Supervision of High-Risk Offenders-DC Public Safety Television

Supervision of High-Risk Offenders – “DC Public Safety”

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Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2012/02/supervision-of-high-risk-offenders-dc-public-safety-television/

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

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is supervising the high-risk offender, and you know, there is a consensus amongst the criminological community at agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice, that agencies like mine, that parole and probation agencies should be spending the bulk of the resources, the bulk of their time on the high-risk offender. To talk about this concept, we’re really pleased to have two national experts with us on the first half; and then we’re going to go to the second half and talk with the people from my agency addressing the implementation of that research. So on the first half; we have Jesse Jannetta, research associate from the Urban Institute, and Bill Burrell, independent community corrections consultant. And again, we’re going to discuss the consensus in terms of the high-risk offender. Bill and Jesse, thanks again for being on the show. Bill Burrell, give me a sense as to what we’re talking about with this national consensus. First of all, is there a consensus; second, what is the high-risk offender?

Bill Burrell:  Well, there’s clearly a consensus. It’s based on a robust body of research from United States, from Canada, from other countries around the issue of “Who’s on supervision and how do we handle them?” And what the research tells us is that there is a group of people that are high-risk of re-offending when they’re in the community. Not every offender is the same. They have different backgrounds, different experiences, committed different offenses, their commitment to their criminal career varies; and the people we were concerned about, are the people that pose the greatest risk, the high-risk offender.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

Bill Burrell: The probabilities are very high that they’re going to continue to offend in the community, and these are the folks that we want to keep a close eye on, and provide close supervision to see if we can reduce the risk of them re-offending again.

Len Sipes:  Jesse, you’re from one of the premier research organizations in the country, the Urban Institute.  You’ve been taking a look at the high-risk offender for quite some time. The bottom line in this is the protection of public safety, is it not?

Jesse Jannetta:  It is, and one of the reasons, again, that there has been a greater focus on the high-risk offender – and this is a good instance where research and what it’s telling us is really tracking with common sense in many ways – in a situation where you have many problems, what you want to focus on is the biggest problem where you make the biggest impact, and that’s going to be the high-risk offender, since they’re the most likely to have more offenses and create more victims in the community. And what, in fact, we’ve seen when you look at a lot of the programming interventions for parolees and probationers in the community is that, in fact, that programming is more effective for high-risk offenders; you get greater reduction in their risk to the community. And, in fact, in many cases, if you look at low risk offenders and programming, you may, if you put them into intensive programming, actually make their outcomes worse. And so this has really driven supervision agencies all over the country to think about, “Alright, how can we make sure that we’re putting most of our resources, whether its supervision or treatment or both of them in concert on our high-risk offenders? How can we know who those are, and then how can we move away a little bit from intervening too much with the lower risk offenders to avoid actually making their outcomes worse and having a negative impact on what’s going on in the community in terms of public safety?”

Len Sipes:  Bill, back to you. This is a consensus, correct? I mean, within the criminological community, within organizations, within the Department of Justice, within the American Probation and Parole Association, there does seem to be a consensus that we move in this direction. I want to be very clear about that.

Bill Burrell:  Absolutely; and this goes back a good 20 years to research that came out primarily in the early 1990s, looking at the question of risk.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hmm.

Bill Burrell: And over those years, through conferences and workshops and experience with agencies, that’s begun to seep into the fabric of probation, parole agencies around the country; and few people contest it any more. It really is something that has become an accepted fact that there are high-risk offenders, and if we’re serious about public safety, these are the folks we need to go after.

Len Sipes:  Right, and Jesse, the research is supportive. I just read a piece from Abt Associates where they were basically doing what it is that we’re doing now, or propose to do; and they showed substantial reductions in recidivism. And when I say recidivism, we’re talking about real crime. We’re talking about people becoming injured. We’re talking about increasing public safety. So two of the three sites where they implemented this strategy, the best practices within 50 to one case loads, they were able to reduce recidivism and new crimes considerably. The one case where it did not happen, they didn’t implement it fully –

Jesse Jannetta: Right.

Len Sipes:  – so there’s good strong data in Abt, and as Bill said in lots of other research, that basically said this is the way to go. So it’s not just a consensus, it’s based upon hard research.

Jesse Jannetta:  Right and this is a research base that has, as Bill suggested, been developing over 20 years. And I think one of the things that has led to the consistency in those kind of research results is that we’ve gotten a lot better at working with the high-risk offender. The first piece we’ve gotten a lot better at is identifying who those people are out of all the parolees and probationers –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – than an agency supervises. So the assessment tools to build risk groups and say, “Alright, these are the people, if you look at this group, they’re the group that’s much more likely to re-offend.” The tools to do that have gotten a lot more sophisticated and performed better. And on the programming front, you know, over the years, we’ve gotten a lot better at both knowing what kind of curriculum, what kind of approaches work for good programming, but also a lot of information about what the staff needs to be like, when you put people in the programming, and so we’re in a much stronger position than we were –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Jesse Jannetta:  – 20 years ago, to say, “These are the people we need to focus on. We really can identify them in our population, and these are the tools that are going to make them less likely to re-offend.”  Twenty years ago, we had ideas about those things, but we didn’t have a strong ground to stand on in terms of having seen the results. But today, we are in that position where you can look at a lot of different jurisdictions and say, “We’ve proven this.”

Len Sipes: The risk and needs assessment that you just brought up, Jesse and Bill, I mean, we’ve come light years in terms of our ability to figure it out – but it’s not foolproof, I want to make it very clear right now – we can be 80 percent, and 80 percent is incredibly good in terms of predicting who’s going to fail and who’s not; but it’s not infallible – but we’ve come light years in terms of the level of sophistication, with validated instruments to figure out who’s antisocial, and who’s going to make it and who’s not.

Bill Burrell:  Am important thing to remember about these assessments, and you mentioned, is that they’re not perfect. These are probability statements about groups of people who look alike.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  They’re not individual predictions to individual offenders.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  Our technology doesn’t allow us to do that.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  So we plug into the assessment this body of information about people who’ve been under supervision before, and how they behaved and how they did under supervision, and we use that to develop a model that helps us identify those kinds of people in the existing population.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bill Burrell:  The insurance companies have used this kind of technology for years.

Len Sipes:  Yes, they have.

Bill Burrell:  Actuarial models.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Burrell:  So we’re very good at being able to put people into the right groups, but then we have to plug in the expertise of the probation parole officers to go beyond what the actuarial instrument will tell you; to begin the plug in unique things to that individual offender. So what the research tells us is, the instruments do a very good job – a little better job than any of us can do individually – but when you plug in the experience of a probation parole officer on top of that assessment, you get the greatest level of accuracy in terms of who’s likely to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  Right. It’s based on a machine read. Somebody’s got to make – somebody’s got to take a look at this and figure out for themselves if it’s correct or incorrect, whether or not it should be overwritten to a lower level, a higher level of supervision. Jesse, the research also says that treatment programs are an integral part of this, so it’s just not a matter of supervision, the research from the past basically says if you only do supervision, the only thing you’re going to do is revoke very high numbers of people and put them back within the correctional system. People who have mental health issues need mental health treatment. People who have substance abuse issues need substance abuse treatment. People who don’t have an occupational background need to be provided with information as to getting jobs, and how to present themselves. Correct or incorrect?

Jesse Jannetta:  Yeah, all of those things are correct. And the one thing that I would add to that, where there’s been an emerging consensus as well as the importance of it, is what’s called cognitive behavioral treatment, and this is based on the understanding that a lot of criminal behavior is driven by the way the people make decisions, the values and beliefs and justifications that they have inside themselves that may –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – support or justify after the fact, criminal behavior. And then the other layer is a lot of their associates. So if you have somebody who is hanging out with, and a lot of their friends are criminally involved, the odds are pretty high that they will be as well. And so a lot of that programming is looking at building skills to make better decision making, to do better problem solving –

Len Sipes:  And that’s what we mean by –

Jesse Jannetta:  – to be less aggressive.

Len Sipes:   – cognitive – better decision-making.

Jesse Jannetta:  Right. It’s about, you know, the way people think and make decisions –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Jesse Jannetta:  – determines a lot of their behavior. And so if you want them to make a different kind of decision than they’ve made in the past, you need to work on that really directly, and have them build skills. And that this often has effects not only in a criminal behavior, but it makes them more successful in employment.

Len Sipes:  And that is part of the research base.

Jesse Jannetta:  Oh, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  The research does back that up.  Bill, –

Bill Burrell:  I want to –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Bill Burrell:  I want to elaborate a little bit on that –

Len Sipes:  Please.

Bill Burrell:  – because we started out talking about the high-risk offender, and that’s determining who we’re going to work with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Burrell:  And once we’ve determined that, then we need to look at the individual factors as – and Jesse began to suggest – what we call on the field, criminogenic risk factors.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Burrell:  Things that drive people to commit crime. That’s the second major thing that has come out of this 20 plus year body of research, is now we know what we want to work with offenders on. How do we want to change them? What are the things in their lives –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  – that drive them to commit crime.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  So that’s that – it’s kind of a – we know who to work with, what to work on, and the next part is how to go about that, and that’s the cognitive behavioral intervention.

Jesse Jannetta:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Great.

Bill Burrell:  Because much of what we do, the way we think, determines how we act.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Burrell:  So if you change thinking patterns from criminal to pro-social, you get pro-social behavior and less criminal activity.

Len Sipes:  Okay, a very important point now. If we’re going to take all these resources and we’re going to place the bulk of our supervision, the bulk of our treatment sources on the high-risk offender, what that means is that with lower risk offenders, we’re going to do quote/unquote “something else”.

Bill Burrell:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Now what comes to mind is New York City putting the great majority of the people that they have under probation supervision on kiosks. They’re automatic machines. They look like the bank machine that you go to –

Jesse Jannetta/Bill Burrell:  Yeah, right.

Len Sipes:  – to withdraw, a ATM machine. Thank you. And that jurisdictions around the country are now using them to lower case loads. They’re using kiosk, but the kiosk example, the thing that surprised me is that up in New York City, they showed less recidivism using kiosks when compared to a control group. So there are ways of safely supervising and interacting with low risk offenders beyond person to person contact, correct?

Bill Burrell:  Correct; and I think the kiosk is a real interesting experiment, you know, in this country there is a love affair with technology. So any time you throw technology at a problem, we think it will fix it, but I think Jesse mentioned that intervening with low risk offenders more than you need to, can actually cause problems. So I think what you might be seeing in New York City is that we have reduced the amount of intrusion into those low risk offenders’ lives, and they respond in a positive way to that.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Bill Burrell:  People resist being told what to do, being forced into programs or services that they don’t really think they need, and we found a way to accomplish the monitoring objectives of supervision without overtly or excessively intruding in their lives.

Len Sipes:  But we’re not, Jesse, risking public safety when we do this; every parole and probation agency in this country, whether they cop to it or not, does have a lower level of supervision –

Jesse Jannetta:  Right.

Len Sipes: – for lower risk offenders. I mean, so that’s current, that’s happening now anyway.

Jesse Jannetta:  Right. I think the greatest challenge for parole and probation agencies in delivering on the promise of working with the high-risk offender, and what we know from research, is the research challenges. You have parole and probation officers all around the country that have huge caseloads –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – 80, 90, 100 people –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – and it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to meaningfully work on risk reduction things with all of those people. And working with high-risk offenders, I mean, as we’ve said, we’ve got this research about what’s effective, but this is not a situation where a little bit goes a long way. The kind of programming and interventions they need are intensive. You need to spend time with them not just in the programming, but the parole and probation officers enhancing their motivation, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – keeping them moving on the right path, intervening when they might be backsliding a little bit, engaging their families, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:   – their employers, the positive influences in their life –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – keeping them on track with their plan. You need time in the day to do that, and so there is some need to move around resources. One of the most interesting findings in that kiosk study in New York is that it’s not only the low risk offenders did better –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  – but the high-risk offenders also did better.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Jesse Jannetta:  New York City probation was very clear, “We’re going with kiosk for the low risk offenders so we can spend more time with the high-risk offenders, and they did better too.”

Len Sipes:  We have a minute left. The key in all of this seems to be the proper balance. The key in all of this seems to be a balance of resources and figuring out where to place your resources, obviously the high-risk offender. But that seems to be the tune-up, if you will, for parole and probation agencies to make them far more effective, and at the same time protect public safety. We are talking about fewer crimes committed. Am I right or wrong?

Jesse Jannetta:  That’s correct.

Bill Burrell:  And we have to be smart about this. We have to realize that all offenders are alike. They have different characteristics, different levels of risk, and we need to apply our resources in a way that responds to that information.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Bill Burrell:  And then once we’ve done that, then we need to use the techniques that have been proven with high-risk offenders to get the results that we want.

Len Sipes:  And Bill, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate you watching the program today. Stay with us in the second half as we take a look in my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, in taking this research consensus that Jesse and Bill talked about, and implementing it within my agency. We’ll be right back.

[Program Break]

Len Sipes:  Hi, welcome back to DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes.  I represent the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’re a federal parole and probation agency responsible for offenders in Washington DC, and what you’ve heard on the first half, that research consensus from two national experts as to the research on the high-risk offender, well now we’re going to be implementing it; and we have been implementing it throughout the course of the year. To talk about it, we have Valerie Collins, a branch chief of the Domestic Violence Unit for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency; and Gregory Harrison, again branch chief for general supervision, Court Services and Offenders Supervision. And to Valerie and Greg, welcome to the program!

Valerie Collins:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Greg, the first question’s going to you. We’ve heard the researchers of people representing two stellar organizations in terms of that research consensus within the criminological community, within the government, that we really should be focusing on the high-risk offender. And the integral part of supervising that high-risk offender is first of all, discovering who that person is with a risk assessment instrument, correct?

Gregory Harrison:  You’re absolutely correct, and I think what CSOSA has done is actually fallen right in line with the research in terms of showing that we’ve identified the high-risk offenders versus those who are low risk. We’ve challenged our resources in their appropriate domains, and it’s showing that our offenders are pretty much providing, or being provided with the services that they need.

Len Sipes:  Right, and so when we’re talking about the high-risk offender, as far as CSOSA is concerned – and I think this matches the national research – we’re talking about sex, we’re talking about violence, we’re talking about weapons, and we’re talking about the ages principally 18 to 25. Now, it doesn’t have to really focus on all the variables that I just mentioned – there could be others – but principally it’s that part of our population, correct?

