The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/08/challenges-justice-reinvestment-william-burrell/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones, ladies and gentlemen, Bill Burrell. Bill is an independent corrections management consultant and author of a book that I find very interesting. He can be reached at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L, at comcast.net. The topic of today’s program is the challenge of justice reinvestment; what’s happening in parole and probation throughout the United States in terms of new ways of doing things, new ways of coping with the criminal justice system. Bill, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

BILL BURRELL: Thank you, Len. It’s great to be with you.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, before we started the program we were talking about the corollary of mental health back in the 60s and 70s. We did have a massive undertaking throughout the country, where we sort of recognized that these large mental hospitals in virtually every state in the Unites States, and it probably was not a good idea to keep mentally incapacitated people in these large hospitals, these large structures. They probably could be a better treated, better dealt with out in the community. Yet we never did develop the community infrastructure to handle all those people coming out of all of those state mental hospitals and the disparaging fact is that it now seems that the criminal justice system is the principal provider of mental health treatment. Comment on that. Am I right or wrong?

BILL BURRELL: Yes. You’re right on the money there, Len. The idea was a good one. You think about those hospitals. You think about the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They were pretty horrible places. And once these new psychotropic drugs were developed back in the 50s and 60s they were able to stabilize the symptoms and consider the release of these to the community, which made a whole lot of sense, it’s a lot cheaper, much more humane, and more effective. But, as you mentioned, the community infrastructure, the group homes, residential facilities to house these folks in the community were never built. So we ended up with a good idea that went pretty horribly wrong. And now some 20, 30 years later we’re looking at the jails and prisons being populated largely by some of the socially released with mental problems.

LEONARD SIPES: But what we’re talking about here is that we had a great idea and we implemented it and they went into the community. Without community infrastructure to take care of the mentally ill they end up with us in the criminal justice system. And there’s a lot of people out there who would say that somehow, someway there became a big difference between what was conceptualized and what actually happened.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s exactly the problem. We had a great idea, but it was implemented poorly, and that seems to be a very common story in the criminal justice system and maybe in government in general, that a good idea is developed, researchers come up with it, they test it, they evaluate it, and they put it out there, and then once it’s turned over to folks in agencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which relates to the fact that folks are really not trained in large scale organizational change and implementation, the execution of a good idea is flawed and the results that we expected don’t happen, because we really didn’t do the program as it was designed. And that was the lesson I guess we have to learn from the institutionalization of the mentally ill. It was one of the stools on the, one of the legs on the stool, so to speak, was the capacity in the community to have, supervise, and oversee the people released, and that never was completed, and we lost those folks in the community, in the boarding houses and the single room occupancy hotels in cities and they just disappeared.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, our program is called today the Challenges of Justice Reinvestment: The Impact on Parole and Probation because we see the possibility of a connection between that experience, the idea in terms of the institutionalization, dealing with mentally ill, the fact that there was not a sufficient infrastructure created to deal with all these people coming out. So we’re saying today that there’s the possibility that with justice reinvestment or reorganizing the way that we conduct business within the criminal justice system in terms of evidence based practices, in terms, again, of justice reinvestment, that there’s the possibility that the same thing may happen with parole and probation agencies that are not given sufficient staffing, money, resources, to deal with an increasing parole and probation population. Is that the connection?

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. That’s kind of the nub of the problem. Again, we have a situation with our prisons in the United States, they’re massively overcrowded, they’re not good places to house people with addiction problems, lack of education, and a whole variety of other problems. So the justice reinvestment model is saying we need to reduce those prison populations, get people out or don’t send them in, in the first place who are lower risk, nonviolent, less serious offenders, and handle them in a different way, thereby reducing prison populations, and if you can reduce those by enough you can actually close institutions and save money. And the second part of that logic is that a portion of that money would be reallocated or reinvested in community corrections to build the capacity to handle these folks. Now, and that’s a great idea, and where it has happened it has worked pretty well, if we look at the state of Texas and their experience. But part of the challenge is that the probation and parole system in this country is so overwhelmed. We have 70% of the correctional, adult correctional population is under the supervision of probation and parole, which surprises some people though, because they think we’ve locked everybody up over the last 30 years. Well, we have, but we’ve also put a lot more people under community control on probation and parole.

LEONARD SIPES: I think in the seven million, the correctional population between prisons and jails, it’s two million in community supervision, it’s five million. Am I in the ballpark?

BILL BURRELL: That’s right. And what’s interesting is if you look at the historical numbers, you go back to the early 1980s when the Bureau of Justice Statistics starting reporting on probation on parole populations, we have had 70% of the population ever since that time. So it’s been consistent over decades. When you look at the impact of the war on drugs in the 80s probation actually absorbed a greater amount of the results of that war on drugs than did the prison system. So we are, in my experience, when I was with probation in New Jersey, our individual caseloads went from 110 per officer in 1981 to 189 per officer in 1988, which was directly the result of changes in our laws and enforcement practices around drugs. So we have to remember that the base that we’re looking to focus on for these justice reinvestment efforts is pretty resource poor, pretty lacking the capacity to really do the work for the population they have right now, not to mention any increased number of people coming in. And one of the challenges is when you look at diverting people out of prison these could be higher risk people with more needs and problems and demands on a system. It is currently unable to really effectively address the population that it has.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington DC we do have caseloads of 50 or less per parole and probation agent, what we call community supervision officers. But my experience in talking to people from throughout the country, as a result of the radio and television shows that we’ve done and when I go out and do training, it’s no usual they tell for there to be a ratio of 150 or more for every parole and probation agent out there. Now, I do know there are some jurisdictions where it is fairly close to 50 to 1, but my guess, and this is nothing more than a guess, is that the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to that’s not their experience, the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to are operating 125, 150 cases per parole and probation agent or more. So when you have caseloads of that size it’s awfully hard to do cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s awfully hard to really get into the lives of these individuals, encourage them to do better, encourage them to look at a different way of doing things, encouraging them to get drug treatment, mental health treatment, vocational programs, encourage them to find jobs and help them find jobs to do the home visits. All of these things are very labor-intensive and very difficult to do when you have caseloads of 150 to 1.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. Well, you said it very well and my experience echoes yours. When I go to the American Probation and Parole Association conferences twice a year and other conferences and through my consulting and work with APPA I talk to a lot of folks around the country. And the ideal caseload or the optimal caseload of 50 to 1 is a very rare occurrence, unfortunately. And we do see lots of departments, particularly where you have states with county-based probation departments, these caseloads tend to be much higher than recommended, in some cases, as you said, 150 or more. And it’s hard to even keep track of the activities of those folks, no less spend the quality time you need to with them to get to know them, get to know their problems, connect them with resources, follow up, and so on. It’s just it can’t be done with those large caseloads.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, I’m hearing the same thing. When I do the radio shows I would imagine the most popular response to the radio shows is, “Len, I listen to you talk about justice reinvestment, I listen to you talk about evidence-based practices, I’m 100% behind you. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we want to do. We want to have a good relationship with the people under supervision. We want to encourage them to do better. We want to get them involved in programs. We want to work with their families. We want to work with the faith based community. We want to do all of these things. We simply don’t have the resources to do them.” So if that’s true, why is there such a disconnect between the lofty sense of what I hear from my very good friends at the Department of Justice or Pew or Urban or Vera or lots of other organizations, American Probation and Parole Association, Council of State Governments, all of us are solidly behind justice reinvestment, all of us are solidly behind evidence-based practices, so why is there such a disconnect between what all of us want and what the reality is?

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s probably the 64,000 dollar question. I think some of it has to do with a disconnect between community corrections and policymakers, legislators, governors, officers and so on. We’re kind of a stepchild of the justice system, despite the fact that we own 70% of the workload. You don’t, you can’t go to a probation department and see caseload crowding like you can go to a prison or jail and look at the tiers and see people crowded, double, triple bunked and things like that. We tend to be seen as a, what I would say, a magical expanding resource, that more cases you give us we just expand and we take them in. Well, we put them on the books, but we really are not capable of keeping up with the workload demands. So as you add more bodies to this system the amount of time spent with each one goes down, the quality of that time generally goes down. So you’re diminishing the capacity of the system to do what it needs to do, but it’s very hard to see that physically. And we also don’t do a very good job as a field in terms of communicating performance information, outcomes, results, process measures and so on. We don’t really do a very good job of that.

So it’s hard to convince people of the nature of our problem and the extents of our problem, because we tend to be out of sight, out of mind, we don’t communicate well, we tend to in the field have a sense that we don’t have political and public support for the work that we do. And, fortunately, the research and the polling work that I’ve seen suggests exactly the opposite, that we do things that are valued by the community, and I think that is becoming more and more clear over the last few years, that we create public value for the community and we need to connect that value to the need for support, political support, community support, resource support and so on, to make that case that we do need the resources. We can do a lot better if we’ve got the capacity, the number of officers and staff we need to supervise in cases, and what I also like to say is the capability, the skills, the knowledge, the training, the resources for treatment and so on that will enable to effectively supervise those folks that we’ve already got in our caseloads. And if you want to do justice reinvestment, which everybody seems to be on board with, I just was reading that I think the 27th state just signed up for it, Utah, so better than half the country has signed onto this. And we need to figure out a way to communicate that we could be creating another deinstitutionalization type of situation if we begin pushing people out of prisons and jails into probation and parole caseloads without the capacity to provide effective supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: And what would that do, Bill? Before the program we were talking about the danger of what?

BILL BURRELL: Well, if you put more people and potentially higher risk people into probation caseloads the amount and the quality of supervision is going to decline and the inevitable result of that will be more crime in the community committed by people under the supervision of probation and parole officers. And what keeps me up at night is that the blame will then be placed on the probation and parole agencies, “Well, you didn’t supervise these people effectively.” Well, part of the problem is we have a caseload of 150 and no one, I don’t care who you are, can supervise that size caseload effectively.

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest –

BILL BURRELL: So this…. Go ahead.

LEONARD SIPES: Let me reintroduce you, Bill. We’re more than halfway through the program. Our guest today is Bill Burrell. He’s been at our microphones multiple times before. He’s an independent corrections management consultant and author of a pretty interesting book. – oh, I’m sorry at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net, william.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. Bill, you’ve been dealing with parole and probation agencies throughout the country in terms of your consultant role. You spent years with the New Jersey I think Department of Parole and Probation, is that correct?

BILL BURRELL: The Jersey court system, yeah, probation.

LEONARD SIPES: The Jersey court system, probation. So you have decades of experience in this, you’re out and about, you talk to people from throughout the country, you’re very well integrated with our friends at the American Probation and Parole Association, you go to their conferences, so you’re hearing this from more than a couple people.

