the capacity to hold everybody that everybody wants us to hold. So there’s almost at times a natural inclination. I mean, this isn’t NASA. I mean, this is really dealing with thousands upon thousands of decisions and I mean, are we that precise? Are we that good within the criminal justice system that we can get it right the vast majority of times?

Tim Murray:  No. We check in our decision-making because we’re naming dollar amounts associated with individual charges, not even based on the background on the individual, but simply by what the charge is. The way they all decided in this country, Len, from coast to coast is judges have a card on the bench and that card relates to an offence – let’s say car theft. And it names an amount and that’s what car theft costs in that jurisdiction. It doesn’t matter if you’re Jesse James or Mother Teresa.  That’s what it costs and for the very reasons you’ve just articulated – the fact that we’re in an economic downturn, the fact that public treasuries are smaller than they’ve been in any time in our lifetimes – we must make the best use of the resources available to our justice system. We must make the best decisions we can possibly make. It’s time to throw away the archaic way of doing business of the last hundred and fifty years from an economic standpoint and from a fairness standpoint and from a safety standpoint. It is a win all round. Will it have failure? Absolutely, it will. Is it foolproof? No, sir, it is not. Is it light years better than the system we currently suffer from? Undoubtedly.

Len Sipes:  Is it fair to say that both you gentlemen want an individual supervised regardless of how they’re released, whether it be monetary bond or whether it be by a Pretrial Services Agency? You want them supervised regardless, correct? You want them to be held accountable. Drug tested. You want them to check in with people.

Tim Murray:  Yeah.

Will Marling:  I mean, there should be accountability when a person is charged with a crime. The level and nature of that, of course, is what we’re considering, but any victim wants to know that the person that injured them is going to be held accountable and even before the official court proceedings, the official justice processes, we want to believe that their safety is still in view and they’re being held in good measure, so sure. Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So the bottom line…

Tim Murray:  I think that accountability reaches the justice professionals that staff of criminal justice systems throughout the country and I don’t believe that we have even come close to the kind of professional accountability, which with regard to victims that is essential to justice. I think victims, as I kind of mentioned at the beginning of the show, are oftentimes simply pushed to the side by this system and by system actors. I think accountability extends not only to the defendant, but to the justice system as well. When a victim shows up at the door of the Pretrial Services in a community and says, “I got hit over the head last night. I hear the perpetrator was in court. Where do I go?” They should get clear and concise and accurate information as how to connect with victims coordinators; how to reach the prosecutor’s office before that court hearing, where and when that hearing will occur and what their options are regarding the same.

Just as they should have explained to them clearly and concisely what the defendant’s obligations are, how we needs to be held accountable if, in fact, he is released. I would argue with you that the law should release me on the year that defendants who post money have done nothing, but move cash from one pocket to another. Money does nothing to ensure community safety. It simply separates those who have I from those who don’t and I don’t believe money is part of this conversation in a meaningful way when it comes to determined pretrial release.

Len Sipes:  Well, you‘re not going to hear any disagreement from me, Tim, in terms of the fact that the criminal justice system really does need to…I mean, it just can’t be a victim’s coordinator. It has to be an entire fundamental change and we have all of these federal and state constitutional amendments talking about what it is that we could do and what it is that we should do. I mean, these are mandates, but I think it’s a philosophical understanding that we have to do a much better job of protecting victims’ rights, but from talking to practitioners, as you do, sometimes I just simply get the sense that we’re exhausted by the process and victims. It’s like “Oh my God! I just don’t have the time to sit with this person for half an hour. I’ve got a thousand other things to do.” I sometimes feel that that’s the dichotomy of very overworked, overburdened, challenge criminal justice system that just lacks the penance, the wherewithal, to give victims the sensitivity and the time that they deserve.

Tim Murray:  Yeah, but we’re not talking about handholding. We’re talking about delivering as public servants essential services that individuals are guaranteed. Whether that guarantee comes under the Bill of Rights for the right to bail or that comes as to the rights that each victim of crime has. We can’t turn our back on either set of lives. We are in the business of serving the public and we have to get better and smarter and more effective at doing that job.

Len Sipes:  We’re out of time and one of the things that I do want to do…Will, let’s do this again in a couple of months because I feel that we’ve barely scratched the surface on this issue, but I really am appreciative that you and Tim were coming on today to discuss this whole issue of pretrial and victims’ issues. It just needs further explanation, I think, but Will Marling, our guest today, Executive Director of National Organization for Victim Assistance; the web address for NOVA – www.trynova.org. Tim Murray, the Executive Director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, www.pretrial.org.

Again, as I said at the beginning of the programs, we’ve been asked to promote the National Reentry Resource Center, www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org, a project of the US Department of Justice of the Office of Justice Programs and the American Parole and Probation Association. Again, they do want you to respect and honor the sacrifice of parole and probation agents, what we call Community Supervision Officers here in the District of Columbia. www.appa-net.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We really appreciate all of your calls and letters and interaction with us. Watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Using Civil Court for Acts of Domestic Violence

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

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/01/using-civil-court-for-acts-of-domestic-violence/

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

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, DC, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Our guests today are Cathy Church. She is the Chief Executive Director of Access Justice Now. She’s also a partner in a law firm. Our other guest is Elaine Racine, and Elaine is a business owner and active community member, and she’s also a domestic violence victim. The topic of today’s show is domestic violence. The concept that there is a lifelong impact when we’re talking about domestic violence, but the other part of I find extraordinarily interesting is this concept of civil enforcement of domestic violence issues. Basically if you can’t get them criminally, maybe what you can do is get them civilly.

Our usual commercial, we’re up to 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for DC Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. The address is media.CSOSA.gov. As always, we’re extremely appreciative of all of the contact, all the comments to us both good and bad, and suggestions in terms of new shows and what we can do better. If you need to get in touch with me directly, you can do so via email Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P as in peculiar S-I-P-E-S@CSOSA or follow me via Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes. So reintroducing our guest, Cathy Church and Elaine Racine, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Cathy Church: Thank you Leonard. Thanks for having us on the show today.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s my pleasure, ladies. Cathy, give me a quick overview of Access Justice Now.

Cathy Church: Access Justice Now is a 501(c)3 non-profit that was formed after an experience I had as a county prosecutor prosecuting Elaine’s ex-husband for attempted murder, and that experience, the criminal experience, made me think there had to be a better way to obtain justice for domestic violence victims. I thought about it and got some colleagues together, and we came up with Access Justice Now, which was built to legally represent victims of domestic violence in civil lawsuits against the batterers, not in criminal law suits. So in civil lawsuits, you’re trying to obtain the assets of the batterer and that was what it was built for and that’s what it’s trying to do as we speak today.

Len Sipes: Okay. Both of you are from the state of Michigan?

Cathy Church: Correct. Actually we live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which most people don’t realize that there’s two peninsulas to Michigan, so we’re up on the southern shore of Lake Superior.

Len Sipes: It’s cold up there.

Cathy Church: Well, today it’s kind of nice. I think we’re in the 20s and we’re feeling kind of fortunate about that.

Len Sipes: It’s a heat wave. Elaine Racine, you’ve been through some real difficulties. I think we talked a little bit before the show in terms of,domestic violence is not just an abstract issue for you needless to say. Cathy, when she was prosecutor, charged your husband with attempted murder, so obviously that issue alone, but domestic violence has been sort of a part of your life. First of all, before you answer that question, in terms of talking with domestic violence victims I find it’s not unusual for domestic violence to be part of the lives of some individuals. Am I right or wrong?

Elaine Racine: You’re absolutely right.

Len Sipes: Tell me about that, Elaine. Could you?

Elaine Racine: Well, I grew up in a house where there was domestic violence. My parents were also abusive to me, and so I looked on it as being normal. You also get a feeling of being very inadequate, very invaluable, and you carry that on. I met a man when I was 16 and married him at 18, and we were going to have a wonderful home, but he had also come from the same situation I came from and he quickly escalated into becoming a violent husband. I stayed with him for 25 years and had two children. It’s a very humiliating feeling and you do not want anybody to know.

Len Sipes: You feel trapped correct?

Elaine Racine: I don’t know if you feel trapped as much as you feel like you have to make this work. There’s such a feeling of when everything is going right and things are good, there is no reason for it and I think most of us that have been abused feel that we can make this work, and that was my overwhelming, over all of the years, feeling and I did not want anybody to know.

Len Sipes: You know, coming on a radio show like this that gets a couple hundred thousand requests on a monthly basis takes a lot of courage for you to do this, but I think your story reaches out to an awful lot of us within the criminal justice system and people beyond the criminal justice system, and I think your story provides the rest of us with hope and provides the rest of us with an understanding as to the difficulties of domestic violence. I think we, in general, this society basically says, and listeners to this show have hears me say this before about the issue of domestic violence, that it is episodic. It’s like a car accident, and yes it has ramifications and yes you have memories, but it’s something that fades over the course of months and you move on with your life. Domestic violence, I’ve talked to many women, it’s a life long tragedy and it just takes a tremendous amount of, I’m not sure quite what the word is, to remove yourself from it. Then when I say that, I get criticized by people saying, look, you don’t understand how trapped a lot of women are. It’s not a matter of removing herself from it. It’s a matter of simply surviving it and protecting herself and protecting her kids, and trying to cope with it the best way that you know how until you find a safe place to go. Am I in the ballpark or am I just stumbling through this, Elaine?

Elaine Racine: I think that part of you is in the ballpark and part of you has a foot out of the ballpark.

Len Sipes: Please tell me.

Elaine Racine: Okay. There is so much shame and humiliation connected with this, and you,I, not you, always felt guilty because I had been raised as when I was abused, it was for a reason because I had done something wrong, although in my childhood, I don’t know what I ever did wrong. I never was in any kind of problems, I did well in school, but you have that feeling of, you are bad because you’ve been told you’re bad. So when it goes on into a marriage, you still carry that feeling with you and to let someone know you are being abused, you are telling them that you are a bad, unsuccessful person and that is a very big part of it. You want it to end, but you don’t know how to make it end, you should be able to make it end, but you can’t and it’s all your fault.

Len Sipes: You’re a successful business owner today. You’re active in the community and you are on the board of Access Justice Now. Cathy, give me a sense as to the morass. Now you’ve been a prosecutor, you’re now Chief Executive Director of Access Justice Now, and let me give the contact points for Access Justice Now. It’s www.AccessJusticeNow.org. Cathy’s e-mail is catcchurch@gmail.com. We’ll be giving out those contact points throughout the program. Cathy, give some commentary about what you’ve heard so far.

Cathy Church: Well, I think Elaine just hit the nail on the head. You’ve got women, who through conditioning, whether from their childhood or wherever, feel complicit in the act of the domestic violence. So how do you reach out for help when you feel like you have unclean hands yourself, because somehow you’re to blame for this? It really is a catch-22 for them, and one of the things I’m going to point with Elaine, she suffered domestic violence multiple times before the final act of the attempted murder. Elaine never called the police. On the last go around, she was bleeding and in public, and other people called the police for her. I think what she’s saying is, it’s so shameful, it’s so humiliating because I was conditioned to believe I was part of the problem. How am I going to reach out for help and expose myself?

Len Sipes: And I do believe that a lot of women, and when we say domestic violence, yes, I understand. This is to the audience – I do understand that there are male victims of domestic violence, but the statistics overwhelmingly suggest that it’s generally women victims. When I in my six years of law enforcement experience, I don’t ever remember coming across a male victim, and there may be other reasons for that, but we are talking in the overwhelming majority of cases women victims, correct?

Cathy Church: You’re talking,the stats vary. I’ve heard,oops, I’m sorry. Elaine would like to say something.

Len Sipes: Oh, please, go ahead, Elaine.

Elaine Racine: Okay. When we’re talking about female and male victims, I have a friend. It’s a male friend, and he was abused as a child. It was his mother who did the abusing. She had a dowel and she would beat her two adopted children with the dowel, him and his sister. In fact, one time he fell down the stairs and she was so angry that he fell down the stairs that she took the dowel down and beat him at the bottom of the stairs. When he turned about, I don’t know, I think about 11 or 12, she took the dowel out one day to beat him. He grabbed it from her, broke it over his knee, and she said, I’ll just go and get another one, and he said, good, because I’ll beat you with it, and that is the difference. That is the turning point of being the victim or getting out of it, and that was the end of the abuse for him, but I don’t think there are many 11 or 12 year old girls that would go after their father like that because what would happen? Physically you are no match for them. He’s a large man, and I assume at that age he was large, probably larger than his mother, and at that point he made her bite the bullet, but there are not many women who are capable of doing that.

Len Sipes: I guess my overall point in all of this, ladies, is that there are literally millions of women in this country and children in this country who are being held hostage by abusive caretakers, by abusive parents, by abusive husbands, and they live their lives pretty much in stark terror. That’s one of the things when we talk about domestic violence, it is like saying an airline crash, okay, it’s over. Domestic violence is something that just permeates every part of our lives. Criminologists suggest that it is a huge correlate or a huge connection as to the overall crime problem that we have in this country coupled with child abuse and neglect, so it has extraordinarily serious ramification for our entire society. It’s just not an act. It’s just not a discussion of why a person left or didn’t leave. It is something that permeates our society and has unbelievable consequences.

Cathy Church: I totally agree with you. I think family violence, violence in society in general, is homegrown and one of the issues I had prosecuting batterers is that I never came across a batterer who hadn’t been victimized in childhood. So what I was faced with was prosecuting primarily adult men because they had the physical strength and society’s backing, basically, to get away with continued bullying if they so chose as adults, but I was faced with prosecuting these adult men who I viewed as victims originally, which is where they learned the violence from. I even had that feeling with Elaine’s ex-husband, and I remember sitting in my office during the trial because it was really beginning to bother me that this man had had such a horrible childhood, but yet we had to impose the law on him. The violence is homegrown, and if we do not address it as a society within the very first couple of years of children’s lives, I think we have no other choice but to watch it snowball, and that’s what we’re seeing now.