Gregory Harrison: You’re absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Valerie; and we’re also talking about individuals that even though the current charge say is theft or possession with intent to distribute, we’re not taking just a look at the current charge; we’re taking a look at the totality of that person’s criminal history, the totality of that person’s social history, correct?

Valerie Collins: Yes, what we do is we look at the person’s entire history. We look very strongly at what their criminal background has been. We also look at other risk factors that they may have had. As you indicated, a person may be on supervision for something like theft –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins: – but if they’ve had, you know, armed robbery with a weapon, you know, in their past –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  – that is of course going to bump their supervision level up. And they would certainly get closer supervision.

Len Sipes: Either one of you can answer this. We’re talking about somewhere in the ballpark of about a third of our caseload when we’re talking about high-risk offenders, correct?

Gregory Harrison:  Yeah, about a third in the high-risk area, one third in the medium, and a third in the low risk categories as well.

Len Sipes:  All right, now we said in the first half that the focus needs to be on the high-risk offender, that’s where the resources need to be, the treatment resources, the supervision resources. And, you know, it’s pretty clear that the research throughout the country is that this reduces recidivism, this protects public safety, focusing on that high-risk offender. But what that does mean is that for the lower risk offender, we’ve got to do quote/unquote “something else”, lower levels of supervision. And now we’re implementing the kiosk program where we are putting lower level offenders on kiosks, and so they’re going to be reporting to a machine; and if there are issues in terms of that reporting, they have to then contact a community supervision officer elsewhere, known as parole and probation agents. There still could be drug testing involved, so it’s just not the machine, but it’s going to be principally kiosk reporting for lower level offenders, correct?

Valerie Collins:  Yes, and actually there would be an officer who is assigned to those offenders who are on kiosk supervision.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Valerie Collins:  They monitor that kiosk supervision, they are able to look at reports to see if the person’s actually reporting in, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  – ensuring that they’re still employed.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  They are also randomly drug tested.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  And so if, you know, the person is positive, then they would come back into the office and we would do intervention with that individual.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  So we do have a lot of things put in place so that we can actually make sure that we are keeping in contact with those individuals, that they are following the program that has been set up for them –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  – and again, if they are not in compliance, then swiftly we are able to direct ourselves to those individuals, to have contact with them.

Len Sipes:  But then again, that is to free up resources to focus on the high-risk offender, and that’s the person who possibly poses a clear and present risk to public safety. That’s where we should be going.

Valerie Collins:  And what that has done has allowed us to work much closely with those individuals who are high-risk –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  – so that the supervision officers have actually lower case loads for those offenders who we have –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  – identified to be the high-risk offenders.

Len Sipes:  Right. So we’re talking about what, Greg?  We’re talking about global positioning system tracking. We’re talking about working with local law enforcement, and we’re talking about in terms of a sex offender; a polygraph test. We’re talking about two new day reporting centers.

Gregory Harrison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  We’re talking about a whole wide array of strategies to stay in touch with that individual; and I’m going to dare say based upon the research far more than most states stay in touch with their offenders.

Gregory Harrison:  Certainly. But one of the things that we’ve done at CSOSA is we’ve made sure that our staff were more than prepared to address and handle high-risk offenders.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Gregory Harrison:  We’ve done that by showing that all of our staff were trained in cognitive behavior intervention –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Gregory Harrison: – as well as motivational interviewing.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  And when we – having done that, we’ve ensured that the staff would be ready to understand the assessments, –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  – be able to actually articulate their understanding of the assessment to the offender population. Because oftentimes the offender’s always saying, “You’re putting me in this program, you’re putting me in that program or referring me here and there, but you’re not telling me exactly why.”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  So we’ve trained our staff tremendously in those efforts to ensure that the offenders have a clear understanding of what their expectations are, and why we’re using the resources that we’re using to channel them into using best practice resources –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  – channel them into the areas of compliance.

Len Sipes:  Greg, I’m glad you brought that up. And Valerie, the next question’s going to go to you. In terms of treatment resources, I mean cognitive behavioral therapy where we sit down and teach individuals how to think differently throughout their lives, and people sometimes smirk at that, but the research base is pretty clear that this reduces re-offending, it lowers criminality, it protects public safety. Those sort of treatment resources, whether it be mental health, whether it be substance abuse, whether it be our own facilities where we place people for an assessment, or place people for intensive drug treatment, the bulk of those treatment resources are going to go to that individual.

Valerie Collins:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Valerie Collins:  We actually have – we call our Reentry and Sanction Center, and that is designed to do a 28-day assessment on those offenders who are high-risk individuals.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  And what we do with them is that we bring them in–it’s an in-patient setting for 28 days–really look at what their needs are, their treatment needs are, and from there, we develop a plan for them, a treatment plan. And they may go out to another treatment facility; we may look at getting them some type of transitional housing so that they can get some stability in the community. And then, particularly in the Domestic Violence Unit, we have a treatment component where we are doing exactly what we’re talking about. We’re actually looking at, you know, how people think, and actually making some changes in their cognitive behavior –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  – so they will no longer be involved with those types of offenses in terms of domestic violence; giving them some alternatives and some skills so that they can be successful in the community.

Len Sipes:  And as we said during the first half of the program, that that treatment emphasis, it’s got to be a combination of supervision and treatment. It’s just not one or the other. If the person comes out of the prison system and he has mental health issues, those mental health issues need to be addressed. I’m not quite sure anybody could disagree with that; if you address those mental health issues, you’re gonna lower the rate of him being back in the criminal justice system. If he has this wild substance abuse history, that needs to be addressed. If he has no work history, that needs to be addressed. That’s what we plan on doing for high-risk offenders.

Gregory Harrison:  Yes, you’re absolutely right. And speaking about in terms of mental health, CSOSA has done a phenomenal job in segmenting our population in terms of needs.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Gregory Harrison:  We have a unit that deals in services to the mental health population. We have a unit that deals and services the all woman population –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  – the DVIP population. So we’re really segmented pretty well, and it helps us to channel again our resources in the proper area.

Len Sipes:  Right. I mean, best practices. I mean, one of the things that I find unique about CSOSA is use of best practice, and we’ve been basically implementing best practices since the beginning.

Gregory Harrison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  I mean, CSOSA has been dedicated to a research-based approach, and we think that that obviously works. Alright, let me get into this. For that lower level offender who is going to get less supervision, they are also going to get less treatment. They’re also going to get fewer interventions; again, designed to free up resources for that person who poses a clear and present risk to public safety. What that does mean is that they’re not going to get drug treatment, say, from CSOSA, our drug treatment, but they will work with people in the community to try to get them drug treatment. But our priority needs to be treatment and supervision services on the high-risk offender, am I right?

Valerie Collins: You’re correct, but I think the other unique thing about CSOSA is that we’ve developed such strong partnerships in the community with law enforcement, you know, with treatment providers, so that we do have a host of resources that we can refer these low risk offenders –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Valerie Collins:  – on to, so that they can actually get their services in the community. And when you talk about best practices, when they’re off supervision, they’re already entrenched and embedded in what’s already available to them in their community.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  And we found that that has really helped.

Len Sipes: Well, the partnership part of this is crucial because in terms of public safety, I mean, working with law enforcement, whether it’s the Metropolitan Police Department or the Secret Service or the FBI, we work with them on a regular basis in terms of, you know, who’s doing well, who’s not doing well. I mean, individual officers work with our community supervision officers. So that partnership is there on the supervision side and the treatment side in terms of resources for individuals. My Heavens there is a faith-based program. I mean, thousands of people help getting them, you know, the resources of the faith community in terms of substance abuse or in terms of housing. So it’s the community partnership that is an extraordinarily strong part of what it is we’re trying to do.

Valerie Collins:  Yes, you’re right. And as we talked about earlier just with the whole transitional housing piece, you know, that’s something where we have a partnership with our faith-based providers. And not only do they provide transitional housing, they also provide mentors.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Valerie Collins:  So again, you really have that community support, and that’s what we find that particularly in reentry, that these offenders need.

Len Sipes:  Now Greg, you’ve been around a long time, because when people hear this concept of working with the offender, cognitive behavioral therapy, they’re not aware of the research; it’s sometimes a hard issue for them to grasp. But what we have to do is to get through to that individual offender, and not only in terms of supervision, not only in terms of treatment, but also in terms of incentives. We’ve got to break through that barrier, that wall that he or she brings to us, and we’ve got to work with that person as a human being.

Gregory Harrison:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And where some people have a hard time hearing that, it’s true. I mean, we can reduce recidivism, better protect public safety, by breaking through and dealing with that individual as a human being; and that includes incentives and that includes working with that individual as a person.

Gregory Harrison:  Yeah, and it’s very interesting that you talk about incentives, because oftentimes we deal with when you’re in the world of criminal justice, we always talk about punitive damages and things of that nature –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Gregory Harrison:  – but incentives is something that CSOSA takes pride in, in terms of we do early terminations of some offenders.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  We make referrals oftentimes for them to come off supervision early. We actually, for those offenders who are on GPS where we’ve implemented curfews on them, we have reduced the curfew timeframe for them.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  As long as they are in compliance. But what we have to do a better job at is showing that our offenders are absolutely in the know –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  – about all of the interventions that we’re placing on them, and why we’re placing these interventions on them.

Len Sipes:  That individual can work their way off that high-risk status. I mean, we can, you know, day reporting and lots of contact and lots of programs and constant GPS; that’s not forever. As long as he or she goes along with the program, we ease them off that level of supervision. We may even ease them off a level of treatment. So that person can get off this designation, correct?

Gregory Harrison:  Yeah, certainly. And what we’ve done a lot of times – Valerie has done it, myself and my other branch chief co-workers – we’ve had what we call “call-ins”. We’ve actually taken focus areas of desire and brought all of those offenders in – whether it’s burglary or GPS offenders and things of that nature – we’ve talked to them about what public safety actually means.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  And what it means for them to be compliant and maintain a level of compliance, so that we can reduce their supervision that was from high-risk to a lower risk offender.

Len Sipes:  Right. And the bottom line in terms of the community watching this, regardless of where they are in the country, or Washington DC, all of this does protect public safety.

Gregory Harrison:  Certainly.

Len Sipes:  There’s now a national strategy that we’ve been implementing for a long time, but we’re going full throttle in that implementation, and we do believe that this is something which is in the public’s best interest.

Gregory Harrison:  But one thing I want to say is this.

Len Sipes: And quickly though.

Gregory Harrison:  In terms of low risk offenders, there are no guarantees. If an offender’s on kiosk, there are no guarantees –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Gregory Harrison:  – that they won’t re-offend.

Len Sipes:  Thank you.

Gregory Harrison:  But what we’re doing is putting in process in place.

Len Sipes:  Thank you, thank you. Alright, you’ve got the final word, Greg. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching the program as we examine the issue from a national and local perspective as to the high-risk offender. Look for us next time as we explore another very important topic within today’s criminal justice system; and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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Interview with Former Offender-Advocate Lamont Carey-DC Public Safety Radio

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/12/interview-with-former-offender-advocate-lamont-carey-dc-public-safety-radio/

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 nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure today to have Lamont Carey. Lamont’s been around for a long time.  He’s a fixture, not only in Washington DC, but throughout the country.  Lamont spent 11 years in the federal prison system for committing a crime in Washington DC, and he’s been an outspoken individual regarding the condition of people coming outside of the prison system and in the world where the overwhelming majority of people who come out of the prison system are basically ignored.  He’s gotten an awful lot of press.  Let me tell you a lit bit about what Lamont Carey has done within the course of the last 10 years, 11 years:  HBO, for the Def Poetry Jam, on Home Box Office, he’s done The Wire, again, with HBO, probably the best crime and justice program ever on television.  Black Entertainment Tonight, Lyric Cafe, he worked, he’s spoken at the National Cathedral multiple times talking about the plight of ex-offenders.  He’s done a ton of media both in the United States and Canada.  He’s been with Al Sharpton, with the National Action Network, and he has written a book called The Hill, just out, about his journey through prison, and he’s also, in progress, his film, a video called Outside the Gate.  Lamont Carey, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lamont Carey:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  All right, man.  Again, what I said at the beginning, what I said in terms of the introduction is that the overwhelming majority of people coming out of the prison system, they don’t talk to anybody.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean, they don’t even talk to their own sister.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And here it is that you’re talking on – you know, you’ve been with a couple HBO productions.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been at media throughout the United States and Canada.  You’ve been with Al Sharpton.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been with BET.  Why is all this going on when everybody else is ignored, you’re getting all this airtime.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think the difference between me and everybody else is that I’m not afraid of where I come from.  Most people don’t talk about the things that they think will hurt them, so I was once labeled a product of my environment.  Now I use those experiences as my product, and that is how I make my living.

Len Sipes:  But everybody goes through the same thing you went through.  What is it that – I need to know this.  What is it that distinguishes you from everybody else?  Everybody is talking about this, but they’re just talking to each other.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Everybody is going into group.  Everybody is talking to their friends.  Everybody is standing on the corner.  You’re standing on the corner at HBO with The Wire.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so, there’s got to be something unique and something different in your experience versus everybody else.

Lamont Carey:  Well, when I came home from prison, before I came home, I decided I was going to be successful.  I decided I was going to give back to my community, and with both of those goals in mind and the developing in it a grasp of entertainment, I figured that I would combine all of those and that would be how – One, I remember where I come from but also use it as a stepping stone to get where I’m going, so I’m fearless.  I turn all of that into a business, and so that, I think, what makes me a little different than most.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I’m going to try this one more time.  Okay, I’ve been interviewing people out of the prison system for 20 years.  Everybody wants to give back.  Nobody wants to go back to prison.  Everybody wants their voice heard.  Nobody’s voice is heard.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There is something unique about you, I mean – that I’m still trying to get at.  Everybody’s said what you’ve just said.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, but I’m driven.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Lamont Carey:  I’m driven to succeed underneath it all.  That’s what it is.  I’m driven to succeed.

Len Sipes:  All right, all right. WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM is Lamont’s website for all the different projects that Lamont is working on.  All right, let’s get around to the former offender coming out of the prison system.  All right, so the guy comes out.  The woman comes out.  He hits the street, and what happens?