BILL BURRELL: Yes, yes. And then this is kind of the theme I hear from almost everybody. There’s a frustration because they’ve read about and been trained on evidence-based practices, which is a pretty powerful vehicle for improving the results of what we do, but then they look at the, their organization, their department, and they look at their caseloads and they look at their lack of training resources and so on and they say, “We can’t do it. We don’t have the ability to move up to this new level of performance that we believe in, we think it’s a good idea, we’d like to do.” But it’s the ability to implement EBP, which is a much abused term these days, I think people throw it around very loosely, but really we’re talking about a set of practices that if they are implemented will reduce the risk of recidivism by the population that we supervise, reliably anywhere between 10% to 15%, 20% reductions in recidivism, which is significant. So people are looking at that and saying, “Gee, we’d like to be able to that, we would like to do our job better, we just don’t see how we can do it.”

And some of that relates to another issue that really hasn’t hit the radar screen of too many people yet. We’ve talked a lot about mass incarceration in this country. Some people are now starting to talk about mass supervision, those five million people that are under probation and parole supervision, how many of them really need to be on probation? Are there low-risk offenders there? Are there minor drug offenders? Are there people – there’re lots of people in my experience that’ll get placed on probation just to enable the court to collect fines and restitution fees and so on. So how much of that five million people is the chaff, so to speak, of the caseload that could be handled in some other fashion?

LEONARD SIPES: But I think that’s the point that most of the folks, again, that I just mentioned, from Pew, from Urban, and, again, are good friends and people who were completely supportive of, from Department of Justice and from other organizations will simply say you take those lower level individuals and you do, quote, unquote, “something else with them”. Their supervised by kiosks, they’re supervised administratively, that we have little contact with people at the lower end of the spectrum so we have the resources to devote towards people who do pose a clear and present danger or a risk to public safety. And you do that through objective risk and needs instruments and properly validated for local conditions and there you go, voila, the problem is solved.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. In fact, Vince Schiraldi, who was the Commissioner of Probation in New York City up until recently, and Mike Jacobson, who you may have encountered, who was also the Commissioner of Probation for a while, they just wrote a piece called “Could Less Be More When it Comes to Probation Supervision?”, and talking about reducing the amount of people, low-risk people on supervision, and those that are there, reducing the amount of resources that they devote to them. And New York was one of the, I think the first, or the most prominent department to do kiosk supervision. And they had at one point almost two thirds of their population was reporting on kiosks and the re-arrest rate was like 1.5%. It was no different than the general citywide re-arrest rate. So we have lots of folks that did stupid things, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever the scenario you want to present, are really not a risk. These are people that we should have the minimum amount to do with, collect whatever financial obligations we want from them, or whatever else we need to do, and then get them out of the system as quickly as possible, because we’re learning that we can actually make things worse by supervising those people, having them hang out with high-risk offenders in the waiting room in the probation department. Well, guess what. It’s usually the bad guys who make the good guys bad, not the other way around.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re also told that trying to help individuals at the lower end of the continuum also poses a problem, because if you have a person who is a lower risk offender, the judge orders drug treatment for that individual, well, that’s just money that’s taken up that could be reallocated towards a higher risk individual. And if he or she doesn’t complete that treatment or they’re going half the time or they’re creating a problem within the group, bam, they’re revoked and out in a prison.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. And we have lots of places where judges and prosecutors almost reflexively give probation, and they put on lots of conditions, special conditions of supervision, most of which they have no intention of enforcing, but it makes them feel good, makes them feel like we’re being tough on crime. Well, you got to realize that every one of those people you place on probation has a set of conditions that a probation has to enforce, and, ultimately, they can be brought back into court for failure to do that, to live up to those conditions, and potentially go to jail.

LEONARD SIPES: But help me, because I’m struggling with this, because if we did that then are the folks who at the national level are right? What they’re saying is, is that take that good percentage of your caseload – you just said that two thirds of the probation caseload in New York City was being supervised by kiosk and they had the same re-arrest rate as the general population. Then the question now becomes, is why aren’t we taking that I don’t know what percentage, two third, one third, one half, whatever that is of the lower risk offenders and doing something else with them besides regular and parole, then why aren’t we doing that? That’s what the people at the national level would say. It’s that it’s not a capacity issue; it’s the lack of a willingness on our part to do, quote, unquote, “something else with lower level offenders”.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s the I think the new breaking issue right now is focusing on the sentencing decision and the plea bargaining decision and introducing risk assessment into that. And there were just a series of things in the paper; Attorney General Holder came out apparently against using risk assessment in sentencing, which is kind of going against the tide of where the field seems to be going in terms of evidence-based decision-making. But the sentencing decision usually focuses on the seriousness of the crime and the extent of the offender’s prior involvement, prior record, and that’s pretty much it. And that really doesn’t get to the question of risk. To some extent prior record is a driver of risk, but there’re a lot of other factors that are involved. So we have people sentencing offenders for lots of reasons that have little or nothing to do with their risk of reoffending. Now, there may be other objectives of sentencing you want to accomplish, deterrents and punishment and so on, and we have to accomplish, accommodate those. But until we can figure out a way to help judges and defense attorneys and public defenders and DAs get a sense of the level of risk and sentence accordingly, we’re not going to get a reduction in the number of low-risk offenders that are going into probation.

LEONARD SIPES: But they could say the onus is on us. They could say that, “Okay, fine. We imposed all these restrictions. You do with them what you think is permissible.” Again, going back to the example of New York City probation where two thirds are in kiosks. They’re simply going to say, “Hey. We did what we think is proper, now you make the decision in terms of how you handle them.” And all we have to do is shift massive amounts of people into these lower level categories and suddenly we have the resources for the higher level people. What they’re going to say is that’s our job not theirs.

BILL BURRELL: Well, yes, there’s a good deal of truth to that, but one of the problems we see is judges will impose a probation sentence, sometimes three, four, five years, with lots of conditions, and send it over to probation, and probation is obligated to enforce those conditions, and sometimes that’s not possible by putting them on a kiosk kind of reporting. So some of this has to do with the use of probation in terms of the length of time, the number of conditions, even beyond the question of whether they should be on probation at all, because each one of those cases consumes probation resources.

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

BILL BURRELL: I had a discussion with one of our judges in New Jersey years ago and his favorite sentence was to put somebody on probation until the restitution is collected. So all he wanted was the money. He wanted to get the money to the victim of the crime.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: He really didn’t want the person being supervised by a probation officer.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: But I, and I suggested to him there was another mechanism in our criminal code that enabled us in probation to collect that money for him and hold that person accountable without me having to devote a professional probation officer to that case. He said, “Gee, I had no idea.” Well, so shame on me too, you know, that we weren’t really educating folks about the implications of those probation sentences and then also that there were other mechanisms within the criminal code to accomplish the objective that he was looking to accomplish.

LEONARD SIPES: So in the final four minutes, basically what you’re saying, Bill, is that we, within the criminal justice system throughout the country, need to have a very powerful examination as to how we conduct business, how we do what we do, and if we’re unwilling to do something else with lower level individuals then at least give us the resources, the caseloads, the treatment resources, the training, the money to do it well.

BILL BURRELL: Yes. But I would first argue that we need to look at the front end of the system, the whole criminal processing up to the point of sentencing, diversion of low-risk offenders, presentencing into treatment programs if they need them, really begin to sort through that pile of offenders coming into the system and figure out who’s really dangerous, who are we really scared of, who really needs to be punished by going to prison, who are those people with serious problems that need to be supervised by probation officers to get them into treatment and so on. And that group that I call the chaff, the low-risk, minor offenders that we’re just mad at, we’re not scared of, we’re just mad at them, let’s not push them father into the system. Let’s find other ways of dealing with them in the community so that the caseload of a probation department is really moderate and high-risk people. The low-risk people for the most part never get there.

And that means a much more systematic, disciplined sorting process in the presentencing arena so that we’ve taken them out as much as we can so that what we’re left with is the people who really do need supervision. And then when you begin to think about the justice reinvestment side of things, because you go back a couple years, the Pew Public Safety Performance Project published a report, it talked about the amount of money, how the corrections dollar is allocated, and 12% of the corrections dollar was going to probation and parole, even though we have 70% of the population. Most expensive parole supervision was 7,000 dollars a year. And the average prison

BILL BURRELL: Prison cost –

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

BILL BURRELL: Was six or seven times that. I said, “I don’t –”

LEONARD SIPES: Yes.

BILL BURRELL: “I don’t even want all of that difference. Just give me, just double what I’m getting and I could do amazing things.”

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line between it, the bottom line is that our people within parole and probation throughout the country want to do a good job, they’re dedicated to what they’re doing, they’re very important to our public safety, they’re very important to limiting the expenditures of tax paid dollars, they’re dedicated to justice reinvestment, they’re dedicated to evidence-based practices, they simply want a decent shot of doing that job well. That’s the bottom line, correct?

BILL BURRELL: Absolutely. You don’t stay in the field of probation and parole for very long if you’re not interested in helping people. And what we’ve found out from the research on burnout, for example, is that it’s not working with the offenders that burns out probation and parole officers; it’s impossible policies and procedures and organizational structures, which includes very large caseloads, that effectively prohibit them from doing the job that they came in to do.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, it’s a fascinating conversation. As always, I invite you back to the microphones any time, because you provide a sense of clarity from the field that sometimes we don’t hear from the national organizations. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today has been Bill Burrell, independent corrections management consultant and author. You can reach at William, W-I-L-L-I-A-M.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

 

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Hiring Offenders on Community Supervision

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/03/hiring-offenders-community-supervision/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, is on hiring offenders throughout the United States. There’s a problem with employment with people on parole and probation supervision. Most criminologists believe that if employment levels rose it would reduce recidivism crime and would save the States tens of millions of dollars. To discuss this issue today we have three gentlemen. Charlie Whitaker, he is CEO of Career Path DC, we have Cory Laborde, he is the facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, and Tony Lewis, job developer for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and to Mr. Laborde and to Charlie and to Tony, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tony Lewis:  Thanks for having us, Len.

Charlie Whitaker:  Good afternoon, sir.

Cory Laborde:  It’s my pleasure.

Len Sipes:  Gentlemen, where do we go to with this topic? I’ve talked to dozens of employers here in the District of Columbia, and in a previous life throughout the state of Maryland, who basically tell me, “I’ve got 20, 30 applicants for every job or more. Most of them or a lot of them do not have criminal histories, they don’t have criminal backgrounds. You’re asking me to hire somebody who is currently on parole and probation supervision. You want to have that discussion with me. I’m here to tell you I don’t want to hire that person, because I’ve got plenty of people to choose from who don’t come from histories of crime and who don’t come from histories of substance abuse.” How do we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and all parole and probation agencies, how are we supposed to contend with that perception?

