Corrections Technology-GPS-Officer Mobility-Driving Restrictions

Corrections Technology-GPS-Officer Mobility-Driving Restrictions

DC Public Safety Radio

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Len Sipes: From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Joe Russo, Director of Corrections, Technology, Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, which is part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet,, talking about community corrections technology. Joe, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Joe Russo: Thank you Len, always great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Well it’s always a pleasure to be with you Joe because you’re one of the most popular programs that we have. Everybody is really interested in corrections technology, what it could be, what it really means to the rest of us. You’re on the cutting edge of it. So we have a variety of topics to talk about today. We’re talking about offender tracking and realistic expectations. We’re talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation agent mobility, virtual offices, the use of tablets, keeping our folks in the field and technology and driving restrictions. Those are the three topics. So why don’t you kick it off talking about GPS offender tracking, satellite tracking and realistic expectations.

Joe Russo: Absolutely. Yeah, I wanted to talk about this topic because, you know, over the last year or two there’s been a series of high profile cases across the country where offender’s tracked with GPS bracelets are committing horrific crimes. And this is very tragic and it’s set off in motion a number of investigations in California. There’s a state senator who has launched or asked the inspector general to investigate offender tracking. In New York state, a U.S. representative from New York has asked the government accountability office to investigate offender tracking, monitoring and after a heinous crime in that state. And this is all, you know, obviously appropriate scrutiny after such horrific crimes that have occurred. However, it really illustrates the importance of realistic expectations of the technology in managing those expectations with stakeholders in the public in general. When I think most of your audience understands the limitations of the technology, they’re well documented, there are inherent limitations to any technology, there are environments in which, you know, satellite tracking, GPS tracking just doesn’t work well. That’s a known. We know that these devices can be defeated, they can be cut, they can be jammed. Offenders can put aluminum foil on them and block signals or they can simply not power up their devices. So it’s, you know, fairly easy for a non-cooperative offender to get around this system. Again, these are well-known, well-documented limitations.

Len Sipes: But for the rest of us in the field, we’re fairly puzzled by the negative publicity because we understand the inherent limitations on GPS satellite tracking technology. We understand that it’s not full proof and we understand that just because the person has satellite tracking technology on doesn’t mean he can’t simply snip it off, doesn’t mean that he’ll stop committing crimes. And we’re sort of puzzled when we see the various negative stories coming out in the newspapers and TV stations because we’re saying to ourselves why doesn’t everybody else understand the limitations on this equipment. So I spoke to some reporters throughout the course of years and they said, well, you all in the community corrections fields are sort of overselling the promise of GPS. And I’m not quite sure that’s true. I mean, inherent within any technology, as you just said are limitations.

Joe Russo: That’s exactly right. I don’t know that community corrections agencies are necessarily overselling or vendors are overselling but there is a, you know, interesting kind of dynamic. Whenever an agency is looking for budgetary funds to implement a program, obviously they’re going to highlight the, you know, the positive parts of that technology and how that technology can benefit overall supervision. But as you alluded to, you know, the affects of any technology or any program are measured in the aggregate, you know, does the input, does the program or the treatment create a benefit to an aggregate population. Obviously, you know, they’re going to have individuals who are determined to continue their criminal ways. And regardless of whether it’s GPS monitoring or, you know, anger management training or any kind of high intensity supervision, it’s less of a reflection on the program as it is of the individual. So it’s, I think, you know, folks need to step back, understanding we’re dealing with a criminal element, understanding we’re dealing with, in community corrections, we’re not dealing with [PH 00:04:38.1] John Augustine’s’ Day, you know, or probationers or debtors or public drunkards.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: A lot of these folks are serious offenders.

Len Sipes: Yep.

Joe Russo: And so agencies across the country are doing their best to implement technology, to implement programs to achieve positive outcomes but there will be failures.

Len Sipes: The two things that come to mind is, number one, the research from a variety of sources does indicate that GPS/satellite tracking does reduce offending, does reduce technical violations, does reduce the amount of – or the numbers or the percentage of people being returned to the correctional system. But there is a fairly strong corrective incentive in terms of GPS satellite tracking done well, correct, per research?

Joe Russo: Absolutely. There is that and even, you know, if you take the most negative view on it. You know, in those cases where offenders are determined to continue their criminal acts, GPS has been, you know, instrumental in making these offenders accountable. GPS location data is able to match the crime, you know, incident locations and the folks who ultimately are accountable for their actions. And in many cases, you know, they probably would have committed those crimes with or without tracking.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: At least with tracking there’s an ability to hold these folks accountable.

Len Sipes: And we’ve been able to track down some fairly serious offenders through GPS tracking and so that is a huge plus. Number two, we train law enforcement, not just the metropolitan police department here in Washington, D.C., but we train the FBI, we train the secret service, we train a lot of law enforcement agencies in terms of the use of our GPS tracking device so they can see the offenders who they’re interested in, in real time. So there’s a lot of promise in terms of GPS satellite tracking but it is a huge drain on manpower. And I’m not quite sure people understand how difficult it is to keep – to watch all the tracking marks of an offender on a day-to-day basis and the fact that most of us in parole and probation are not 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. We’re basically Monday through Friday, 9-5. Now there are variations on that theme and there are some offenders who we do track in real time but those are problems. Take the first one. The fact that this is very – it involves a lot of intensive manpower, person power to keep track of all of the data that comes in.

Joe Russo: Absolutely and if there’s nothing else your listeners hear today is that the resource issues are paramount. Agencies need to be clear about why they’re tracking offenders, what purpose and what they hope to achieve and they need to dedicate the appropriate resources to accomplishing those goals. You know, far too many agencies compare the cost, the equipment cost of GPS to a day in jail and make cost-effective based decisions based on that. But the labor costs far exceed the equipment costs. And, you know, and that’s probably the biggest pitfall that agencies face. They don’t dedicate enough resources to maintaining programs, addressing violations, dealing with alerts and that’s where program integrity falls. And that’s where if a case goes really bad and an offender goes off and does something heinous that’s where the agency really has a difficult day explaining to the press why certain actions were not taken.

Len Sipes: Now we have here at the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency, we use our vendor to track 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but just because they’re tracked 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, doesn’t mean that we have personnel at the ready to respond. So that’s the case as it is in virtually every parole and probation agency in the country, correct?

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely, absolutely, even for agencies, police agencies that operate GPS programs. And you would think they theoretically are the best situated to respond to alerts and cuts. Even they can’t be everywhere at every time. So obviously probation and parole agencies, you know, have much less resources, are much less able to react in a timely manner. So, again, these are understood limitations in technology, these expectations need to be managed. I think better education needs to occur between agencies and the public and judges and the media, frankly, so that we understand what we’re dealing with.

Len Sipes: Now the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence there at the University of Denver, again, part of the National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center, you all came out with guidelines, rather technical guidelines, rather complete guidelines in terms of the application of GPS, correct?