Lamont Carey:  Well, a lot of – what I think throws a lot of people off when they hit the street is that they deviate from their plan that they created in prison.  Everybody has a plan.  I have a – I’ve been incarcerated in 11 institutions, and every individual that I came into contact with had a plan on what they was going to do when they come home.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But when they get home, they – I guess because they try to live up to the expectations of their family members, they think they have to rescue their family, change their whole standard of living, and so they get thrown off, and they go after jobs, or get on another route that they didn’t plan for, and I think that’s another difference between me and a lot of people is that I didn’t deviate from my plan, so they come home.  They get everything isn’t like they thought it was going to be, I mean, even me, when I was coming home, I thought that all the doors was going to open for me, I was going to be celebrated as a hero or what have you, and then when you get home and you face reality – that I have to go live back at my mother’s house, and she’s doing as bad as I thought she was doing, and I felt those urges, or those desires to want to save her, but I can’t save nobody unless I get myself right, so I had to stick with my plan and follow it to the letter.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so 50 percent, according to national stats, 50 percent of people go back to the prison system within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  That’s just within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean beyond three years, more go back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  A ton of people go back to the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There can’t be mass hysteria in prison.  Everybody’s got to know how difficult it is when they’re going to get back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That they’re going to be labeled an ex-con.  They’re going to go and try to find jobs, and people are going to go “Hmm.  How many years you spent in prison?”

Lamont Carey:  Right, well I think.

Len Sipes:  Well, you know, everybody’s got to come out of there with a sense of man, it’s going to be hard when I get back to the street, I mean, how could it be any other way?

Lamont Carey:  But they don’t, I mean – a lot.

Len Sipes:  Are you serious?

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, a lot of people don’t because you got to – something that – what took place with me in prison – prison – it’s like you’re living inside of three different worlds.  You’re living off your past, you’re living off of – you got to follow the rules and regulations of the institution.  You’ve got to follow the rules and regulations of the convict, and then you got this future that you’re dreaming of happening, so a lot of individuals assume that when they come home that this woman is going to help them find a job, or the man that they used to hang out with, he’s working at a company, and he said that he can get them a job there, so a lot of times, we believe in there what somebody else is telling us so we don’t see that we’re going to have to, like face applying for a job and not getting it.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to hook you up.  Somebody’s going to take care of you. Somebody’s three hearts and a card.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, it’s the hook up.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to give you a place to stay.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  And nobody in prison is sitting there going, Dude, we got a lot of guys keep coming back.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I did that.  I figured that – the one thing that I knew:  One, that I’m not a construction worker.  I’m not doing no labor.  Two, I knew that I never had a job before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I knew that the chances of me getting a job that is going to pay me 20 dollars an hour like I deserve with no work experience, I knew it was impossible.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I decided that I wanted to work for myself.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I think that is what made me different.  I didn’t expect – what I did expect – I didn’t expect that they were going to give me stuff.  I looked at it as they owed me because they wasn’t there for me while I was in prison, so when I come home, that they was going to give me this, and they were going to give me that, but I also had to face the reality.  What it was, was that they weren’t doing as good as I thought they were doing, but I didn’t get to see that until I came home because most of the time, people don’t reveal that they’re doing as bad as they’re doing.  They might say they can’t send me no money.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Lamont Carey:  But, we live – and prisoners live in a fantasy, like I havn’t met too many prisoners that said they’re the corner boy.  Most prisoners say they were the kingpin or close to the kingpin, so a lot of times.

Len Sipes:  Everybody’s on the corner.

Lamont Carey:  Right, so yeah – but that’s not what they say in prison.

Len Sipes:  But do they really believe that?  Does everybody else really believe that?

Lamont Carey:  Well, not really, but what else do we have to go off of?

Len Sipes:  All right, so it’s the convict world.  There’s two things come to mind.  The convict world is what rules in the prison system, not the correctional personnel.  I mean that world –

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  is what rules, and so what you’re saying is that people invent a sort of fantasy world that allows them to exist with some sort of dignity while in the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And when they come back out, sometimes that status gets in the way of clear thinking.

Lamont Carey:  Right.  Because it’s distorted, because you have been incarcerated for two years or ten years, and you’ve been – you get to believe in this lie that you told yourself, and so when you’re telling people what you going to do when you come home, it’s exaggerated, you know what I’m saying?

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  My guy, when I come home, my man, they been doing this.  They been doing that.  They going to give me –

Len Sipes:  They’re going to take care of me, yeah.

Lamont Carey:  Probably a few thousand, so we come out, and that bubble is burst.

Len Sipes:  Now, I have talked to, in a career of 20 years of interviewing people coming out of the prison system, I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who have made it.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.

Len Sipes:  And they’re all encouraging, and it really is really neat to hear about the woman who suffered through a life of sexual abuse and child abuse, and she comes out and she gets discouraged, and she gets determined, and she goes out and buys, eventually, three ice cream trucks, and now she’s her own woman.  I mean she’s made her own way.  She said, I’m not going to let anybody step in front of me and tell me no.  I’m going to make my own way.  I’ve told those stories hundreds of times, but at the same time, 50 percent go back to the prison system.  Now 730 thousand people get out of the prison in this country every year.  That’s – conservatively, 350 thousand of those people are going back to the prison system within three years, more than that afterwards, so there’s two ways.  One part of it are all the success stories like yourselves, people who have risen above their own circumstances, people who have that magic moment in their lives, either through God or their families or their own sense of self determination that they’re going to make it, and 50 percent just like, you know, you ask them, “Why did you come back?” and it’s like, they can’t give you an answer.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s like, dude, I was on the corner, and somebody said, “Man, we’re going to do a hit,” and, you know, people smoking reefer, and it just got out of hand – didn’t mean to get involved in it.  I mean, we’re not talking about necessarily stalking people, you know, just crap happens –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  is the way a lot of people get caught back up in the criminal justice system.  How do you make sense of all of this?

Lamont Carey:  Well, again, the guys – with the individuals that I think become successful and not going back to prison, they become good at problem solving.  A lot of other people let stress get the better of them.  I can’t find a job.  I need a place to stay, and so when things are not happening according to the way that we want them to happen, we resort back to what we know.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

Lamont Carey:  Because one of the other things I think that ex-offenders or prisoners face is that they believe that they have to forget their whole past, that none of those skills are transferable to a positive and productive life, so a lot of them come home thinking that now they have to erase everything, so now they’re an infant again.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so they need guidance on what to do – I mean, what route they should take to be successful because they have never lived, really, a productive life, and so when things don’t go according to plan, they return back to what they know, and the police are more aware.  Surveillance is greater.  More people are telling, and so that’s how I think they end up – a lot of people end up back in the prison system, or those that used to use drugs fall back under the spell of substance abuse, which leads back to prison.

Len Sipes:  People have told me giving up drugs is somewhat easy.  Giving up the corner is impossible.  Giving up their friends.  Giving up their contacts, and a lot of times, they just get involved in crap that they have no business being involved in.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And again, it’s not – you know, there’s a huge difference in terms of people who are involved in criminal activity, between that person who says, “I’m leaving this house tonight, and I’m committing a crime, and I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that.” versus the person leaving the house that night, and saying, “I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do.  I’m going to check out my boys on the corner and figure out what’s going down.”

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s a huge difference, and so many of these people who don’t set out that night to commit a crime end back up in the criminal justice system.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  Cause one of the things is that if me and you hung out before I went to prison, the way you remember me is the way I was before I went in.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  You’re not fully aware of the guy that I’ve turned into.  Most of the time you probably think it’s just jail talk, or jail letters, when I’m telling you that I changed, and so I’ve had this experience.  When I came home, a guy came to see me from my past, and he tried to – he said I got a gun for you.  That’s how he remembered me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So, the real test comes with whether I take this gun or not.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And when I refused the gun, then he knows that I’m serious –

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  about my change, and so I think when I come out of the house to come and hang out with you, that’s because I’m bored.  I don’t have no plan.  When I have all these – I don’t have a job.  I don’t have all these things to – instead of me focusing on them, I just get tired.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  And I just say, “I just want to breathe for a minute.  Let me go see what Sipes’s doing.” and I go hang out with you, and – but at the same time I’m hanging out with you, you I’m observing the drug game again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Or whatever it is that – you know what I’m saying, it’s –

Len Sipes:  Yeah it’s all caught up.  It all falls together.

Lamont Carey:  Right, because if you’re still in the criminal life-style, and when I come around to you, you’re always thinking as a criminal.  And so, it just so happened.  When I come around, this is the same time that you about to make a move.  You about to go sell some drugs, and you about to rob a store, and I’m there, and you’re telling me, “Man, it’s sweet.  We going to be in there three minutes.  We’re going to be in and out.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, piece of cake.

Lamont Carey:  And my pockets are broke.  Yeah, that 50 thousand or what you say we’re going to get out of this stuff sounds really good to me right now, and I can do it in three minutes.  What’s the chances of me getting caught in three minutes?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And then the next thing you know, the police outside.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, ladies and gentlemen, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  That’s LAMONTCAREN.COM.  Again, to go through Lamont’s list of media involvement would take, for the rest of the day, The Wire, which is, again, the best TV program ever filmed in Baltimore about the criminal justice system, BET Washington, a book called The Hill, a book about his journey through prison, and currently a video project called outside the gate which is in progress.  Okay, you’ve given me some really interesting pieces of insight, Lamont, now, let me hear what you had to say to those movers and shakers, the mayor of Milwaukee, folks here in the District of Columbia, somebody in Germany which is now our second most popular outside the country in terms of people who pay attention to what it is we do here at DC Public Safety.  What do they need to know about people coming outside of the prison system, because I’ll tell you, it’s not a terribly pretty picture.  Most people needing drug treatment don’t get it.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  The stats are very clear.  Most people needing mental health treatment don’t get it.  Most people who need job training don’t get it.  So somehow, some way, there’s a disconnect.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Because we’re saying these – if we have these things, if we have these programs, we can drive down the recidivism rate, but yet society is basically going: nah, I don’t want to fund programs for people coming outside of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So talk to me about all that.

Lamont Carey:  Well, what I think is, it should start – transitioning should start inside the institution.  I guess when the individual gets within, maybe 18 months of coming home.  If you can get programs inside there that can get them thinking on survival of – a person has to – a person has to be willing to be homeless to be free, so they have to – if you can’t think – if you can’t forsee in stack how to get around obstacles, they’re going to always fall, but the one thing that I want policy makers and program providers to understand is that, each prisoner has created a plan, whether they wrote it down or it’s mental.  If you can get them to open up and try to help them stick to their plan, I think it would better their chances of success.  Like I wanted to go into the arts.  There are no arts programs right now for ex-offenders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So that means, my task, my journey probably was a little bit harder because I had to do it on my own, but I was willing to be homeless to be free.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So, again, I would say, for programs that could help a individual think.  Another thing is the college system back into the prison system.  That was a kind of an eye opener to me to let me know that I had transferrable skills because when I was in the college program, I was taking up business management, and they were talking about distribution, and I was like, I know distribution.  Supply and demand, you know, from the street life.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  But what school allowed to happen was, it showed me that I wasn’t as inexperienced as I thought I was.  So – and I thought – it’s been said that, a person that gets a degree in prison is less likely to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  It’s probably, out of all the research, the best strategy that we have.  That people who come out of prison with an associates of arts degree or a bachelors degree have the lowest rate of recidivism, bar none.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And when I say the lowest rate of recidivism, I’m talking about saving tax payers literally millions upon millions of dollars, and saving victims of crime from being re-victimized, so when I use those words recidivism, that’s what I’m talking about.  Go ahead.

Lamont Carey:  So, those are two things, and since the parole officer is really our first interaction after the immediate family.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  It’s being taught in prison by guys and females that have been sent back to prison for parole violations, so they say, “The parole officer is out to get them, right?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So even for me, when I came home, I was on edge with the parole officer, because I’ve been told, that’s all they’re trying to do is send me back to prison, and so, that misinformation has to be broken.  It has to be explained to the individual, chances are, the most you going to see your parole officer in your first 16 weeks, well at least in DC, is like three times a week.

Len Sipes:  Right.  There’s a lot of contact in DC.

Lamont Carey:  But that is only for like, I think the longest I think I’ve been inside with my parole officer, unless I was running my mouth, was 10 minutes.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So we’re talking about 30 minutes out of a week –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  One hour out of one day, so, you giving up one hour out of 23 hours.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Most of the time, all the parole officer said is, have you had any re-arrests?  Have you been getting high?  Do you have a job?  You answer those questions, and move on.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I think parole officers have to first understand that that’s how the individual is looking at them, as an enemy, because that’s what we’re taught.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I think the best way to break through that is parole officers saying, “What is it that you really want to do?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  My job is to make sure the public stays safe.  That you transition, that you get a job and all that, but what kind of job do you really want?

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  Because when I first met my parole officer, I’m sure when he asked me what kind of job that I really want, I said, it doesn’t matter, and I said that so that the parole officer won’t see me as a troubled person.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But that ain’t my truth.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  My truth is that I ain’t going to work construction, but I’m not trying to start off this relationship on bad terms.

Len Sipes:  You want to game the parole officer.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  When I game them, I just don’t want to be beefing with them.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.  Sure, sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I’m going to say –

Len Sipes:  And the way to do that is to say as little as humanly possible, nod your head up and down, you go yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t worry man, I’ll do it.

Lamont Carey:  But if the parole officer say, “Okay, Mr. Carey, I understand that you have to get a job.  It’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m encouraging you to get a job, but what kind of job is it that you really want so that when you go out and apply for jobs, you not only just applying for jobs at retail stores or low end stores, but you also are applying for jobs that you really want to work at.”

Len Sipes:  Right.  Now what happens – so there’s a plan – I’m writing all of this stuff down, the plan in prison, and that it would be nice if there were programs in prison for mental health, substance abuse, and a person without job training actually got job training.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And a person who wanted a college program could go to a college program although that carries tremendous controversy.  In Maryland, whenever we talked about college programs, we’d get a hundred angry letters and phone calls, basically saying, I can’t forward to send my kid to college.

Lamont Carey:  And that’s understandable.  That’s truly understandable.

Len Sipes:  Why am I giving this guy who stuck a gun in somebody’s head and threatened to pull the trigger and took money from them?  Why am I giving him a college education out of my pocket, but I can’t – so there are controversies involved –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  But we know that the better.  The more training, collegiate programs, therapy programs, that you have in the prison system, the better prepared you’re coming out, and to have a realistic plan is to deal realistically with the probation officer, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia.  What else do people need to know?