Cory Laborde:  Right. Well, Len, let’s just jump straight into it. My name is Cory Laborde. Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Cory Laborde:  Well, for one, when I’m hiring somebody, when I’m interviewing somebody, I’m not interviewing somebody based off their past, I’m interviewing them and hiring them based off what they can give the company going forward in the future. Now, past is important, because you have to look at past behavior to see whether or not that may play a conflict with inside your organization. But, however, just because someone is being interviewed who does not have a past, a criminal background, let’s be precise, doesn’t mean that he’s the best person for that job. We may have somebody who may a past offense, may have done something in his past that he’s ashamed of, he put it behind, he or she put it behind them, but they may be the best person for the job that you’re interviewing that person for. They probably have experience in that line of work, they probably a career that they’ve already done before they made that offense. So I don’t want to have a blind eye saying, “I will not hire this person just because they made a mistake 15, 10 years ago.”

Len Sipes:  You’re trying to get the very best person for the job regardless of that person’s background.

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Because it does seem to me, Charlie, that what we have is a conundrum. We’re not asking anybody to hire sex offenders for daycare centers. We’re not asking anybody to hire somebody who’s been convicted of fraud to handle money in a bank. But what we are doing is talking about appropriate placements. We’re talking about people who are doing well. We’re talking about people who are months, if not years, from the last positive drug test. We’re talking about in many cases skilled human beings. But 50% unemployment, that’s what we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and when I talk to my counterparts throughout the country, that’s not unusual. How do we get beyond all this?

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, I think one thing is the program that you have set up here at CSOSA actually helps out a lot. I work with Tony Lewis real closely, and with the offenders that you guys send me to work with within the community, they worked out just fine based on they go through a life skills and job readiness program and we also afford the opportunity to allow our people to come and work for anywhere from three to six months in order to really just build on their skills and to just find out if they work really good with our organization. So by the time it comes time to hire these individuals, that’s why I’ve been so successful with us hiring as many people as we have hired, based on the fact that they’ve been trained, and a trained individual, regardless of their background, works out extremely well.

Also appropriate placements; I heard you speak on that. So, when someone is sent to me from CSOSA, and I think this is a best practice right here, me and Tony talk on where can they work, what type charges they have, and if he does have a sex offender for example, because even individuals who have heinous crimes need to work within our community, we’ll identify a situation where they can come and work with us and a situation where it won’t affect the rest of the public or that it was the lowest safety risk possible and the best placement for that individual.

Len Sipes:  All right, Tony, you and I have this conversation about 500 times.

Tony Lewis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And our dilemma is, I mean we’ve just spoke to two employers here, and we’ve spoken to Charlie and Cory, and so they’re on board, are all employers out there on board?

Tony Lewis:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  Okay. And so they’re not because of why?

Tony Lewis:  I think they’re not because they don’t understand that we have talent within our ranks, so to speak, and we’re not just asking for a handout. We actually have people that can come in and increase your productivity. We have people that have skill sets that match what you’re looking for. And their criminal history or criminal background doesn’t necessarily get in the way of that. But another I think the biggest impediment or barrier to it is that just from a hiring policy standpoint a lot of the companies, especially here locally in the District of Columbia, have such a broad “no felony accepted” kind of stance that it really handicaps our ability to connect our talents and people with a lot of the positions.

Mr. Laborde’s organization and Charlie’s organization have been brave enough and courageous enough to embark upon this journey with us in terms of the program where we’re able to do a transitional employment style program, where you get an opportunity to kind of test drive our talent. And they’ve seen how the individuals that we’ve sent have been able to come in and help them do what they do better and they’ve been able to bring them on full-term and full-time. And I think that’s what we look to do with many more organizations. I just wish people would show a little more flexibility in their hiring policies and look at people on a case by case basis.

Len Sipes:  We have radio and television shows on our website, it’s www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, where it’s called “Employing People On Supervision”. And we ask people to listen to the radio shows, watch the television shows, and to contact us, to have a conversation with us regarding this whole issue. I mean if you’re not, tell us why. If you are, tell us why. But what we’re looking for is your opinion. We’re crowd sourcing this issue, we want as many people involved as possible. Tony, I’m going to go back to something that you’ve said and toss it over to Charlie and Cory. You said courageous. Now, wait a minute, that doesn’t fit. I mean we’re not saying be courageous, we’re saying that we’ve got talented, skilled people ready to go that’s going to affect your bottom line and affect the ability for you to get the job done, regardless as to whether or not they’ve a criminal history. Why is that courageous? I mean isn’t that good business sense?

Tony Lewis:  Well, it is. But when you’re talking about the stigma and the fear that comes along with people with criminal backgrounds it takes courage to be able to accept that fear and be able to take a chance. And I think any employer out there, any business out there that says, “You know what? We’re going to give somebody a second chance to live their lives in a positive way and to be able to contribute their skills and their talents to my organization.” I think they definitely are courageous. And I hope there’s a lot more courageous people out there. Or hope these two courageous guys can inspire some other business leaders and they can be an example of how things can work. And everybody that we’ve sent to either of them didn’t work out, but they didn’t allow that to necessarily sour their outlook in that one guy be a represent, that one bad apple to be a representative of the thousands of people that we have coming through our doors every day.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  There’s information on tax credits and a bonding program, again, www.csosa.gov, right on our front page. Cory, you wanted to say something.

Cory Laborde:  Yes. Well, I wanted to shy in and just say, for one, when you’re hiring or firing somebody, you’re not hiring and firing them based off something they did 10, 15 years ago, you’re hiring and firing them based off what’s going on right now.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  You can have an individual, for one, I have maybe like 16 staff, and with all of them, men and women, different nationalities and all, all of them are trained to do something different. And when you are hiring them and you ask them to do something you may have somebody who’s never done anything as far as criminal law is concerned –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Never broke a criminal law on record.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Tony Lewis:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  And you may have another individual who probably did 10, 15 years ago, he’s ashamed of it, he’s ready to move on, he’s ready to put that behind, he’s ready to go forward.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  I learnt that dealing with CSOSA since the partnership came about, along with my organization, Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, which pastored it by a man who gave me the same type of passion, Archbishop Alfred A. Owens –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Who look at people for what they can be and not what they were.

Len Sipes:  And have a national reputation –

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely. And he’s very –

Len Sipes:  In terms of working with people in the community.

Cory Laborde:  And my pastor’s been very successful with that based on – I’ll give you an example. You may have an individual who may come up and you may hire them because they don’t have any past whatsoever.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  All right. But that person is ready to get a past, because they just didn’t get caught with some of the things they probably already done got away with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  You may have another individual that you shun away because of his past, but he or she really do not want to do those things no more. They’re ready to move forward. They’ve already done put their hand inside the cookie jar before and got caught.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  So they dare wouldn’t do that again. So they’re ready to give you 5, 10 years, 15 years of longevity. Where you have another individual who probably still got his hand in the cookie jar, constantly put his hand in the cookie jar, he just never got caught doing. And then you wind up hiring that person based off of those circumstances and they wind up letting you down.

Len Sipes:  All right, Charlie, but, again, let’s go back to what I’ve heard from employers so many times, “I’ve got 30 people, 15 have histories, criminal histories, 15 don’t, that automatically, I’m automatically looking to hire from that group of 15 who don’t, because why not? I mean and all things being equal, I’d rather dip into the pool that doesn’t have a criminal history than those who do.” Is that a realistic expectation on the part of a business person? Should that person do that? That’s what I hear most often from the employment community.

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, I know as a small business owner I don’t think that’s relevant, because with my organization I found that CSOSA has been a great help as far as supporting us, as far as supervision, about the individuals that we work with. They have job developers, as well as job coaches. So whenever an issue is raised on the job, I can make a contact with Tony and call him and say, “Tony, well, the guy’s a couple of minutes late, been a couple of minutes late three times, four times. Can you talk to him?” Tony will talk to him and get him back on track.

However, my individuals who are not under supervision, when they’re late for work, that’s an issue for me to deal with. And it just doesn’t seem relevant at this point for me, because the support that I receive your office, CSOSA, I mean it really helps me as a small business person, because it’s money, it’s money on the table. When I got to stop doing what I’m doing to come in and talk to people about them being late for work or about the productivity and things of that nature it’s a bottom line for me. So to have CSOSA there to assist me with that it’s like having an extra supervisor on call that I could call –

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Charlie Whitaker:  And say –

Tony Lewis:  How about that.

Charlie Whitaker:  “I need some assistance today.” And believe it, they come right on over.

Len Sipes:  But that’s what we’re selling, gentlemen. I think Tony and I, we’ve been down this path dozens and dozens of times. We’re selling quality people, in many cases with real skills, with a real work history, who don’t have a substance abuse background, who have been years since their last criminal activity.

Tony Lewis:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  And I’ve had them before these microphones dozens and dozens of times. I’ve had them on television and I’ve had them on radio, and they’re sitting there in a three-piece suit and they’re skilled human beings, but they’re unemployed because 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, they got involved in a criminal activity, and they are completely changed people now. So what we’re pitching is don’t give us a handout, what we’re pitching is that we’re good for your bottom line.

Tony Lewis:  Absolutely. And it’s one of those things as well where you find that, again, all this stuff is really about stigma and a small percentage of individuals making mistakes that have adverse effect on many. And you have things that have happened throughout society, and then we make these so-called policies, they’re supposed to protect us from whatever happens, and then it has, again, these adverse effects. I mean even in terms of when you see things – I mean all the crazy things that I hear that happen like on the job where there’s people going postal or what have you, those typical aren’t people with criminal backgrounds. Or when you hear about – you have shows like Lock Up that’s on TV and you got these things that you see the cameras going in the prison and people have these things in the back of their mind, like, “Oh, wow!. Well, when that guy gets out of prison I wouldn’t him or her to come and work beside me.” And I really think that affects the psyche in the sense that people don’t even understand. And some people’s crimes, they don’t even have a rational relationship to the job. Like so if I had a drug offense when I was 18 and now I’m 27, why can’t I be a janitor at your business? Like where is the conflict, right? Like things – that’s just a basic example. But I think that’s what we have to do. Companies have to look at the people on a case by case basis.