Joe Russo: We’re developing a standard right now for the performance of offender tracking devices. But more recently we published a guideline for agencies to think about GPS devices and GPS information as potential evidence. We thought that too many agencies don’t see these devices in that light. So the goal was to educate them to start thinking more about how they use these devices. And how potential evidence might end up in a court room if, for example, an offender who’s tracked is accused of committing a crime.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm. Now, the other thing that we’re talking about is not necessarily using devices that we currently provide, which are anklets strapped around the person’s ankle. We’re talking about going to a cell phone based system.

Joe Russo: Well we see that in the industry, there are vendors now who are offering basically SmartPhones with GPS chips to offenders and they can be tethered or not tethered, you know, wirelessly, and basically tracking is occurring through the phone. So there’s no device strapped to an ankle in certain applications. And this seems like it might be a trend for the future and may lead to, you know, one day where the offender brings his own device to be supervised and can bring in their own SmartPhone and the officer can install tracking software and accomplish tracking that way. Now this is a little far out thinking but it certainly seems to be a direction.

Len Sipes: Well everybody has always said that we’re looking for the day where the tracking device is not the size of a cell phone strapped to the offender’s ankle but the size of, I don’t know, a pen. And that device will automatically take blood pressure readings, will automatically take readings as to whether or not the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And so is that still pie in the sky or are we moving towards something along those lines?

Joe Russo: You know what, in different areas there are certainly components of what you described that are being developed but as you envision it or as I’m interpreting how you envision it, it may be a chip, an RF chip that’s embedded in the offender and has the ability to –

Len Sipes: Well no, not in the offender himself, but the device that they’re wearing.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. I mean, that’s even easier to do. So yeah, as these technologies mature and are developed, you know, then we’ll definitely see that in the future. I mean, obviously right now we have devices that can track transdermal alcohol expiration from the body, that’s one device. We have devices that can track movement. There are certainly physiological devices, you know, that Fitbit movement is opening up a whole lot of doors in terms of using machines and computers to monitor physiological activity. So certainly, you know, blood pressure, respiration rates and we can match that information to where a location is. Or if a sex offender is near a school and his heart rate is pumping, you know, that obviously tells a supervision officer something. So yes, right now it’s all theoretical but there are pieces in place and they’re growing. And one day maybe we can put it all together.

Len Sipes: Well the technical podcast I listened to this week in tech, Leo Laporte, on a weekly basis, religious basis and they talk about this stuff. Not necessarily in terms of tracking people on criminal supervision but they talk about the Fitbits, they talk about other wearable devices, they talk about taking blood pressure, they talk about monitoring pulses, they’re talking about whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol in terms of safe driving. So that conversation is taking place not within the criminal justice system, that conversation is taking place in the tech industry in general.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. People are fascinated with understanding their own physiology, their sleep patterns, increasing performance. And you’re right, this is well established and growing. But you’re right, there are applications for offender management there that can be tapped into.

Len Sipes: Okay. Before we go to the break and start talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation, agent mobility, virtual offices, office tablets and technology regarding driving restrictions, one of the things that we wanted to talk about was analytic capabilities.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely. You know, in previous calls we’ve talked about the need for analytics to better analyze, understand and act upon all the data that GPS generates. And we talked about a couple of different initiatives that were going on across the country and I wanted listeners to know that since our last conversation one of the GPS providers has actually acquired a company that specializes in sophisticated analysis and interpretation of data. This company has a long track record working with intelligence agencies and defense agencies to make sense of big data. And recently they’ve been working with community corrections agencies to explore how their techniques might work with offender tracking data. This is very encouraging at least, you know, one company has taken a big step to provide their customers with this important capability and I think the trend will be that other, you know, other vendors will follow suit and provide similar support.

Len Sipes: What sort of things are we talking about tracking?

Joe Russo: Well, for example, link analysis, where offenders, who they are near, other tracked offenders, are there patterns that develop in terms of the locations that they tend to frequent, are they associating with other offenders? You know, can we establish other patterns of behavior based on other folks who are being tracked? So can we establish a drop point or a chop shop based on the time that offenders are spending in a particular location where there are patterns of movement.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: So the idea is to take all of that, you know, aggregate data that GPS provides and move from the inclusion zone, exclusion zone kind of scenario to really digging deep and establishing patterns of behavior and really supporting the officer. Letting the officer know what types of information might need to be acted on.

Len Sipes: So everything that we’re hearing in terms of big data as it applies to Google, big data as it applies to IBM, big data as it applies to Wal-Mart, that same application is coming to corrections.

Joe Russo: Very much so. Very much so.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: And GPS is one of the – kind of the easiest forays into this because we do acquire so much data in that area.

Len Sipes: All right Joe, we’re halfway through the program. Let me introduce you before we’re getting on to the other topics. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Joe Russo, he is the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet,, www.justnet, Okay Joe, let’s go into the other topics that we are talking about. And I find this to be fascinating, so many companies now are moving away their own vehicles, moving, I’m sorry, moving away from offices and putting people out in vehicles all the time and it sounds like that’s what we’re talking about with parole and probation agent correctional officer mobility. Talking about virtual offices, talking about tablets, talking about giving that individual all the tech they need to stay in the field.

Joe Russo: Yeah, exactly, and this is something that’s been discussed, you know, for some time now. There’s been a movement against getting away from the ivory tower of probation and parole work, getting away from central office and headquarters, making the offender report downtown typically to the officer.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: But in recent years, and in part prompted by economic issues, but a lot of agencies are looking at ways to get the officers in the field where the offenders are, where they live and work and where they exist. Georgia, perhaps, is the leader in this in terms of, you know, actually shutting down offices and requiring parole officers to maintain virtual offices out of their cars. And the agencies provide the officers with everything they need, SmartPhones and tablets and laptops so there’s really to come to a physical office. And in this way the early reports are that they’re seeing success because they’re able to make more contact with the offenders, more sustained contact in their environment and the outcome so far have been very positive.

Len Sipes: Well I remember years ago when I worked for the United States Senate, one of the folks there gave me a laptop computer and then a couple weeks later said, you know, is the use of the enhanced technology of a laptop computer changing the way that you work? And I’m going, well, no, I mean, just because you gave me a laptop doesn’t mean that I’m any more proficient. I mean, I report to the office every day and there is a desktop. How exactly is the laptop going to assist me beyond office hours? I mean, I understand beyond office hours, having a direct link to the computers but, you know, so sometimes I get the sense that we provide technology, laptops, tablets, cell phones, mobile fingerprint readers, again, sort of like with GPS, unrealistic expectations. So I would imagine this parole and probation agent, this correctional officer is well versed in terms of what mobile technology can do for them.

Joe Russo: Well that would be a necessary, you know, prerequisite obviously, you know, officers need to be somewhat tech savvy, be open and willing to learn perhaps new tools for them, you know, not everyone grew up with this technology certainly. So I’m sure there’s a learning curve for some officers. But certainly there needs to be openness. But it sounds like, you know, the agency made a decision from the top down that this is what they want and this is what they want to see. They don’t want to spend their resources paying rental space throughout this, they want to spend their resources where they can make the most direct and positive impact on outcomes and that’s the direction that they took. And, you know, just looking at it objectively, not having to come and go from an office increases efficiencies over and above the, you know, the cost savings for office space. Folks need to be in the field, officers need to be in the field where the action is. And that’s just common sense and I think that, you know, more and more agencies are coming to that realization and acting on it.