Len Sipes: And that’s the issue for a larger program, but I just wanted to bring that up. When I say domestic violence – I remember the first time, as a cadet in the Maryland State Police, where we went to a house and it’s not that the husband hit the woman. He beat her up extensively with a frying pan, and the damage to her was just mind-blowing, so to me, that’s domestic violence. The fact that that happens every day, day in and day out, hundreds of thousands of times, millions of times throughout this country and probably throughout every country, is something I find to be a national disgrace. But in any event. So we’re halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce both of my guests. It’s Cathy Church, Chief Executive Director of Access Justice Now, a partner in a law firm. Elaine Racine, a business owner, active community member and she is also on the board of Access Justice Now. The contact points for Cathy Church is www.AccessJusticeNow.org and her e-mail is catcchurch@gmail.com. So we get into this larger issue, Cathy, of what to do about an individual involved in domestic violence. We hear all the time about individuals walking through protective orders. There are dozens of country songs about walking through a protective order. This is a real issue for us in terms of males, who in many cases simply will not obey stay-away orders and males, who in many cases continually abuse even after prosecution, even while waiting for trial. It is who they are, it is what they are, and they really don’t pay any attention to it, so the sense that I get is that Access Justice Now basically says, well, fine, you want to continue to do these sort of things, what we’re going to do is go after you civilly. Let’s see how you enjoy the system now that we’re taking your car or your house or half your income. Now, am I right or wrong? Is that an exaggeration or am in the ballpark?

Cathy Church: No, you’re on target. Look at the O.J. Simpson murder trial for Nicole Simpson. He went to criminal trial and we all know what the outcome of that was, not guilty of murdering those two people, but yet Nicole’s family and Ron Goldman, they sued him civilly, and here it is 20 years later, 25 years later, and they attached his Heisman Trophy, they attached his book earnings, and they continued to have an impact, a very real impact on O.J. Simpson’s life, and I believe he’s in prison now for even more criminal wrongdoing out in Nevada.

Len Sipes: That was the armed robbery or the robbery,not armed robbery,yeah, it was an armed robbery. But that’s O.J. Simpson. What about Jane and John Doe Schmo?

Cathy Church: Let’s say we’ve got someone working in a fast-food restaurant earning minimum wage, and I don’t even know what the minimum wage is these days, if we file a civil lawsuit against them and garnish up to 50 percent of their wages, their minimum wage wages, that’s going to be less resources for them to do bad things with. We all know it takes money in this world to be able to stalk someone or to buy a Taser or to buy a gun or to buy more alcohol. My thinking is, is if you grab their resources, cut them in half, that’s hopefully less weapons that they have at their disposal.

Len Sipes: Okay. I guess my issue is that you’re not necessarily out to punish them. I’ll leave the punishment issue for another day. You’re basically out there to get them to comply and to leave that individual alone and to obey the law, and if you’re not going to obey the criminal part of it, we’ll go after you civilly. I think that’s what you’re saying?

Cathy Church: Well, yes. I have this saying that says, if a crime occurs and there are no consequences for that crime, did a crime really happen? So if you have someone who’s bullying or battering their family day in and day out and there’s never any consequences, where is the motivation for that behavior to change?

Len Sipes: Okay, but are these people being prosecuted criminally? Is the civil action a sole action? Is it on its own or is it in conjunction with the criminal action?

Cathy Church: You have a lot of women with civil protection orders. They will not reach out and call the police when they’ve been battered, but they will reach out and get a civil protection order, so you can do them independently. There’s nothing that says you have to do the civil and criminal in conjunction with one another. You can do them independently, and some people feel,these women know their batterers and they know when their safety is at stake, and sometimes doing something civilly is a lot more safe for them than to involve law enforcement.

Len Sipes: And why is that? What makes it safe?

Cathy Church: I’m going to let Elaine see if she can answer that.

Len Sipes: Go ahead, Elaine.

Cathy Church: Why do some people feel more comfortable getting civil protection orders versus calling the police?

Elaine Racine: Because it’s not going to be in the paper, it’s not going to be on the television set, it’s not going to be on the radio; that’s what I experienced with my problem when my husband tried to kill me. It was on the TV, it was on the front page of our local paper with my name, my home address, my business name, my business address.

Len Sipes: They ran your home address and your business and your business address?

Elaine Racine: Yes. This is,remember,

Len Sipes: What sort of morons are they? I’m sorry, go ahead, please.

Elaine Racine: Really morons, let me tell you. Cathy really went after them for doing that, but I just felt so,I was so frightened, I was so alone because now I was living alone, and you don’t know who’s going to come up your steps. It was during the summer, it was during June and it was hot. I had all my windows closed. I had my doors closed and locked because that was the only way I felt safe, and I realized that that was not true, but it’s what you do to yourself mentally.

Cathy Church: She was totally isolated and although her batterer was locked up and in the county jail, the exposure that the media gave her exposed her all that much more, and so she is basically alone in her house trying to weather the storm. We have some very, very good resources here in Marquette County. We have victim advocates who are statutorily confidential advocates who met with Elaine and talked with Elaine and accompanied her through every stage of the proceeding, but at the end of the day, there’s no lawyer, cop, prosecutor, advocate standing with Elaine when she’s in her home late at night worrying about I just survived almost being killed, and now I’ve got to wonder what’s going to happen next.

Len Sipes: Okay, so where does this civil part of this come in?

Cathy Church: The civil part gives victims the ability, and Elaine can address this as well because after the criminal case, she divorced her ex-husband and as part of the divorce judgment, the court awarded her,they called it alimony or support, but basically what it was is they awarded her financial damages for the physical act of the attempted murder, so she was awarded a substantial sum of money. Now her husband is still in prison and we’re in the process of going after that money, but Elaine can tell you what that judgment for that sum of money,

Len Sipes: In civil court?

Cathy Church: Yeah, it was through their divorce. She can tell you what that means to her or meant to her.

Len Sipes: Elaine?

Elaine Racine: It means that if I can do that to him, he is going to be isolated in the lower part of the state of Michigan. He is not going to be able to come up here. What made me really dig my heels in was he had told me one day, just prior to the attack, he said, I will not kill you. I will kill your grandson because that will hurt you more, and that’s what made me dig my heels in. Now I know that if he is in the other part of Michigan – we’re the Upper Peninsula, he is in the Lower Peninsula – if he has to stay there with a minimal amount of income, my grandson is going to be safer, my boys are going to be safer because he is the kind of person that is not going to walk up to me or one of them with a gun and shoot us. He’s one of these that’s going to come in the dead of night.

Len Sipes: Or pay somebody to do it.

Elaine Racine: Or pay somebody to do it. Correct. But he would not have the stoicism to come and face someone face to face; he never did. He would always tell me how if somebody had done something that angered him, he might wait a couple of years and then he would go for a walk at night and throw rocks through maybe their window or slash their car tires or things like that. That’s the kind of person that we are dealing with, and I know that he is vengeful because he has written so many letters since he has been in jail.

Len Sipes: Well, taking the income takes away his ability to,it dramatically reduces his ability to retaliate.

Cathy Church: Hopefully. That’s the plan. Batterers will use anything as a weapon. They will use family members, they will use,I can’t even imagine everything they can use. Well, money, resources, are a huge weapon, so in my mind, logic says if you reduce those financial resources, you’re reducing the potential for the weaponry.

Len Sipes: And why don’t they, Cathy, and I don’t know the answer to this question, maybe you and Elaine know the answer to the question, why isn’t the standard criminal justice system enough to separate people and convince him that you are never to have contact with your victim ever again, period, and they go, okay, and they mean it and they obey it. What’s wrong with the criminal part of the system that stops people from doing what they should be doing?

Elaine Racine: Can I answer that?

Len Sipes: Please.

Elaine Racine: Okay. I have been watching the paper, of course, the court cases very closely since this happened to me. There was one man that was convicted a second time of domestic violence, arrested for it. He had, I can’t quote the exact amount of days or money, but he had like 90 days in jail with maybe two days served, and his fine was in the area of $300 and some dollars. What does he think? He won the case. He is going to go back to that woman. What effect did it have on him? I believe in certain segments of our society, especially the segment where these men thrive, it’s almost like a badge of merit, like a Boy Scout medal. Hey, guy, you got it twice and you got out of it twice – nice going. I believe that there is a segment of our society that does believe that. I don’t believe it’s as bad as it was 20 years ago, but I believe that Access Justice Now and other organizations can make this not something to be proud of, but something to be very ashamed of.

Len Sipes: So we’re saying that basically the formal, criminal justice system in this country regarding domestic violence is not enough?

Cathy Church: I think it could be improved. The analogy I like to use for that, Len, is that if you were having a cocktail party and someone suffered a heart attack and went down on the floor in your house, your immediate response, that of you and your guests, would be to call the first responders, 9-1-1, to get an ambulance there. If you have any female relatives who suffer a battering assault, ask them what their first response is. What are they going to do? Are they going to reach out to 9-1-1 and call the first responders? And to a person, on the cases that I prosecuted, I knew if 9-1-1 got there, the victim had called somebody else before. It could have been a sister, could have been a priest, could have been a neighbor, but the neighbor or whoever they called first, usually was pretty instrumental in getting them to call 9-1-1. So our first responders aren’t the first response for victims. There’s something fundamentally wrong there and it needs improvement.

Len Sipes: Oh, the criminal justice system is a mystery to most people to begin with, and I’ve represented the criminal justice system for 40 years and I thoroughly understand, which is one of the reasons why we do the radio shows, the television shows, and the articles that we do to try to demystify some parts of the criminal justice system to get people to feel more comfortable with who we are and what we are, and our ability or inability to protect the public. So the bottom line is, Cathy, the civil part of it, is what you’re saying, is necessary depending upon the circumstances?

Cathy Church: I think it’s a tool, and I think with this type of epidemic we have, it would be foolish to ignore any potential tool. I’m not saying it’s going to fix it, but I think it’s a tool in our tool bag that we should be utilizing. I think it’s easier,you should be able to get justice in this country without having your entire life publicized, so that everyone,Elaine was put on trial, basically, as a victim in a domestic violence attempted murder case, and to me, that was almost worse than the criminal assault itself.

Len Sipes: You know, I’ll be teaching a crime and media course for the University of Maryland University College in a couple of weeks, and I’m going to be using this as an example when I go over the section on victim’s rights because what happened to Elaine, I think, shouldn’t happen to anybody. It’s just unbelievable that that information would be offered in a newspaper. We only have a couple minutes left, Elaine. Can you summarize your whole experience from this? What you’re saying is that domestic violence is not incidental – it goes on for years and years and years, and you’ve got to have tools to combat it?

Elaine Racine: Exactly. I have had a lot of help from friends. My family turned against me, which was wonderful. They said there was no abuse in our home as we were growing up, yet I remember my mother calling my ex-husband, him going to get her – we would have been in our 30s at the time – and she came to our house bleeding and laid on the couch. So everybody, including the family members when they find out about it, although they’ve already known, want to hide it and it continues to want to be hidden. I had an uncle that has gone down to visit my ex-husband in prison and empathizes with him, and came to my place of business with a letter explaining exactly how terrible I was to him and how I had made the whole thing up. I cut myself.

Len Sipes: Well, we’re just about out of time. Elaine Racine, I want to thank you very, very much for your courage in terms of talking about this today. I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage to go through what you’ve gone through and be on the board of Access Justice Now, and I’m quite sure your example is going to be reaching out to an awful lot of women and maybe even some men who are trapped in domestic violence situations, and I think your example becomes sort of a shining star to them that hopefully will give them the courage to do what it is that they have to do.

Our guests today have been Cathy Church, Chief Executive Director of the program Access Justice Now. She’s also a partner in a law firm. With her has been Elaine Racine, a business owner, active community member, and a domestic violence victim. She is on the board of Access Justice Now. The website for Access Justice Now is www.AccessJusticeNow.org. Cathy Church’s e-mail is catcchurch@gmail.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Again, we appreciate all of your letters, all of your phone calls, all of your e-mails in terms of the programs. Keep them coming in. We really do appreciate your patronage. You can get in touch with me directly at Leonard.sipes@CSOSA.gov, a court services and offender supervision agency in downtown Washington, DC, or follow me via Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes. I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Terms: domestic violence, civil court, spouse abuse, intimate violence

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Domestic Violence-Family Justice Centers-DC Public Safety-NCJA

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

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/12/domestic-violence-family-justice-centers-dc-public-safety-ncja/

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

– Audio begins –

Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, DC, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have an extraordinarily interesting program today. We are back talking about domestic violence. It is one of the more comprehensive programs in the state of Washington and throughout the country. This whole concept of family justice centers – it’s not just an issue of a crisis center, it’s not just not an issue of it being a hotline, it’s just not a shelter as to where battered women can go with their kids, it’s everything. All the services are packed into one particular center. This program is being brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association. Those of you who listen on a regular basis to this show are familiar with the fact that they bring a wide series of programs to DC Public Safety, and we are certainly appreciative of that. Before we get into the gist of our program, I do want to remind everybody that we’re up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for DC Public Safety radio, television, blog, and transcripts. We are just, again, continue to be overwhelmed, flattered, and sometimes a little miffed when you have criticisms, but we don’t care – we’ll take everything. We truly will. You can either go to the website and comment there, which is what a lot of people do or most people do, it’s media M-E-D-I-A.csoca C-S-O-S-A.gov. You can contact me directly by e-mail, that’s, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not T, S-I-P as in peculiar P-E-S @C-S-O-S-A.gov or you can follow me via Twitter, it’s twitter.com/lensipes. Our guests today are going to be Susan Adams and Jackie Smith. Susan is the Director and Jackie is the Grants Manager. The program itself is the Crystal Judson Family Center in Tacoma, Washington, and as I said at the beginning of the program, it is not just a singular approach to the issue of domestic violence. It embodies this concept called family justice centers, where the entire criminal justice system and the entire social services system comes together in a clean, well managed building, where women are victims, according to our statistics, 85 to 90 percent of the time, where women and their children can come and get the services they need and escape an abusive situation. And with that nice, long introduction, Susan Adams the Director and Jackie Smith the center’s Grant Manager, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Susan Adams: Thank you very much.