Len Sipes:  Both Charlie and Cory mentioned it. And that is, is that when you hire somebody who is under our supervision, you get Tony Lewis, you get other people that work along the side of Tony Lewis who will intervene, help you out. You get the community supervision officer, otherwise, throughout –

Tony Lewis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Known as a parole and probation agent.

Tony Lewis:  A vocation development specialist.

Len Sipes:  Vocational development specialist. You have a team who will help you deal with whatever comes up in terms of that individual. Well, you get tax credits; you get a bonding program, because –

Tony Lewis:  That protects you.

Len Sipes:  That really does protect in terms of your own liability. So there are assets at our disposal, at your disposal, to hire people. And again, the emphasis is not somebody fresh out of prison. We’re not talking about the sex offender in the daycare center. We’re talking about people with real skills who are months, if not years away from their last substance abuse history, months, if not years away from their last crime, but we have a 50% unemployment problem. So that stigma, getting beyond that stigma is proving to be very difficult. Charlie or Cory, you want to weigh in on this, that stigma?

Cory Laborde:  I want to give – I’m going to – I may come off subject a little bit, but I’ll go back to it.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Cory Laborde:  I had a situation. We had in DC we’ve been not so blessed with this heavy snow this winter.

Charlie Whitaker:  Yeah. Right.

Cory Laborde:  Very unexpected winter. So I have employees, and dealing with this snow, and I had the center employees. I had the relationship I got with CSOSA and some individuals they sent me. But one stuck to mind. Her name was Monica Womack, a female. And we got the snow detail going on. And the center employees, they’ve been there for a few years; they know what time they’re supposed to be at work, they know the routine, etc. Here’s a young lady just came about with the program. She’s ready to work. She calls me at 11:00 at night on my personal phone, “Mr. Cory, what time can you use me? What time I can be to work? What time do I need be to work, etc. etc.?” I said, “Well, monitor your phone. I would love to have your help out of there. Dealing with the snow we can never have enough help.”

Len Sipes:  That’s right.

Cory Laborde:  Anyway, I sent out the e-mail and said what time everybody’s expected to be to work. I get there an hour early before the crew. Don’t you know this young lady was there waiting on me.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Cory Laborde:  Public transportation was not even running that morning. She walked from Maryland Avenue all the way to Rhode Island Avenue –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Just so she can be to work on time.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Now, I share that story to say I looked at this individual and said, “This is the individual I would hire when the program is up.”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  Because you’re showing me that you really want to work. Never mind the fact of what she did 15, 20 years ago, even if it was three years ago. I don’t have to always use the word ten, that can be five years ago.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  But she’s ready to change. And you can have individuals that may be a decorated soldier, he may be a decorated soldier, he probably went to Iraq and fought for our country. And he probably came back home and got into a drunken bar fight defending his little sister or defending his wife or something and he hit somebody and he got a simple assault charge. Does that mean that this person is not capable of being an engineer? Does that mean he’s not capable of working at your facility because he made a mistake that one time? So you have to have a broader mind and look past some of these things.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program. Today’s program is on hiring offenders. We have Charlie Whitaker, CEO of Career Path DC; we have Cory Laborde, the facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, one of the most renowned religious organization in our area, and well known throughout the world and through the Unites States, rather; and Tony Lewis, job developer for CSOSA, talking about what it takes to get people that we currently have under supervision, what it takes to get them hired.

The issue is, is that for every person sitting in this room and every person listening to this radio show today, we’ve all had our problems in the past. I won’t speak for the three of you, but certainly I have done things way back in my youth that if I was caught maybe I would’ve been caught up in the criminal justice system. And I’ve always said that my first encounter in the criminal justice system was being arrested. So the point is, is that all of us could suffer a fate that hangs over our heads for the rest of our life. If what we’re saying is true, then it is a stigma. If 50% of our folks are unemployed, then what Tony is saying is true, that people cannot get beyond the fact that that person was caught up in the criminal justice system, people cannot get beyond that stereotype.

And that bothers me, because if we don’t give individuals an opportunity, then that means the greater chance for them to go back into the criminal justice system. That means a greater chance for more crime. And that has a real cost of literally tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars for states throughout the United States in terms of taking somebody back in the criminal justice system who may not be there if they were employed. The research is pretty clear that the more they’re employed the better they do. So isn’t it in everybody’s collective best interest to look beyond that criminal charge and to take a hard look at that person in terms of making that decision as to who to hire?

Charlie Whitaker:  Yes. That’s true. And just speaking on that stigma, just speaking on that stigma piece, many times people do look at people that are coming back to the community from being incarcerated as untrustworthy and things of that nature. But you got to look at this thing from this point of view; a lot of people that I work with, this is their last chance. When they come to me and they feel like this is their last chance at putting their life back on track. So these individuals they’re not going to do anything to go back to jail. And the process that they go through to determine whether they’re coming into our program is a lengthy process. So by the time they get to us it’s like these are the best individuals for the job. So they’re hardworking, they’re dependable, they’re loyal. These are the individuals that came in every time it snowed. These are the guys that came to the job.

Len Sipes:  Because they understand that they’re not in a position to jump from one job to the other –

Charlie Whitaker:  There you go, absolutely, there you go.

Len Sipes:  That this is one of the few chances that they’re going to get, thereby, they turn out to be pretty good employees. Go ahead, Cory.

Cory Laborde:  Right. Yeah. I’ve been so impressed with some of the individuals that came through the CSOSA program that I definitely want to make sure I point this out before we end this –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Cory Laborde:  Is that I actually hired a few of them. I just didn’t have them come through the program and said, “Okay, send me another 10 people, send me another 15 people.”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  I called Tony and said, “Look, how long more this guy got or this woman got –?”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cory Laborde:  “Before her program is up?” There’s been a few conversations we’ve had like this.

Tony Lewis:  Yeah, several.

Cory Laborde:  And he may say, “Well, I’m looking at it now and so and so may graduate in two months.” or whatever. I said, “Well, I can’t wait that long. I want to hire him. I got a position open. I don’t know how long this window’s going to stay open. I want to hire him.” Because and then I don’t want to put a stigma on them and say they’re only good for cleaning or they’re only good for housekeeping. I have one guy now that we’re training to be an engineer inside our organization, because he’s shown that he has handyman skills. He’s proven himself above and beyond. So you can look at these individuals and put a stigma all you want, but you have to ask yourself, it could be your nephew, it could be your niece, it could be your son, that made a mistake when they was 15, 17, 18 years old and do you want them to still have that on them when they get older?

Len Sipes:  Right now you’re going to be talking to, you are talking to congressional aides, you’re talking to aides to mayors, you’re talking to aides to county executives, you’re talking to aides to governors, you’re talking to criminal justice leadership, but you’re talking to a lot of people who have input in terms of policy throughout the country. What would you say directly to them, to that, right now, to that congressional aide, to that aide to the governor of Arizona? What do you say to that person to move people beyond this stereotype of people in the criminal justice system?

Cory Laborde:  Well, that’s a question I would love to answer, for those that are listening that are in positions to make decisions. The first person come to my mind is a young man I hired through the program. His name was Kenneth Trice. Kenneth came about through the CSOSA program and he was just looking for a chance. And he was so appreciative of the chance that he didn’t want do anything to do wrong. And he impressed us so that we hired him, we had a part-time position came open, and we hired him for the part-time position. And shortly right after the part-time position, it wasn’t even a cool three months, a full-time position came open and he was a candidate for it.

Why I’m sharing this story about Kenneth. I remember Kenneth came inside my office one time, Len, and he was very disturbed, he was going through some stuff with his children’s mother and he was trying to move on with himself. And he got two little girls. This is why I’m talking to the people who make decisions. Those two little girls, they now have a father that can bring something and go Christmas shopping because he got a decent check, an honest check that he can bring it home. So now the people who are making decisions, who was changing laws, who’s changing legislations, look at it, you’re not just helping that one person, you’re helping the people that’s behind them that’s coming next, because it’s the domino effect.

Now that Kenneth can come and make honest living, he can come and do something for these two little girls, he’s now giving them the opportunity to maybe potentially be nice young ladies coming into society. Now, if it was the opposite way, it would’ve been Kenneth being bad, the two girls being bad. Now you got three individuals inside a community that’s a threat to society. Instead you’ve got three individuals inside the community that are actually being a good to the society based off the CSOSA program.

Len Sipes:  Charlie, do you want to take a shot at that? You’re now talking to the aide to the governor of Hawaii.

Charlie Whitaker:  Well, unemployment is a public safety issue and that’s how I attack it when I’m working with people. And I would like for them to see it that way. That an individual who’s working is less likely to commit a crime. Individuals who’re out here and without employment, who’re struggling day to day, living in poverty, those are the individuals who in most instances would take that chance that’s going to send them back to jail and hurt other people’s families. So when you look at employment it’s a lot cheaper to give a person a job paying 13, 14 dollars an hour so that they can take care if their family than the government paying 40, 50, 000 dollars a year to incarcerate this person. And now the government not only got to take care of this person, but now they got to take care of this person’s family.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Charlie Whitaker:  So when you look at it from at the bottom line it’ll come out a lot cheaper for everybody. And I don’t really want to talk about the human side of it, because that’s something totally different. But there’s a human side to this thing too. When you got an individual who’s trying to take care of their families, and there’s no way that they can do it legitimately, so now they turn to something that can get them incarcerated, and now they’re taken away from their family. And this also costs, not just the community, but it costs everybody, because now our taxes go up and things of that nature.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Charlie Whitaker:  So think this is something that policymakers really got to look at. If you really want to bring down the deficit, let’s do things where we can create jobs for individuals instead of building prisons.

Len Sipes:  Gentlemen, we only have four minutes left in the program. Tony, I’m going to go to you. I’m talking now about 20 years ago I sat with a group of people caught up in the criminal justice system in the state of Maryland and it was about 20 of them. And I met them in the evening and we were talking about work. And I think that probably 17 out of the 20 were unemployed. These individuals were certainly not a risk to public safety. All of them had skills, all of them had backgrounds, and yet the frustration that they expressed of not being able to find work was strong. And they essentially told me, “Look, Leonard, if we don’t find work, what’s to stop us from going back to doing what we used to do?”

Tony Lewis:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  I mean it was powerful, it was strong, and it was depressing all at the same time, because these people were not a threat to public safety. What do you say to folks under supervision? What do you say to folks to keep their spirits up and to keep them moving in the right direction?