Len Sipes: Is mobile fingerprint readers involved in this, drug testing equipment, I mean, how far are they taking it?

Joe Russo: Well I think that that might be part and parcel. I’m not aware, but the primary objective is you take the office and you put it in the car.

Len Sipes: Okay. And that makes a tremendous amount of sense to me because why be in the office when you can be out in the field especially if you’re doing surprise visits. And I understand that a lot of the visits need to be scheduled because, you know, the mother or the father, the family member, the sponsor, volunteers can be there and work with the parole and probation agent and work with the offender, so I understand that. But the idea of a spontaneous visit to that person’s place of work or where that person lives or where that person socializes, especially in the evenings, makes an awful lot of sense to me.

Joe Russo: Well particularly with, you know, as GPS grows in terms of tracking offenders or if, you know, one day offenders are bringing their own device and we’re tracking offenders by their phones and, you know, phones are pretty ubiquitous at this point and it’s only going to grow more so. You know, perhaps we have the capability in the future to go where the offender is and not go necessarily to the house or the workplace.

Len Sipes: That would be interesting. So, in other words, GPS tracking, you know exactly where that person is and suddenly, voilà, you pop up and say hi.

Joe Russo: Well and that’s part of the larger, you know, internet of things, movement that’s going on in society is that, you know, we have all these sensors that are out there. We have all these machines that can be connected to the internet. They all can be networked and provide useful information. So, you know, if a GPS tracking device is linked to an officer’s GPS tracking or a GPS system in their car, which tells them what route to take to get to the offender’s location, if these systems link up and communicate and tell the officer, you know, don’t bother making that home visit because the offender is not home.

Len Sipes: Interesting, very, very interesting. I mean, so we’re talking about really moving community corrections well into the 21st century and really bringing a sense of the internet of things, of big data, of mobility, of tracking, of, you know, as some people have hoped for, the mobile ability to say, hey, this person is now using drugs, this person is now using alcohol. I mean, it does bring us into contact with the people on supervision to a much more powerful degree than we have in the past, which, you know, when I was in the state of Maryland any sense of intensive contact or intensive supervision was two face-to-face contacts a month. Now we’re talking about almost continuous contacts if we choose to do it and if we have the software through big data to analyze what’s going on.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely and within that capability obviously comes challenges, right. We have somewhat privacy issues although those are mitigated because of the status of our offenders but you have the information overload issues and we’re already seeing that with just GPS technology and the need to manage that data. So obviously, you know, the more sensors we try to tap into, the more connection of machines we try to leverage, the natural result is we have exponentially more data to sift through and figure out what’s important and what’s actionable and what’s not.

Len Sipes: And that’s why I’m hoping whoever’s developing all of this develops the algorithms to allow us to make sense of the data because there’s no way an individual parole and probation agent, I would imagine the average caseload in this country is somewhere in the ballpark of 150 individuals per parole and probation agent, if you had half of those under these enhanced sensors, so you’re talking about, what, 75 individuals where data is coming in on a day-to-day basis. That would easily overwhelm that human being, that parole and probation agent, that correctional officer. That person could never keep up with all that data. So somehow, some way, somebody’s got to figure out a way of making sense of that data.

Joe Russo: Well exactly, there’s no question about it. And then the worst possible scenario is you’re overloaded with so much of this data and we don’t know which of this data is important and which is not, that the officer doesn’t have time to do the direct contact interventions that we know are so important.

Len Sipes: Exactly. So we have to plow through the invention of new data and we have to plow through the invention of new algorithms to make sense of all that data.

Joe Russo: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay. Technology and driving restrictions, we have say in the final five minutes of the program. Once again, everybody has hoped for that piece of technology to the point where the car simply would not start for those on drinking and driving programs, that the car simply would not start. Now there are cars out there with locking devices that they do blow into the tube and if they blow over a certain level that car will not start. So that exists now, right?

Joe Russo: That exists now and that works, you know, quite well. One of the biggest ways or the most common ways for an offender to work around that type of a scenario is to simply install Interlock on a car and meet the judge’s requirement and then drive another car.

Len Sipes: Yeah, drive another car.

Joe Russo: So that – it’s pretty simple to get around. One of the Interlock providers has recently bought a patent on technology that’s been around for a while but is only now being seriously evaluated for viability. And this technology basically looks to identify driving behaviors. And so what we’re looking at are ankle bracelets that can detect the movements that are consistent with driving a car. So essentially there’s a unique physiological signature that’s associated with driving. So if you think about the foot movements that you do without thinking, your acceleration, your braking, sensors can determine your speed. And all of these things put together, you know, you mentioned algorithms just before, these algorithms are designed to identify those signals that are consistent with a driving episode and then alert officers that this is occurring.

Len Sipes: Sort of like a black box for automobiles or a black box for human beings?

Joe Russo: Well it would be for human beings because, again, with the Interlock system we don’t want to monitor the car. We want to monitor the offender. So these as envisioned, these would be ankle device, ankle bracelets that detect the movements of the foot.
Len Sipes: Oh, that’s interesting. So all of that is not necessarily biologically based, it is foot based.

Joe Russo: Yeah, it’s more mechanically based.

Len Sipes: Oh.

Joe Russo: It’s based on the physiology of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So if you think about it, there are very few actions or movements that you would make that are consistent with driving that are not related to driving. So you’re not necessarily pressing down, for example, on an accelerator.

Len Sipes: That is interesting. That is really interesting. So the bottom line is that, you know, right now we have breathalyzers, right now we have blood tests in terms of substance abuse, but you’re actually talking about something that actually measures the movement of the foot. I would love to be in court to establish that – to establish the legal basis of that. I would imagine that’s going to be a fight from the very beginning. But if you could introduce that it would be revolutionary.

Joe Russo: Well exactly. I mean, any new technology obviously faces those legal hurdles. And certainly that would just be one piece of evidence against an offender and our standards of evidence are much lower than a new criminal case. But if you have indication that this offender is driving when he shouldn’t be driving or he’s driving a car that’s not – that doesn’t have Interlock installed in it, then that provides an investigative lead for officers to go and find other information. So it wouldn’t necessarily be the nail in the coffin but it would be one piece of evidence.

Len Sipes: Being it’s not physiologically based, that could also apply to drugs as well.

Joe Russo: You know, the same thinking and theory. Another example that comes to mind is folks have developed handwriting analysis as a method of determining impairment. And so what they’ve looked at is, you know, the way that you sign your name physiologically is altered if you’re impaired. Now it may look exactly like your signature sober but the movements, the signals from your brain to your hand create very distinct and minute differences in the signature. So if we capture a computerized signature of an impaired person, there’s research that suggests that you can tell if someone is impaired simply by the way they’re writing their name versus how the name looks.