Leonard Sipes: Susan Adams, Director, give me a sense as to the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center.

Susan Adams: Well, the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center is, as you described, is a comprehensive service center for victims of domestic violence and their children born out of an idea that in a time of crisis, and prior to the development of family justice centers, a victim might have to go to 10, 12, 15 different places to get the help they need, and on a good day that’s hard for most of us, and when you’re in crisis, you’ve been abused, you’ve got young children and there are lot of other barriers, it’s almost impossible, and so we wonder why victims have challenges with getting the help that they need. It’s because our systems have not been set up to benefit victims. They’ve been set up to benefit ourselves, ourselves being the service agencies, at our convenience. The family justice center flips that, and says we want to do this in a way that works for victims, that supports them in helping them in their road to being survivors, and that our needs as service agencies are secondary. So we collaborate with criminal justice agencies, prosecutors, police, criminal justice advocates, and then social service agencies, chaplains, civil / legal advocates, financial workers from the Department of Social and Health Services, child support workers. We have access to a myriad of different agencies and supports from shelter to safety planning, domestic violence education, and the beautiful thing is the victim walks through one door and they access it all in one place, a place where their kids can play, a place where they can eat lunch, a place they can feel safe and welcomed and honored, and it’s for their convenience in the way that works best for them.

Leonard Sipes: In a way that works best for them. What does that say about the rest of the country that doesn’t provide this level of comprehensiveness? I would imagine that there are a lot of jurisdictions throughout the country that basically do what they can do. I have been to domestic violence shelters, more than just a couple, and it seems to me that when I walk into the building, it is there to offer a safe haven. Now, she’s going to get advice and she’s going to talk to an attorney and she’s going to talk to a social worker, but it strikes me that a lot of the domestic violence shelters or places, I don’t know a better way of putting it, throughout the country have limits in terms of what it is they could or should be doing. Am I right or wrong?

Susan Adams: Well, right. Shelters typically have limited numbers of beds and space available for clients, so you’re right – shelters can be an amazing safe haven for victims who want shelter. Not every victim wants to go to a shelter. Many victims aren’t ready to make a step to go to a shelter, or they’re looking for different avenues and they have different resources, so what they need is more generalized, comprehensive services, not just shelters. I would say that while we’re the only family justice center in the state of Washington, there are 55 family justice centers throughout the country and more are popping up every day. This is national movement directed by the National Family Justice Center Alliance, and we’re seeing this more and more. Even agencies that aren’t calling themselves family justice centers are looking at ways to collaborate and do a better job of offering services in a way that is convenient. It’s just like a grocery store that offers a wide variety of things in one place. Why doesn’t a victim of domestic violence deserve just as much as someone who’s a shopper at Kroger’s store?

Leonard Sipes: Well, you’re not going to hear me disagree with that. I remember we were talking before recording the program, that my first encounter with domestic violence was as a cadet in the Maryland State Police, and that’s 40 years ago, that’s scary to say, but eventually going on to be a trooper for a short amount of time before going onto college, and I remember going up to a home and it was a domestic violence case, and it was a man who beat his wife with a frying pan. It was just the saddest thing you’ve ever seen in your life, and it took me to my core, as a human being, as to questioning the whole validity of marriage or whatever. I don’t care how you feel or what the provocation was, you just don’t hit anybody. I know you don’t hit anybody, but certainly you don’t beat them to near death, and walking into that situation and the woman refused to prosecute. Now this was back in the ’70s, where without the woman prosecuting, you ran into a big of a jam in court, so what we ended up doing was charging him for assaulting us. I won’t tell you what it is we did to get him to assault us, but that was the charge, and so at least we had him for that. We couldn’t pull off the domestic violence charge or what I considered to be an aggravated assault, which is enough right there, to me if not attempted murder, at least we had him for that and that was unquestionable and we’ll let the attorneys work out the rest of it. That, to me, is domestic violence. That, to me, is not the kind and gentle domestic violence that you see on television. It is horrific in nature, and we’re not even getting into the psychological bondage, we’re not even getting into new research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that suggests that half of these incidents are witnessed by children, and the impact that it has on children. So domestic violence, I don’t need to convince everybody that it’s a bad thing – I’m suggesting that it is one of the worst things that can happen in the lives of human beings, so that’s putting a bunch of softball questions to the two of you, but either one of you, do you want to respond?

Susan Adams: I just want to throw one thing in there because I agree with you. You don’t have to convince anybody that domestic violence is a bad thing, but a part of what the problem is in our society is while people recognize it’s a bad thing, we don’t go the next layer below that and talk about why it is that it continues to be something that is a perpetual problem in our country, and it’s because our focus is in the wrong place. When you talk about domestic violence, and even the story you were telling there, you didn’t do this, but I can guarantee that your listeners might say, well, gee, why didn’t she prosecute? And immediate focus goes onto her and why she doesn’t do certain things, and that tends to be people’s natural reaction, either that, or that would never happen to me or that would never happen to my child or my daughter. So we are focusing on victim behavior instead of on abuser behavior, and we’re judging why this is happening based on what the victim has chosen to do, and we need to delve deeper and step back from that judgmental piece about victims and say there are lots of reasons why they may have done those things. But when we as a society and a court system, civil justice system and the family law system, there is still such a focus on why did the victim do such and such? She must be crazy. That’s where we really breakdown in our ability to move forward and eradicate this problem, and I’m sure Jackie has some other comments as well.

Jackie Smith: Right. One of my comments is focusing on the children, as well, and the impact of trauma in witnessing domestic violence on children. I facilitate a group called Stepping Stones, which works with children and moms who have been impacted by domestic violence, and the long-term effects of trauma are very detrimental. It affects them in school, it affects their ability to focus, it affects their ability to manage their emotions, because so often the children are focused on the abuser’s behavior in the home and tip-toeing and stepping around and being very aware of how the abuser feels or how he opens the door or how he walks into the house, and they change their behaviors based off of his. So that’s something that we really need to focus on as a society, too, because if we’re going to break the cycle of violence, we really have to focus on resources for children. That’s why the family justice center exists as it does in terms of having a playroom, having advocates who can go in there and talk to the children and be supportive people in their lives, and also model some positive behavior.

Leonard Sipes: There are many criminologists in this country who have come to the conclusion many years ago, that we say, why crime? Why crime in America? What are the true issues? What’s the heart and soul behind crime in America, and there are a lot of criminologists who basically will say, simply, child abuse. That individuals grow up in homes, where either they have raised themselves since the age of eight or they grew up in homes that are filled with violence, and in many cases, domestic violence. How many offenders have told me throughout my career that they witness acts of violence directed toward their mother? Time after time after time. So again, I just never know how to describe this set of circumstances, because the words ‘domestic violence’ don’t do it for me. I don’t know what words would, but they just never seem strong enough to really get people to understand that this may be the heart and soul or part of the heart and soul behind the crime problem to begin with. One of the things you all were telling me before the program is that in 2009, and we’re recording this in November of 2009, so we still have another month to go, 3,243 people in the Tacoma, Washington, area, now again, you’re not limited to Tacoma, Washington, but probably most of your folks are from the metropolitan area, but 3,243 came to the center in 2009. That’s a lot of people.

Susan Adams: It is a lot of people, and the statistic I’ll add that we didn’t discuss before, was that doesn’t include the kids that have walked through the door – 977 kids have come along with those adults, as well as 711 other friends and family members. It’s a broad, broad base of folks and our clients are actually many more than just that number of kids – those are kids that have come through the door. We also track how many family members they have total that are living in the home, so as Jackie said, this has such a huge impact on so many people and on our society, and if we don’t address that, we’re looking at continuing this cycle for too long.

Leonard Sipes: The criminal justice system, back in the ’70s, we were accused of, and in the ’80s and in the ’90s and in the new century, the criminal justice system, we haven’t been that great of a team member in terms of victim’s services or domestic violence, and that’s simply because it’s not that we’re insensitive to the issue, I think we’ve got so much that’s on our plate, and being pulled in so many different directions, that it’s hard to really focus on one particular problem over another. But I think what you will say, is we have improved our service delivery to victims of domestic violence, and it sounds like you’ve got the entire criminal justice system willing to interact with you and come to the center to be a part of that comprehensive approach to victim’s services, correct?

Susan Adams: Absolutely. I started out my career as a deputy prosecutor in the county prosecuting attorney’s office. Back in the early ’90s when I was hired, I found sort of similar to what your first experiences were, we didn’t have any training with domestic violence, it was very frustrating, and we really, again, focused on the victim. Gee, she doesn’t want to prosecute, well we have about a million other cases to prosecute, so we’re just going to move onto those. There was just not a lot of training or insight given. Law school at that time didn’t teach anybody about how to deal with these cases, and in any event, we’ve come a long way from that time, thankfully. We have fantastic domestic violence coordinated units. The prosecutors and the sheriff’s department have been working together for almost 15 years now, co-located, cooperating and working together to effectively prosecute cases. Training has improved greatly, and so we’ve definitely come a long way. Do we still have a ways to go? Always. I think it’s, especially with law enforcement and prosecutors, just like you say, they are pushed in many different directions, they’ve got a huge caseload and now we’re dealing with massive budget cuts and doing more with less, so it’s that continued training, but the collaboration helps. Having us all here together and relying on one another’s expertise really then, even in times of economic downturn and doing more with less, we are able to, because we become greater than the sum of our parts when we’re working together.

Leonard Sipes: And you have, beyond law enforcement, you have a wide array of individuals providing social services, correct?

Susan Adams: Correct, and I’d like to add to that a little bit more too, because we have clients who come in, who are in the criminal justice system, who maybe don’t want to be, but here they have the opportunity to speak to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorneys will come over to this side and talk to the victims about their case, and about realistic repercussions of if you choose not to cooperate, this is what’s going to happen. If you chose to cooperate, this is the outcome that you’re looking at, so that way they can really make educated decisions in terms of do they want to go along with prosecution? Do they want assistance with prosecution, or is that detrimental to their family? And being able to have a face-to-face conversation with a prosecuting attorney who is compassionate and knowledgeable is huge. It’s a very, very difference experience from what victims perceive the criminal justice system to be. At the same time, we have victims who want to talk to a sheriff or to a police detective, and the detective will come here to this side of the office, sit in a comfortable room, and take a statement from a client, and it’s a huge difference because they’re dressed in lay clothes and it’s very comfortable, and the advocate can sit with them and support them through the process. I think through that collaboration, the criminal justice system has an idea of what it’s like to be a community advocate, and we understand their role, and I think a big barrier that we’ve been able to overcome is understanding the different roles that we have and the different goals and objectives we have, and how do we put that down to serving the victim?

Leonard Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests today, Susan Adams, the Director of the center and Jackie Smith, the center’s Grants Manager. We’re talking about the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma, Washington, a comprehensive one-stop shop, if you will, in terms of serving victims of domestic violence, part of a concept called family justice centers, which is just growing throughout the United States. They served 3,243 victims in 2009 alone, and we’re only 11 months through 2009, plus hundreds and hundreds of children. We do want to remind everybody that this is a show of the National Criminal Justice Association. They produce these shows, they bring us wonderful guests and wonderful topics, in terms of what really works in the criminal justice system in the United States. The website address for the National Criminal Justice System is www.ncja.org, www.ncja.org, and in terms of a place of help, it is www.aplaceofhelp.org, and that’s the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, www.aplaceofhelp.org.

All right ladies, where do we go to from here? It is clear that you run a nice, clean, modern, comprehensive, one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence. Can we get into the larger issues of domestic violence because one of the things that always has amazed me, especially considering there are so many criminologists as I said before, who do believe that domestic violence / child abuse and neglect is the heart and soul of why we have the crime problem that we do in the United States. What are your observations about domestic violence? The response sounds like it’s gotten better, but does society understand what it is we’re talking about here? Do we all understand how complex and how difficult and how damaging this issue that we refer to as domestic violence, do they really understand how tragic it is?

Susan Adams: Unfortunately not. I don’t feel that our society is even near to where we need to be in terms of understanding the dynamics and really the root causes of domestic violence. I often think of my daughter, who is young. She is nine years old, and at school, she will be told that a boy hits her because he likes her, and so this is how our girls are being socialized in terms of violence equals liking. And if I didn’t go back and say, well, no, that’s not okay, who would tell her otherwise? As parents, oftentimes that’s the norm, that’s what we tell our families as we’re growing up, is you hit her because you like her. And there is this need for power and control that often stems from these types of behaviors, these interactions that begin in youth, and it’s also through observing domestic violence in the home settings because there are these average childhood experiences that children have either growing up in a home where they’re experiencing neglect, possibly because it’s a single parent and she’s not able to be home to take care of her child, so they’re latch-key kids. You have kids who are growing up in abuse home where they are witnessing and/or experiencing physical violence, emotional abuse, and so all this creates psychological damage and damage from the traumas they’re experiencing, which as we know, as kids grow up, they take these experiences and interact negatively in society.