Tony Lewis:  I’m a big believer in hope. And I point to examples, I point to the Kenny Tracies or the Monica Womacks of the world. I speak to the importance of being resilient and remaining steadfast to hold on until the opportunity comes. And we also bring up definitely what’s the alternative. And we bring up those children, right, and the risk of leaving them again, and that they need you in spite of, you know? And I think one of the things for this country we really got to think about this though. We’re the number jailer in the world. There’s two million people incarcerated, and 90% of that two million will return to the community. It’s imperative that we create systems that will allow those people to integrate back into the workforce so that – I mean there’s 1.7 million children with an incarcerated parent that’s under the age of 18. So these are really, these are issues that affect education; these are issues that affect public safety. So, and we talk to our clients and our job seekers in a way in which we keep them in tune with how they affect how society works. And so that’s how we keep them motivated to stay positive.

Len Sipes:  Charlie and Cory, we only have a little bit less than a minute. What do you tell employers? You’re looking somebody right in the eye through this program. What do you tell employers, how is hiring folks from CSOSA, from parole and probation throughout the country, how is it going to affect their bottom line?

Cory Laborde:  Right. Well, I look at it like this. Hire the best person for the job, period, the best person for the job, period. Not based off what they did 15, 10, 5 years ago, based off what you need for your organization, what’s the position that needs to be fulfilled, and find the best candidate .

Len Sipes:  Got it.

Cory Laborde:  Regardless of their past.

Len Sipes:  Do not let the criminal history stand in the way of giving that person –

Cory Laborde:  Absolutely not.

Len Sipes:  An objective, appraisal –

Cory Laborde:  Because you could be letting go a key person for their organization.

Len Sipes:  One of your best employees.

Cory Laborde:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Charlie, give me your 30 second response.

Charlie Whitaker:  I just believe that people deserve a second chance. So in my organization, primarily 95% of my people are returned citizens. And I also believe that at the end of the day, we’re all people, and there’s a people aspect to this thing, and we got to think anybody who’s not working and wants to take care of their family in my eyes is a threat to public safety. So when we cut off those opportunities to individuals we create those issues.

Len Sipes:  Our guests today have been Charlie Whitaker, CEO of Career Path, and Cory Laborde; he is the facilities, he’s from the facilities, facilities manager for the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, and Tony Lewis, job developer for CSOSA, our website, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for listening. We want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Illinois Adult Redeploy Initiative-National Criminal Justice Association

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/03/illinois-adult-redeploy-initiative-national-criminal-justice-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program. At our microphones we’ve got people from throughout the United States. Mary Ann Dyar, she is a Program Administrator of the Adult Redeploy Program in Illinois. Jack Cutrone, he is the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And we have Cabell Cropper, he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. This program is really interesting, ladies and gentlemen. Landmark legislation, it seeks to promote local alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent offenders. In order to meet this goal, the legislation empowered the Criminal Justice Information Authority to create the Adult Redeploy Program, which provides monetary incentives to help communities pay for evidence-based, rehabilitative and supervision services. In exchange for monetary incentives and technical assistance, localities agree to reduce the number of offenders remanded to the division of correction there in the state of Illinois by 25%. While the initiative is only a little more than two years old, it’s already diverted 1,200 offenders and it saved an estimated 20 million dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, again, Mary Ann Dyar, Jack Cutrone, and Cabell Cropper the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Dyar:  Thank you for having me.

Jack Cutrone:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, Jack, give me a sense of the program. You’re the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. You guys, by the way, have been doing this for decades. I can’t, I’m not aware of a state in the Unites States that has been more data driven than the state of Illinois through the criminal justice authority in the state of Illinois. You guys have been around for decades.

Jack Cutrone:  Yes. We have. And we actually have been doing the best job that we can to try and educate policy makers and legislators about the benefit of using evidence-based practices programs in the criminal justice area in order to produce the best results. And the Adult Redeploy Program was enacted through some landmark legislation in Illinois, which was the Crime Reduction Act of 2009, an act that our agency certainly welcomed. It created a much stronger database decision making policy for the state. And one aspect of that was the creation of the Adult Redeploy Illinois Program.

Len Sipes:  And so it’s been in existence for how long, a little over two years?

Jack Cutrone:  Actually a little – the act was passed in 2009. I think the first site went up in early 2011. Is that correct, Mary Ann?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Yes.

Jack Cutrone:  So it’s actually been in operation for about three years, but those were the earliest pilot sites. And Mary Ann has done a wonderful job of promoting the program to local jurisdictions throughout the state and has expanded it immeasurably.

Len Sipes:  And, Mary Ann, why don’t you talk to me about the process of redeploying or throughout the state of Illinois?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Well, the goals of Adult Redeploy Illinois are to reduce crime and recidivism at a lower cost to taxpayers and provide financial incentives to counties or judicial circuits to create effective local level evidence-based services and to encourage the successful local supervision of eligible offenders in the reintegration into the locality. Those goals are stated in the Crime Reduction Act. How we do that is providing grants to local jurisdictions. That might be counties; it might be groups of counties that come together, review the data as to the number of eligible offenders that they’re sending to the Department of Corrections, and when I say eligible, that’s nonviolent offenders, per the statute, that are going into the Department of Corrections on charges that would’ve been eligible for probation. And they look at the data, they look at the gaps in their services and their supervision capabilities.  When I say supervision, again, that would be probation, their probation departments, primarily, and they determine, if funds were available, who would be their target population to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders going to prison, and what would be the target intervention focused around an evidence-based practice. They submit to us a mini-strategic plan that basically gives the context, describes the data, describes their target population, and then what it is they want to do. And an oversight board, that was basically enacted by the Crime Reduction Act as well, reviews those grant requests and makes them in exchange for the commitment to reduce by 25% the number of people they send to prison from that target population they’ve identified.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, you –

Jack Cutrone:  And let me –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Jack Cutrone:  I’m going to lose track .

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Jack Cutrone:  I was going to pick up on something that Mary Ann was speaking about.

Len Sipes:  Please.

Jack Cutrone:  In terms of the local jurisdictions developing a goal identifying their target population, because the statute provides actually for a penalty if the local jurisdiction doesn’t meet its reduction goal, we through – and I’ll call the Criminal Justice Information Authority CJIA, because that’s a much shorter term that we usually employ – CJIA houses criminal history record information, and once they identify their target population, we run through our database and calculate how many individuals from that population they have sent to the Department of Corrections over the past, over the prior three year period. And that’s how we establish the goal number in order to beat that 25% reduction. So in a way it sort of keeps them honest, but, frankly, none of the jurisdictions have ever had a problem with meeting the goal. For the most part, they exceed it greatly.

Len Sipes:  Well, I do want to talk more about that in terms of how they met that goal and what percentage were and what were the issues, controversies, discussions that the different counties throughout the state of Illinois had. But I do also want to get in the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association, Cabell Cropper. Cabell, the whole idea here is that the project Redeploy has done something wonderful that the National Criminal Justice Association wants to bring to the attention of everybody else throughout the country. And I do want to point out to the listeners that the National Criminal Justice Association has been at the forefront of making sure that everybody out there understands what programs work, the fact that they’re throughout the country, they recognize good programs, programs that really do need attention. So the role of the National Criminal Justice Association has been rather profound in terms of bringing these experiences to the rest of us in the criminal justice system, agreed?

Cabell Cropper:  That’s correct. That’s right on target. And what we’ve been doing nationally as the representative of the state administrating agencies, those agencies in each state that’s designated by the governor to manage criminal justice systems coming from both federal and state governments, we provide support in terms of working with these agencies to put in place comprehensive multi-disciplinary stakeholder driven strategic planning processes. And specifically with the Adult Redeploy Program we have provided some support to Mary Ann and her staff in overall kind of the high-level of strategic planning. And also we then use our experience to bring that program to other state agencies, pointing out the effectiveness and how it is a good example of a data driven strategy that ends up saving money as well as providing better outcomes for both the offenders and the community. So, yeah, so we are, we look to state agencies like the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to lead the way on these kinds of initiatives. And this particular one is of national significance that we like to bring to the attention of other states.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, before we go back to our friends in Illinois. Am I right in saying that the true innovation within the criminal justice system doesn’t necessarily come from those of us in Washington DC, it seems to percolate up at the county and state and local levels, and that’s one of the real strengths of the National Criminal Justice Association, because you represent all of the criminal justice authorities within the 50 states and territories?

Cabell Cropper:  Absolutely. That’s exactly right. All the programs that we consider now best practices, the promising practices have come from a state or local level. Starting with drug courts back in the 90s all the way through now to the whole probation program in Hawaii –

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Cabell Cropper:  And now programs like Adult Redeploy. So, yes, definitely, it does not come from DC.

Len Sipes:  So, Jack and Mary Ann, basically we’re sitting here because Illinois has been (a) doing evidence-based research for how long, Jack? I mean I think my entire criminal justice existence, which spans 40 years, I can’t remember the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority not being there.

Jack Cutrone:  It’s actually been in existence a bit over 30 years. There was actually a predecessor agency that had a slightly different name, but, yeah, we’ve been around for altogether probably about 40 years.

Len Sipes:  And have the people in the state of Illinois, the criminal justice authorities throughout the state, the people in the legislature, the governor’s office, has it been your experience that they really pay a lot of attention to the evidence-based research that you’ve been producing for decades?

Jack Cutrone:  It certainly has been a growing movement, not only in Illinois, but nationally, towards applying the principles of evidence-based or empirically driven programming throughout the criminal justice system. It was something that was actually I think adopted from the medical field, initially, where they realized that some of the treatments they were giving there was no data to support their effectiveness. And that idea certainly has taken hold in the criminal justice field and among policymakers and legislators in Illinois.

Len Sipes:  Well, I just wanted to be sure that the evidence, rather, the audience really understands that Illinois was one of the leaders in this country in terms of moving into evidence-based practices. Mary Ann, talk to me about the experience of getting Adult Redeploy into the counties and jurisdictions throughout the state of Illinois. I would imagine at the beginning it was not the easiest of sells, was it or was it not?

Mary Ann Dyar:  There’s a lot of, well, first of all I should mention that the Adult Redeploy Illinois Program is based on a successful Juvenile Redeploy Illinois Program that’s been operating since 2005, and during that time has built up an impressive reputation for bringing down the number of juvenile offenders in the juvenile prison system. In fact, they have beat; generally, the Juvenile Redeploy Illinois sites have beat their 25% reduction goals and have been over 50%. In one site they went from sending 83 kids to juvenile prison a year to 11 –

Len Sipes:  Wow!