Len Sipes: I’ll tell you Joe, it’s always a fascinating conversation when you and I talk about corrections technology. That’s one of the reasons why this program is one of the more popular programs that we do. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking today to Joe Russo, the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet,, Ladies and gentlemen, this is talking DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.


Successful New Mexico DWI Program-National Criminal Justice Association

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Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We’re doing another show with the National Criminal Justice Association as we examine exemplary programs throughout the country. The National Criminal Justice Association works with corrections, law enforcement, people throughout the criminal justice system to examine and to bring to light some of the better programs throughout the country. The program today is “100 days and nights of summer,” and we’re going to be talking to the deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re also going to be talking to Captain Greg Toya with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, and we’re going to be talking about alcohol related fatalities, the fact that they’re down and down dramatically in the state of New Mexico. Ladies and Gentlemen, we thank you for all of your comments, we really appreciate the fact that you let us know how you feel about the program, suggestions about the programs, criticisms, complaints, and accolades, so keep those comments coming in at media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, or simply search on your internet search engine for D.C. Public Safety. We respond individually to every inquiry, every comment that you make, and we appreciate them. So on with the show, “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” again, introducing Deputy Secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety State Police. Again, through the auspices of the National Criminal Justice Association, to talk about “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” and to Paul Cook and Greg Toya, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Paul Cook/Greg Toya: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, gentlemen, I am a former Maryland State Trooper, you and I, we’re talking, we were talking before the program, and you know, the thing that bothers me about alcohol related fatalities is that we, in the criminal justice system have got to climb into these cars and pull people out. We make the death notifications, we grab the minister or the rabbi or the imam and knock on somebody’s door at 3:00 in the morning to tell them that their loved one has passed due to an alcohol related fatality, and we in the system get very emotional about it, yet I don’t see that emotion carried by general society, so first of all, the issue of alcohol related fatalities, we take it extraordinarily seriously, does the rest of society take it extraordinarily seriously? I guess that’s the question we’re going to start with. Greg, do you want to give a shot at that?

Greg Toya: Well, I think that is a case, and I think that it takes the efforts of law enforcement, the judicial system, of course various counseling groups out there, public health service, to bring the horrific stats and data to the public’s attention as it relates to injuries and deaths and how that touches individual families, and I think once the public starts to understand the horrific scenes that are the result of a DWI related fatality, it’ll eventually mean something to all levels of the general public, and hopefully start to bring down those horrific numbers nationally, and of course, here in New Mexico, I think it has worked.

Len Sipes: The first fatality I ever saw was a cadet riding with a trooper on Route 40 in the state of Maryland, where with a decapitation, and I won’t go into the full details, but you know, as a young man, that affected me, that affected me very deeply, and the truck driver who hit them as they pulled out in front of them, the driver was drunk, you know, it’s, that’s something that stays with you for a long time, and then you tell other people that you were just involved in a fatality, in fact, two fatalities, in fact, a decapitation, and their response would be a hearty chuckle. So once again, we experience it firsthand, we notify the families, I’ve just never been convinced that the larger society understands what’s actually going on out there. Paul, do you want to take a shot at that one?

Paul Cook: Well, you know, I wanted to say that I think that the public education is an extremely important part here, and the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started out doing a lot of advertising, we here in New Mexico do advertising, and we have posters and billboards, basically the motto is “You drink, you drive, you lose.” And it’s focused on just that, the drunk drivers, the inebriated individuals who decide to get behind the wheel, and we settle up, so these kind of people understand, this is not a laughing matter. You get caught, you’re going to jail, end of story. And it has really, I think, started to get people to think, you know, who’s the designated driver, or do I actually need that second drink, or whatever before they leave and drive home.

Len Sipes: It’s a very complicated societal issue, but one of the things we in the criminal justice system are responsible for are catching them and to reduce the amount of DWI accidents. When you started this program, Greg, New Mexico was 3rd in the country, and you’re now 17th in the country for DWI related accidents and fatalities, that is a huge decrease, and over what time period are we talking about, and how did you do it?

Greg Toya: Well, I think if you compare the 2006 statistics with current stats, typically during that time period, our statistics go down by about 15%. There’s a number of components, we’ve all been doing that, and again, it’s not only the state police doing that, it’s all the agencies working together that implement DWI checkpoints, DWI patrols, we’re concentrating parts of the roads that are historically high in DWI related accidents. In addition to DWI, though, we issue a lot of other enforcement citations along the lines of keeping the general public safe: seat belt citation, child restraint citations, and various other things, but we’ve increased our DWI arrests from a little over 2,000 during the 100 days and nights of summer every year over the last 3 years. We’ve had, again, saturation patrols, 140 a year during that period of time, that’s a lot of work to do, and we like to think of it as we bring public awareness into this whole issue, bring on a lot of other law enforcement agencies to help out, we’re out there in the general public’s eye, and it’s kind of along the lines of what Secretary Cook said that it’s a matter of educating the public of its DWI problem and the horrific results of DWI related accidents.

Len Sipes: I can’t remember a lot of things in my life, but I can remember those death notifications as if they were yesterday.

Greg Toya: Oh, they’re horrible!

Len Sipes: I can remember the look on a woman’s face, or the various face, because it’s always the male, you know, who ended up dying, I don’t know what sort of societal statement that is, but generally speaking, it was grab the priest, grab the minister, go knock on the door, and that look in that woman’s eyes is just profound, I can’t even remember for sure what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember vividly the look in that woman’s eyes, and again, I probably will bring this up throughout the program, you know, this whole concept of drinking and driving is something that I think society takes more seriously, but not seriously enough. I still think that it’s just, I can’t say that it’s a joke on the part of most people, but I think way too many people drink and drive, and I don’t think people, I think people’s perceptions and abilities to drive are affected by one drink. I know that doesn’t constitute the legal limit in New Mexico or any other part of the country, but even one drink is enough to affect you profoundly.

Greg Toya: It is, and it’s a matter of impairment, it’s not a matter of maybe staggering or not being able to communicate verbally and talk and coordination, but it’s impairment: your reaction time is greatly affected, your depth perception is greatly affected, and when you take all those things, and you multiply them by the speed of a vehicle, particularly on the interstates, your reaction time is really cut down in half, and you know, we talk about these really horrific accidents, when you have speeds in excess of 60-70 miles and hour, and they collide with somebody, well you just take the speed of two vehicles, add that speed, and it’s 150, 160 mile an hour impact crash, and like you said, when you have to show up at those accident scenes and decide what body belongs to what vehicle, and then look for ID and start to think about how are we going to tell the family, and again, like you said, getting a hold of a priest or somebody to make that a little bit more comprehendible when you approach families, geez, it’s not something a law enforcement officer looks forward to doing, especially repeatedly, repeatedly in their career.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I had, in one case, where a guy hit a bridge abutment, and he was drunk, pulling body parts out of a tree. I mean that’s, you know, I understand that it’s legal to drink. I drink! I’m not, the issue here, I don’t think, is drinking, the issue is drinking and driving. I don’t think the issue is not driving drunk, I think the issue is having any alcohol at all and getting behind the wheel of a car, so that’s just my political editorializing, you guys can feel free to disagree with me, and I drink! I do! I simply don’t drive when I drink, period! I don’t have one beer, if I’m driving on my motorcycle, I drink coke!