Lamont Carey:  Another thing is, is who they – who they come home to.  I know, for me, when it was time for me to go up for parole, I had to give a address to where I was going to be staying, and for me, that wasn’t the actual address where I was going to be staying, but, I’m going to give you what I’m going to give you so I can come home.

Len Sipes:  Right, you got to live somewhere.

Lamont Carey:  And so the problem, the problem that I see with a lot of individuals is that they meet something in prison.  They meet a girl, or dude in prison, and they be paroled to those people, and they have never lived with those people.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so they find out they can’t live together.  They not getting along, so that creates a problem, and now I’m rushing because I need to find additional housing, so if you can set up something where the person to return to society has housing, maybe a transitional home.  A transitional home, I think, would actually be better than a lot of places that people are staying.

Len Sipes:  You need a legal place to live because if the guy comes out and the sister takes him in and suddenly he’s a beef with the sister, or the sister’s husband, and he needs to go some place legal for three weeks, there’s some plays legal for three weeks.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, what else.

Lamont Carey:  Um, now, for the sub-abuse people, it’s kind of hard for me, because I’ve never dealt with that, but I do know individuals who have, was addicted to drugs before prison, but didn’t use drugs the whole time in prison.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so when they come home, they again to use drugs again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So they got to find out, like what are those triggers?  What are those triggers? and the only way you going to find that out – again the parole officer, the parole officer is the person that can get the information to actually do something with it.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  But there has to be a relationship established, an open relationship where I can trust my parole officer.

Len Sipes:  Isn’t that hard?  I mean the parole officer has got this large case load, I mean not in DC.  We’ve got some of the best case loads in the country, but throughout the country, you’ve got huge case loads.  How are you going to establish that relationship with that person?  He doesn’t trust you.  You don’t trust him.  How do you get to that point where you help out each other?

Lamont Carey:  Well, another good thing about DC is the faith-based community.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Lamont Carey:  So when I came to my parole officer, the next thing I know, they were sending me over to a church.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Meeting with a guy, Jean Groves, and Miss Keels.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, they had, they took the time to say, “Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And I was looking – I, I must want to work, so they said, “Okay, I’m going to call.”  They called the restaurant and got a job at the restaurant.  That last 24 hours because I didn’t really want to work for nobody, I wanted to work on my own, so after that experience, they were like “Okay Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And so I told them, this is what I really want to do.  I want to work for myself and so when I convey that to my parole officer, and my parole officer said, well Mr. Carey, you have to be working to be in the street, and so you need to start a company where you going to be able to pay yourself, or you need to get a job, and so I went, and I started a LLC, LaCarey Entertainment, and I started off with something simple, selling socks on the corner, and I just kept taking that money, turning that money over, using the profit to reinvest, and then eventually I went into the studio and recorded a CD.

Len Sipes:  The faith based program we have here in the District of Columbia is also one of the largest in the country and having people who truly, who volunteer to come to your aid to be a mentor.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That has helped a lot of guys, and a lot of people cross that bridge.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s an amazing program.  All right.  What else?  We’re in the final minutes of the program.  We got about three minutes left.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.  The next thing, for parole officers, when you got a guy or female that you have you gone problems with, I think if we open up and create a situation where they can go talk to the young people because all of us want to give back.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  Like you said, all the guys and the females you talk to want to give back, so if you give us an opportunity.  Instead of sending us back to prison, make us do some community service at a youth facility or somewhere where we’re telling them about – if you keep going down that road, this is where you’ll end up, because nobody is going to say, “Go out and get high.”  Most of the time, they’re going to try to show themselves in a good light, and it’s going to be connected back to what they said they wanted to do in prison.

Len Sipes:  All right.  What about all of the issues that I started off with this second half of the program.  I mean, most people aren’t getting drug treatment.  Most people aren’t getting mental health.  I mean you’re letting us off the hook here.  I mean, there’s got to be programs.  You know, if a guy comes out and he’s schizophrenic, and he comes out of the prison system, that medication is going to keep him, in many ways, out of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Keep him out of trouble, keep him from hurting something.  I mean there’s got to be some sort of program set up where that person’s getting their medication.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s got to be some sort of setup where somebody is knocking on his door, saying, “Are you taking your medication?”

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think even people that suffer from severe mental illness, that have never been in prison, they’re pushing them out on the street.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So there’s going to have to be another look taken at that because I haven’t really experienced that.  It’s hard for me to say, but even I had issues.  I became an introvert.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  You know what I’m saying?  In my apartment, everything that I need was in one room, and I got a whole empty house, so again, the parole officer is probably the person.

Len Sipes:  Final minute of the program.  How people – what is fair in terms of how people look at you?  They look at you as a criminal coming out of the prison system.  You look at yourself as something else.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  What’s fair?  What should the rest of us know about people coming out of the prison system?  How should we view them because if you watch television, and if you watch Hard Time and if you watch Lock-Up, I mean, you don’t want to touch anybody who is coming out of the prison system with a 10-foot pole.  How should people – what’s fair in terms of how people should see you?

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think they should look at themselves.  We’ve all made mistakes, and now I came home.  You can’t judge me by my past, but you can, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I’m going to do regardless if you look at me like a criminal.  I’m still going to be and do what it is that Lamont Carey is going to be, and that’s successful.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, it’s a blast having you.  I want to have you back in six months and find out where you’re going with all these programs.  Lamont Carey.  WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  Currently, with all the other things that he’s done, he has a book, The Hill, his journey through prison and Outside the Gate, which is a work in progress, a video in progress.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Thanks again for all of your cards, letters, emails, telephone calls, and suggestions.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Pretrial Supervision and Treatment-DC Public Safety Radio

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/12/pretrial-supervision-and-treatment-dc-public-safety-radio/

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 nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, today’s topic is pretrial and treatment in pretrial and one of the main points that I want to make from the very beginning is the fact that where we have two million people in the present system throughout this country, we have  many millions more who are involved in the pretrial process.  They are arrested, they go through the pretrial process and this whole concept of treatment within pretrial, actually from a sheer numerical point of view, takes on much greater importance than those—than the discussion of treatment within the correctional setting.  There are literally millions of people going through the arrest process, going through the pretrial process, all throughout the United States and my guess is that the vast majority of them do not receive treatment of any kind by their pretrial agency.  To talk about this issue, we have two principals.  One is Terrence Walton, he is the Director of Treatment; and two, is Michael McGinnis, he is the Deputy Director of Treatment.  Both represent the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia and they’re my sister agency for the court services and a federal supervision agency.  Pretrial Services is a federal agency like we are at CSOSA.  And to Terrence and to Michael, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Michael McGinnis:  Well, thank you, Len, good to be here.

Terrence Walton:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, gentlemen, first of all, Michael, let’s go and set some basics up.  The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia does what?

Terrence Walton:  Why don’t I take that one if I could?

Michael McGinnis:  Yeah, go ahead.

Terrence Walton:  I’ll take it, all right.  Listen, the agency does a lot and it’s hard to capture it but essentially we’re responsible for two big tasks. The biggest task is and the first task is to assist the court in making release decisions. So when a defendant is arrested and is being considered for release, Pretrial Services conducts an interview, reviews criminal history, talks with the defendant directly, talks sometimes with collaterals to get a sense of who we have, and then recommends to the court either release or detention.  And if they’re going to be released, the many of them we recommend they be released with certain conditions that they must comply with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  That’s our first big task, helping the court make good release decisions.

Len Sipes:  And a good release decision is based principally upon two things:  A) risk to public safety and B) whether or not the defendant will return for trial, do I have that right?

Terrence Walton:  That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right.  There’s lots of ways to say it, but those are the two big things. We don’t want them to jump bail, we don’t want them to disappear and we also don’t want a subsequent arrest if we can help prevent that.

Len Sipes:  And you’re talking about conditions of supervision.  There are many conditions of supervision.  You could put the person under GPS surveillance; have the person constantly being tracked.  There’s a lot of reporting requirements for that person and the treatment component, the very reason why we’re doing the program today, could be a component of pretrial release, it could be a condition of pretrial release.

Terrence Walton:  That is exactly right and in fact, because a significant number of defendants who are arrested in DC are testing positive for drugs or report drug use—in fact it’s about 33% of the adult population test positive for some drug other than marijuana.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  We don’t test for marijuana at lockup, so if we did, it would be twice that number.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  But we’ve talked about cocaine, heroin, PCP, amphetamines.

Len Sipes:  The drugs with the largest correlation to serious crime.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right, 33% of our population will test positive for that coming in the door and that’s 60% of the juveniles will test positive for some drug, and in that case it’s almost always marijuana.  So the size of those populations and for many of those adults, we’re recommending release conditions that include requirements that they drug test and that’s done by our agency and processed in our own lab, as well as other release conditions.  And that’s really the second big task.  The first big task is recommending release conditions.  And the second big task is supervising those conditions and keeping the court aware of how the defendant’s doing.  But I think Michael will agree with this, that it’s not simply just us overseeing and reporting what happens.  Pretrial Services is involved in trying to help motivate defendants, help them do the right thing, figure out their obstacles that will keep them from being able to comply and help them solve those problems.  So we see—we respond to the court, we have a law enforcement responsibility but we’re very much centered on the needs of the defendant and how best we can meet those needs in a way that helps them to do the right thing.

Len Sipes:  Well, Michael, the question goes over to you now.  For many people involved in the criminal justice system, they have mental health issues.

Michael McGinnis:  Um-hm.

Len Sipes:  How do we expect that individual to do well under pretrial or do well under any sort of supervision, whether they come over to us after they’re found guilty—how are they going to do well unless they get the treatment they need to stabilize themselves and to deal with their mental health issues, correct?  I mean, it does come down to that level of basics.

Michael McGinnis:  It definitely does and one of the things that we have here at the Pretrial Services, our Specialized Supervision Unit, and this is a unit that after a defendant is assessed and would be found perhaps with a current issue and they would meet the requirements of this unit, this is a unit that would—specializes in working with that population.

Len Sipes:  Um-hm.

Michael McGinnis:   So they could either be—they would get them immediately connected into a mental health program and a substance abuse program if needed.  If they were going to move them on to a mental health community court, you know, for diversion, that would be part of their job.  But all the PSOs that work in there have a background in working with this population.

Len Sipes:  And PSOs are?

Michael McGinnis:  Pretrial Service Officers.

Len Sipes:  Okay, fine, thanks.

Michael McGinnis:  Right, have a background on this unit and a great interest in working with this current population.  Which has, since I’ve been in this field and it’s been over 20 years working in this field, is this population is probably our most increasing population.

Len Sipes:  Um-hm, yeah, no doubt about it.

Michael McGinnis:  We had, when I started with pretrial, we had one unit, an SSU unit, that’s a Special Supervision Unit, and now, because of need, we have two.  So we have almost 18 Pretrial Services offices serving over 661 people in the program.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.  Terrence, give me a sense as to all the other treatment programs that you guys put on the table for people.

Terrence Walton:  Yeah, Michael mentioned the mental health component.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  We also have a unit that does nothing but assesses. We have a social services assessment center that assesses men and women who are released and even those who are being considered for release, we conduct both addiction assessments as well as mental health assessments from that shop.  Once we identify individuals who need treatment, there are really three big options for them, drug treatment.  One is the drug court program, which is the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, a pretrial program that has been around since 1993.

Len Sipes:  A successful program that’s been noted nationally.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely and one of the first ever to show up on the scene.  That’s the program of choice.  It has a complete regimen of incentives and sanctions, a single calendar, lots of contact with the judge

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  Lots of opportunities for people to get the help that they need.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  For those—for folks that don’t qualify for drug court because of criminal history or some other disqualifier, we have another program called New Directions, which they can get the same treatment as a drug court defendant. The court supervision isn’t as close because these defendants are on various different calendars and they are incentives and sanctions, but while in drug court, there are both judicial sanctions, sanctions that come from the bench, from the judge as well as administrative sanctions, the ones that come from the supervision officer.  In New Directions, all sanctions are administrative, all administered by the supervising officer.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  Those are the two main programs.  There’s one other option.  Sometimes individuals are not eligible for New Directions either because they’re about to go to sentencing perhaps or some other reason.  We have another track for those, where we’ll put them in treatment somewhere, temporarily, under a sanction contract, primarily to prepare for a transition to CSOSA probation, to probation here in the city.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  So those are the three big options and they are all based on treatment needs.

Len Sipes:  So in essence it is a combination of either substance abuse or mental health, and Michael, these are all, I’m assuming, cognitive-based programs where we help the decision-making process of the individuals involved in the criminal justice system.  I mean, a lot of people don’t quite understand cognitive treatment but we really can, and the research is pretty clear on this, we really can intervene in the lives of other human beings and help them rethink their decision-making process.

Michael McGinnis:  Right, that’s the key word.  I mean, helping someone rethink what they’re doing.  You know, a lot of people that come in when they’re in the throes of an addition or they’re in this mode of what I call concrete-type thinking, that they’re repeating something over and over and getting the same result.  You know, especially in our treatment program, which is our PSA STARS program, most all of our interventions are of the cognitive, behavioral kind.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:   But what’s also important, I just wanted to speak to a point that Terrence was talking about.  In two of our programs, in the New Directions programs and in the drug court programs, the Pretrial Service offices that involved in those programs, they’re not only Pretrial Service offices, they’re also licensed clinicians and licensed substance abuse counselors.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:   So they’re providing not only the supervision but they’re also providing the clinical services, and that’s very unique to that program because they have a key perspective in working with the offender.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s one of the points that I wanted to make.  Gentlemen, let’s cut to the chase. We are not just talking about pretrial in the District of Columbia; we’re talking about pretrial throughout the United States.

Michael McGinnis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Well, for that matter, we’re talking about pretrial in the western industrialized world.  Same situations for Canada, same situations for England, same situations for Australia, New Zealand, France.  These are all the same issues that everybody is wrestling with throughout the country.  We, in the District of Columbia, because we’re a federal agency, we have resources that the overwhelming majority of pretrial agencies do not have.  To my knowledge, the overwhelming majority of pretrial agencies don’t have a dime for treatment.  They have to put this person into a waiting list someplace and that person could wait quite some time before they get involved in treatment and for the love of heavens, they could have their trial before every get involved in treatment.  So there is that difference, we have to admit that right up front, correct?