Mary Ann Dyar:  Through the interventions, the evidence-based interventions that were funded by Redeploy Illinois. So we were able to leverage that reputation and that understanding from the juvenile side and go into the communities and talk with them about how this might be replicated in the adult criminal justice system. And you’re correct; it wasn’t always an easy sell. Not only are we talking about the difference between the way juvenile offenders may be regarded by the community and their ability to be rehabilitated versus hardened adult criminals, but we’re also talking about the concerns on public safety that are very high-profile to elected officials, whether it be prosecutors, even in our state judges are retained through popular vote. So we did have to talk with them in terms of the evidence base that really does support that. They could be doing more harm than good by sending nonviolent offenders to prison. And this is an opportunity for them to invest in their local communities and get better results.

Len Sipes:  It sounds a bit like the Justice Reinvestment model. I just did a radio program with the Urban Institute, Nancy La Vigne. And we just did this program last week. And the whole idea was to do it smarter, do it better, do it evidence-based, take a look at who you’re incarcerating and why, who you’re putting into the criminal justice system. And that actually has a way of lowering recidivism, making it safer for the public, and at the same time, saving a tremendous amount of money and some of that money is reinvested back into the local communities to provide services. It sounds like what you’re describing with the Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Initiative is Justice Reinvestment.

Jack Cutrone:  Indeed. That is correct. It’s Illinois’ version of Justice Reinvestment.

Len Sipes:  And then that works for you. What I just said, that scenario of smarter, better, evidence-based, data driven, lowering recidivism, protecting the public, and saving tax paid dollars, that all applies here.

Jack Cutrone:  Absolutely.

Mary Ann Dyar:  Right. Yeah. And another thing that was mentioned in your program, which I thought was excellent, on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, is the cultural shift that we’re trying to promote is not only are we trying to demonstrate that you can get better results for less cost with this particular population if you utilize the best research out there and the technology that’s out there in terms of information sharing, but you can also have a different way of looking at the individual who is coming into this system on a nonviolent charge. Particularly if it’s driven by underlying needs in substance abuse, mental illness, even economic conditions can drive people to make decisions that are considered antisocial. If a community can look at that individual and what’s underlying their criminal behavior and then invest in proven practices to address those issues, then you’re talking about a cultural shift from send them away and throw away the key.

Len Sipes:  Well, what I want to do when – I’m halfway; we’re more than halfway through program. Let me reintroduce you and then, Jack, we’ll come back to your comments. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re doing a program on the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program. Pretty doggone successful initiative as far as I can tell. Mary Ann Dyar, she is the Program Administrator, Adult Redeploy in Illinois. Jack Cutrone is the Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And Cabell Cropper, he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Again, we’re indebted to the National Criminal Justice Association for this program, and bringing, again, a decade’s worth of exemplary experience from the States to the attention of everybody else, so we can mimic and we can copy. Jack, you were trying to get in a comment.

Jack Cutrone:  Well, I just wanted to amplify on what Mary Ann was speaking about and in response to the topic you brought up about a culture shift. Her job has been made much more difficult in Illinois by the fact that we have a non-unified court system. So each local jurisdiction is run by a chief judge who’s largely autonomous, staffed by a state’s attorney who’s an elected official, therefore, autonomous, answerable to voters. And our experience and our research shows that there is a widely varying point of view about appropriate sentences to be given on individual cases across the state. The same offense in one county might produce a much different sentence in another county, sometimes much harsher. And Mary Ann has done a great job in terms of promoting the idea of producing a better result through the use of proven  practices, rather than just keep going doing the same thing we’ve always done and getting the same results, and she’s a marvelous salesperson with that.

Len Sipes:  Cabell, but the experience that Jack just talked about is something that we’re going through throughout the United States, is it not? This whole idea of having this discussion at the state level, having it at the county level, having it at the local level, everybody coming together and having this grand conversation, which seems to be taking place in thousands of locations. Having a conversation as to how can we do it smarter, better, cleaner, crisper, how can we reduce the burden on state government, and at the same time, how can we create a criminal justice system that reduces recidivism, reduces reoffending, and save money at the same time? That’s a conversation that’s happening everywhere, right?

Cabell Cropper:  That’s correct. By the weakened economic situation in the country we’ve been through the past several years that were pulling out of, but that really provided the impetus to begin to look very critically at how we were spending money in the criminal justice system. And it’s really grown into this movement in terms of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and some of these other programs like Adult Redeploy that look at how are we spending the money in criminal justice and how can we do a better job of that and be smarter about it

Jack Cutrone:  Oh, sorry, Cabell.

Cabell Cropper:  No. I was just going to, yes, that’s happening in almost every state and now more and more the local communities.

Len Sipes:  Mary Ann, that’s –

Jack Cutrone:  Because I wanted to comment –

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, Jack.

Jack Cutrone:  I wanted to comment on that too, because the Adult Redeploy Program is really exemplary in terms of using federal funding to stimulate pilot projects in the state. When the Crime Reduction Act was passed 2009 creating Adult Redeploy, given Illinois’ current budget issues, the legislature was unable to provide funding. Governor Quinn of Illinois was very interested in promoting the program and we worked with the governor’s office to use four million dollars in American Reinvestment Recovery Act dollars to form a pilot or provide pilot funding for the programs. Once we had it up and running, we were able through our capture of data to take it the Illinois legislature and said, “Look, this is our program. We are saving the state money.”  We were able to persuade the General Assembly even in extremely tight economic circumstances to start funding it with state money; initially a two million dollar appropriation to cover the time period in which the federal funding was running out, and then last year a seven million dollar appropriation, and the governor has requested another seven million dollars this year. So it’s kind of using federal money to create a laboratory in the States to identify and put into effect good practices and programs.

Len Sipes:  Well, I find it amazing, because we have this conversations at the national level, we have them at the state level, but then again, we have Mary Ann who’s done it all at the local level. And, Mary Ann, you were talking about the difficulty, the sea-change, the cultural change, trying to bring everybody onboard and the fact that it was not easy. What do you think the principle at the county level; the principle ingredient was in terms of bringing them on? Because you’ve got 1,200 offenders diverted, you’ve saved the state 20 million dollars, the locals get funding as result of that, but what was the magic ingredient, the secret sauce that actually made that happen at the local level? Was it your pervasive, you being so persuasive, or was it some policy initiative?

Mary Ann Dyar:  Well, I think there’re a number of things that I can point to other than my persuasive or persuasion practices. But essentially, one thing is that we were working from, as you’ve alluded to earlier, a situation where Illinois has been discussing evidence-based practices and has been training actually many players in the system throughout the probation system on evidence-based practices for over ten years. What we often found though, is these individual players in the system got excited about what was possible and excited about the research, excited about the new tools that they were provided, but there was no funding to support it. And in fact, funding continued to be cut back from county probation budgets over the last several years, actually quite dramatically, making it impossible to implement these practices.  When they found out that there was some funding available that would actually incentivize them to implement what they learned, I think we found a lot of players that were just really excited about the opportunity, and they really carried the ball forward on that. I can’t say though that we haven’t been really benefited from or have been benefiting from the national dialogue, and what the National Criminal Justice Association has done in order to promote these conversations about evidence-based practices and the opportunities for getting better results at a lower cost.

Len Sipes:  And that’s one of the beauties about Cabell’s organization, the fact that they act as a central clearing house for state criminal justice agencies to have this discussion. So, again, thanks to the National Criminal Justice Association. Jack, are you coming in?

Jack Cutrone:  Yes. I just wanted to amplify on some of what Mary Ann was saying in terms of how we make it attractive to the local jurisdiction. We are talking about a population of in the criminal justice system that traditionally had gone to the Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections in Illinois, unfortunately, has a three year return rate, recidivism rate, of almost 50%. These practices that we are talking about we know it’s going to produce a much lower recidivism rate. So when we’re talking to local jurisdictions, what we’re talking about is the basic product of the criminal justice system, which is public safety. And we can demonstrate to the local jurisdictions that these practices mean less crime. Data driven, empirical, empirically driven evidence-based practices, become somewhat esoteric, but if you talk in terms of, “You’re going to have less crime in your county as a result of this program.”

Len Sipes:  It’s less –

Jack Cutrone:  That becomes meaningful.

Len Sipes:  But we really haven’t dived into that point. It’s less crime because of the programs that you all put in place, whether it be drug treatment, whether it be mental health, whether it be vocational, whatever it is, they’re getting, the people diverted are getting the programs they need to stay out of the criminal justice system. There’re lower level offenders that get the programs that they need. Is that the bottom line?

Jack Cutrone:  It’s part of a bottom line. Mary Ann mentioned it earlier. When you take people who are nonviolent, who are low-risk, and you impose a very strong sanction, such as imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections, you are actually increasing the chance that they’re going to commit another crime.

Len Sipes:  Because of the research that –

Jack Cutrone:  So –

Len Sipes:  Says that you’ve got to pick the most dangerous that people that who really needed the high-risk offenders, and that’s where you put your services or your incarcerative resources, and to the lower level people you try to divert. But you divert them in the programs, right?

Jack Cutrone:  Absolutely, absolutely. And I don’t mean to pick on the Illinois Department of Corrections. They, as are all state agencies, being victimized by falling state revenues and lowered budgets. I’m sure the Department of Corrections, if it had adequate funding to put in enough programs in place, would have a much lower recidivist rate, but the fact is in this financial climate that just can’t be done. And Adult Redeploy offers an alternative.

Mary Ann Dyar:  And I should mention that our oversight board, which is defined and established by the Crime Reduction Act, is co-chaired by the Director of the Department of Corrections and our Secretary of the Department of Human Services. And I think that that sends a very strong signal about how the solution to getting better results to drive down crime and recidivism is a collaboration, requires a collaboration between supervision strategies, effective supervision strategies, and human services that address underlying causes of crime.

Len Sipes:  Well, Mary Ann, you’ve got the final word. I think the program, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Adult Redeploy Program, again, it’s amazing’ 1,200 offenders diverted, saving the state over 20 million dollars, and at the same time, protecting public safety. That is a heck of a combination. Our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, have been Mary Ann Dyar; she is the Program Administrator, Adult Redeploy in Illinois. Jack Cutrone, he is the Executive Director of the famous Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And we have Cabell Cropper; he is the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. Again, thanks to them for putting together this program. The website for the Criminal Justice Information Authority and the project Redeploy is www.icjia.org/redeploy. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Expanding Correctional Education Through Technology-Correctional Education Association

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

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

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

[Audio Begins]

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

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

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

Steve Steurer:  You’re absolutely correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Go ahead please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Steurer:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  For Montgomery County. Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Steurer:  Oh, it would.

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  All right, Steve Steurer, is my guest today, Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association www.ceanational.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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How Effective Is Correctional Education?