Leonard Sipes: Part of it is,I was sitting in a radio station one time, getting ready to do a live radio interview for a religious station, and it’s interesting that the station housed both a rap station and a religious station in the same building, under the same network. I’m sitting there, and they were not just playing the rap songs, they had the words to the lyrics, what we refer to as a character generator – you see the words to the lyrics as the song was progressing – and I sat there for about 20 minutes waiting for my interview and I was watching the words, and to say that what I saw was sexist / dysfunctional / oh my God, is today’s understatement. There’s a certain point where you say to yourself, do we have a society that is pro domestic violence?

Susan Adams: I don’t know if it’s pro domestic violence, but we’re so incredibly desensitized again to what it is, and we’re so willing to say, oh, that’s just a piece of music or that’s just entertainment when you’re talking about the wrestling. I happened to watch an old movie a few weeks ago, the Urban Cowboy with John Travolta and Deborah Winger, and I remember watching that show as a teenager and thinking, oh, this is a really good movie. I’m watching it now as an adult and Deborah Winger was raped in this movie, she’s beaten up by her husband, and that is not even an essential part of the show. It’s just part of the storyline, but no one ever addresses that gee, this poor woman is abused, and that’s just one example. It’s just woven so much into our culture in music and entertainment, that it just becomes desensitized. I really do believe that there is a feeling among folks that haven’t potentially been victims of domestic violence that in order to sort of separate themselves from it, that it’s this whole idea that oh, it couldn’t happen to me. That happens to other people, and we just want to turn ourselves away and say that’s just an ugly thing that happens to certain people but not me, and we know for a fact that that’s not true. We see it cut across all sections of society, but there’s that protection mechanism that we see a lot. I see it when I go out and speak to groups, and folks that just say, yeah, I understand, but that’s not something that happens in my neighborhood. That doesn’t happen in my community, and until we really dispel that notion and re-sensitize ourselves, we’ve got a long way to go.

Leonard Sipes: The negative messages are in virtually every part of society. It just doesn’t seem to matter, whether it’s television or whether it’s a movie or whether it’s music, that whole concept of it’s okay to use your bulk to intimidate, gosh, I’m going to get in a lot of trouble here, the little woman, that’s their words not mine, it becomes,you just sit there and you say to yourself, did I just see that? Why isn’t there a national uproar every other day about the things that we hear and see and witness? There just doesn’t seem to be a national sense of outrage that,again, my perception of domestic violence goes all the way back, and I’ve experienced other cases of domestic violence, but I will never forget being 18 years old, being out there with the Maryland State Troopers, and going to that house and seeing that woman unbelievably beaten up, and was told at that point by that trooper and other troopers that what you saw tonight is really not unusual. As you flip that over to a television show or to a radio show or to a movie, there seems to be a huge disconnect.

Susan Adams: I agree completely, and I think it goes back to what Jackie was talking about, that we need to be addressing a lot of these issues at a much younger age, and we here at the family justice center have a teen outreach advocate that goes out into the schools and does education, domestic violence education, with young people because that’s where we really need to start focusing our attention and not waiting until they’re 18, 19, 20 years old. We need to be talking to kids that are 9, 10, 11 years old, that are now using technology and many other things, and again, with this power and control where girls think, oh, he loves me so much, that’s why he texted me 2000 times yesterday. We need to be educating and talking about it. I think overall as a society, we should be outraged and unfortunately that’s not the case, but what we are doing that I think is better than we were doing even 10 years ago, is that we’re talking about it. We’re on your radio show, we are on the radar of a lot of conversations that we weren’t even 10 years ago, so it’s a slower process than it should be, but at least we are starting to get people talking about it. We’re getting religious groups asking us to come to their churches and their church groups to talk about what we do, and as communities, we are responsible for getting out there and talking about this to anybody who will listen, getting that awareness and then hopefully creating that outrage that you’re talking about.

Leonard Sipes: Now the danger of taking it as far as I’ve taken it is, the flip side of that is that there are many instances where it is progressive, it happens over the course of years, it is psychological as well as it’s physical, it is emotional as well as it’s physical, and it’s progressive in nature. Most of the cases that I’ve witnessed didn’t start off with a beating. They started off with ordinarily a man, and I don’t want to be politically correct about this – 85 percent, 90 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women – it can be and oftentimes is progressive to the point where the female victim says to herself, oh my heavens, what’s just happened? When she sits down and realizes that the set of circumstances that she’s in is not,she’s having a hard time comprehending where she is, and sometimes it’s startling to sit there and say to yourself, oh my heavens, I’m a victim of domestic violence.

Susan Adams: Right. Oftentimes what we like to do is actually make a timeline with clients on their relationship, and we talk about the beginning of the relationship in terms of how romantic it was and how he swept her off her feet and said the right things and told her she was perfect, and then she felt oftentimes like she had to adhere to this standard of being perfect, and when she failed being perfect, it was her fault for not being perfect. It was her fault for not knowing what to do, how to do it, so she changed her behaviors to try to achieve that level of perfection. And oftentimes none of us are perfect and none of us can expect to be perfect, and so it creates this sense of responsibility, on her part oftentimes, for his behavior and his out lashes. And so when we look at the relationship on a timeline, we find that maybe the first year or maybe the first two years were good, and then something happened. Then the next time was six months, then it was three months, and pretty soon they find themselves in a cycle where everything is very chaotic and they’re trying to tip-toe around and make things okay in the home, and they’re not able to regardless of what they do. That’s when they find themselves feeling like they’re spinning, is what I often hear, and it’s hard to get out because you’re so focused on other things that really thinking about your own reality is very difficult. So that’s where an agency like the family justice center comes in, and is able to provide some education or insight in terms of what’s happening in your relationship.

Leonard Sipes: The half hour program has gone by like wildfire. We only have about 30 seconds left of radio time. Is there a way that we can sum up what is the most important take-away for individuals listening to this program to understand? Not only about the Crystal Judson Family Center in Tacoma, Washington, but about domestic violence in general?

Susan Adams: I would just say that domestic violence impacts all of us, whether it is directly as victims or as co-workers, church members, family members, and to be informed – understand what it is. Peel away the layers. It’s not just a bad thing; it’s destroying the fabric of our society. If you become aware and become an advocate on behalf of victims and on behalf of those trying to survive, you’re taking a step as a community member to make our country a better place.

Leonard Sipes: Oh, I think that’s one of the best summations I’ve ever heard in my life because I do believe so much that it does go to the very fabric of our society, and very damaging. Ladies and gentlemen, you have been listening to Susan Adams, the Director, and Jackie Smith, the center’s Grant Manager, and they both represent the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma, Washington. I’ve really enjoyed the time with you ladies. If people want to get back in touch with you, it’s www.aplaceofhelp.org, www.aplaceofhelp.org. The program today was brought to you by the National Criminal Justice Association. We really are appreciative of the wonderful programs that they bring to DC Public Safety. You can reach the National Criminal Justice Association at www.ncja.org, www.ncja.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We are up to 230,000 requests on a monthly basis for our radio and television show, blog and transcripts. You can reach us at media.csosa.gov and you can reach me directly by e-mail leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or you can follow me on twitter.com/lensipes. I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Terms: Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, Tacoma, domestic violence, family justice centers.

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An Interview With Women Offenders-DC Public Safety

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

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/06/an-interview-with-women-offenders-dc-public-safety/

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

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. public safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have another interesting program on women offenders, and back at our microphones, we have Dr. Willa Butler. Willa Butler is a supervisory community supervision officer, and most places throughout the country, they call their people parole and probation agents, within Washington D.C., we call them community supervision officers, and Willa basically runs a unit for women offenders, and we have three people who are currently within her group, and I’m just going to be using first names to describe all three. We have Jacquelyn, Jacquelyn’s on probation for failure to appear, we have Diane who’s on probation for drug dealing, and we have Kim who’s on probation for assault, and to everybody out there listening, we really want to thank you all for your participation, for the comments that you give back to us. We’re up to 135,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. public safety, on the radio and the television side, and for the articles and the blog, and even the transcripts, which is certainly amazing to me. If you need to get in touch with me, you can do so via email, and that’s Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D, dot-sipes, S-I-P-E-S, @csosa.gov, or you can follow me via twitter, which is twitter/lensipes, S-I-P-E-S, and with that long introduction, Dr. Butler, Willa, you’re going to start off the whole thing. How you doing?

Willa Butler: I’m doing fine, Leonard. I would like to thank you for inviting us here today.

Len Sipes: I always enjoy your presence, Willa!

Willa Butler: Oh, well thank you so much!

Len Sipes: You and the young women that you bring to these discussions, I think, are some of the most interesting people that I get to talk to, and we get all these requests from the listeners for more and more programs for women offenders, or regarding women offenders.

Willa Butler: Okay, well this program is WICA, Women in Control Again, it’s a holistic approach to counseling, which I developed in 1998 when SAINT/HIDTA became a unit.

Len Sipes: Right, and St. Hida, nobody’s going to understand what that is.

Willa Butler: St. Hida is a substance abuse unit that we have here at CSOSA which was developed in 1998, and they asked me to come over and develop a gender specific program for our female offenders, and when you study female offenders, it’s just not substance abuse that we’re looking at, but it’s a holistic approach as to what happened, we go back to when they were children, or do a retrospective journey back, and we find that many things have caused them to enter the criminal justice system, and one of them is needing support and programs such as WICA, a place where they can be directed, where they can get some type of help or support during their traumatization or victimization or whatever they’re experiencing at that moment or in their past life.

Len Sipes: Okay, and people are going to say, “Willa, Dr. Butler, they’ve committed crimes. What do you mean, their victimization?”

Willa Butler: Well, when I say victimization, it’s basically what you’re experiencing growing up. We all basically, society is dysfunctional, but some areas a little more dysfunctional than others. When I say our environment, what we’ve been subjected to, and a lot of times, we as women, not only female offenders, but we have been subjected to victimization as children, and a lot of times, it has gone unanswered. And response to that victimization, I don’t want to use the term, it’s acting out, but we may do things a little differently than the so-called “normal” would do. We have survival tactics maybe a little different.

Len Sipes: Well, the research, this is all Department of Justice research, and we’ve talked about this before the program, is that the research from the Department of Justice basically states that women offenders have higher levels of substance abuse, higher levels of mental health issues, and in terms of research on abuse and neglect, offenders basically stating that they were abused or neglected in childhood, sexual abuse against female offenders who were victims of sexual abuse is astounding. It is above 60% where I think for male offenders, it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15%. So we’re talking about, in essence, different types of offenders when we were talking about male and female offenders, correct?

Willa Butler: Yes, exactly. Like you said, the statistics are higher for women, although men have experienced the type of victimization, but they handle it differently than women do, and one of the main concerns is that women don’t have support when they go through it as children, or as adults, and they have the propensity or tendency to, I’m not going to say, I don’t want to use the term, as acting out, but like I say, survival skills, they become more dependent as opposed to interdependent. A lot of them, due to – maybe – due to the victimization, I don’t want to say, but they don’t finish school, and therefore, they don’t have the economical means to take care of themselves, and sometimes they go to, maybe selling drugs, or boosting, or something of that nature.

Len Sipes: And I think, you know, we’ve discussed this in the past, Willa, the idea is this, and you tell me, and the ladies who are going to be interviewed can tell me this or not. I’m not, number one, I’ve got to say, I’m not making excuses for bad behavior, because I’ll get letters, and I’ll get emails, and comments on the program saying, basically, “Leonard, you’re making excuses for bad behavior.” It’s not so much making excuses for bad behavior, it is basically what is, and I’m recording this at 10 after 11, and all I’m saying is that it’s 10 after 11, and people listening to this program have heard this example from me before, and that it, it’s simply that the facts that I’m talking about right now, I mean, and the majority of criminologists in the country talk about, and there seems to be a consensus among people within the criminal justice system that the following is true: women offenders have substantially more problems than male offenders in terms of the coping because they’ve had a pretty tough life. A lot of them have been the victims of sexual violence. A lot of them have raised themselves in the same way that a lot of male offenders have raised themselves. Their codependency, or their dependency upon males has gotten them into real trouble. I’ve talked to dozens of women offenders who are serving long stretches of prison time because the male basically said, “I want you to take this big carload full of drugs to New York City, and if I don’t, I’m going to mess you up.” It just seems to be, in many ways, a different world, most women offenders have kids. When they come out of the prison system, if they come into the prison system, they’ve got to come out and deal with kids, so it’s just not them that they have to be concerned about, they have to be concerned about kids, so in everything that I’ve said, when I’m expressing a consensus of criminological opinion, do you believe that this consensus is correct or incorrect?

Willa Butler: I believe that it’s correct, but moreso than being correct is preventive measures. If we had more preventive measures in place, then it wouldn’t go this far –

Len Sipes: Like what?

Willa Butler: As opposed to a place where a person can go, a place where a person can go when they have been victimized, and number one –

Len Sipes: At what age? We’re talking about –

Willa Butler: At an early age.

Len Sipes: Okay, so you’re talking about kids getting the mental health –

Willa Butler: Children, as well as adults, because a lot of times, even women, they’re not believed that something has happened to them, or either they’re made to feel guilty. One thing, when you’re talking about being raped or molested, is that what part did I play in it, and that’s what society has the tendency to look at, well what part did you play in it? We didn’t play any part in it, because no one has a right to violate your person.