Terrence Walton:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, the second thing is that you can tell within the stats.  I mean, we have one of the best return to trial rates in the United States.  Our stats are quite good.  And probably one of the reasons why they’re good is that we do have people involved in treatment programs because the research is abundantly clear it can’t just be a matter of supervision.  As I said to Michael at the very beginning, if you have somebody with a mental health problem, they need treatment.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So if you combine treatment with supervision, you get better results.

Terrence Walton:  I think that’s right.  And Len, I want to add one other I think difference between what we have here in DC and what exists elsewhere in the country that doesn’t cost any money and that is, we have a Bail Act.  We have a statute that really supports Pretrial Services.  Most folks don’t know this but there are very few bail bondsmen in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  Are there any?

Terrence Walton:  Very few.  There may be one or two but there are very few.  Because Pretrial Services as an industry, as a field I should say, has a belief in pretrial justice, essentially saying that if an individual needs to be detained, if they’re dangerous, they should be detained regardless of ability to pay.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  And if they don’t need to be detained, if they’re not a danger to society, then it’s fundamentally unfair for them to be held merely because they can’t afford to post bond.  So instead, we have a Bail Act, which heavily encourages the court to consider release of those who are safe to release with conditions, that pretrial supervises, that helps to assure public safety and return to court.  And that doesn’t cost money, that takes political will and it takes advocacy and it takes being able to battle the interest groups that wouldn’t like that.

Len Sipes:  Well, it does take come money because I would imagine judges sitting on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia know that there are treatment options, know that there are GPS options for following that person 24 hours a day if necessary, know that our staffing levels are probably lower than most pretrial agencies throughout the country.  My guess would be that the judge within the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia, they would be more apt to release a person on pretrial because they know they’re going into a top-rated organization that generally speaking does an excellent job of returning that person to trial

Michael McGinnis:  And I agree with you 100% and they also know that when a substance abuse problem is identified or a mental health issue is identified and is treated, the failure to appear and the re-arrest rates go down with the population that we’re working with.

Len Sipes:  Right, so they have –

Michael McGinnis:  And that is very big.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, and if a judge in Milwaukee wants to put the person on pretrial, I would imagine he or she is going to say, well, you know, well, they were handling cases of 200 to 1, 200 defendants to 1 Pretrial Services officer, they have on room for treatment, gee, I’d better stick this person in jail.  So I would imagine that you save the system money as well as have a higher rate of success.

Terrence Walton:  Well that’s exactly right.  I mean, some of us are motivated by the fact that it seems fundamentally fairer to do it this way, but others, the reality is, is it saves money. That if we can allow a person to stay in their community and at the meantime address their pro-social needs, we save in jail costs.  That’s another important point.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today are Terrence Walton, he’s the Director of Treatment; and Michael McGinnis, the Deputy Director of Treatment for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, a federal agency.  The website is: www.psa.gov.  As I move throughout the country and as I talk to my counterparts throughout the country, they ask about Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  It’s one of the best-known pretrial agencies in the country and having one of the best reputations.  Principally I think, because we have a level of funding that so many other agencies simply do not have and the level of training and a level—you’re just a good agency and I think people recognize that within the criminal justice system throughout the country.  Alright, where do we go to from here?  So the average person in the District of Columbia, the average person in Milwaukee—why am I bringing up Milwaukee so many times today?  The average person in Honolulu, the average person in Anchorage, Alaska says to themselves, the police finally got this idiot who’s been bothering the community and three hours later, he’s back on the street.  Where is the justice in that?  So you guys face that issue all the time.  I mean, we have to hit that square, that nail squarely on the head and what people don’t understand is that they are defendants, they are not offenders and within our system, you are not guilty until you’re proven guilty, correct?

Michael McGinnis:  That’s correct.

Terrence Walton:  No, that’s right, and you know, there’s a balance here, that there’s a constitutional presumption of innocence and that means that unlike convicted offenders, the individuals who have not yet actually been convicted of their offense, have certain rights, and that we go to great effort to be sure that we’re using the least restrictive means possible to assure community safety.  Now I want to put a caveat there because we respect the presumption of innocence, but recognize the possibility of guilt.  And so because of that second piece, that’s the reason why we also assess criminal history, we assess the seriousness of the charge so that in the event this person is guilty, how serious is this, and that is factored into our recommendations.

Len Sipes:  And you’re not talking about a short assessment, you’re talking about a rather lengthy, well thought-out assessment in terms of trying to get at that person’s risk to the community and that person’s treatment needs and that person’s past criminal history.  I mean, it’s a pretty complete overview that you do with that individual.  When you make those recommendations to the court, you probably know more about that person than his kid brother.

Terrence Walton:  Well, that may be true and it happens in a couple of stages.  There was the initial stage, pre-release, where we do a comprehensive interview and review the records that we have to make initial decisions.  But also other factors are considered there, that there are sometimes prosecutors who have positions and defense attorneys who have information, that’s all presented to the court as they’re making a release decision.  Once the defendant is released, if he or she is released to our supervision, then if we have any reason to think they need one, we do an additional assessment, a clinical needs assessment that’s designed to look at both treatment needs, at mental health needs as well as social service needs.

Len Sipes:  And many people caught up in the criminal justice system do have needs.  I mean, there was a piece of research out a little while ago and now—I remarked on Milwaukee or kept bringing Milwaukee up a little while ago, now I’m bringing mental health back up—that 55%, according to a Department of Justice document, 55% of people called up in the criminal justice system self-assess or assess themselves.  It was not a political designation but they did a self-assessment as having mental health issues.  So this issue of mental health is something that is really driving much of our service component within the criminal justice system, assuming we have the programs there to service them to begin with.

Michael McGinnis:   I think unfortunately, our prisons have been used as our mental health treatment centers in this country and as you’re saying, most people, when they—  To go back, I just want to go back to what you were talking about—

Len Sipes:  Please, please, Michael.

Michael McGinnis: -our funding here.  It’s not only that we have the funding to provide these services.  Our Director, Susan Shaffer, is also a real believer in the treatment of the offender that comes in and she puts a lot of her energies and times into this.  And it really is a big piece of our agency because before I came to pretrial, I’d been running programs for alternatives to incarcerations, therapeutic communities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:  Taking programs behind the wall.  And people are just cycling in and out of these, of our prisons without having these issues identified.

Len Sipes:  But that’s the fundamental problem because I’ve talked to my peers throughout the country and they’re going to go, Leonard, I hear you on your daggone radio programs and you focus on public safety first, but you say that you have to have these treatment components because the research is clear that supervision doesn’t work unless you have a treatment component, and I got news for you, Leonard, I don’t have a dime for treatment.  You know, but I want that person to get mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, if I want to find some assistance in terms of that person getting work or getting occupational training, I’ve go to put him in a long line, where that person basically waits for months, unless I get a court order to move that person to the head of the line.  There’s a lot of frustration out there, we all believe in treatment, we all believe in that component being necessary, but most of us don’t have the money for it.

Terrence Walton:  Well, there’s no easy answer to that.  What many communities have done is done the best they can to leverage the resources that exist.  There is professional treatment, there are faith-based organizations, there are peer support groups, which isn’t formal treatment, but it can sometimes do the same job.  There are lots of options in most communities, especially around alcohol and drug issues, for people who need help to get some of that.  You know, I also encourage—there continues to be federal monies and state monies and grants available for organizations who have a will to go after it.  It’s just worth doing it.

Michael McGinnis:   I think it’s—but it’s a great point, Terrence, because you and I were just kind of talking about this earlier this morning, is the whole field is moving more towards this recovery-orientated system of care, where we’re kind of looking at some—that treatment, that line for treatment is different for everyone and there are many options, like faith-based options, there are community options, I think a lot of these other pretrial service organizations that might not have the funding, you know, to have their own treatment centers or put people in treatment—they need to look to these community organizations, to start partnering with these community organizations in hopes of linking their offenders up to services.

Len Sipes:  Well, and everybody’s got to come together and make this a priority.  I mean, there is limited treatment monies available, but as you all have said, I mean, there’s the Salvation Army, there’s the faith-based community, there are private individuals, there are people who will do this on a pro bono basis.  You’ve got to have the will to go out there and make those connections and that becomes extraordinarily important.  But I do believe that again, one of the reasons why we do as well as we do is because look at the two of you—I mean, we have the Director and Assistant Director of Treatment for a pretrial agency.  I mean, there are people, organizations out there that would kill to have a Terrence Walton and a Michael McGinnis sitting before their microphones.

Terrence Walton:  Well, Len, you know, it starts with the will though.  I mean, it starts with the desire, recognition that it’s important, that it’s necessary. And I want to take a minute to share something with our listeners that I think is important, that helps to underscore why it’s so important that we address the underlying issues of men and women who come through our systems.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a really collection of physicians who practice addiction medicine and who sort of govern the field and give us guidance and space on research and medicine to help us understand addiction and addition recovery.  And they’ve recently come out with a new policy statement that we don’t have time to go over—I hope people will go to asam.org to see more details.  But they’ve given for the first time a policy statement defining addiction.  And let me give you the most interesting piece of that to me, that they have defined addition primarily as a brain disease, a disease that affects a couple of major systems in the brain.  One is the reward system, as well as the command center, the logic and reason system of the brain.  And here’s what important.  They have through PET scans and SPECT images and MRTs, they have been able to look at brain activity and identify deficits in those areas of active addicts. But here’s what’s interesting.  We’ve known that for a long time and we’ve assumed that it’s the drug use that has caused those problems.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  What ASAM and other researchers have discovered is that for many, probably most current addicts, those brain deficiencies existed before they ever picked up a drug.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Terrence Walton:  It might have been genetic or as a result of traumatic life experiences growing up that changed the –

Len Sipes:  A biological predisposition.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That biological predisposition, by the way, is clearly there established for alcoholism as well.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So why wouldn’t that biological predisposition be there for substance abuse.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.  So there’s the biological piece as well as the environmental that they have done studies on monkeys and others that—and I wish I had time to tell you about one—but where they demonstrated that by changing the environmental situation, by depriving organisms of nurturing and affiliation, that they change their brains.

Len Sipes:  Give the public a sense of hope here because I’ve said that the research is abundantly clear.  They do better with a combination of supervision.  And we’re not leaving out the supervision component.  Whether that person’s in treatment or not, we still supervise that person to the best of our availability and that could include, again GPS supervision where we track them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  We’re not leaving out the supervision component.  And sometimes supervision is an integral part of treatment.  Sometimes that supervision officer, their first question is, are you taking your medication, are you going to treatment?  Well, we know whether they’re going to treatment regardless.  So sometimes that supervision component is an integral part of the treatment component but the bottom line is, to the public who, you know, say to themselves, you know, look, I’ve got schools underfunded, I’ve got the elderly to take care of, you’re talking about treatment for criminals for the love of heavens—defendants, I understand.  You know, we have to give them a sense of hope that what we do is successful and not only in the life of that individual, but we are protecting them by doing this and we’re doing that correct?

Michael McGinnis:  Well, of course we are.  I mean, I think as we all know here, there’s not enough jail cells across this country to put people in and treating people is a lot less expensive than putting people behind—

Len Sipes:  So it’s going to save them their taxpaying dollars.

Michael McGinnis:  There’s studies out for every dollar that’s invested in treatment.  There’s a savings of $4 on that individual.

Len Sipes:  And years ago, Rand said it was 7 to 1.

Michael McGinnis:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  We’re also protecting public safety though.

Michael McGinnis:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean, that is a message that needs to be put on the table that their life is going to be safer if we provide substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment.

Terrence Walton:  If you don’t treat an addict, if you simply incarcerate an addict, when they come out eventually, and the vast majority of men and women who are incarcerated are eventually released.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  They will still be an addict.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  And so all of the problems that causes to our property and our lives and well-being will just continue.  It is a smart investment to see if we can address those issues and the justice system is helpful because it gives—holds people accountable and it gives them a little external motivation to stick with it, to go to the groups, to take the medicine until it kicks in naturally.  It’s an essential component.

Len Sipes:  But get back to the public safety point again because I do want to keep hammering this point home.  If the person doesn’t do well, the person doesn’t go to treatment, doesn’t take their medication, is not enthusi—well, not enthusiastically involved—is not meaningfully involved in the treatment process, we go back to the court and they could choose to incarcerate that person until trial.

Terrence Walton:  Well, that’s right, there’s some whose releases are revoked based on a decision that they are a danger to society if they aren’t treated successfully.  And there’s also in the drug court, there’s a number of other possible sanctions short of incarceration that’s designed to punish the behavior quickly and briefly and encourage them to get back on track.

Len Sipes:  And motivate them all at the same time.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  To get back on the track.  Okay, final minute of the program.  We save the public, the research states that we save the public a ton of money through the treatment and supervision process, number two that we enhance public safety, their odds of being victimized by this individual are greatly decreased, so we do that.  What am I missing, what is the final word on what the public needs to hear?

Terrence Walton:  Oh, I guess the final word would be that this matters to each and every one of us, that most of us have been affected by addiction and crime, one way or the other and this is a good, wise investment for anyone who cares about this.  And I encourage communities out there to do the best they can to make it happen.

Len Sipes:  Terrence, you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today, Terrence Walton, Director of Treatment and Michael McGinnis, the Deputy Director of Treatment of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  It’s a federal agency, www.psa.gov.  The program that Terrence mentioned in terms of drug standards, substance abuse standards, asam.org.  Ladies and gentlemen again, this is DC Public Safety.  We appreciate your calls, we appreciate your letters, we appreciate your emails and we appreciate your guidance and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Kentucky’s Recidivism Rate Hits 10-year Low–“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.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/03/kentuckys-recidivism-rate-hits-10-year-low-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 the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  At our microphones today is Secretary Michael Brown.  Secretary Brown has been there in the State of Kentucky with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for the last four years.  He has a long history of public service as a judge, as a prosecutor, as a law director for the city of Louisville, U.S. Army as a Captain, he’s a gentleman that’s been around for quite some time, and one of the reasons why we asked Secretary Brown to be by our microphones today, is that he’s gotten a lot of news.  We have a couple news services that come into us here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the first one that caught my eye was from the dailynews.com, and it said “State’s Two Year Recidivism Rate Hits a 10-Year Low,” and all of us within the criminal justice system were struggling to do just that.  We’re struggling to bring down our recidivism rates, that’s enough to make it interesting, but it goes on to the Courier Journal, in terms of Gov. Beshear’s signing a new act in terms of rearranging the way that Kentucky does business, and it goes all the way to the Wall Street Journal, where a recent article says that “States Rethink Drug Law,” so the state of Kentucky has gotten an awful lot of publicity lately, national publicity, and a lot of people are looking at the state of Kentucky in terms of what it is that they’ve done, but again, for me, the most intriguing part of this is the headline “State’s Two Year Recidivism Rate Hits a 10-Year Low,” and with that introduction, I present Secretary Michael Brown, secretary for the last four years.  Mr. Secretary, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Michael Brown:  I’m glad to be with you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Now, what we have with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, you have an operation much like mine in the 14 years when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, where we had State Police, we had corrections, we had a lot of agencies.  You have the same thing for the State of Kentucky, correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct.  It is the largest cabinet in state government, and we have right around 8,000 employees in the cabinet, and my major units include the department of corrections, the Kentucky State Police, our juvenile justice, and then we have medical examiners and criminal justice training and drug control policy, and just a number of agencies that are attached, including our public defenders.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that you mentioned in terms of the pre-interview is that at one time, Kentucky had the fastest growing prison population in the country, correct?