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/02/how-effective-is-effective-correctional-education/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, an extraordinarily good program, How Effective Is Correctional Education and Where Do We Go to From Here? A new research report from the Rand Corporation and the US Department of Justice by our microphones today is Lois Davis, she’s a senior policy researcher for the Rand Corporation and John Litton, he is Director of Correctional Education for the US Department of Education. I want to very briefly read a synopsis of this report. The study’s key findings is that correctional education is effective in terms of reducing recidivism for incarcerated adults and there is some evidence that it’s also effective, especially for vocational education in terms of improving a person’s likelihood of post-release employment. Every dollar spent on correctional education, $5 is saved. John and Lois, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lois Davis: Thank you.

John Litton: Thank you Leonard.

Len Sipes: Alright Lois, the first question goes to you. A very prestigious report, you have briefed folks at the capital and you’ve just come from the White House, and we’re honored, White House to DC Public Safety. I’m not quite sure if that’s too big of a step down from the White House. But you briefed Congress; you briefed the White House, what were your primary thoughts about the briefing, and give me a sense as to the report itself.

Lois Davis: Well, I was very pleased with the turnout. It was impressive that there was quite a range of representation across, not just within Congressional staff, but also outside of Congress. And so, it clearly says that they idea of correctional education resonates with a lot of different people. One of the main messages that we wanted people to understand for this report is, once we really look at the effectiveness of correctional education that it’s important to understand that indeed it is effective in reducing recidivism, improving post-release employment and outcomes, but also it’s cost effective. So the debate moving forward should no longer be about whether or not it’s effective, it’s really about what can we do to move the field forward, and where can we fill in our gaps in our knowledge.

Len Sipes: John Litton, you’ve been involved in correctional education for an awfully long time, you and I worked together in the state of Maryland with the US Department of Education. This report is very important to the US Department of Education, correct.

John Litton: Yes, we’re very pleased to have the benefit of this report. It was mandated by Congress and the Bureau of Justice Assistance did a competitive process to award the opportunity to do the report, do the whole study to the Rand Corporation. The Rand folks did an excellent job and the findings are very interesting and we think quite compelling.

Len Sipes: Now the research indicates there was a 13% overall reduction in recidivism, which is extraordinarily important, but I do want to point out that I’ve seen reports, Maryland was one, three-state survey was done about 20 years ago now, where you had a 20% reduction in recidivism. So you’re going to get variances in terms of the individual pieces of research that you looked at Lois, so some are going to be higher, some are going to be lower, yours averaged out to be 13%.

Lois Davis: Yes, in fact one of the things we did was a systematic look at the studies that have been published all the way back from 2008 to the present. And 1980 to the present. And so what we’re doing is using a meta-analysis, which is a statistical technique to synthesize results across studies. And so to give a single estimate. So if we look at correctional education for the United States, I think our study shows that on average, within the United States, that you can expect a 13-percentage point reduction in the risk of recidivating. Another way that translates, which is a dramatic number, that also means that’s a 43% reduction of the odds of recidivating. So that alone I think is compelling evidence about its effectiveness.

Len Sipes: Now one of the interesting things that I find is that it doesn’t take a lot, and I’m getting this now, the Washington State Public Policy Institute did a little research a little while ago talking about what percentage of reduction it takes to be cost effective in, in any jurisdiction. They looked at, not research in just the state of Washington, but research throughout the country. And one of the things that I found from that research and one of the things that I’m getting from your research is that it doesn’t take a whole heck of a lot in terms of that percentage reduction for it to be cost effective, so it’s almost foolproof, it is not in terms of returning more dollars than it takes?

Lois Davis: That’s a really good point. When we look at it from a cost effectiveness analysis, what you see is that breakeven, so in other words, for the cost of a correction education programs to be break even in terms of the cost of incarceration, you only need a reduction of about 1-2 percentage points. But indeed we’re showing that it’s a 13-percentage point reduction.

Len Sipes: Right.

Lois Davis: So it’s a significant payback, so to speak, in terms of your return on investment.

Len Sipes: So John what we’re talking about is, you know, people say 13%, well Leonard, son of a gun, that doesn’t seem that high to me, the cost effectiveness part of it I understand, but what we’re talking about is if you extrapolate and apply this to all 50 states, if you can somehow, someway apply it to jails, you’re talking about literally hundreds of thousands, eventually millions of crimes not committed, correct?

John Litton: Yes, crime reduction as well as the cost benefit and one thing I just wanted to add to Lois’ comment is that incarceration is very expensive. So anything that we can do that reduces future incarceration, even a small percentage, can really payoff financially. So there’s been a tendency in recent years to disinvest treatment programs, putting more and more money into the bricks and mortar aspect of corrections, and I think that it’s time that we took stock of that and realized that very small investments and effective treatment programs can really be a good return on the taxpayer’s dollar.

Len Sipes: Well, speaking of the taxpayer’s dollar, the other point that I wanted to make is that we are talking about the potential for saving, again, states, not just crimes, but savings the states hundreds of millions, eventually billions of dollars if you can take that 13% recidivism rate and again, it’s going to be higher in some studies, lower in other studies, but if you can take that 13%, extrapolate it, you’re talking about saving states a tremendous amount of money.

John Litton: Very significant savings.

Len Sipes: Ok, now the question goes to either one of you. Because John mentioned it a couple seconds ago. There seems to be a disinvestment in correctional education and that doesn’t surprise me. We just went through a tremendous recession, states are really upset as to all the money that they have to throw in to their correctional systems, they find it to be burdensome, the challenge that they’ve placed upon all of us in the criminal justice system is to find a better way of doing it, so the fiscal burden on the states will not be that much. So they have cut back though. And that does create a significant conundrum for the rest of us, right?

Lois Davis: That’s exactly true, and in fact, one of the things when we started the study is that in our discussions with state correctional educational directors and others, it was clear that the recession had a huge impact. So what we did is we fielded a national survey that really allows us to get a picture, what is correctional education look like today, but also to get a sense of what the impact of the recession was. So for example, what we see is that states had a dramatic in reduction correctional education budgets, particularly in large and medium-sized states. By large and medium, I mean states that have the largest prison populations. And so the results of that were actually a contraction in the capacity of the academic programs within the system.

Len Sipes: Fewer people got programs that were necessary.

Lois Davis: That’s exactly right.

Len Sipes: Now one of the things that puzzles me again, the question goes out to either one, but John you would be the most logical person to take this. From my 25 years in terms of dealing with correctional operations, correctional programs keep prisons safe, do they not?

John Litton: I believe that’s true, yes.

Len Sipes: That’s not one of the points of the research, but when I dealt with, throughout my time, my 14 years with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, it was always emphasized to me by wardens, by assistant wardens, by security chiefs, that the more programs that you had inside of that prison, the calmer that prison was, the less violence occurred and made it a safer place of everybody. The correctional officers, the correctional staff and the inmates. Is that a correct observation?

John Litton: Well, I’m not a corrections expert, I’m more of the education person but I certainly personally believe that that’s true and I think it’s important that people be engaged in productive activity. If incarcerated individual and persons incarcerated for an extended period of time limited physical opportunities, limited mental opportunities, limited opportunities for social development, the opportunities for that returning citizen to come out and be productive and be productively engaged, common sense would say that it’s diminished. So it’s important that there be a range of constructive opportunities during the period of incarceration. I think it’s important also in terms of the message that we’re giving to the incarcerated population, that we really do have expectations for a positive outcome and that we believe that investing in you as a person that’s being prepared to return to free society, that we expect you to take advantage of those opportunities and to be engaged in a positive way when you’re released from incarceration.

Len Sipes: Lois, please.

Lois Davis: I’d also like to add to that it’s been interesting to see that as we talk to correctional officials across the country that they see correctional education as a really good news story. To them, it’s a program that they point to as being a real success, both in terms of increasing safety and security within the system, but also in terms of ultimately being able to point for example, to GED completion rates as a good news story for them. So they too recognize the importance of an education.

Len Sipes: Now I’ve been talking to folks at the Department of Education and I’ve said that I was going to do this radio program and one of things that we were talking about was this, and you touched upon it in your report, is that distance learning, remote learning seems to be just as effective as classroom learning. And I understand that has an awful lot of implications, but some people envision a centralized location in the state of educators, pumping information in to every prison in that state, thereby dramatically expanding the capacity of correctional education or vocational education. Right now, we’re in the process here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, of learning green screen television production. There is a company out there called Linda.com, that has the most wonderful pieces of video, instructing you on every little detail, every little piece of doing green screen television. It’s transcribed, so you can print that transcription so you have something to read. Long distance education seems to be taking prominence now and if it’s just as effective, or close to being just as effective as classroom education, isn’t there the possibility that every state can do that, provide vocational and educational opportunities throughout their state system through long distance learning. Anybody want to take a shot at that?

Lois Davis: I actually wanted to; in the report where we look at it is the effect of computer-assisted instruction. And we do see that we don’t detect a difference for example, between an outcome of say reading the math scores for those that receive computer assisted instruction, versus those that receive traditional instruction. Now, when we think about distance learning, there’s a lot of potential there, but it doesn’t necessarily replace the need for the face to face interaction, the one on one interaction with instructors, so there’s a real need for us to really look at some innovative examples out there and try to assess really where the capacity is for improving the capabilities of distance learning.

Len Sipes: John, is it everybody in the ballpark when they’re saying to themselves, maybe we can get everybody involved if we do long-distance learning because we’re never going to be able to afford the classroom capacity? Is that right or wrong or should we be looking at it that way?

John Litton: I think there’s, we definitely need to be looking at that question and I don’t think it’s an easy answer. But one of the things that happened in corrections is that there have been many security concerns about access to the internet and most distance learning is internet enabled, and I think there’s some feeling that perhaps we can move past the security issues, we have some solutions for the security issues. And that might rather quickly open many new possibilities for using distance learning. So as Lois has said, we really need to take a, have an open mind in terms of doing some pilot programs and doing some research and studying the effectiveness. There definitely is importance for social learning. We don’t think that just replacing interaction in a classroom, interaction with a teacher, interaction with other learners with a computer is probably the end all and the be all, but we certainly think that technology is being under-utilized in correctional environments and it’s a great potential to use our resources more effectively by using distance-learning resources and certainly as you were pointing out Leonard, when people need some of these technology skills to be effective in our communities today, because the world has changed, so it’s a really, really important area. One that was given quite a bit of emphasis in the report and we’re quite excited about following up on that.