Len Sipes: Well, how can you hold an 8-year-old responsible for being the victim of a sexual assault by a family member, which is extremely common amongst women offenders?

Willa Butler: One thing, not being believed. I think that’s the most traumatizing thing, because you’re being re-victimized all over again, because, you know, our parents, our support, our safe haven, and when you go to them and tell them that something like this has happened, they don’t believe you. So then you’re out there left alone, I mean, who else can I, where can I find refuge, if I can’t find it from my mother or from my father, and depending on who the abuser is, sometimes it may be the mother or the father.

Len Sipes: And it’s not unusual for it to be the mother and the father, and I’ve read that within research. So that becomes part of the problem. That becomes the whole issue of, if you’re wondering, as criminologists would say, if you’re wondering why women offenders are the way they are, take a look at their own upbringings. I’ve heard other people say that it’s massive child abuse. It’s child abuse on a massive scale. Now that applies to both female and male offenders. But it’s a situation that we don’t talk about, Willa. That’s the weird thing about all of this, it’s a situation that we really don’t like to talk about, and why we don’t like to talk about it, but we simply do not like to address the fact that, in terms of, let’s just talk about women offenders right now, that in many cases, they have been extraordinarily abused in terms of their own childhood. Now I’m not going to put words in the mouths of the three ladies here, and we’re going to go over to them right now, starting with Kim – Willa, is there anything else you wanted to follow up on? Because I’m going to let you end the program.

Willa Butler: No, I’m fine. Thank you.

Len Sipes: Okay. Kim, one of the things that I find interesting. Now you’re on probation for failure to appear. Now all three of you have basically talked about having a criminal history, having a history of substance abuse, having a history of being in and out of crime. Is that correct for you?

Kim: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, how long – get closer to the microphone, please. How long have you been in and out of the criminal justice system, Kim? How long have you been in the game?

Kim: Let me start with, I left home at 13, and I’m 41 now, I’ve been using since the age of 13, and I left home, left school, I didn’t go to school, 8th grade, so I haven’t finished my education, I didn’t get my GED, because of my drug abuse.

Len Sipes: Okay. What’s your drug of choice?

Kim: Crack. Cocaine.

Len Sipes: So you’ve been at it for decades.

Kim: Forever.

Len Sipes: Forever. Have you been –

Kim: Off and on.

Len Sipes: Have you been in prison?

Kim: Yes. In and out.

Len Sipes: In jail? Okay. So you’ve been, you’re exactly what we read about.

Kim: Exactly.

Len Sipes: In terms of being in and out of the criminal justice system. What’s your take on your experience, what’s your take on being with my organization? What’s your take on life in general?

Kim: Right now, I’m more angry with myself, because it’s not like I didn’t have support, and my family was a lot of support, because they still are supporting me, you know, my family has always been there for me, you know, I love them so much, because they’ve never ever turned their backs on me, no matter what I’ve been through, so I just want to say, throughout my incarceration, instead of being, putting women in jail –

Len Sipes: [cell phone ringing] Yes, if all of us could turn our cell phones off. I’m sorry, I should have told you that before the program. I’m sorry, go ahead Kim.

Kim: Instead of incarcerating women, they need to find out what’s really going on in our minds, you know what I’m saying, jail is not for nobody –

Len Sipes: [cell phone ringing] Please.

Kim: And I didn’t never get anything out of going back and forth to jail. That’s probably why I continue to go, and –

Len Sipes: But you know there are people who are going to simply say, “What’s your problem?” You know they’re going to say that!

Kim: Mine is missing. I’ve just been diagnosed for bipolar. So mine is that, by leaving home as a child, it’s not much that I knew. I don’t know anything. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go to school, so I wasn’t around, my parents said I was out in the street doing what I wanted to do. So I didn’t know no better. So instead of, once I went to school, tried to get my GED, but they didn’t keep me in there long enough. Another thing I can really say is that I feel like they need more programs.

Len Sipes: Talk to me about the programs.

Kim: We need to be more educated, we need to be more therapy. More therapy, because they never know what’s going on. A person just don’t wake up and say, “We wanna get high,” because that’s not what I planned, I didn’t plan to be like this at 41.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kim: This was not my plan at all.

Len Sipes: What was your plan?

Kim: To one day open up a day care center. I love children. But you know, my life has never been stable enough to take care of no kids, not even my own. I have one son.

Len Sipes: If there was an opportunity somewhere throughout your life, that somebody would have provided you, who intervened meaningfully in your life, got you the mental health assistance that you needed to be sure that you got off of drugs, if you were on drugs at that point, so let’s just say at 11 years old, right before it got real bad, because you were doing drugs since you were 13, been on your own basically since you were 13, right? So at 11, they meaningfully intervened in your life, you had the social work, you had the mental health treatment, you had different people there who advocate for you, who help you make sure that you stayed in school, what do you think would have happened?

Kim: Well, my mom did all that. She did that, so I had, I was an only child, too, until 13. That was my problem. I was spoiled, and when my mother had my brother, I didn’t want that. So I left home. That’s when I left home, because I was already seeing doctors and psychiatrists and everything.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there was intervention, but different people did –

Kim: But when I left home, it didn’t continue.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you left home at 13, you didn’t have a right to leave home at 13, why didn’t somebody basically reach out, grab you, and pull you back.

Kim: Who?

Len Sipes: Parents.

Kim: My parents couldn’t find me. I was nowhere to be found. Somebody sends the police to pick me up for running away from home.

Len Sipes: Okay. Were you arrested at any point between 13 and 18? Didn’t anybody ask you what you were doing out –

Kim: Well, I danced in the club, so I left home.

Len Sipes: At 14!?

Kim: Yes.

Len Sipes: Wow!

Kim: Yeah. What a life.

Len Sipes: Wow!

Kim: I took care of myself.

Len Sipes: I’m – you’re – everything that you’re telling me, and this is one of the reasons why these programs are so profound. I mean, that is a profound statement. You were dancing in clubs at 14.

Kim: And they let me do that.

Len Sipes: How are you doing now? How are you doing now? No, I think whoever let you do that should be – well, I’m not supposed to expressed my personal opinions. All right, back up. How are you doing now?

Kim: Today?

Len Sipes: Today. You’ve been with Willa’s group, you’ve had an opportunity to talk through all of this. Has it made a difference? Do you think you’re going to continue going back to crime? Do you think you’re going to continue going back to drugs? What’s your future?

Kim: Well, hopefully, I’m going to stay clean. I know I’m going to stay clean, because I’m tired. I’m sick and tired.

Len Sipes: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Kim: Exactly. I can’t go back to jail. I’m never going back to jail.

Len Sipes: Now you do know that everybody who says that –

Kim: – goes back.

Len Sipes: Not everybody, but there’s a substantial proportion of people – I’ve sat there and said, “I ain’t never going back, I ain’t doing no more drugs, I’m not going back to jail, I’m not going back to prison, I’m going to come out and do landscaping, I’ve got a job lined up,” 3 months later, there’s a needle in his arm, hell, in some cases, 2 days later, there’s a needle in his arm.

Kim: I’m taking it one day at a time. One day at time. And for me, right now, I have to stay focused on my son. I have son.

Len Sipes: How old’s your son?

Kim: 23.

Len Sipes: What’s your relationship with your son?

Kim: I don’t know. We’re working on it. It’s always been good. We’ve always been close. An unconditional love, but you know, I want to be a closer part of his life. So I feel like I have to make changes in my life today. I’m not getting no younger, you know what I’m saying? Society ain’t brought me. I brought myself here, mostly, you know what I’m saying, because it’s things that I could have done for myself that I didn’t do that I’m trying to do today.

Len Sipes: Okay, what do you hope to do a year from now, in terms of a job?

Kim: A job?

Len Sipes: Are you working now?

Kim: No.

Len Sipes: Okay. What do you hope to do a year from now?

Kim: I do housekeeping. I clean every now and then, because like I said, I have my education is not all that well, so I can go back to school, I know, but I’m working on that too.

Len Sipes: You’re going to be in my prayers. It is clearly within society’s best interest to reach out and help you. It’s either that, or the drugs continue. It’s either that, or the pregnancies continue. It’s either that, or the crime continues. So I’m hoping and praying for you – now I am going to express my personal opinion, I’m hoping and praying for you – how long is it before you’re released from your supervision, us in here in CSOSA?

Kim: 2 years.

Len Sipes: 2 years, okay. No positive urines?

Kim: Oh, they’re all negative.

Len Sipes: There you go. Thank god for that. Thank god for that. Kim, you’re a –

Kim: Well, something else I can say is I go through my spells, I’ll stay clean 6 months out of a year, and the other half of the year under, and this goes on throughout my whole life.

Len Sipes: But that’s got to stop.

Kim: I know!

Len Sipes: But everybody says that, just because I say it doesn’t mean it is, but I think you tell a very inspiring story, and I’m going to pray for you and hope that things come out okay. You’re a beautiful young woman. I just think that you’ve got a heck of a future in front of you, especially with Willa’s help. We’re going to go over to Diane now. We can’t say “contestant number 2,” Diane, and don’t look at me like you’re not going to talk. Come on now! You’re sitting there, you’re sitting there. Another beautiful young lady. Diane is on probation for drug dealing, and Diane, have you, everything that I’ve said thus far about the childhood history, about basically raising yourself, lots of drugs, men who aren’t the best for you, is any of that true, is that a myth, what’s your take on all that, Diane?

Diane: Yes, most of that is true. But I’ve been having a drug problem for many years now, and I was put into a women’s program because of my relapse. I have just relapsed.

Len Sipes: You’ve just relapsed. What’s your drug of choice?

Diane: Heroin.

Len Sipes: Heroin.

Diane: And I do crack, too. I also do crack.

Len Sipes: It’s interesting how the folks in Baltimore and D.C. say “hare-on,” and to everybody else, it’s “hare-o-in,” but that’s, I said that a little while ago, I was being interviewed, and I said “hare-on,” and the person said, “what?” and I said, “I’m sorry. It’s hare-o-in.” You know, boy, this is amazing, because when you talk to Kim, its crack, and we talk to Diane, its heroin, two drugs that just completely mess you up for the rest of your life. When did you start doing drugs?

Diane: When I was like, 20, I believe 20.

Len Sipes: Really?

Diane: Yes.

Len Sipes: That’s a little unusual, because most of the ladies I’ve talked to, the guys for that matter, started drugs earlier than that. What caused you at the age of 20 to do, was it heroin, or was it something else?

Diane: It was powder coke then.

Len Sipes: It was powdered cocaine. So at 20, at the ripe old age of 20, you discovered –

Diane: Yeah, we thought it was fun, I guess, we were doing it young, I guess, we think it was fun in the beginning, and it turned out to be the worst.

Len Sipes: Oh, it’s always fun in the beginning. There’s no high like the first high. Okay, so what are you doing now? You’re on probation, how are you working out?

Diane: Well, I’m on probation for 5 years, and like I said, I have relapsed, and I asked to go into a long term program, because I really believe that I need help.

Len Sipes: All right, so you pulled some positive urines.

Diane: Yes, the last three.

Len Sipes: The last three? Well you’re fresh off the street there! Okay, Diane, I’m sorry to hear that. So we’re going to put you in what, a residential?

Diane: Residential.

Len Sipes: Okay. You’ve been, how long, go ahead, look at that microphone now, how long have you been involved in the criminal justice system? How long have you been in, what we call the lifestyle, the game, you know what I’m talking about, I don’t know if the audience knows what I’m talking about, but the criminal activity that goes along with the whole drugs and crime stuff.

Diane: Well, I’ve always been around drugs.

Len Sipes: Always been around drugs –

Diane: My mother and father did drugs.

Len Sipes: Your mother and father did drugs.

Diane: Both of them.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so how’d you hold off until the age of 20? That’s amazing. So, what’s your crime background?

Diane: I was locked up for domestic violence one time. This time I was in for distribution.

Len Sipes: Okay. So it’s domestic violence and drug distribution. How many times have you been arrested, do you think?

Diane: Probably four.

Len Sipes: Four. That’s not a lot compared to some of the ladies that I’ve talked to on the streets. Other ladies that I’ve talked to on this program that have been arrested 20, 30 times, you know, so you’ve been locked up four times.

Diane: I only stayed, did time, like twice.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you know, when I talk to people beyond this room, beyond offenders directly caught up in the criminal justice system, I keep hearing, “Leonard, would you stop it with programs for offenders? We’ve got kids to take care of, we’ve got the elderly to take care of, we’ve got unemployed people to take care of, we can’t wet nurse every person who puts a gun in somebody’s head or sells drugs, I mean, you know, they did the crime. What do you want me to do for them? We’ve got kids to take care of. We’ve got the elderly to take care of. We’ve got all sorts of people to take care of, and you’re out there saying there should be additional programs caught up in the criminal justice system.” How do you respond to all that, Diane?

Diane: I believe everyone deserves help, and a lot of criminals do have more problems than others, so I think it would be nice to have a lot of different programs that we can get into.

Len Sipes: Okay. Would the programs make a difference? I mean, that’s what everybody wants. People say, “You know, Leonard, I don’t mind putting more money into programs for offenders, but tell me it’s going to make a difference. Tell me it’s going to have an impact on the lives of these young men and women, and in some cases, older men and women.”

Diane: Well, I’ve been in a couple of programs, and I came out and did well for a while, but eventually, I relapsed. But I think it’s in self, too. If you really want it, you –

Len Sipes: But that’s the question. Do you really want to? I mean, you’re fresh off of positive urines.

Diane: Yes, I want to.