Greg Toya: Correct, and I think that many, many times, particularly after a long day’s work, or after a person is exhausted, and that one drink has a much more profound physical effect, that one drink might be just enough to have you impaired, again, to get you likely to be involved in that motor vehicle accident.

Len Sipes: Absolutely, absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to deputy secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re talking also on the phone, Capt. Greg Toya, he is with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and with the New Mexico State Police. When you go to the show notes, I’ll include contact points for the National Criminal Justice Association, and Paul Cook and to Greg Toya, and I’m sure that they have a website that relates to all of this. Okay, so fatalities went down dramatically in New Mexico, you have “100 Days and Nights of Summer, which I’m assuming is this widespread law enforcement, not just in New Mexico State Police, but as you’ve said, allied law enforcement agencies, everybody together doing the checks, doing the roadblocks, doing what is necessary to reduce drunk driving in the state of New Mexico, you’re talking about public outreach, and one of the things that we’re doing now is part of public outreach, and this show is heard all over the world, so it’s not just New Mexico that’s going to be hearing this, but people from throughout the world. So what, in terms of all of this, is the magic ingredient that brought down the number of DWI accidents and deaths in New Mexico from 3rd in the country to 17th in the country?

Paul Cook: Well, let me just give you some stats from our “100 Days and Nights of Summer in 2007.”

Len Sipes: Okay.

Paul Cook: Len, from June 1st through September 8th, the total citations and arrests during that time was 89,926. Now if you realize that every one of those people that got a citation are going to be talking to their neighbor or somebody and saying, you know, dang, I got cited for A, B, or C, and that spreads the word, because Capt. Toya said we had 2,216 DWI arrests, we conducted, actually 232 checkpoints. Now that’s not just the state police, that’s throughout all law enforcement across the state.

Len Sipes: Understood.

Paul Cook: But the saturation patrols he talked about, we conducted 714. Now again, New Mexico is a fairly large state. We have 121,000 square miles here, so [overlapping voices] 714 is a lot, but it doesn’t cover everything.

Len Sipes: Well, New Mexico’s a drop dead gorgeous state, number one, and you know, there are magazines devoted to driving in New Mexico. I remember reading them as a child, and just looking at these wide open spaces, for those of us on the east coast living in the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area. Sometimes I’m extremely envious, especially when I’m on my motorcycle, so the point is that New Mexico’s a pretty spread out state, I know it has its metropolitan areas, but you know, you probably have parts of the state that patrol potential is limited.

Paul Cook: You can drive an hour and a half and not see anything in some places.

Len Sipes: Right, so how do you patrol those sort of areas? How do you make it stick in those wide open spaces?

Greg Toya: Well, that’s what we were talking about our saturation patrols, is we designate a handful of officers to patrol a stretch of road where maybe typically most law enforcement will not be out there, and during that period of time, when you have a handful of officers that are mandated to patrol that particular stretch at a particular time on a particular day of the week, it has a very positive effect, because if you look at your information, and if you’re having a problem with accidents, DWI arrests, things along those lines, you can strategically place your officers, so like the secretary said, there are places here in New Mexico that are very rural, more or less lightly patrolled, so when we do these projects, we figure out where we need to concentrate on, and as a result of that, we’ve had some very positive results.

Len Sipes: Now you also – go ahead Paul.

Paul Cook: I was going to say, that’s also working, I want everybody to keep in mind that’s working with all other law enforcement agencies, because some agencies are strapped with manpower, equipment, training, knowledge, and we try and include everybody to get on the same bandwagon and help, so it’s a unified enforcement project.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now I represent a community corrections agency, a federal community corrections agency in Washington D.C., so I’ve got to ask this question, are you working with your correctional counterparts, either the department of corrections or the division of corrections and parole and probation authorities?

Greg Toya: We are. We do work with them. On this particular issue, it’s a little bit after the fact is, if in fact somebody is arrested and charged with a DWI incident, when we do our homework on these types of cases, we’ll find out if in fact somebody is on probation, parole, and at that point in time, corrections is contacted, and then we do follow-up work with the conditions of probation, parole, we don’t just put them through the judicial system, we work with parole, corrections, and we try and get them the education that they need in order to complete the judicial side of this incident, but try to get them to counseling, and the health and the education they need so that hopefully, they won’t become a repeated offender.

Len Sipes: One of the things that we have here in Washington DC is we have like 3,000 people on our caseload, and we’re pretty tough on them. We provide individual counseling and group counseling to the people who are involved in the drinking and driving program here, but we have a lot of contact with them, we do a lot of surprise visits, we do a lot of enforcement, but at the same time, we try to get them the treatment that they need, a lot of these individuals, I understand somebody getting behind the wheel of a car, and they believe it’s a mistake, and it’s never happened before, it’ll never happen again, but some of these people end up being violators 2 and 3 times. Some of these people have serious issues with alcohol, alcoholism and drugs, and quite frankly, they need the treatment, and part of what we do, beyond provide enforcement, is we provide the treatment component as well, and I think that that’s a pretty serious and necessary part to all of this, do you agree?

Greg Toya: Absolutely agree. It’s not only a law enforcement issue, it’s a society issue, and you can’t arrest enough people to make a positive impact. It has to go hand in hand with education, and once you start to educate, it has to start, I should say firstly, at a very young age. Most kids have alcohol available to them when they’re 6 years old. 6 years old! So we don’t wait until they’re in middle school or junior high or high school, you’ve got to get into the elementary school setting to start to plant that seed that tells young kids, alcohol and it’s effects are devastating. And you’re exactly right, we try to do that at a very young age, we try and make the connection, alcohol and drugs combined or separately have the same horrific devastating effects.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Go ahead, Paul, please.

Paul Cook: I’d like to add that part of our probationary process in New Mexico right now has got a mission interlock device requirement, so –

Len Sipes: That’s a great idea. Explain what that is, Paul.

Paul Cook: Well, when a person is convicted of a DWI, they are required to get an ignition interlock device installed on their car, and that is basically a mini-breathalyzer, they have to blow into this before it releases the ignition for them to start their car. It works very well, and there are some pretty severe penalties for bypassing it by having someone else blow into the device for them. So just another way that we can keep track or try and inhibit those repeat offenders from going back behind the wheel while they’re – let me start over again – keep them from getting behind the wheel while they are intoxicated.