Michael Brown:  Well that is correct.  Actually, Gov. Beshears took office in December of 2007, and shortly after his first address to the General Assembly in January of 2008, the Pew Center on the States came out with a report that listed Kentucky as having the fastest growing prison population by percentage in the country.  That was something that took a number of us by surprise.  We knew that corrections had been an escalating budget item.  We didn’t know that we had crossed the finish line first in that particular situation.

Len Sipes:  Now one of the things that Kentucky, as well as virtually every state in the United States is struggling with is this concept of a corrections budget that a lot of people in a lot of statehouses throughout the country, they’re coming to the conclusion that the corrections budget is growing out of control, that it’s taking up too much of the budget, that there’s no way that you can sustain that level of an increase in the prison population.  It’s taking away from funding for college, it’s taking away from funding for seniors, and it’s taking away from funding for schools.  It has a tremendous impact on not just criminal justice, but has a tremendous impact in terms of the overall budget, and what a lot of states are trying to do, what they’re trying to wrestle with is this whole concept of how do we rein in the corrections budget without having an adverse impact on public safety, and that’s why I keep coming back to the same issue, recidivism, you hit a ten-year low.  How did you do that?

Michael Brown:  Well that was a target that frankly, we just decided we had to aim at.  When we were looking at our population, and clearly, the only way to reduce your, or the main way to reduce your prison budgets, your correctional budget, is by means of population, and when we look at our population, we know it’s made up of basically two segments.  We have people who have recently committed a felony that they’re going to be sent to our facilities for, but we’d also found that a fair percentage of all the people who come through the doors each year are coming back.  They’re returnees.  They’re return customers.  And that’s a recidivism rate, those who are coming back after a 2-3 year period of being released, and when we looked at those recidivists, we realized that a fair amount of them are what we call re-entry figures.  They’re ones who have gotten out, they’ve gone back out into the community, within, as everyone in this business knows, the likelihood is failure is highest in those first few months to a year, and those individuals then come back.  When they do come back, they come back and stay, generally, for a longer period of time than they were in for the first period.  So that becomes a, and I’ll give you an example.  In Kentucky, if you have a, you committed a crime, and you’re eligible for parole after serving 20% of your sentence, and then you go out and you violate your parole and you’re returned, it’s likely that you’re going to be in for a period of time longer than that initial 20%.

Len Sipes:  Understood.

Michael Brown:  So we, in my cabinet, I cannot control what the courts are doing.  We cannot completely control what the legislature is going to do vis-à-vis what becomes a crime, so our target had to be, by just a natural process, how can we improve our re-entry efforts, how can we cut that recidivism rate, and a cut of 1,000 prisoners at $21,000 or so a year starts to add up to real money if you can succeed at this.

Len Sipes:  Now you said that you went to the Pew Center for the States, and they provided some technical assistance?

Michael Brown:  Well, that was well down the road.  What had happened was, we had taken a number of different approaches to try to address this issue.  The Governor, in January of 2008 had asked me to convene what’s called our Criminal Justice Council, it’s a large body involving all the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, to make recommendations on the penal code and the drug laws, and we came up with reports but were unsuccessful, to a large extent, in getting many things passed through the legislature.  Then the legislature itself came up with a joint resolution creating another committee to look at these issues, and then finally, this most recently concluded legislature had come up with a task force on the penal code and substance abuse, which was a very small group.  Only seven people.  And historically, those seven, it was bipartisan, a Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary, a Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court sat himself, I represented the executive branch, we had a retired commonwealth attorney, a former public advocate, and a county judge executive.  We started work on reviewing, particularly targeting what we were going to do with probation, parole, and reentry, and also our drug laws.  Then, in the middle of that process, somewhat in the middle of it, the Pew Public Safety Performance Project partnered with us, the legislature put up some seed money of $2,000, and last August, and August of 2010, we announced a collaborative effort where Pew would give us technical assistance, primarily working with the committee I described to come up with a legislative package which was, in fact, introduced in the session which most recently concluded.

Len Sipes:  Now what do you, the group of, the small group of individuals, did you feel comfortable with a game plan coming out of that, and then Pew was technical assistance beyond that, do I have that correct?

Michael Brown:  Well, what happened was, the task force had started its work, and we had narrowed the focus of this particular task force, particularly to looking at our drug laws, recognizing that that was the largest driver of, certainly our revolving criminal population.  There’s always going to be a place for those incorrigibles and those offenders, the violent ones, but as I looked at Kentucky’s population of 20-odd thousand, clearly, if you took away those who were in as persistent felony offenders and the most violent offenders, that still left about 15,000 individuals that were in, and the bulk, I’m talking about the very large bulk of those 15,000, were in because of something to do with drugs.  Now, what the Pew folks brought to us was the ability to bring evidence based, basically studies, and attempts from all over the country on how to deal with some of these issues and boil them down in a manner that we could literally take the best practices from all over the country and then, if they had a recipe, we had the seasoning to make it come out to a Kentucky perspective, so to speak.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s a beautiful description.  I love that!  What do you think was the most important, give me a couple of the most important policies that came out of all this.  Different people have been caught up in crime and drugs for decades, it’s not easy to get them out of that cycle, it’s not easy to break the cycle.  What were the principal ingredients in terms of how you proceeded to cut that recidivism rate?

Michael Brown:  Well, the first thing is, you have to recognize that the cycle needs to be broken, and it’s not simply, it’s not just a matter of “Just Say No.”  We have, for example, some really successful drug courts here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but the requirements for those coming into the drug court system, which is somewhat of a diversionary process, were pretty strict, and that really didn’t do much for those who had already offended and managed to find a way into the facilities to stop them from coming back.  We have to recognize that breaking that cycle of a true abuser is going to take long term treatment, anywhere from 6-9 months.  It’s not just simply going to be, you know, tell them to stop taking it.  And it also involves a situation where our probation and parole practices have to be aimed at reinforcing those principles once an individual is either on probation or parole, because there are relapses.  Recognizing that, we don’t want the relapse to take someone all the way back behind the fence, as we like to say.

Len Sipes:  Right.  So in essence, what you have is a prison population, they’re eventually released, they come out onto the street, and a lot of them, and for a lot of states throughout the country, when I was with the Maryland, at times, it approached 70% of the people coming into the prison systems were already on parole and probation.  I’ve seen figures ranging anywhere from 50% to 70% of the prison intake are those people already on parole and probation, so that revolving door, that sense of life or prison or the criminal justice system on the installment plan seems to be alive and well in most states, so in essence, what I’m hearing is that what you all decided to do was to stop that cycle, to break that cycle, and it sounds like you’re focusing on specifically, is it nonviolent or violent offenders, but your principal goal is to get them involved in long term drug treatment?

Michael Brown:  Well the first thing, we want to recognize what were the biggest drivers, and the biggest driver in the population was drugs.  That entailed us making adjustments to our drug laws which hadn’t been made in many, many years, and to include provisions in those, which are going to drive these individuals, well first, it was going to drive those who are the users.  We definitely wanted to separate the traffickers, those who are truly involved in the criminal enterprise, the profiteers, and separate them from what you might call the peddlers, or just the abusers.  And we know that that’s how it breaks down.  We also needed, in Kentucky, because of our, and I don’t want to call it unique, but it definitely is different from, say, some of the other states we looked at, we have a diverse sort of drug problem.  Parts of our state, our drug problem is driven almost entirely by the abuse of prescription drugs.

Len Sipes:  Ah, that is different.

Michael Brown:  Pills that generally come in from other states.  Florida in particular, if you don’t mind me taking a shot at a governor I won’t name right now, but we have a large influx of prescription drugs that come in from other states, and they are having a devastating effect on one part of our state.  Other parts of our state, we see some of the more traditional things that involve meth, cocaine, or heroin to a certain extent, and then of course, you know, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kentucky was the second largest eradicator of marijuana, which is probably our largest crop of any other state in the country.  So our drug laws had to be tailored to address this, you know, multifaceted issue, but going for a moment, just to go back to what you were saying about the returnees’ situation, I had it said, and I was actually called cavalier for saying this, even though it’s true, if my population today is right around 20,500, if they live long enough, all but about 105 of those individuals are going to get out of prison and are going to come back in those communities, and that is a percentage that the public doesn’t have.  The public perceives that individuals commit a crime, they get caught, they get prosecuted, and then they go away forever.  Well they don’t go away from us, and what we have to do is do something about those 95-99% that are coming back into that community.  You break that cycle, that’s where you make the real gains in public safety, you make real economic gains, because if you can turn a large segment of those folks back into productive citizens as opposed to where we supply all their needs, my medical budget is around $60 million just for our felony population.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, and people have no idea how difficult it is to run a huge prison system and how expensive it is to run a huge prison system.  I don’t, I just get the sense that people have no clue, but they’re finding out because of all of the controversy as to the money going in the correction systems, and people are saying, gee, wouldn’t this be better spent, in terms of other programs, but again, I reemphasize this, it’s just not a matter of dollars here, it’s just not a matter of reducing the correctional dollars, you’ve been able to cut the rate of recidivism back into the state of Kentucky for a 10-year low, and so you’re doing it and protecting public safety at the same time.

Michael Brown:  Well, that’s the ultimate goal.  That’s the win-win.  Obviously, public safety is our primary concern, but clearly, when you recognize that by breaking these cycles, and by decreasing that recidivism rate, the benefit there is, in fact, public safety, because that individual doesn’t go out and commit that crime, is not a bane on society anymore –

Len Sipes:  Right, and they’re huge savings in terms of crime, in terms of the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to track him down, to convict him, to put him back into the prison system, I mean, this is an ungodly expensive proposition, and what you’re doing is not just saving money, but there are fewer crimes being committed.

Michael Brown:  That’s the goal, and we are in a situation, we had, as you know, the states, our state certainly, we have to operate under a balanced budget, so we can’t spend more than we have.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program ladies and gentlemen.  I want to reintroduce Michael Brown, the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for the State of Kentucky.  The website, www.justice.ky.gov.  I’ll be giving out that website at the end of the program.  Okay, Mr. Secretary, we’ve set up everything, I think, I mean in terms of the 10-year low on recidivism, we’ve set up the fact that you’re trying to break the cycle, that you’re looking not at traffickers, but you’re looking specifically at the users, that you have a prescription drug problem and a marijuana problem there in the state of Kentucky, it sounds like you have across the board cooperation on the part of both sides of the political spectrum, the Republicans and the Democrats coming together and agreeing to this overall philosophy, so that part of it I’ve got correct, correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct, and the recent bill that passed, which is House Bill 463, which Pew assisted us on, and that task force worked on, it passed our Senate, which is a Republican controlled Senate, unanimously, went back to the House of Concurrence and passed 96-1.  That’s an overwhelming approval for the work of the task force and recognition of the issues we have to deal with.  Now we should only be so cooperative on the other issues in the state, but at least on this one, we had virtual unanimity.

Len Sipes:  There’s an organization called Right On Crime, which is key Republicans at the national level who are coming together to endorse this concept, and a lot of individuals have said to themselves, okay, well this is no longer a Democratic issue, it’s no longer a Republican issue, it’s now a bipartisan issue.  They want the criminal justice system, they want we within the criminal justice system to be more effective and prove that effectiveness, and that is why I’m beating this point to death.  There are a lot of states who are doing this, and they’re starting to do it, and they’re examining it, and they’re putting money into programs in the prison system, and they’re putting money into the programs at the parole and probation level, but they haven’t yet produced data that shows a reduction in recidivism, and to the average person listening to this program, recidivism, again, are people coming back into the criminal justice system because they’ve either committed new crimes or technical violations, but as our people like to point out, a technical is a person doesn’t show up for supervision, that’s a technical violation, so the term  technical violation becomes minimized in the minds of some because it sounds trite, but if you don’t show up for supervision, or if you’re ordered to go into drug treatment and you don’t go or you don’t cooperate, those are technical violations as well, so some of this is a matter of taking greater risks with the individual that you have under supervision, that you don’t automatically send them back to prison, you try to stabilize him through programs in the community, and you understand that relapse and problems come with the supervision process, and just because you have 2 or 3, you don’t automatically send the person back to prison.  Do I have that correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct.  In fact, some of the things that we had done in the budget bill, and that, which have been also codified in a new piece of legislation, is to give our parole and probation officers some additional tools to work with, including, for the first time here in Kentucky, some intermediate sanctions, where rather than, in the prior world, an individual would violate a condition of parole or probation, there would be a warrant issued, they’d be arrested, they’d go to jail, they’d sit in jail awaiting a process involving going before the administrative law judge, the administrative law judge, if they found probable cause, would then turn the case to the parole board, most of that time, that individual continued to sit in jail awaiting the outcome of it, and then if the parole board revoked, they’d go back to prison.  We found that a better way to approach some of those individuals, obviously, this doesn’t work for anybody, but is to make use of intermediate sanctions, and they can be a ramped up scale of sanctions, everything from, we’re going to put you on an electronic GPS monitoring device to make sure you don’t go where we told you not to go, maybe have that thing vibrate on your ankle as you approach some place where we know you’re likely to get back into trouble, or we can put you back in jail, but for limited periods of time without having to go through that whole process, so we don’t cut off whatever positive ties someone has created, either with a job or family connections when they have been outside of the institution, because as I’ve said, once they come back on that violation, statistics show us that they’re going to serve a longer period of time having violated than they served initially.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea, I’m assuming, is one of the universal issues that states are struggling with, is that the question becomes, who do you want to be in, who do you want to occupy that prison bed?  Do you want a nonviolent offender who’s tied into drugs to occupy that prison bed, that very, very expensive prison bed, or do you want the violent offender, someone who’s posing a clear and present risk to public safety?  That dichotomy, I would imagine, exists in Kentucky as well, and I would imagine that was part of your discussions.