Len Sipes: Why? Why, why, why? Why do you want to get off of drugs now?

Diane: [overlapping voices] because I’ve been clean for a while, and I’ve seen ho fast I lost everything that I had just gained.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you’ve been involved in programs before for substance abuse, correct?

Diane: Yes, but usually I stay out a long time, and when I come back in, I’m almost dead, but this time, I caught myself before then.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Diane: And I asked to go into a long term program.

Len Sipes: That’s great, that’s great. Other people force you into other programs?

Diane: Most of the time, I went in for someone else. And then I was looking so bad, I didn’t want to be on the street.

Len Sipes: Yep. You know, people are going to say, Diane, again, another beautiful young woman, you would think that there’s a life for Diane beyond drugs. You know it’s going to kill you. You know it, you know it, you know it, and people, that’s a lot of what people don’t understand. If it’s going to kill you, and if it’s going to make your life miserable, why, why, why, is the pain that happened previously in your life that bad that you’ve got to mask it?

Diane: I believe it has something to do with the pain.

Len Sipes: Where does the pain come from?

Diane: I mean, when I was growing up, I’ve seen a lot of violence and drug abuse, and I just didn’t talk about it, I guess.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry? Kim? No, no, no, no. No, go ahead. No, get close to the microphone. Get close to the microphone. Go ahead.

Kim: A lot of times, when people lose members in their family, and they relapse, that’ll make them relapse, too. My thing, I never really been to no drug programs. I have more family support. My family will come and get me no matter where I am and say, “It’s time for you to come home.” And I go, because I know they love me, and they’re going to be there for me. But I always go back out.

Len Sipes: But a lot of family members, well, there’s two things. First of all, a lot of family are so sick and tired of the person in and out of the system that not only do they not let them back inside the house when they come out of prison, they change every lock on every door, because they’ve stolen from them far too many times, they’ve made their lives miserable far too many times. You know what I mean?

Kim: I know exactly what you mean. I haven’t really, I haven’t burned my bridges, I’m just, haven’t done that yet. My family just loves me so unconditional, it’s so hard for me to say, I remember one time, I stole my brother’s classic Cadillac, kept it for two months. You would think that he wouldn’t want to be bothered with me no more. It was like a month later, we got back friends. But I don’t know why my mother loves me so much, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to get clean. My mother, because a lot of times, we don’t have our parents, we don’t realize, our parents and our family members go through our addiction also. And my mother tells me all the time, she says she can’t die, because she won’t wonder if I’m going to be able to take care of myself. And that’s a terrible feeling, because all she worry about is me. I’m the only one she worries about. I have two younger brothers, and they take care of me, and that hurts too, because I have to go to them when I need help, and they should be able to come to me, and that hurts a lot, and I’m going to work on that, but I wanted to say something about the programs. You know, the programs, if you really want help, the programs might help you. But for me, some people go to the programs because they have to go. We need more therapy. The program’s not therapeutic, they’re just, you’re talking about drugs. Most people go in there and talk about drugs. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t go to meetings myself. I would prefer to go to church, which I’m really not going to church like I should. But I don’t like to be around a lot of people who use, because that’s my triggers. Because they talk about the old things that you used to do. That’s one of the things I don’t think people should talk about. But I think we should have more therapy.

Len Sipes: I talked to one person who said giving up drugs was easy. Giving up the lifestyle, giving up the friends, giving up the corner was the hardest thing.

Kim: Because I sometimes think about why I’m not with my friends, because then I think about I don’t want to be like that anymore. But see, we need more therapy, more therapy classes. One on one therapy, because we don’t just want to use drugs. We’re going through things that people don’t know, and we suppress it with drugs.

Len Sipes: And that’s exactly why we’re doing this program so people understand –

Kim: We need more therapy, more doctors, more counseling.

Len Sipes: – what it is that you’ve been through, and the fact of what that struggle is. Okay, now ladies and gentlemen, we ordinarily stop programs at 30 minutes, we’re going to be way beyond 30 minutes on this program, and I think it’s justifiable, because I think the stories that the ladies are telling are hugely compelling. We’re going to go over to Jacquelyn, and Jacquelyn, said it with a smile, so you need to get real close to that microphone, Jacquelyn, as much as possible. That’s fine. And ladies and gentlemen, Diane has to go. Diane, thank you very much for your participation in the program. I really appreciate it. That was really gutsy on your part. Okay, so we’re going to go to Kim. Kim’s on probation for assault, as we play musical chairs in the studio – I’m sorry? – Oh Jackie! Jacquelyn! I’m sorry, my apologies. I’m watching everybody leave, and I was saying Kim leave, and it’s Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn, you’re on probation for failure to appear in court. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Jacquelyn: Well, basically, I’ve been –

Len Sipes: Get closer to the microphone, please.

Jacquelyn: Basically, I’ve been in and out of the system for two years, but I’ve been doing good since I’ve been on probation for over a year, and I’ve been clean for 11 months now.

Len Sipes: Okay. What was your drug of choice?

Jacquelyn: Cocaine.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you’ve been testing negative?

Jacquelyn: Yes, I’m negative.

Len Sipes: Good, thank god. Now how long have you been involved in the system? You said you’ve been involved for a couple years. Does that mean two years currently, or does that mean beyond –

Jacquelyn: Two years, two years.

Len Sipes: So you’ve only been involved in the criminal justice system for two years?

Jacquelyn: Yes, just two years.

Len Sipes: Really? How did that happen?

Jacquelyn: Because I made the wrong choices to do wrong –

Len Sipes: But you know, again, you’re another beautiful woman – young woman, but you’re not 18 –

Jacquelyn: No, I’m 44.

Len Sipes: Nor are you 25. So how does somebody in their 40s suddenly decide to get caught up in the criminal justice system?

Jacquelyn: I guess you learn from your mistake, but I chose the wrong thing to do so, I’m learning from my mistakes, and so, I mean –

Len Sipes: But you’re learning from your mistakes, but you got caught up in the criminal justice system at 40, that doesn’t make any sense. I’m so used to talking to people who get caught up in drugs at 13. I’m so used to people getting caught up in crime at 16. You got caught up in this stuff in your 40s?

Jacquelyn: No, I started out almost 39 –

Len Sipes: Okay, get closer to the microphone –

Jacquelyn: 39, 40, yeah. I started at 39. That was only a year, 2006.

Len Sipes: All right. What caused you to get involved?

Jacquelyn: Hanging with the wrong people. Hanging out in the crowd, trying to be cool.

Len Sipes: Yeah. In your 40s? Wow!

Jacquelyn: Yeah, trying to be cool, and you know, I said, I’m getting too old for this. So I learned, but I kept getting locked up for the same thing and the same thing, I said “It’s time for me to stop doing this,” and –

Len Sipes: How many times were you locked up?

Jacquelyn: Maybe three times.

Len Sipes: Three times. And what were the crimes?

Jacquelyn: For prostitution.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you were out there involved in prostitution to raise money for drugs?

Jacquelyn: For drugs, yeah.

Len Sipes: Okay. Have kids?

Jacquelyn: Yeah, I have a son. I had three sons, but I have two deceased sons –

Len Sipes: Okay, I’m sorry to hear that.

Jacquelyn: and one living son.

Len Sipes: All right. And have you been doing drugs before the age of 40 –

Jacquelyn: Off and on.

Len Sipes: Off and on. So you’ve been doing drugs for how long?

Jacquelyn: Well, basically, I can say I started, when I had my children, I was on pretty good, and then after I lost my sons, then I got into a depressed mood, and I used that to soothe my mood swings and stuff.

Len Sipes: Okay. Get a little closer to the microphone. I don’t want to, I’m afraid to ask this question, but I’m going to ask this question. What happened to your sons?

Jacquelyn: One got killed in a car accident, and my baby son got killed in a fire.

Len Sipes: In a fire. My god, that’s tragic. That’s tragic beyond comprehension. So that accelerated your drug use?

Jacquelyn: And it didn’t solve anything, it just made me get out there more and do, do, do, and I didn’t realize until the last, this year’s been really good for me, man, it had really taught me to be wise and do good, and I’m clean. I’ve been clean for 11 months, and I get off probation in August, the 2nd of August of this year, so I’ve been doing good, going to my classes, I missed some of my classes, because the buses be runnin’ late sometimes, but I do good, I love coming to my meetings and stuff, it has me generating, to cope with my problems, with the daily life, I’m going back out on the street, being around my friends, they do drugs, get high, “why don’t you come over,” no, I stay clean, try to get off probation and do my part, I want to stay out of jail.

Len Sipes: What’s the world like when the people around you are always doing drugs? Is that what you’re saying, that your personal friends are all involved in drugs?

Jacquelyn: Yes, it’s my personal friends, it’s all about drugs.

Len Sipes: I mean, that’s –

Jacquelyn: And I said, I’ve been doing good, I’ve been clean, I don’t go around, I say to myself, stay away from people who do it, and that’s how you can stay clean, stay out of that environment.

Len Sipes: Yeah, everybody’s saying that, but again, as I said a little while ago, talk to the guy who said, giving up drugs is one thing, giving up my friends, giving up the corner –

Jacquelyn: Yeah, giving up, you’ve got to give it up if you want to stay straight!

Len Sipes: Right! But I mean, there’s so much into this whole story of substance abuse and criminal activity, where you know, if you see people driving a nail through the side of their head, and you can see the obvious pain and the distress it causes them, you would think that you wouldn’t do that sort of thing, but then again, so many people get caught up in this, and you’re saying, at the age of 40, and a couple years beyond 40, your peers, your friends are still doing drugs.

Jacquelyn: Yes, they sure are. They haven’t changed. Doing it, they’re out all night. I mean, I seen one of my friends today when I was standing outside, and he’s taking a urine, but he’s on probation too. Is they gonna change? No! But they can’t wait to get off this. They say, “I can’t wait to get off!”

Len Sipes: But the result of it is hell. The result of all this is just straight to H-E-L-L. I mean, for your kids, for your family, for your possessions, for where you live, it’s just, that’s the thing that always will bewilder the rest of us who aren’t involved in drugs, is that if you do something, the drugs, the pool has got to be beyond comprehension, because you know what it’s going to do to you.

Jacquelyn: It brings you down, it takes all your money, I mean, you can’t, next day, you don’t have nothin’ in your pocket –

Len Sipes: It takes everything!

Jacquelyn: It takes everything, and you’re going to wake up and smell the coffee, and say, “Let me, this got to change!” I mean, you want to feel good about yourself, you don’t want to be down for the rest of your life because you want to do drugs or alcohol, whatever the substance that you use, you know, to make you feel the way you want to feel. But my heart, I’m waking up, and it’s time for me to grow up, and I’m 44, and I have a son in the Army, he’s just finished Army, he’s going to go into the Marines, and he’s 25, he just turned 25 May 19th, I mean, March the 19th, excuse me, March the 19th, but he’s married, and he has two kids, so he’s doing good by me, but he knows, he don’t know that I’m in the court system. I haven’t told him. I kept that from him.

Len Sipes: The whole concept of programs, because I’m going to go to Willa to finish everything up in a couple seconds. More programs?

Jacquelyn: More programs, more counseling, and it helps. It helps me a lot, it helped me a lot, and now, I get off probation, and I’m doing successfully, doing good without any relapse.

Len Sipes: Well that, to me, is astounding, and I’m so happy to hear that. I really am, because I know, just in terms of knowing you as a human being, in terms of sitting across this table looking at you, there’s an emotional connection, but just for society, just for your son, just for your grandkids, just for everybody’s sake, it is in our best interests to make sure that you’re clean.

Jacquelyn: Yes, be clean, and that’s what they want you to be clean, always be clean, and you don’t want to get set back, you don’t want to go back to jail, and those, I say no.

Len Sipes: I hear you. The other point is that, I forget who said it, Jackie, but I think it was Diane or Kim, but – it’d have to be Diane or Kim, because there’s only two other people – about liking the process of when you all get together. I discussed one time in the women’s prison, talking to a whole group of women, about 30, who said that they never felt more at peace and more comfortable because they have these counseling groups with the different women there.

Jacquelyn: It makes a difference.

Len Sipes: And that this is the first time in their lives that they’ve been able to express what happened to them, who they are, their struggles, without feeling judged by everybody else, and they loved that concept.

Jacquelyn: They’ll come to the meetings and participate in them, and it helps, it helps you feel good when you talk about your problems and stuff, when you hold back, that’s when you can’t grow, if you hold back.

Len Sipes: I hear you. I hear you.

Jacquelyn: So I tried participating, get it off your chest, and when you go home, you feel good, go get me something to eat, lay me down, take a nap, and forget about the outside, you know, and just be me. I know I’ve got to do, because I’m not going back to jail. I’m staying clean.

Len Sipes: I pray that you do. Okay, the microphone’s going to go over to Kim, and then we’re going to finish up with Willa. Go ahead, Kim.

Kim: Okay. I really appreciate Willa. She has been tremendously helpful to us. Her meetings is inspiring, very inspiring, because when we women get together, it’s like sisterhood for me, you know, it’s nothing, I love it, you know what I’m saying? Because we get to let our hair down, talk about our problems, and give one another insight where we can do the help, or some of us go through things, and we need to talk to women. Women understand women more than anybody. So Willa has, I love her program. I just wish we could have it more than once a week. Because once a week is just, it’s just like going through the whole week, anxious to get there, you know what I’m saying, just really want it to be more than once a week.