Len Sipes: We’ve even gone so far as to stick GPS devices, global positioning devices, and we’ve gone so far as to basically say, stay home, you know, you can go to work, you can come back, but after that, you’ve got to stay home. So that way, that’s another little trick, it doesn’t matter whether they have, and I totally agree, by the way, with the locking devices where you have to blow into it to check your alcohol level, but some of these people are of such danger to themselves, to their families, and larger society, they’re just told, stay home. So in terms of summarizing, gentlemen, where do we go? What do we want the public to do, because certainly the good citizens of New Mexico, and again, I emphasize the beautiful, lovely, state of New Mexico, you know, they’re going to hear this, and hopefully they’re going to take it to heart, but you’re going to be talking to people in Australia, England, Canada, and other countries throughout the world, for that matter, and that’s one of the advantages of doing these programs via the internet. What do we say to them? What do we say to larger society in terms of alcohol and drinking and driving? I mean, the obvious one is, don’t do it!

Paul Cook: That’s correct, I agree with don’t do it, but I also, again, you know, reiterate my feeling, personal feeling is the constant and continual reminding by public education, be it through TV, billboards, handouts, mailers, it has to continually be reinforced. Number one, you drink, you drive, you lose; but number two, you are so severely impaired when you’re drinking, you really are operating a deadly weapon, you’re not operating a motor vehicle.

Len Sipes: I totally agree.

Greg Toya: I agree, and essentially, the really important question, and that is, don’t do it. Most people want to know why: why can’t I do it? And I think that it’s incumbent upon letting everybody know, and when I say everybody, it’s starting again with the younger generation, high school, college, the professional section, and all the way up with people that are older and sharing these horrific scenes with them and showing them the results of consuming alcohol, whether it’s at a party, a restaurant, sports events, wherever it may be, because all those different venues have the same results, and people need to realize that, even in a socializing environment, that one or two drinks of alcohol could be just enough to have you impaired when you get behind the wheel. So I think we need to continue educating the horrific results of drinking and driving, we need to continue funding law enforcement agencies around the country and the world so that we have enough officers out there to enforce DWI laws, and we also need to have a judicial component that’s going to do its part to follow through with either convicting and hopefully monitoring these individuals as they’re kicked out of the judicial system and transitioned into probation and parole.

Len Sipes: Yep.

[overlapping voices]

Greg Toya: – of all those groups.

Paul Cook: And let me add, the one other thing we need to add in there is the legislative group. We need to have our politicians fully educated and aware of what we’re doing so we get their support, and they’re the ones that give us the funding, and we need the funding and the political support to make any of these things happen.

Greg Toya: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s, once again, I think, a larger, I think we all agree that there’s this larger societal issue, yet I constantly come across, either personal examples or societal examples of people who just don’t understand that giving, allowing the sun to go down to a resort town in the state of Maryland and allowing them to take alcohol down with them on the premise that they not consume that, and I’m talking about people under the age of 21, on the premise that they not consume it while they’re in the car, I think that’s playing with fire, some people are going to think that’s going way too far, I don’t believe it’s going way too far, it just strikes me that our politicians really need to understand that the funding needs to be there, the larger society really needs to understand that, you know, I just wish I had a whole bunch of people along as, in my days in the state police, of crawling through the superstructure of a car to get at somebody who’s mangled in that car, and who’s drunk, and try to save their lives, and you come out of it with their blood on your uniform, I mean, I don’t know how graphic to get with this, but that’s our experience, that’s all the experience that we’ve had in the law enforcement community, you don’t forget any of that stuff, and I just sometimes wish somehow, some way, you could share that experience directly with the larger public, somehow some way, I think that they would fully understand what drinking and driving truly means.

Greg Toya: Absolutely. I think along the line of sight, the smell, and you can back me on this, I’m sure, but pulling up to an accident, the smell of gasoline, oil, the smell of blood mixed with alcohol, it’s a horrific smell that seems to stay with you –

Len Sipes: Forever!

Greg Toya: – for your entire life. Forever. And if you’re at a restaurant, or if loved ones, and you reminisce about that, it’s like it happened that very morning!

Len Sipes: That’s right!

Greg Toya: And it does not go away. It does not go away.

Len Sipes: I can smell it now!

Greg Toya: Oh, yeah! I can remember picking up a toddler at an accident, and you know, the only thing holding that little child’s body together was his skin! It was like picking up a 10lb bag of potatoes in a bag!

Len Sipes: And I think –

Greg Toya: The result of a DWI related incident.

Len Sipes: Yep, I can, both of us, all three of us could just go on endlessly about this, and so I think we’re pretty much leaving it there and close. Deputy Secretary Paul Cook, it’s been a real pleasure, deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya, again, New Mexico Department of Public Safety with the New Mexico State Police, talking about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer within the notes of the program, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll give you contact points for both the deputy secretary and Capt. Toya, and website addresses to gain more information about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes, I want you all to have a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders, DWI.


RI DWI Program Matches Offenders and Victims With Students

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. At our microphone today is Tracey Poole, Chief of Information and Public Relations for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. One of the things that Tracy did, she brought a program to our attention called “Zero Fatalities Project,” a very successful program there in Rhode Island. This is the first time we are doing a Skype-related interview. For those of you who are not familiar with Skype, it is a digital interview between myself and Tracey, and this is the first time we are trying it, and I just want to tell everybody that DC Public Safety is way over a million requests now for the program, since its inception in January of 2007. Government Computer News just gave us the ranking as one of the ten best websites in state and local government. So please get in touch with us. We respond to all of your comments. We respond to all of your suggestions at or simply search for DC Public Safety.

Tracey, now you and I have a lot in common. I was a Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was with Corrections and Police. How long have you been Chief of Information and Public Relations for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections?

Tracey Poole: I’ve been in this position for two years and in public relations for over 20.

Len Sipes: Okay, did you do public relations for Criminal Justice or emergency agencies before you came to Rhode Island, or before you came to the Department of Corrections?

Tracey Poole: No, actually, I didn’t. Most of my career was spent in higher education.

Len Sipes: Okay, now is it crazy. The 14 years I spent in Maryland I found to be extraordinarily taxing and extraordinarily exciting, being on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and wow that’s an eye opener.

Tracey Poole: Yes, it is. It’s absolutely never boring, I always tell people, and I never know what the day will bring, and I love it. It’s fascinating work.

Len Sipes: It is fascinating work, but it does get a bit tiring. I can remember sitting and having dinner about 300 miles away, in a lakeside restaurant with my wife, and we are sitting there having this lovely candlelit dinner, and the phone goes off, and even though I’m on vacation, they are demanding that I take this particular media call, and my wife wanted to tell the Secretary of Public Safety to, oh, I don’t know. I can’t say in public what she said me to do, but I said, “Dear, I’m stuck with this. I’m just the one who has to respond to this question,” so I would imagine you are basically in the same boat.

Tracey Poole: Yes. Yes, that was made clear to me during the interview process that it is that you are on-call 24/7 and you know I do get calls in the evening sometimes, or on the weekends, but I have a great boss and I work with a lot of wonderful people, and I think it’s worth the trade-off.

Len Sipes: I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in the Criminal Justice System for an awfully long time, close to 40 years, and you’ve been in the Criminal Justice System for two. I’m very impressed with the caliber of people in the Criminal Justice System and I would imagine you are too. Most people are surprised as to how good and how dedicated and how smart and how educated the people in Corrections really are.