Michael Brown:  As was said many, many times during our hearings, and as we visited with all the stakeholders, we’ve got to differentiate between the people that we’re scared of and the people that we’re just mad at, and you know, once you get past being mad at these individuals, the key is what do we do, in many situations, to stop them from returning. Now Kentucky had been very fortunate, a few years back, we got one of the grants from the Second Chance Act, we had started our reentry program, we had started working with a new risk assessment tool, and in fact, that use of the risk assessment tool has been so successful that it’s built into the new legislation with the aim that we’re going to get that LSI used from Day 1 that someone comes in the system, so judges will eventually be looking at some of these factors when they’re making bail decisions, so that our pre-sentence officers are making use of that assessment as they give judges recommendations for sentencing, so that when an individual is processed into the institution, we have a lot of data available into what, if any, programs are going to work for a particular individual, and that’s far different from a shotgun effect that we used to take.  Our approach before, and I don’t blame anybody for this, this is not throwing a rock at the system, but it’s how you view your job, and our job before was to simply keep these people away from the public, count them and make sure you have the same number you started out in the morning when they go to bed at night, and then do it again.  Now some of our focus, both institutionally, and certainly in parole and probation, is to how can we prevent this particular individual from coming back to see us again?

Len Sipes:  Well, you’re going towards the larger scale, because that’s not just the state of Kentucky, again, this is something that every state in the United States is wrestling with, the attorney general, Eric Holder, the assistant attorney general, Laurie Robinson, the folks at the U.S. Department of Justice, the people who are trying to develop this whole sense of justice reinvestment, which is essentially, if you save money in terms of people coming back into prisons, the states would put more of that money, so if you save the state, any state, $50 million, and the fact that you didn’t send that many people back, a certain amount of that $50 million would go back into programs and go back into efforts to keep people from coming back into the system, so this is a larger, this is not just a conversation for the state of Kentucky, this is a conversation that’s happening in virtually every statehouse in the country, and again, not to beat a dead horse, but you’re the one who’s proven that you can reduce recidivism.  Other states have reduced recidivism, but you hit a 10 year low.  That’s what intrigued me, and that’s why, one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you.

Michael Brown:  Well, and again, a lot of it is, you know, I hate to use the cliché, if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.  But if you go around and you really get a focused effort in, these are very smart, dedicated professionals, and it’s simply a matter of saying, here’s what our goal is, this is what our mission is going to be in this situation, and believe me, most of our probation and parole officers, they don’t want to just be in the arrest business.  They don’t want to be, they would rather have people succeed, because when they do these home visits, and when they do these assessments, they run up against everyone else who’s touched by these individuals, and it’s much, much better that these individuals succeed than fail on the outside.

Len Sipes:  I’ll give you one example.  In the state of Maryland, where we had a person come out of the prison system, his wife let him come back home, he was getting along well with the wife, getting along well with the kids, he was working, and he was making his restitution, and he was going to substance abuse therapy, he was doing everything that you want him to do, and yet he celebrated by getting high.  He celebrated his successes by getting high, and there’s a certain point where the 4th, 5th, 6th positive drug test, I mean, you have to sit down with him and say to him, look, you’re about to blow the whole thing.  We’re about to send you back to prison, there’s a certain point we have no choice.  You know, when you have a couple more, and then finally, we were able to intervene, and he finally stopped celebrating his successes by getting high, but if that person had committed a crime while that happened, the newspapers would have come to us and said you knew he was doing drugs, why didn’t you put him back in prison?  That’s a big dilemma for people at the state level, that’s a big dilemma for us all within the criminal justice system, because we are taking somewhat increased risks with the people that we have under supervision.

Michael Brown:  Well, and that’s where, as I said, the beauty of this law, it’s building in, and one other thing I do want to touch on is the reinvestment aspect, but it’s building in a way to make these risk assessments.  Nothing is going to be 100% perfect.  But the key is, rather than, sometimes our intuition is just flat wrong.  We think that, oh, that looks like a great program.  Why?  Well, it would work for me.  Well maybe your criminogenic factors are not the same as the people you’re actually dealing with.  So it might work for you, we’ve proven that it doesn’t work for this population that we have been locking up, so let’s use what works for them.  One of the things that 463, this bill did, it codified a way to return some of the money that’s saved back into the reentry systems, and into our local jails and counties.  Kentucky also has a fairly unique, when I say fairly unique, it’s just us and Louisiana, where one third of my felon population resides in our county jails.  So if we don’t find a way to enhance the programs and what’s going on in those county jails, we also miss an opportunity to cut this recidivism rate, and thereby not take the fullest advantage of our public safety dollars.  So 25% of the projected savings from one of our efforts, and please remind me, please ask me about the mandatory supervision provision in this bill, which I think is the key.

Len Sipes:  Well, go ahead and say that, but we only have about 30 seconds left, so we have to wrap up soon.

Michael Brown:  Well, in wrapping up, then, I’d say one of the key parts of the bill is, we recognized that the early part of failure happens in those 6-9 months, so we’re going to put in a program where the last 6 months of an individual’s sentence are now under mandatory supervision with probation and parole.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Michael Brown:  We’re very excited about that.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking to Secretary Michael Brown, who has just focused, refocused an entire criminal justice system focusing on high risk offenders, being sure that they’re incarcerated, and taking some chances, and actually doing, getting some great results in terms of a 10-year low in his recidivism rate for everybody else.  He’s saved the state and the collective wisdom has saved the state literally, millions of dollars, so Secretary Michael Brown, we congratulate you on these successes.  Again, if you want to take a look at the website for the state of Kentucky, it’s www.justice.ky.gov.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  I want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Successful 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. We now average 200,000 requests a month.

Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2011/01/successful-offenders-%E2%80%93-dc-public-safety-television/

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

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  You know, every year, over 700,000 human beings are released from prison systems throughout the United States, and you’re well aware of the failures, the 50% within 3 years who are returned to the prison systems.  You read about them in your newspapers, you’re exposed to them through radio and television, but the question is, what about the other 50%?  The 50% who do not return back to the prison system?  To talk about the successes, if you will, we have four individuals under supervision with my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C.  We’re a federal parole and probation agency.  We’re going to talk to four individuals currently under supervision for people who have turned the corner, who have crossed that bridge, who are now successes, who are no longer tax burdens, they are now taxpayers.  And on our first segment, I want to introduce India Frazier and Tracy Marlow, and to India and to Tracy, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Tracy Marlow:  Thank you, Len.

Len Sipes:  All right, we’ve had a wonderful conversation before the television show, before filming this show today, about what it is, the stereotypes, when people think of the term “criminal,” “convict,” and they have this image that immediately comes to their mind in terms of what ex-offenders are.  Now in the first segment, the two of you, then we’ll have a couple guys in the second segment, but that’s the issue, is it not, Tracy?  That stereotype that people have of you.  I was watching the other night a couple television shows, just flipping through the channel: National Geographic and A&E, and they had shows about people in prison, and the public comes away with that, saying, thinking that everybody who touches the prison system, they don’t want to hire them, they don’t want to fund programs for them, they don’t want to give them a second chance, they stereotype them.  Are you that person that they stereotype?

Tracy Marlow:  Yes I am.  I’m one of those people that they stereotype.  Society always publicizes what we have done, the bad things we have done, but nobody shows what the good things we are doing now.  What I was, and what I am today is two different people.  I have my own business now.

Len Sipes:  You’re going for your third ice cream truck.

Tracy Marlow:  My third ice cream truck.

Len Sipes:  Your third ice cream truck.  You’re your own business owner!  You have gone from prison to owning your own businesses!

Tracy Marlow:  Yes, yes.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing!

Tracy Marlow:  With the help of CSOSA and some groups and other people backing me up in my life, it was not on my own that I done this.  It’s not because, I’ve been turned down on jobs so many times, but one person gave me a chance on a job.

India Frazier:  But when you go through your struggles in life, if anything’s ever given to you so quickly, so fast, and easy, you’re not going to appreciate it.  You’re not going to hold onto it, you’re not going to build to the next step.  You know what I’m saying?  So you have to go through your struggles.  You have to be patient.  And see, that’s what you were.

Tracy Marlow:  It comes in believing in yourself.  If you don’t believe in yourself, self-esteem is so important coming out of prison.  I didn’t believe in myself.  I thought what people, society say, you’re nothing, you’ve been in jail, you’re never going to be nothing.  I believed that for so many years until one day, I can’t tell you when I woke up, when I woke up and knew that I was somebody, and I worked on this, and I worked on this now, I’m my own business person.  I have people that work for me today, and I have to interview them now.  So now, the roles have changed, and I have people that’s been locked up, and you work with money with me, because I have ice cream trucks, and I don’t want to be like the public was with me.  So I have to interview these people, and I have to give them a chance, and you deal with a lot of money some days, and I say, wow, God, just give me the strength.  Now I haven’t been robbed.  And some ones have been good and bad, but somebody gave them a chance like they gave me.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s the point, in terms of the fact that, okay, 50% do go back, 50% don’t, but nobody ever tells the story of the 50% that don’t, and that’s what we’re going to start doing today.  India, set up a little bit about your experience, if you will, please.

India Frazier:  Well, my experience is, my experience came when I was, first and foremost, I asked God to change my life.  Give me a direction that I needed to go into.  And I set goals in my life, and then when I came home and I looked into the eyes of my grandson, it was not an option for me to go back to the streets.  It was so easy, it’s so easy to fall back into that life, you know what I’m saying?  And like I was telling Tracy a minute ago, you have to go through trials and tribulations and struggles to get where you need to go or get where you need to be, so I went through my changes, you know, but unlike you, I’ve always believed in me.  I knew I was supposed to accomplish the things that I am accomplishing today.  As of right now, I’m driving, I work through the leaf season and snow season for DPW, the Department of Public Works.

Len Sipes:  DPW, the Department of Public Works.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  In the city of Washington D.C.

India Frazier:  In the city of Washington D.C, and I have a CDL Class A –

Len Sipes:  Okay, Commercial Driver’s License.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.  And I know I can drive.  I love doing what I do.  You know what I’m saying?  And I love coming home to my family and seeing that my grandson and my daughter’s okay, and I love knowing that my grandmother’s fine.  These are the people that believed in me and pushed me to do and be all that I can be, and then I have, Dr. Butler and Miss Ishman, who is my direct parole officer, and she inspires me.  I mean, it’s not a point in time that I can’t pick up that phone and call Miss Ishman and say, Miss Ishman, so and so, and so and so, well, Miss Frazier, let’s look at it like this.  I might be upset, and then I’ll call her, and then she’ll just get it, she’ll just iron things out for me.

Tracy Marlow:  You built a network up.

India Frazier:  I built my network.

Tracy Marlow:  And that’s what we need to know in society is you can make it if you build a network up.

India Frazier:  – people believe in you and give you that chance.  See, this is it.  You can’t look at me based on a television program, or you can’t understand who I am until you get to know who I am, until you sit down and talk to me and find out who I am, and that despite something happening 10 years ago, it’s where I’m standing at today.

Len Sipes:  But society doesn’t give us that opportunity.  If society is going to say ex-con, criminal, I don’t like you, I’m not funding programs for you, I’m not going to give you a second chance, I don’t want you in this job, and I understand, all three of us understand the fears of the public.  How can you not watch evening television without understanding the fears of the public?  But what do you want to tell the public directly?  What are the key things that you need the public to understand, because you’re not one of the failures, you’re one of the successes, but yet, you’re still facing the same baggage.  So what do you want to tell the public?

Tracy Marlow:  I want to tell the public, don’t look at what I’ve done, look at what I’m doing.  My past is my past, and only we’re going to leave it behind if you give me a chance.  All I’m asking for is a chance.  I’m not saying that I’m going to be perfect.  I’m not going to sit here and tell this, oh, I’m going to be a perfect and never do this, but I’m going to live for today and try to do the best I can do in society under society laws.  It’s not breaking up anymore.

Len Sipes:  Right. India? And what do you tell society?

India Frazier:  I have to tell society that you can’t base my life today on my past.  I’m a totally different person.  I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, and don’t look at me and make a judgment call on what’s on paper.  Look at me and make a judgment call on how I carry myself.

Len Sipes:  We only have a couple minutes left.  My heavens, this segment just flew by like wildfire!  What is instrumental in your lives?  Was it programs, you mentioned, Tracy, the group, or India, you mentioned the group process through Dr. Butler.  What is it, drug treatment programs, job programs, what is it that we need to help you and others like you cross that bridge?

Tracy Marlow:  Drug treatment first, program, and aftercare.  After we come out of treatment, you need some aftercare.  You need sessions, groups.  The  group that Dr. Butler runs is wonderful.  Somebody’s talking about everyday life.  We need to know about every, going on in your life, this life, productive other people in life.  We need groups and more programs.

Len Sipes:  If we had sufficient numbers of programs, how many additional people could we create, if you will, taxpayers instead of tax burdens?  How many additional people would cross that bridge over to the taxpaying side of the coin?

India Frazier:  You would probably have, maybe, at least 25% more instead of a 50% going back in, you might have 25% more.  I’m not going to say 50%, because, you know, like Tracy said, it’s not, everybody’s not perfect.  Everybody’s not ready to live that right life.  You know what I’m saying?  Everybody’s trying, some people try to find the easy way out.  But you would have at least 25% turnover.  I would say at least 60-75% wouldn’t go back.

Len Sipes:  If society was willing to look at you as individuals, especially in terms of jobs, and if the programs were available, would that make a significant difference in terms of how many people go back to prison and how many people commit additional crimes?

Tracy Marlow:  Of course.

India Frazier:  Definitely, yes!

Tracy Marlow:  Definitely!

India Frazier:  I mean, you have jobs in the District of Columbia that, for real, for real, could save a lot of people’s lives.  People gotta eat!  You’ve got to feed your family!  You know what I’m saying?  You’ve got to pay your rent!  You know, the rent lady don’t want to hear about, you can’t pay your rent because you couldn’t find a job.  You’ve got to pay your rent.  So what you going to do?  You’re going to go out there and do something stupid and go right back to where you were.  So if you have these openings within the District for these ex-offenders, or parole, probation, you know what I’m saying, that would gear them towards working harder toward accomplishing things they need to accomplish, the goals they need to accomplish.  It worked for me.