Len Sipes: The interesting thing is that every correctional administrator that I’ve ever talked to and every parole and probation administrator that I’ve ever talked to has said I would wish and pray that there was a certain point where everybody in, who’s incarcerated had that opportunity to go and get their GED, get their 8th grade certificate, learn how to read, learn how to write, go to brick laying class, and come out fully equipped, fully skilled. If every correctional administrator in this country, I can’t speak for them all, the ones that I’ve talked to at least, seems to be very supportive of correctional education, if every parole and probation administrator, and again I haven’t talked to them all, but every one that I have talked to has said this, if everybody is so supportive of this, then why isn’t it more expansive and more extensive than what it actually is?

Lois Davis: Well, I just wanted to comment a little bit about that. When you talk to the educators, they would say that that kind of the security concerns about access to the internet kind of a drive a lot of the decisions about whether or not they can, the extent to which they can use computer technology in the classroom. Now, there’s good simulated internet programs that allow you to address giving access to some of the online courses for inmates to get the experience of using the internet-based system, without it actually being the real internet. So that’s an important step that we need to make, we need to advertise more broadly, that is available. Because the security concerns are definitely one that are constantly in the background of the decision making about this area.

Len Sipes: We’re more than half way through the program. The program today is How Effective Is Correctional Education and Where Do We Go to From Here, done by the Rand Corporation and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to the US Department of Justice. Our guests today are Lois Davis; she’s a senior policy researcher for the Rand Corporation. John Litton is Director of Correctional Education for the US Department of Education. So the real concern seems to me to be this, we are all supportive of this, those of us in the correctional field. Is there really a disagreement that somehow, someway be it remote, or be it in person, that this needs to be offered to virtually every person that occupies that prison bed?

Lois Davis: That’s, you know, the survey that we did was, we asked the question, in your state, is correctional education mandatory or is voluntary? And what we learned, particularly for individuals for example who had less than an 8th grade education or lower levels of educational attainment, indeed in most states, it is mandatory. But for the bulk of inmates, it is something they can self-select into. And so we don’t really see it as something that should be part of a core piece of the rehabilitative process that we require everyone to participate in. But it is definitely something that many people can benefit from.

Len Sipes: My problem is that in so many instances when I take a look at substance abuse, when I take a look at mental health, I’m finding the numbers to be very small, in terms of the people who actually go through substance abuse or even mental health treatment within the incarcerated setting. In some cases, those figures turn out to be 10 or 15%. Again, I understand that there are some states that push that to 20 or 30%, but in most state system and most research that I’ve seen, the numbers are fairly small. Do we have a sense as to what percentage of inmates within the incarcerated setting within prisons are actually getting vocational and educational programs? Do we have that sense?

Lois Davis: You know, we do know that it’s the story where you have basically; most correctional systems offer correctional education, particularly GED, adult basic education. To a lesser degree, for example, post secondary education or vocational training, but then the flip side of that is so how many inmates within that system actually get access to those programs. And that’s where there is a disparity. The recession really did reduce the capacity of the number of inmates to go through these programs, and so the fact that we’re seeing less offerings available, I think is something to be concerned about. But the numbers vary from state to state in terms of the percentage of inmates who are participating in these programs.

Len Sipes: When you talk to people at Congress, when you talk to people within the White House, did they seem to understand the importance of doing this and the importance of what it would mean, both at the state and federal level in terms of fewer expenditures, fewer crimes committed? Do they really understand the implications of the research?

Lois Davis: Yes, it’s actually been very gratifying to see the response. It really is an opportune time, because with the focus at the federal level now on re-entry and understanding what programs we really need in place individuals, this is really the great timing in terms of attention being paid to; let’s think about what programs are effective. And so our report has been very well received and I know that we’ve heard anecdotally for example it’s informed strategic planning both within the Department of Justice as well as the Department of Education and in other areas. I think people really are getting it.

Len Sipes: People in supervision have sat by these microphones in the 11 years in my being here, and 14 years with the state of Maryland I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who were currently caught up in the criminal justice system. To a person, they have said it’s the programs that have helped them cross that bridge, as I like to put it, to a crime lifestyle to a crime free lifestyle. Going from tax burden to tax payer. The programs always seem to be the bedrock. Now they had to have the motivation and they had to really believe in themselves and really believe in a future beyond drugs and beyond crime, but the programs helped them cross that bridge, the programs helped them become the people they are today. I mean, they’re in the community, they’re supporting themselves, they’re supporting their children, they’re being good community members because they went to a brick laying class in the Maryland prison system, John. I hear that all the time. So talk to me about that, the importance to the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system with these programs.

John Litton: Well, I think you’ve said it Len. We’ve heard from so many individuals that really do attest to the fact that an opportunity really meant something to them, really did make a difference in their life. One thing that we’ve been focusing on a little bit more recently and I’m proudest of the work we’ve done on this is that we’ve realized that many people come out of prison and really face tremendous obstacles in terms of moving directly into employment, and so we’ve been focusing somewhat on opportunities to continue education post-release and use their association with educational agencies and institutions entities to make the bridge to employment. That our traditional model had been that we would take care of the educational needs during the period of incarceration, the person would be job-ready when they come out and I think we have a little bit more of a nuanced view of that now. And I think it’s important that we encourage our returning citizens to continue to be involved in educational programs and educational institutions. I really think it can make a difference for individuals.

Len Sipes: What I was surprised of in terms of reading the report was the number of states participating in collegiate programs. Now I understand that this brings a certain level of controversy. And I remember college programs, and we used to advertise them in the state of Maryland put out a press release and then people would call me and yell at me. As to why we’re giving this guy a college education and why he can’t afford to give his own kids a college education, so I understand its implications and I understand the controversy. Yet college programs were in what, Lois, how many states? Is it 32 states had college programs?

Lois Davis: Yes, something like that. Yes.

Len Sipes: And I find that amazing. I didn’t realize it was that extensive, and there is research out there that says that collegiate programs are some of the most powerful programs in terms of getting people to create for themselves a crime-free lifestyle.

Lois Davis: Yes, and two things that I want to say about that. One is it’s important to recognize that when we think about college programs, those are usually paid by the inmates’ families. Or by family finances or in some cases foundations. It’s not necessarily that we’re using federal dollars for those college courses and to a little bit of extent, we use state dollars, but I think it’s important for people to realize that it’s really the inmate and their family that are trying to support those efforts. The other point I wanted to make is that one of things that is really encouraging is that it’s not simply college courses, but it’s really there’s a movement now that’s happening in various states, various initiatives to provide college courses that are going to lay the foundation working towards a degree. And I think that’s important, so it’s not simply a course here, a course there, but it’s really thinking about a program that will allow this individual to works towards an AA degree or a BA degree and that is something that is very encouraging.

Len Sipes: Let’s was philosophical in terms of the remaining moments of the program. You’ve got great reception at the White House; you got great reception in Congress, every correctional administrator that I’ve ever encountered, every parole and probation administrator supports these programs very, very strongly. We do have an emphasis on re-entry, within this administration and within previous administrations. There seems to be an across the board support for these sort of programs from both sides of the aisle, so it’s no longer republican or democratic, we’re getting very strong support from both parties in terms of getting the biggest possible bang for the tax paid dollar in terms of the results of correctional programs. So we have all this ground swell of support in terms of making sure that individuals have the skills that they need to be successful upon release from prison. So from this report, where do we go to from here? What is the hope, what is the dream, what is the possibility?

Lois Davis: Well, from our perspective, one of the things that both policy makers as well as educators, correction officials also, that they need is more information about what tradeoffs can they make and still maintain effective programs? So one of the limitations of the data right now is that we can’t answer some of the more complex questions that are needed to inform those kind of decision-making. And so for example, what models of instructions are associated with the most effective programs? Does dosage matter for example? Those are the kinds of things that we need to really push the evidence base to get at those answers because if you’re an educator and you’re being asked to cut your budget by say 10%, then you’re making choices about both dosage, about program delivery as well as who gets into those programs. So those are the kinds of information that we need to focus on next in order to really help inform those debates.

Len Sipes: But we also really need to get across the point that if you’re going to break the cycle of recidivism, we have 700,000 human beings coming out of prison systems every year. We have, I’ve seen figures saying it’s 4, to 6, to 8 times that in terms of jails. So we have an awful lot of people caught up in the criminal justice system on any given day, 7 million and that doesn’t count again the people who are in and out of the jail system on a fairly regular basis. This is a huge impact, we’re talking about, you know, collectively, millions of people over a certain amount of time. If we want those millions of people to live crime-free lifestyles and stop being tax burdens and start being tax payers, we have to put more money into these programs, correct?

John Litton: We have to put more money in but we have to put more money in a smarter way. And I think that’s one thing that we’re inspired by the report is that is really does a good job at articulating some of our knowledge gaps, that we don’t have the information to guide policy to the extent, policy and practice to the extent that we need to, and that some key questions, as Lois was just recounting, really do need to address, to be addressed and we hope that at the federal level we can provide more effective leadership in terms of giving the type of information that would allow program practitioners at the local or state or federal programs the opportunity to really gear up programs as effectively and as cost effectively as possible to get the best results and extend those resources across the population where it will have the most impact.

Len Sipes: And that would help us establish say what the kind of correctional education is the most powerful, whether or not it’s vocational or educational, whether it’s a combination of the two, if it’s vocational, ok so, maybe plumbing doesn’t work but maybe heating and air conditioning does. I would imagine those are the sorts of things we’re talking about?

Lois Davis: Yes, but also it’s how do we deliver programs. What model of instruction is going to be most effective? But it’s also when you were talking about for example does welding matter? I think that’s another part of the story is understanding where is the demand for jobs? We’re going to be the opportunities for individuals coming out of correctional settings and insuring that we’re providing them those kind of training programs and the kind of nationally industry recognized certificates that will allow them to be ready to find employment upon return.

Len Sipes: Because traditionally the jobs have been in the construction market and the hard labor market, where you’re teaching electricity, plumbing, brick laying, those sorts of things, maybe we should be out there teaching software. Maybe we should be teaching maintenance. Maybe we should be teaching IT. Maybe we should be teaching other things besides the traditional brick laying courses.

Lois Davis: That’s exactly right. It’s really understanding what the demand for jobs will be in particular regions of the country, but also recognizing that our 21st century workforce is going to be very different now.

Len Sipes: This has been a fascinating conversation with the two of you. I really do appreciate you being with us today. How Effective is Correctional Education and Where Do We Go To From Here is the wonderful title from the Rand Corporation and from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice. Our guests today have been Lois Davis, she is the senior policy researcher for the Rand Corporation and we also had John Litton, the Director of Correctional Education for the US Department of Education. Really appreciate everybody’s participation in the show today and we really appreciate your participation, we appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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