Tracey Poole: I definitely agree with that. We’ve had a lot of people retiring over the last couple of weeks. We have some changes going on in state government here in Rhode Island, so I’ve been attending a lot of farewell parties and listening to tributes to people and it really brings it home how dedicated and fantastic so many of the staff are who have been here and have seen changes over the years, and really been through a lot.

Len Sipes: Okay, Tracey one of the things that we are here for today is to talk about the “Zero Fatalities Project.” Now, from what I understand, you are presenting this to students and various groups and they go inside of a prison. They go before inmates, and these are people who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated on charges, and sometimes the individuals who go inside of the prisons get to hear from parents of victims. So, one of the things that I remember, because I started off my time in the Maryland State Police, and my career in the Criminal Justice System, was the outrageousness of the drinking while intoxicated accidents. People without arms, people without legs, and I’ve seen an entire family virtually wiped out by a drunk driver, so this is something that is of immense importance to every person in the country, and probably every person in the world, where there are cars. And so you think you have a program that has an impact.

Tracey Poole: Yes, we hope so. We launched it last spring during prom and graduation season, and I just wanted to let you know that while it is a project of the Department of Corrections, we do have quite a few partners who are helping and supporting us in this effort, and those include the Rhode Island Attorney General Office, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Family Court, the Police Chief Association, the Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. So, it is a joint initiative.

Len Sipes: One of the things that really amazed me is that you did a survey, and 49% of the people who you surveyed, who participated in this, said that they were a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Now, I find that to be astounding.

Tracey Poole: Yeah, by someone who had been drinking. Yeah, we didn’t get specific about how much, but any amount is probably too much, and we had 1600 people come through the program just through the month of May, basically last year, which was when we launched.

Len Sipes: Wow, that’s a lot of people.

Tracey Poole: Yeah, quite a few. I think 26 different groups.

Len Sipes: Now was that involved with prom season?

Tracey Poole: Yes, right. We targeted prom and graduation seasons because we know that’s a time when there’s a lot of vulnerability for this. You know, a lot of kids are going out, unfortunately, partying and there tend to be more accidents at that time.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I told both of my daughters I was putting GPS devices on the cars, and I was not joking, although I really was, but they didn’t know that. Let’s see, now the inmates who get involved in this, now they are serving time in a Rhode Island Correctional Facility for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)?

Tracey Poole: Yes, and it just so happens that all of the panelists that we currently have are doing DUI, death-resulting sentences, the majority of about ten years.

Len Sipes: Wow, now are these chronic DWI drivers, are these first-timers, or is the primary variable here the fact that they were involved in an automobile accident where somebody died?

Tracey Poole: Yeah, that’s the primary variable. They get up and they speak about their experience, what led up to the crash, what type of behaviors they were engaged in, and there is quite a range. We have male and female panelists, which is kind of a first in our system. We don’t normally bring together male and female offenders for programs, so that was kind of a hard sell in the beginning with the staff here, but I think everybody realizes that this helps make it a panel that everyone in the audience can relate to. There is somebody on that panel that everybody in the audience can connect with. We have a woman who was a young mother at the time of her crash. We have a woman who was a senior in high school at the time of her crash. We have a male offender who was climbing the corporate ladder and had a successful career and was engaged to be married, and he was a college graduate. And then there are a couple of male offenders who were younger, high school age, and one just out of high school at the time of their crashes. So, it’s quite a diverse panel.

Len Sipes: Bringing the victims in, or the parents of the victims, I would imagine, and so what we are implying here is, in terms of parents of the victims, that they were younger people when they died?

Tracey Poole: Yes, we have the father of a young man that was killed November of ’07 by a drunk driver, and he speaks very movingly and eloquently about the experience. I mean, we were all kind of blown away by his willingness to get up and talk so soon after his son’s death, but he finds it therapeutic, I think, and also has a very strong passion about wanting to spread the message wherever he can to try to prevent this from happening to other families. And the other parents who have participated have a daughter who is still alive, but basically completely disabled, as the result of a DUI crash, and she was 13, I believe, at the time of the crash, and she’s about 18 now.

Len Sipes: I have done death notifications, knocking on the door and grabbing a priest or a minister and generally speaking, and this is quite some time ago, I think they were all driving while intoxicated-related offenses, where you go from the scene and the medical office comes along and picks up the body, and then your next step is to knock on the door and tell a wife her husband is now dead, or tell parents that the child is now dead, and you don’t forget that.

In all of this, Tracey, do you get a sense that it makes an impact because we have this society that almost celebrates the concept of alcohol, regarding major life events, and I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. I’ve had more than a couple of drinks myself throughout my years, but the concept of drinking and then getting behind a steering wheel is something that leads oftentimes to horrific results, and I’m not quite sure the students, before they come to your program, fully understand the unbelievable tragedy that this inflicts upon, not just families, but entire communities. Before they get there, is there an impact? Does the program have an impact on them?

Tracey Poole: Well, there isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence to it, although we did survey everyone who came through, and we had a pretty good response rate, about 34%, so our planning and research unit analyzed those surveys, and according to the surveys, about 46% said that they would change their behaviors as a result of attending, and I think 669% said that they would share what they learned with friends and family. I think just from having sat in the room for every one of the presentations, that impact is something that you cannot necessarily capture in the survey, and I’ve had parents call me and teachers speak to me and say how powerful it was, and how much the kids were impacted, and I’m not sure that it’s necessary reflected in a survey, but I mean we are not naive enough to think that we are going to stop teens from drinking, although that would be great, but what we are trying to do is get them to at least make better choices, and to take this seriously and realize they are not in control.

Len Sipes: Well, Tracey, I’m asking the question because there is a variety of research that in terms of a “Scared Straight” type of programs for criminal populations, where individuals who are in trouble with the law, do not seem to have that much of an impact on them. This, however, I would imagine would have an impact. It’s just that, and I guess I’m editorializing just a tad, and that is to say that so many people seem to take this concept of drinking and driving in a fairly cavalier way. The younger individuals seem to be more prone to it, than the older individuals, and I have no idea if that’s true or not. That’s just my inference, but sometimes you get frustrated with larger society and the mixed messages we give about the consumption of alcohol, and what it does to your ability to make good decisions. Now, that transcends drinking and driving. That could be young girls who are the victims of sexual assault, because , well, not because, but drinking is part of that, and to me that is a tremendous tragedy of individuals getting in fights or engaging in other criminal behavior while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, alcohol is one of the biggest correlates that you will find in terms of violent crime, especially interpersonal violent crime. So I sometimes wonder what the mixed message is that we give in society that this sort of a program can really cut through the clutter and remind people that alcohol has some real consequences regardless of whether you are 16 or 56.

Tracey Poole: Yes, that’s right. I mean, we certainly help that this is going to make a difference and that it has only been that one targeted month of May that we really did it intensely, and now we are gearing up for another school year, so the reservations are starting to come in by word of mouth, and we did a brochure and a mailing, and I’m starting to get bookings now for this year, and hopefully we will reach a lot more school across the state, and we would like to get parent groups involved, because I think one of the keys is not just having the kids come and hear the message, but having their parents here and then having dialogue between the parents and the kids.