Len Sipes: One of the reasons why I love to have Willa do these problems and bring over some of the people that are currently in the group, because the stories that Willa tells, and the stories that the ladies involved in the group tell are just profound beyond comprehension. I always get letters – not letters anymore, emails – in some cases, I even get phone calls. Different people saying, every time I do a group, every time I do a radio program with Willa and her participants, they find it to be one of the most inspiring things they’ve ever heard in their lives. All right, Willa, you’ve got the last couple seconds, and again, I do want to apologize to everyone, I do try to keep these programs to 30 minutes, but whenever Willa comes by, we just throw caution to the wind and let the microphones roll, because it’s such an interesting program. Willa, do you want to sum up what we’ve just heard, if that’s humanly possible?

Willa Butler: Yes, I’m going to try. I’m just touched, the program, it’s for the women. It’s to address their concerns and their vulnerabilities, and I’m glad that it’s working. It’s therapeutic, too, and we’re dealing with the core beliefs. In other words, our belief system is the reason why we are “in the system,” and what we’re working on now is changing it. I guess I have to, cliche, “thinking for a change,” but we’re trying to have understanding as to why we do the things that we do, and how we can change the way that we do things, and I just thank the ladies for coming down and participating, and I thank you again, Leonard, for having us here.

Len Sipes: Oh, I love it! If it was up to me, I’d have you on every month, but I think the listeners would get tired of it. The listeners do tell us, “Leonard, it’s a very interesting program, but mix up the variety,” so you’ve got carte blanche to come over what, every three months or so –

Willa Butler: Oh, thank you!

Len Sipes: – and do the program every six months or so, three months or so, but you know, do people, here’s what people need to hear who are listening to this program right now, that their tax paid dollars is going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people who we’re trying to help, but also it’s going to make them safer, and it’s actually going to reduce their tax burden by taking this person out of the criminal justice system and out of the substance abuse system. Is that what people want to hear?

Willa Butler: Yes, yes –

Len Sipes: And is it true?

Willa Butler: Yes and no, and what, I’m being realistic about it –

Len Sipes: And I appreciate that.

Willa Butler: You have to want to change, and you have to really want this thing, but the thing about it is, we can instill in you to at least start out being compliant, then you’ll start adhering to the rules and regulations on what you have to do, and understanding that change comes from within, and what I try to teach the women is to spend time with yourself during the day, at least 10 minutes a day, because you’ve been out here, you’ve been raised in the street, and we don’t know who we are, and once we begin to know who we are and to love on ourselves, then we’ll want to change, because we know this is not where God wants us to be, because there is a better place for us, a better tomorrow –

Len Sipes: No sense being dead at 45.

Willa Butler: Exactly!

Len Sipes: Because that’s where the people caught up in the lifestyle are headed. They’re going to be dead at 45.

Willa Butler: Exactly. And we are promoting change, and I believe it’s working. I don’t know what else to say. I get choked up, too.

Len Sipes: I get choked up every time I do one of these programs! I mean, how can you listen to Jacquelyn and Diane and Kim without being emotionally moved! Okay, to Kim and Jacquelyn, because Diane had to go, or even to Diane, because when she listens to this program, because my heart goes about to everybody involved, it is so important to me personally and to everybody listening to this program that you succeed, and I hope and pray, and you’ll be in my prayers, that you will succeed and improve your lives and the lives of the rest of us. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Again, we are over by 15 minutes in terms of the program time. I apologize for that. Feel free to give us comments at D.C. Public Safety, you can go there, listen to the radio shows, television shows, the newspaper – I’m sorry, the articles, and the transcripts, you can get in touch with me via email, Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D, dot-sipes, S-I-P-E-S, @csosa.gov, stands for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C., or you can follow me via twitter at twitter/lensipes, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: Women offenders, female offenders, child abuse, drugs, violence, violence reduction, violence prevention, crime, criminals, criminal justice, prison, incarceration, parole, probation, corrections

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Parole and Probation Officers

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

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

This television program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2010/05/parole-and-probation-officers/

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

– Video begins –

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. You know, in the United States of America on any given day there are seven million people under correctional supervision. But, probably what you don’t know is the fact that four of those seven million are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies. Well, what is parole and probation? What happens on a day to day basis when a person is assigned to a parole and probation agency? What do parole and probation agents do? To examine that question, we’re going to look at it from the eyes and perspective of what happens here at the District of Columbia. To talk about it, we’ve got two principals with us today. We have Jemell Courtney and Alexander Portillo, and to Courtney and Alexander welcome to DC Public Safety. Okay, Alexander the first question goes to you. What is parole and probation? How do you explain parole and probation to the average person?

Alexander Portillo: Okay. Probation has been granted by the court””by the D.C. Superior Court, and the parole is granted by the Parole Commission for those people who have been incarcerated for quite some time.

Leonard Sipes: And a lot of people get that mixed up. Probation is when the judge says, okay, we’re not going to send you to prison, but what we are going to do is put you under supervision for a certain amount of time.

Alexander Portillo: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Parole is when you come out of prison.

Alexander Portillo: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. The interesting thing in the District of Columbia is that now individuals serve 85% of their sentences. So, people who violate the law within the District of Columbia, they go to federal prison, and federal prison means serving 85% of that sentence. But the last 15% of that sentence they have to report to us.

Alexander Portillo: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and Jemell, tell me about this. You supervise individuals. Both of your are community supervision officers and other places throughout the country they’re call parole and probation agents but here in the District of Columbia we call them community supervision officers. So, you encounter this individual say how often if you’re in general supervision?

Jemell Courtney: Anywhere between once a week to once a month.

Leonard Sipes: Right. So, it could be up to four times a week, and in some case loads it could be higher than that.

Jemell Courtney: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And drug testing””we drug test the dickens out of offenders in the District of Columbia.

Jemell Courtney: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. You are with the TIPS unit.

Jemell Courtney: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s really unique because all of these individuals coming out of the prison system, you’re supposed to get that file months in advance. I know you don’t get it months in advance, but you’re supposed to get it months in advance, and from that you put together a prescriptive plan whether the offender needs medication, needs to go into drug treatment, needs to have mental health treatment. One time I did an article where folks from your unit had to deal with a massively obese person and find housing for that person coming out of the prison system. What you do is really interesting and very difficult.

Jemell Courtney: Yes it is, and housing, I’m glad you brought that up. Because housing is very difficult for some of the offenders that don’t have anywhere to go once they’re released from the halfway house or prison. So, it’s kind of difficult trying to find them housing.

Leonard Sipes: Now, people need to understand who are watching this program that the District of Columbia we have some of the most expensive housing in the country. So, if you’ve burnt your bridges with your family members, and they’re mad at you, and they don’t want you back in your home, the only alternative for that offender is to go to a halfway house.

Jemell Courtney: Correct or transitional housing and we use the shelter as a last resort.

Leonard Sipes: Right, but finding housing for that individual is part of your job.

Jemell Courtney: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Finding drug treatment is part of your job. Finding mental health treatment, dealing with a woman offender– female offender coming out and dealing with the fact that she has kids with her mom. Those are all things you have to deal with.

Jemell Courtney: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s complex and that’s difficult. Correct?

Jemell Courtney: Yes, it is very complex.

Leonard Sipes: Alexander the day to day supervision of offenders. Now I know you’re in the domestic violence unit, but let’s talk about supervision in general. When you’re dealing with individuals whether they be on parole or whether they be on probation, your job is to both supervise them and to get them into programs.

Alexander Portillo : Right.

Leonard Sipes: Tell me about that.

Alexander Portillo: Okay. Well, I work for the Domestic Violence and Prevention Program, so, I don’t supervise the offenders that are on domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Alexander Portillo: What happens is, is that domestic violence officer refers them to our program.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Alexander Portillo: And then we teach them to deal with situations in a healthy way with alternatives to violence because a lot of these offenders are – this is what they know and this is what they grew up in””violence. So, we try to change that thinking. We try to change the way they do things. Which is a pretty hard job, but we’ve gotten positive results.

Leonard Sipes: Now when I talk to people and either one of you can come in and answer this question. When I talk to people about that we call it cognitive behavioral therapy or thinking for a change, we called it in another state that I was with, and people are astounded when I say that in terms of domestic violence you can’t hit your wife.

Jemell Courtney: Right.

Leonard Sipes: You can’t raise your fist to your wife. You can’t raise your fist to your kids. You can’t do that. That’s not what we find acceptable within society. So, a lot of individuals they find that difficult to deal with.

Alexander Portillo: Right. Well, when you have the same pattern for your whole life, then it is kind of difficult to break away from that pattern. So, what we teach them is that recognize the cycle of violence. To break away from that cycle of violence and maybe they can have a healthy relationship with their spouse, family member or whoever may be on the street.

Leonard Sipes: But, so much of what it is that we do, and again, either one of you can answer this or talk about it, this goes from you can’t raise your fist to your wife, certainly you can’t hit your wife or significant other, but in terms of jobs, how to prepare for a job, how to deal with individuals while you’re on the job. Again, we supervise the dickens out of people on a day to day basis. We have fairly low case loads here in the District of Columbia. But, trying to get people in the programs, and trying to help them overcome some of the deficiencies in their lives. People don’t understand how the issue is, is that, you know, you have to go to work everyday. You have to show up on time everyday. You have to be pleasant every day. I mean, that’s one of the things that we deal with in terms of either your unit in terms of bringing them in fresh from the prison system or the domestic violence. It’s part of a process of getting people to understand that there is a different way of doing things.

Jemell Courtney: And you get a lot of resistance. A lot of offenders don’t want to go into programs and treatments. So…

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Jemell Courtney: That’s an area that’s very difficult with a lot of the offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and their sense is that I’m fresh out of prison in terms of your unit, Jemell. They’re fresh out of prison I don’t want to be bothered by all of this.

Jemell Courtney: Correct, and, then they don’t want to go into treatment right after they are released from the halfway house because they feel like they just left a confined environment. So, we have to try to do our best to convince them that it would benefit them in the long run.

Leonard Sipes: And how do you do that? I mean in some cases it almost comes down to the point of I’m sorry, you’re going.

Jemell Courtney: Individual counseling usually works…

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Jemell Courtney: With most of the offenders. Once you sit down and talk to them and get to the core of the problem, and then the results are usually easy to come by.

Leonard Sipes: Now people need to understand that they come in, the offenders come into the office all of the time. But, at the same time, you’re out in the community. Half of our””the requirement here at the Court Services Supervision Agency is that half of those contacts need to be made in the community. And, many cases, surprise visits to their places of employment or to their home. Right?

Alexander Portillo: Right. What people need to realize that this is not a desk job. We are out in the community. We either do home visits, we have to check on the programs. We go do work verification visits. So, we’re not in the office. We’re out in the community so that they can see us. That we’re out there checking on them to make sure they do what they’re supposed to be doing.

Leonard Sipes: Part of this – I mean we’re formally a federal law enforcement agency. But it’s interesting because part of us we wear a badge, we wear a bullet-proof vest, but we don’t have guns. We go into high crime neighborhoods and some of the buildings we go into are pretty dicey. But yet, in many cases, you go in there by yourself. You’ve got a jacket that says CSOSA. You’ve got a bullet-proof vest and you wear a badge, but you’re not a law enforcement officer nor do you carry a gun. But, yet, you still go into these tough high-crime neighborhoods. To me that would be scary, I’m sorry. From my six years of law enforcement to go into a tough neighborhood to deal with an individual who has committed an act of violence. To go in there unarmed, people need to understand that’s what we do day in and day out.

Alexander Portillo: Right. We have to understand that we do work with difficult people, but you have to understand that if you show them respect, they’re going to show respect back to you.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So, that’s the key isn’t it? The building that sense of respect with the individual regardless of their background.

Jemell Courtney: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Building that rapport””building that rapport with a family, building that rapport with the friends, building that rapport with an employer.

Jemell Courtney: Correct. And, some police officers do accompany the CSOs on home visits.

Leonard Sipes: Right, called accountability tours.

Jemell Courtney: Right, for the high-risk offenders.

Leonard Sipes: Right. So, that happens 11,000 times a year. That’s amazing to me. But the 11,000 times with the police officer it’s, I think, something like 45,000 times a year without the police officer where you go out in the community. So, as Alexander said you’re out there all of the time.

Jemell Courtney: Yes, correct, we are a lot.

Leonard Sipes: Do you feel afraid when you do this?

Jemell Courtney: No, I don’t.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Alexander Portillo: I go from southeast to northeast to northwest and I’ve never felt afraid, and like I said earlier, it’s about the respect. You know, if you show them that””treat them like people then they’re going to react like people.

Leonard Sipes: The average person sitting here watching this program is essentially going to say to themselves, do you protect my public safety. Do you protect my safety not my public safety. Do you protect me? Do you protect my family? Do yo protect my kids? Do we?

Alexander Portillo: Sure we do. In the domestic violence, we have to contact the victim. So, we have to assure that the victim is safe.

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Alexander Portillo: We make contacts every thirty days. So, yes, we do. I feel that we do.

Leonard Sipes: And the larger public is basically counting on us that””I remember one woman we were serving warrants and something we ordinarily nearly don’t do, but we did it with the Metropolitan Police Department. We have a wonderful relationship with the the Metropolitan Police Department, and the woman asked me what are you doing, and I said well we’re serving warrants, and she goes good take the ones who are messing with the community. Take them, but help the ones who want to be helped. And, you know, that is to me the essence of community supervision under parole and probation agencies where take the enforcement action of the people who threaten public safety, but those who need the help, help them, get them involved in programs. Is that the essence of it?

Jemell Courtney: Yeah, that is basically the essence of it.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, but I mean isn’t there something more that you think the public needs to understand about your role?