Len Sipes:  I think the point is, is that, again, we hear the failures.  We are never exposed to the successes.  I’ve spent 40 years in the criminal justice system, 30 years talking to people caught up in the criminal justice system.  I see a lot of success stories.  But those success stories are simply never told.  That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this program today, is to talk about the fact that there are successes.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes, it is.  It is.  And I’m definitely one of them, and the best is yet to come!  Because I’m not finished.  I have kids, I’m raising kids, and they are not going through the system!  They are not going to go through the system.  I am raising them to understand that, if you break the law, these are the options that happen.  We have to break the cycle.  The cycle has to be broken.

Len Sipes:  And the cycle is broken when mom comes out of the prison system, gets programs, gets treatment, gets a job, and the case, your case, your own three ice cream trucks, you didn’t let anybody stand in your way, Tracy!  And you’re saving, not just yourself, you’re saving your kids.  India, you’re doing the same thing.

India Frazier:  Yeah, I love my family.  I love my family, and my grandson, he’s the most inspirational power, power behind every move I make, because I want him, I don’t want him to go through what I went through, you know what I’m saying?  I can’t make the choices for him down the line, but I don’t want him to go through what I went through, and I’m going to give him and push him, I say, lead by example, and the rest will follow.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Now, again, so many people come out of the prison system, and they say, Mr. Sipes, or Leonard, I’m not going to go back.  I’m not going back, I’m not going back, I’m not going back.  6 months later, they’re back.  Now that’s a reality.  There are individuals who cannot make it, or they’re not ready to make it in society, and they go back to the prison system.  So we have to acknowledge that.  Again, part of the fears and the perceptions on the part of the public, but I’ve encountered, again, hundreds, thousands of people just like yourselves.  One out of every 45 individuals caught up in the criminal justice system are in, I’m sorry, one out of every 45 people in the community are caught up currently in the criminal justice system.  That’s like one out of 20 minimum, if you count people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system in the past.  That means that all of us are running into offenders and ex-offenders and people caught up in the criminal justice system every day!  By the scores!  We’re running into lots of people.  I mean, is the question, do we want them to get the mental health treatment, do we want them to have drug treatment, do we want them to be involved in programs, do we want them to be employed, or do we want to interact with these individuals without those programs, and without those skills?

India Frazier:  Well, if you don’t implement programs, if you don’t implement treatment, you don’t set aside a certain amount of money or set aside programs to help these people take their life and create a new person within, you know what I’m saying, or guide them, or steer them towards the goals they need to go towards, you’re going to keep on having a return rate of 50%, you know what I’m saying?  So yeah, we need mental health.  We need drug treatment.  We need voc rehab.  We need certain little groups that Dr. Butler be having.  You know, you need all of these things because they’re reconditioning your mind to go towards what you need to go towards to be a better person.

Len Sipes:  The final minute, Tracy, in terms of, we’ve heard Dr. Willa Butler several times throughout the program.  She runs a women’s group where people who have been in the prison system as women offenders, they come together, they talk about their issues, they talk about how to solve their issues, that’s tough.  You’ve got only a couple seconds.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes it is.  Yes, because that is very powerful, because women need women, and when you talk in them groups, you get real deep.  You talk about some personal things that’s going on, because one thing, to deal with a person that’s on mental health status, is really something, because first thing society, oh, they crazy!  People have complications, anxieties, pressures in the world, and they can’t cope with it and deal with it, all they need is somebody to talk to, and these groups are very important.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the point that I wanted to make.  Thank you, ladies, for being on the first segment.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for sticking with us as we explore this whole issue of offenders coming out of the prison system who make it, who become taxpayers, not tax burdens.  Look for us in the second segment as we continue to explore this topic with two additional guests.  Please stay with us.

[music playing]

Len Sipes:  Hi, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes.  Our guests today on the second segment are Cortez McDaniel and Donald Zimmerman, both individuals currently under the supervision of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  As I explained in the first segment, we are a federally funded, a parole and probation agency here in Washington, D.C.  The concept is people being released from prison.  50% go back after 3 years, they go back to the prison system, but 50% don’t.  The story of the 50% who don’t go back just doesn’t seem to be told.  Again, you’re exposed every day to the media about the stories of people caught up in the criminal justice system who do go back, you’re never exposed to the fact that there are lots of individuals who don’t.  To talk about that, Cortez and Donald, welcome to D.C. Public Safety, and Cortez, we’re going to start with you in terms of the second segment, and what is it that you think the public needs to understand about people coming back from the prison system?  I mean, they say the word convict, they say the word ex-con, they have another vision in their mind.  I’m not quite sure they have you in mind.  Correct or incorrect?

Cortez McDaniel:  That’s probably correct.  What I would have the public to think about is how they’d like to be associated with us as homecomers.  We like to refer to returning citizens as homecomers, and understand that these folks are coming home anyway, whether you like it or whether you don’t.  Now how the public is associated with them is kind of up to the society as to how they accept them back.  They need to understand the impact that we’re capable of having on society in a positive way, the value that we have, the talent that we have is a very, very large talent pool, and a large number of men who are very capable of being productive members of society.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and I think one of the reasons, in terms of doing this program, they come to my mind, is employment.  There’s literally thousands of individuals under our supervision at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency who would make perfectly good employees out of the 16,000 on any given day.  They are years away from their crimes, they are years away from their last substance, positive substance abuse test.  But they can’t find work, and they’re having trouble finding work, and that makes it difficult for them, it makes it difficult for us.  To me, that stereotype of ex-con, ex-offender, is the barrier.  So what do you say to people in terms of, in terms of that?  They have this sense that, you’ve been in the prison system, I don’t want to hire you, that’s all there is to it.  I’ve got lots of people to choose from, you were there, you’re not getting this job.  What do you say to that person?

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, I would ask them to actually look at forgiveness and what that encompasses.  If a person has served their amount of time that they’ve been given to serve in prison, if they’ve done that, and they’ve successfully completed that, and they come out, and they do the things that they need to be doing in terms of supervision, then there’s absolutely no reason why this person doesn’t deserve to be able to experience some quality of life themselves.

Len Sipes:  Now Cortez, I’m completely at fault, I didn’t properly introduce you when you came onto the program.  You were with who?  What is your job today?

Cortez McDaniel:  Again, my name is Cortez McDaniel, I’m a transitional coordinator with the Father McKenna Center.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what is the Father McKenna Center?

Cortez McDaniel:  The Father McKenna Center is a daytime service for homeless men, underprivileged men of Washington, D.C., predominantly African American men who come in for our services during the course of a day.  What we do is we assess men, and we act as a triage to link people up with whatever their needs might be, whether it be drug and alcohol rehabilitation, whether it be mental health services, housing issues, whatever the issues might be, we try to work with them and link them up with agencies that will help them in that direction.

Len Sipes:  Did you have a hard time getting that job?

Cortez McDaniel:  Actually, the way I got that job is I’m also core counsel person on the, with the Phelps Stokes National Homecomers’ Academy, and we were asked, as a result of a newspaper article, to send some people over to speak to that group of men, and once we were there, the people, the administration in place there were pretty impressed with what we had to offer, and so a relationship started with me there –

Len Sipes:  And that’s how you ended up getting the job.

Cortez McDaniel:  That’s exactly right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Donald, you’re with the same operation, correct?

Donald Zimmerman:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  And tell me a little bit about your story.  You came out of the prison system, and what happened?

Donald Zimmerman:  Well, I came out of the prison system, and initially when I came home, I was a general manager of a trucking company –

Len Sipes:  Before or after?

Donald Zimmerman:  This was after my incarceration.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  How did you get a job as a general manager of a trucking company?

Donald Zimmerman:  Some friends of the family, you know, they just –

Len Sipes:  Okay.  You had family connections.

Donald Zimmerman:  Yeah.  They just hired me on, and I learned the business, and I was doing that for a while until the economy folded, and then I went to school to be a chef, so now I’m currently working at a Hospital through a temporary agency called Food Team, and I do temporary cook positions there, but –

Len Sipes:  Can I get into the larger issue?  I started off with the larger issue before a proper introduction of both of you, of once again, the stereotype.  Now I’m not going to be upset with society about their stereotypes.  With the ladies on the first segment, I was watching television, I turned to the National Geographic channel of all channels, and then there was a story about guys in prison, and then I’m flipping through the channels, and there’s the Arts & Entertainment channel, there’s another story about guys in prison, and I sat back and said, you know, if that’s the public’s perception of people caught up in the criminal justice system, there’s no hope.  The story they’re telling was a perfectly accurate story.  They weren’t being dishonest, but it scares people.  The evening news scares people.  What happens when they read their newspapers scares people, and then we have the two of you, and you’re not scary.  So what does the public need to understand about this issue of people coming out of the prison system?  What does the public need to understand to get them to support programs or to get them to give you a chance at a job?

Donald Zimmerman:  The first thing that the public needs to realize is that we’re human, and that we have made mistakes like everyone in life, and we have learned to overcome our mistakes.  They have to learn to accept us and give us that second chance, as if, like a parent would do with their child.  They say, once you finish your prison sentence, that your debt is paid to society.  But is that truly happening?  We tend to have labels put on us like ex-cons and ex-felons, see, but the thing is, you have to take all them labels away and recognize that I am a man and I am a woman and I will stand for something, and I will push, by any means necessary, I will be accepted, and with that positive attitude, only good things will happen.

Cortez McDaniel:  I don’t want to take away from that, the homecomer’s obligation to change their whole approach to life, their whole thought process, and matter of fact, before I came home, about three years actually before I came home, I wrote a book called recidivism prevention workbook.  For people that don’t know, recidivism is commonly used to describe the tendency of a person who’s been convicted of a crime to relapse or return back to criminal behavior.

Len Sipes:  That’s a wonderful –

Cortez McDaniel:  So I thought about that through my own life, and I thought of how valuable it could be to a lot of men.  So in a sense, in my own life, I realize that my whole thought process had deteriorated into how my approach to life was a way of criminal thinking, and so I had to change my principal system, my moral judgment, everything about that had to be looked at, and I had to be man enough and willing to change that.  So I started, I don’t like to use program again, because it’s beginning and end to that, but I started this class that encompassed criminal thinking and criminal behavior, and it was very successful in prison, and I came out here in society with the same ideology that we are capable of being refocused, and that we have a responsibility to approach life differently.

Len Sipes:  How many people who come out of the prison system come out of the prison system with that understanding?  Lots of people who have told me, I’m getting out, and when I used to work inside the prison system, I’m getting out, and I’m not going back, came back.

Donald Zimmerman:  Well you have a lot of –

Len Sipes:  Came back pretty quickly.

Donald Zimmerman:  Well, you have a lot of men and women who come out with the intent that they’re not going to go back, but when they get out and they see the situation that they’re, no jobs, or they don’t want to accept a job, because I have the notion that there are jobs, people just don’t want to go work at McDonald’s, don’t want to go work at Wendy’s, whereas when you were in the federal prison system, you work for $5.25 a month.  So with that being said, they see their situations, and they don’t have that support system on the outside that will reeducate.  See, one, you have to reeducate yourself into, like, your morals and your values, saying, you know, positive things to you, like, you know, you can do better, you can find a job.  It’s not how much money you make, it’s what you do with the money you make.  You know, when you start to understand the simpler things in life and start, you know, understanding true happiness and just knowing that you have to, you know, first, that you’re on probation or parole, you have to first comply, take it one situation at a time, then you can move to the next step.  Once you start to comply, then you can start going to your meetings, then you can start building relationships, and then eventually, as time progress, you will start to reeducate yourself with better understanding and more.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so the point in all of this is that, if you are willing to go through that process, and if you’re willing to seek help, you can cross that bridge.  You can go from the tax burden to the taxpayer.  You can be employed, but it’s really upon you if you, and how much –

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, the support system is very, very necessary.

Len Sipes:  That’s the point I want –

Cortez McDaniel:  And that’s, with Phelps Stokes, that’s what we’re all about at Phelps Stokes, the Homecomers’ Academy.  That’s what we’re all about is providing a support system for a homecomer that lets them understand that, and helps to reinforce these ideologies in him and helps him understand that he has certain responsibilities that he needs to live up to, but also that he’s not alone, that he has some support and some assistance in getting to where he needs to get to.  A lot of times, people will come out of prison with, have purposed themselves never to go back, but they get out, and the support falls through.  A lot of times people have become estranged from their families for different reasons, and they don’t, they lack people who care or people who are willing to take a chance on them.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what the ladies said during the first segment.  If you’ve got that group of people who can support you emotionally and get you through this process, that really does increase the chances of you doing well.

Cortez McDaniel:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So the point is this.  The final minutes of the program is that what I said on the first segment is that there are thousands of you guys out there struggling, but they’re ready to make that move.  They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.  They’re sick and tired of being caught up in the criminal justice system.  They would be good employees, they would be good citizens.  There’s a certain point where society does have to recognize who is at risk and who’s trying, who’s struggling and who’s trying to make it, correct?  I mean, that is incumbent upon employers and incumbent upon people, I mean, we have to fund a certain amount of programs to help people cross that bridge.  Am I right or wrong?

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, yeah.  I think we have to have entities.  Like I said, I don’t like to use the word program, because when I talk about a program, I’m talking about a beginning and an end.

Len Sipes:  And this is lifelong.

Cortez McDaniel:  But we believe in relationships, and we believe in those relationships being everlasting –

Donald Zimmerman:  Brotherhoods and sisterhoods.

Cortez McDaniel:  The dynamic may change as things evolve, but we believe those relationships are important –

Len Sipes:  And the same with the research on Delancey Street out in San Francisco 25 years ago.  That’s exactly what they said in terms of the former offenders coming together as a group to help each other out.  So that’s the bottom line.

Donald Zimmerman:  What we need is real people dealing with real problems trying to find real solutions.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  And you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve come in contact with Cortez McDaniel and Donald Zimmerman.  This is D.C. Public Safety.  We really appreciate the fact that you’ve been with us today to explore this very important topic of people who are successes who have come out of the prison system, and yet at the same time made successes of themselves.  We appreciate your attention, and please stick with us and watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in the criminal justice system.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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