Len Sipes: They say that dialogue is the biggest factor in terms of all of the research that I’ve looked at, it’s the biggest factor in terms of keeping kids off of drugs and kids away from alcohol, it’s that conversation that parents have with their kids and setting “no nonsense” goals with their kids and expectations for their kids. Do you think that’s correct?

Tracey Poole: Yes, I do, definitely. I have, if you want to bear with me for a minute, while I look at the brochure, I have a couple of quotes here from some of the panelists that kind of convey how powerful this is.

Len Sipes: While you are looking I am going to reintroduce you. Ladies and Gentleman, you are listening to DC Public Safety, our first Skype and/or digital interview with somebody beyond the studio that we have here in Washington DC. We are talking to Tracey Poole, and Tracy is Chief Information Officer in Public Relations for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, and she’s talking about the “Zero Fatalities Project.” Tracey, do you have your quotes?

Tracey Poole: Yes, I do. One of our offenders, I mentioned earlier, who was older at the time of his crash, in his 30s, actually, and climbing the corporate ladder says, “No words can capture the pain that was in that courtroom, but you could feel it. This is a burden none of you ever wants to carry around for the rest of your life.”

Then, we have a woman who had two young children at the time of her crash, and she is here for ten years, and said, “A ten-year sentence is nothing compared with the pain of knowing I took a mother’s only child.” Her crash resulted in the death of a 17-year-old.

Then, we have a father of a young man who was killed by a drunk driver, who speaks and says, “Close your eyes. Envision the person you love more than anyone else in the world standing up here in my shoes talking about your death. This is as real as it gets.”

Then, we have another young woman who was a senior. I think she was going to the beach with friends, you know, around the time of graduation, and had way too much to drink and was in a crash that resulted in the death of two elderly woman. She says, “Prison is like another world, especially for someone young who has never been in trouble before. All it takes is one bad choice.”

Len Sipes: You know, I had friends, and I have to put this gently, friends of mine who, these individuals were truly, truly community-oriented individuals, and they gave an awful lot of active time to sports teams in the area, and they were just fun to be with and friendly and known to be staunch supporters of community-related activities, yet they allowed their under-aged son, when he went to a resort, to have alcohol in the car, and I always said, I said to my wife, I said, “As nice and as community-oriented as these individuals are, they are just wonderful people, I think what they’ve done/what they did was just making a huge mistake, and they are never going to live it down if he gets involved in an alcohol-related crash where he kills somebody else or kills himself,” but I guess I’m going back to that sense of people being cavalier. You’ve read three quotes. Those three quotes were profound. They were very moving to me, but yet I go back to that sense that society is somewhat cavalier about drinking and driving.

Tracey Poole: Right, I mean there are messages everywhere that are hitting our kids, in the media and all over the place, and it’s definitely going to be a difficult thing to combat, and I think that there are all kinds of efforts out there, and this is just one of them. What we hope is that the actual experience of coming in to the prison is something that is going to stay with the kids. You know, they are not necessarily used to thinking of it from the perspective of the offender. I think that a lot of the messages they are getting are more from the victim’s perspective and that’s equally important, but you know a lot of times I think kids don’t realize, “If I get behind the wheel after a couple of drinks, I might end up, not only killing somebody, but ruining my own life, ruining my family’s lives,” and the results are just devastating, so when they see somebody up there and they are in inmates clothing, who kind of looks like them, and talks about having been very much like them when they were in high school, it does hit home.

Len Sipes: Well, it to me, there are profound decisions that individuals make and they don’t realize they are profound decisions, and one of the most profound is having, as far as I’m concerned, one drink and driving a vehicle. I’ve seen people who are not even close to the legal limit affected by one beer, one glass of wine, and they are now dangerous to themselves and dangerous to others. So, other people would say, “Leonard, you are going way overboard. You are being way too strict,” and I’ve seen it firsthand how people with one glass of wine or one beer go out and get involved in terrible accidents, so in any event, Tracey, what did I miss about your program? It’s fascinating, the “Zero Fatalities Project.” You are getting a lot of publicity there in Rhode Island, and more and more people are coming to the program, I understand?

Tracey Poole: Well, one of the reasons that we decided to do this in the first place, is that there is a community in Rhode Island called Barrington, and in Rhode Island, this is a fairly affluent community that has been getting a lot of attention on the press because there were a series of DUI-related crashes there and it seemed that all of a sudden the media kind of glommed on to Barrington, and then it became this Barrington’ issue.

Len Sipes: I remember that.

Tracey Poole: When, in fact, it’s really not just Barrington, and if you look at those statistics, and the Attorney General Office is a little bit more up on those than I am, but there have been crashes in every community, pretty much, in the state, so it’s not just Barrington, but I think the fact that there were quite a few in close proximity, and just the idea that it’s this affluent community just brought the focus onto Barrington, and we had a request for one of our offenders who is now on the “Zero Fatalities Project” panel to go and speak at Barrington High School. The director actually granted him a furlough and he did. He’s a minimum security inmate, so he was allowed to go and speak, and that had a tremendous impact, I guess, on the students in Barrington, but the director did not want to focus on one particular offender, and make a celebrity out of anyone, and so that’s when I started thinking, “You know, let’s do something where instead of taking offenders out, which is difficult on many levels, and we’ll actually invite students here.” We have a program here that’s been in place for many years called the “Score Program,” that is sort of similar to that “Scared Straight” idea but not quite along those lines, but it’s a similar format to this where we have a panel of inmates and students come in and hear them, but they are serving for a whole variety of offenses, and they talk about gang behavior, better decision-making and that’s just the common thread, bullying, drugs, and all kinds of different things. And so we have sort of the model in place, and high schools from across the state have been coming to that for years, and some middle schools. So we kind of modeled this “Zero Fatalities Project” along the “Score Program” but targeted it specifically to DUI offenses, and it seems to be very well received. I have had lots of response from taskforces around the state, prevention taskforces, substance abuse coordinators, and as I mentioned we have all these partners, so the word is getting out through them. The family court has sent kids to us for it. Our partners in law enforcement are getting the word out, so it seems like there was a niche that we could fill, and hopefully it’s going to have an impact.

Len Sipes: Tracey is there a place where people can get in touch with you for additional information?

Tracey Poole: Yes, they can call me at (401)462-2609, or also email me at, and we also have some information on the program on our website which is and if you click on the left-hand link for “media and community relations” there will be a link to a PDF version of the brochure on the program which includes a registration form, and all kinds of information.

Len Sipes: Alright, Tracey. Ladies and Gentleman, Tracey Poole, Chief Information Officer in Public Relations for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, and she is talking about the “Zero Fatalities Project.” Ladies and Gentleman, this is DC Public Safety, and I’m your host Len Sipes, and we respond to every email, every comment to you get to us at or simply search for DC Public Safety. We enjoy your comments and we respond to each and every suggestion that you have for the program. And Tracy Poole, again, (401)462-2609, or, and have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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