Jemell Courtney: As far as the parole and supervisory release cases…

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Jemell Courtney: A lot of times, we recommend special conditions stay away orders from the victims through the parole commission or through D.C. Superior Court…

Leonard Sipes: So, we’re constantly working with the parole commission. We’re constantly working with the court. We’re constantly working with a variety of law-enforcement agencies. Correct?

Jemell Courtney: Yes, correct.

Leonard Sipes: So, you’re out there day to day working with the individual offender, but you’re working with your partners all at the same time.

Jemell Courtney: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: You know, and so, you’re diplomats. Part of you have to be diplomatic enough to deal with the offender, diplomatic enough to deal with the offender’s family and diplomatic enough to deal with the larger criminal justice system.

Jemell Courtney: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And, what do you say to your friends and family in terms of what it is that you do on a day to day basis in terms of your jobs?

Alexander Portillo: Well, I tell them that it’s very difficult because you try to convince people to do right, and it’s hard because maybe 90% of them don’t want to do it.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Alexander Portillo: And the 10% is what makes it count. That makes a difference and what makes me keep going.
Leonard Sipes: Right. And, Jemell, how would you say that. What do you say to your friends and family when you’re talking to them?

Jemell Courtney: So, as Alex said, I tell them that it is a very difficult job next to parenting. It’s hard and people don’t understand. We go through many challenges day by day as far as housing, trying to convince people to go into treatment and it’s hard.

Leonard Sipes: I did it for””I had three jobs where I had direct supervision with offenders, and it was the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life. Dealing with them and dealing with the family. It was very rewarding, and at the same time, you had to bring your A-game to the job everyday.

Jemell Courtney: You have too.

Leonard Sipes: If we don’t, it could have an impact on public safety. That’s the point, right?

Jemell Courtney: Uh-huh.

Alexander Portillo: Right, there’s no room for error.

Leonard Sipes: There’s no room for error.

Alexander Portillo: Because, you know, someone could get hurt in the community or one of our offenders could go out and, you know, cause havoc, cause trouble in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, Alexander, you’ve got the final word on the first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, please stay with us for the second segment as we continue to explore the role of a parole and probation agent in the United States and here within the District of Columbia. We’ll be right back.

Leonard Sipes: Welcome back to DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes. We talked about on the first segment that there were seven million people in the United States on any given day under correctional supervision, but four million are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies, and we said we’re going to talk about what parole and probation does within the United States through the perspective of what happens here in the District of Columbia through my agency the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. By the way, we call our people Community Supervision Officers not parole and probation agents. That’s unique to us here in the District of Columbia. There are 350 community supervision officers on any given day. We supervise about 16,000 offenders. When we say supervise, it’s a combination of supervision where we try to hold them accountable in terms of their day to day life. Where we can go to their homes and expectantly work with the metropolitan police department, the local police agency, we together go to their homes and do what we call accountability tours. Maybe another 45,000 times a year we actually go to their house, and in some cases, surprise visits if not surprise visits, prearranged visits, sometimes, like I said they’re surprise visits. But, we drug test the dickens out of individuals. We do a lot in terms of supervision. The key to the research is that what we try to do is to get them involved in programs. The question becomes if a person comes out of the prison system, if he has a mental illness problem, what’s going to happen if that person does not receive treatment for mental illness. So, here again we’re going to talk about community supervision with Anthony Smith and Emily McGilton both community supervision officers from my agency Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and to Anthony and Emily, welcome to DC Public Safety. Anthony, the first question goes to you. On the supervision side, we use global positioning systems, GPS or satellite tracking, where we have these devices. They’re on the anklet of the individual, and we can track them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in terms of where they go. Correct?

Anthony Smith: Yes, GPS has been a very good tool used within CSOSA. It’s used typically to monitor our high-risk offenders. Typically, which would be the sex offenders, the domestic violent offenders who have stay-away orders from particular blocks unit within a district and it is also used as a tool for unemployed offenders. It is policy that they’re place on GPS thirty days after being on supervision due to the fact that they’ll have a lot of idle time and may be more vulnerable to get re-involved in criminal activities.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and we’ll also put them in day reporting, which basically says that if you’re not going to find work then you’ve got to report to some place everyday until you find work. We’ll help you find work. We’ll train you in terms of how to find work, but you’ve got to report to day reporting every day. Correct?

Anthony Smith: Exactly, and it has been useful in pinpointing various crimes throughout the district where the offenders were actually at the spot near the assisted MPD and various other law enforcement agencies to solving crimes within the district.

Leonard Sipes: Now the interesting thing there is that they can take a look at the computers in their cars and track offenders through our system the individual police department. And, it’s not just the Metropolitan Police Department, it could be the Secret Service, it could be the Housing Police, it could be a wide array of individuals.

Anthony Smith: Exactly, and we’re also charged with monitoring the offenders whereabouts. We are to check the GPS devices daily to make sure that they’re charging them, and we also do VeriTracks. We get VeriTracks emails of the offender’s non-compliance if they’re not charging or if they’ve been in an area that they’re not supposed to, we’re notified by email that the offender is not in compliance.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Emily, explaining what parole and probation is, is always difficult. I have the hardest time, you know, because you take all of this supervision stuff, GPS, as Anthony was just talking about, the concept of constantly drug testing them, surprise visits, working with the Metropolitan Police Department just to hold them accountable and then the treatment part of it, which is a very complex hard job for the individual community supervision officers who have to manage that process everyday. Correct?

Emily McGilton: It is. The main thing to realize is that we’re governed by the U.S. Parole Commission and the D.C. Superior Court is releasing authorities. When they’re given special conditions to the offenders, we’re responsible for setting the offenders up for those programs. However, if we find something that we think may be suitable for the person, we have the authority to go ahead and have them assessed for mental health concerns.

Leonard Sipes: In your case because you work for the Sex Offender Unit, which is one of the hardest units I can possibly imagine that plus the Mental Health Unit. That’s something else, we have all of these specialized units we were talking in the first segment about the Domestic Violence Unit. We have all of these specialized units. So, you can have a sex offender come out from the Parole Commission through the prison system, and you can analyze that individual, work with local law enforcement officers in terms of supervising that individual, but if you need him or her to do more, to go into treatment, to the ability to check their computers, you have to go back to the Parole Commission and ask for their permission to do that?
Emily McGilton: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s something a lot of people don’t understand. We don’t work autonomously. We, basically, do what the judges ask us to do or tell us to do. We basically do what the Parole Commission wants us to do. So, people don’t understand that. We’re not independent. We have to work within the confines of the courts and the Parole Commission. Do we agree?

Anthony Smith: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Tell me a little bit about that. That’s frustrating. Okay, so, I’ve got this offender who I feel really needs to be””I need to search his computer, but I can’t do it unless the Parole Commission tells me that I can. Do you go back to the Parole Commission and ask for permission to do it?

Anthony Smith: There are steps that you have to take before going back to the U.S. Parole Commission. We have to utilize the graduated sanctions matrix and make sure we have exhausted everything on the matrix before notifying the releasing authorities. And at that time, depending on whether they’re on supervised release or probation, we’ll then notify the releasing authorities. Typically, with probation, it will be an AVR which will be submitted to the court, and with the U.S. Parole Commission, you’ll ask for a sanctions hearing.

Leonard Sipes: I’m glad you brought that up. Now, if a person is not doing well, then we just don’t run back to the courts and run back to the Parole Commission and say you’re not doing well. We have to go through a whole series of steps of what we call intermediate sanctions. So, intermediate sanctions are what? Come into the office more often, reading him the riot act, putting him on some sort of detail to do community service. So, we try to convince the person to come back into law abiding behavior. Is that it?

Anthony Smith: Yes. I mean the sanctions vary. It can go anywhere from a verbal reprimand. Trickle up to a written reprimand, to daily reporting, daily reporting center. You can have an SCSO conference. The offender can be given a therapeutic task…

Leonard Sipes: We can put them back in a halfway measure…

Anthony Smith: Put them in a halfway back program.

Leonard Sipes: Basically saying, this is your final step. If you don’t comply, you’re going to go back to prison. This is the final step. Correct?

Anthony Smith: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Go ahead.

Emily McGilton: It’s just that we have a lot of room to explore different options together with our supervisor and the offender. We can typically come up with a plan that will address their sanctioning them and also getting them back into compliance with their court order such as community supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Emily McGilton: We could increase drug testing. We can make referrals to the central intervention team…

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Emily McGilton: To get treatment if we feel it’s needed if they test positive. Also, working together with the other departments at CSOSA. So, we have a lot of options as far as sanctioning.

Leonard Sipes: Now, that’s a huge bureaucracy come to think of it from the standpoint of the community supervision officer. He or she’s got to deal with the court, got to deal with the parole commissioner, got to deal with the bureaucracy of their own agency. How do you survive? Do you feel that you have the flexibility to bring ingenuity to it, to bring creativity to the job in terms of how you supervise or how you assist an offender?

Emily McGilton: I believe we do. I think the main part is looking out for public safety. If we have an offender who has violent tendencies or any offenders who have special conditions like sex-offender treatment or domestic-violence treatment. We make sure that they’re in compliance with their treatment and to not have another victim.

Leonard Sipes: One thing I’m going to say that obviously you’ve been afraid that everybody’s been afraid to say so far is there is a lot of paperwork involved. You’re sitting at that computer putting in””spending a lot of time documenting what it is that you’ve done or what the Parole Commission has done or what the courts have done. That’s a big burden.

Anthony Smith: It can be, but it has to be done. The accountability is still there. So, you just go along with the flow.

Emily McGilton: Also, having that documentation has helped us. I know it has helped me out at hearings. It’s helped me out just””you can’t remember everything about every case. So, having that documentation has been really helpful.

Leonard Sipes: When I was with Maryland for 14 years, it was all paper. Here it’s all computerized. So, here I’m amazed because you can go in and get a complete dossier on that individual going back five and six years. Where in Maryland, you had to just spend hours and hours and hours going through paperwork. And, it was a very inefficient system, but it’s still time consuming. The average community supervision officer constantly tells me well, Mr. Sipes, I’m spending way too much time plugging information into the computer, but it’s necessary. Correct?

Emily McGilton: It is.

Leonard Sipes: That from my standpoint it is necessary. What else haven’t we talked about in terms of getting people to understand your role as a community supervision officer? You’re in the community, you’re by yourself, you’re dealing with sex offenders, you’re dealing with violent offenders, you’re dealing with people who need programs. A woman who got kicked out with her two kids because she couldn’t get along with her roommate and suddenly, that offender and her two children are in the community and you’ve got to help them find housing. There are so many layers to what you do. Your job is so complex. Your job is so demanding.

Anthony Smith: Yeah, we collaborate with various programs within the community. CSOSA also has the community justice programs and they assist the offenders with both vocational and educational programs…

Leonard Sipes: Uh-huh.

Anthony Smith: Housing and various other things that may be useful to the offender.

Leonard Sipes: We deal with the faith community, which is one of the things that I do want to bring up. We have a lot of churches and mosques and synagogues throughout the District of Columbia, and they volunteer their time to help that individual offender, and they don’t have to join their religion. If it’s a Baptist church or a Catholic church or a mosque, they don’t have to join that religion, but these individuals will help that offender in terms of food, clothing, shelter, finding a place to live, drug treatment or basically how to act right. And, I’m really interested in that faith-based component. Do you guys use that, that much within your jobs?

Anthony Smith: I do. I actually have an offender who is linked with a mentor through the faith-based initiative and what the mentor and the offender have been doing is that he meets with him on a monthly basis, and they go over jobs, resume building. He invites him to church and so on and so forth. When he’s available, if not, at the least, they’ll make telephone contact…

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Anthony Smith: On a monthly basis, and it has been helpful.

Leonard Sipes: You know the interesting thing is that so many of our offenders are not necessarily caught up in formal gangs but groups or whatever it is that you call them. Other people who are involved in the lifestyle. What we call criminal activity. And, this way, if they come out and they’re involved with a religious body it’s a gang, but it’s a gang for good instead of a gang for bad.

Emily McGilton: That’s a big part of our job is reconnecting the offenders with a community that they’ve lost touch with, whether it’s religious, whether it’s drug treatment just helping them if they need to find housing, if they need to find clothing. We have offenders that come to us that feel comfortable that despite our position and that we have to report to the judge if they do something wrong, we’re also there to set up programs for them and reconnect them with the community.

Leonard Sipes: Right because we know””I mean people don’t seem to understand that the research is clear that just supervising the dickens out of them doesn’t reduce the recidivism, doesn’t necessarily make the public any safer. But, if a person has a mental health problem, getting that person into mental health treatment or getting that person into a domestic violence treatment does help.

Emily McGilton: Correct. And a lot of our offenders have overlapping issues. So, it’s up to us to determine what’s the most pressing issue. So, at any given time, we’re typically working on two to three different issues for each offender.

Leonard Sipes: Right, it’s mental health, it’s drug treatment, it’s resentment over Dad not being in the house and having that anger management issue. So, right there, mental health, drug treatment, and anger management. That’s the typical offender that you deal with.

Emily McGilton: True.

Leonard Sipes: That’s challenging. That’s massively challenging. Correct?

Anthony Smith: It is, but we have a lot of assistance from””we have a strong partnership with the MPD in which we conduct accountability tours. We’re out in the community a lot at various events, community service events where we monitor the offenders who have special conditions in completing community service for the courts.

Leonard Sipes: All right, Anthony, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen thank you for being with us today on DC Public Safety. Look for us next time as we explore another very interesting topic in our criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Video Ends –

Meta terms: Accountability, tours, inter-agency, interagency, crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole,
probation, agent, community, supervision, officer, prison, drug treatment, reentry, police, cooperation, law enforcement.

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